9th Assembly: Gbajabiamila is Buhari’s choice, says El-Rufai

June 1, 2019

THE aspiration of Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila to become the Speaker of the House of Representatives got a boost yesterday with a declaration by Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State that the campaign to make him the next Speaker of the

House of Representatives is essentially President Muhammadu Buhari’s project.

Gbajabiamila, according to him, endeared himself to the President by his dedication and contributions on the floor of the House.

The boost in Gbajabiamila’s aspiration came simultaneously with that of Senator Ahmad Lawan who is aspiring to become the President of the 9th Senate and whose candidacy was openly endorsed by PDP senator Peter Nwaoboshi; a development seen by many as a major crack in the fold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

El-Rufai told 121 Reps-elect who were on a consultation tour of the Northwest yesterday that he had no option but to support Gbajabiamila, being President Buhari’s choice for House Speaker.

Gbajabiamila was at the head of a delegation that visited El-Ruifai in Kaduna yesterday.

The governor promised to try his best to convince his fellow governors and members of the National Assembly, including Umaru Bago who is also seeking the position.

He said: “It is a misconception that Gbajabiamila is Asiwaju’s (Bola Tinubu’s) project. No.

It is President Buhari himself that has always observed Femi in the House,” he said at Government House, Kaduna.

He added: “Even before he became President, he read the newspapers and watched the television and he followed Gbajabiamila, his dedication and contributions on the floor, and he said this time around, I want Femi.

“I’m sure Asiwaju is happy, but this is not his project. He is not the one that zeroed in on him.

“The President told me himself, and when I asked him that I heard this story about Gbajabiamila, he told me his reasons.

“At the Governors’ Forum, people raised voices but I told them that as governors, we sometimes impose.

“I am not a hypocrite, so I say to them, don’t let us condemn the President for picking people he feels comfortable working with.

“I don’t care who the President wants to work with, but in my state, I am very interested.

“So, I told the President he has to be involved in this project, and I said if he allows me, I’ll talk to people and get involved, and I demand you get involved too.”

He said having made up his mind to support the President’s wish, he discovered his first barrier to be Idris Wase, who was also contesting the same position Continuing, he said: “The first obstacle I had to face was that Wase was the biggest threat, so I reached out to him and took him to the President.

“The President told him he had already decided on Femi and he gave his reasons.

“Wase replied that though he was sure he had a big chance of winning, but as his elder and President, the President’s request was done.

“I reached out to my fellow governors and I’m talking to Bago as well, and by the grace of God, by June 11, there won’t be any contest. We will do our best.

“I have also told my elected colleagues from Kaduna State that this is Buhari’s state, and we will do 100 per cent what he wants.

“We supported Femi in 2015, only one did not vote for Femi and my members suffered for their party loyalty in 2015 by not getting anything tangible in the House despite some of them being very ranking.”

On his comment on godfatherism, the governor said it was not directed at Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

His words: “That was not an attack on Asiwaju. It was a generic statement but the whole thing took a media frenzy because to some people, Asiwaju is a meal ticket.

“Let me tell you, because of that, some people started confessing to me that Asiwaju should be dealt with.

“They said Asiwaju wants to finish you, he has been abusing you; we should finish him by finishing his man, Femi.

“But I told them that this is not about Asiwaju but President Buhari and I will fight it with the last drop my blood. I told them to change their mind.

“I went to Asiwaju and told him that we will do what we can to make this project a success.”

El-Rufai urged Gbajabiamila and Wase not to be drawn into any ethnoreligious controversy, saying:

“Please do not allow people to draw you into religion or ethnic controversy.”

Earlier, Gbajabiamila said the appreciation visit was strategic because of what the governor has been doing for the project.

“It is our intention to take the legislature to the next level,” he told the governor.

On his part, the Director General (DG) of Gbajabiamila/Wase Campaign organisation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, told the governor that the team was capable of bringing the needed reform at the National Assembly, while reiterating that they were open to negotiation from other contestants.

Crack in PDP Senators camp What appears a major crack in PDP senators’ fold emerged yesterday with the open declaration of support for Senator Ahmad Lawan’s Senate Presidency aspiration by Senator Peter Nwaoboshi. Senator Nwaoboshi, a former Chairman of PDP in Delta State, represents Delta North Senatorial District in the upper chamber. He threw his support behind Lawan to emerge the President of the Ninth Senate at a crowded press briefing in Abuja.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Affairs, Senator Ita Enang, who is a known backer of Lawan’s aspiration, was on hand to receive Nwaoboshi.

An obviously elated Enang thanked Nwaoboshi profusely for his support for Lawan’s Senate presidency project. Only last month, a PDP Senator elect, Abba Moro, who represents Senator David Mark’s Benue South Senatorial District, also came out to declare support for Lawan’s Senate Presidency aspiration.

To show that his support was for real, Moro did not only declare his support for Lawan, he is also a member of Lawan’s campaign organisation.

Moro in his speech at the event held at the sprawling Transcorp Hilton, Abuja said that he was there because he believed in the capacity of Lawan to lead the Ninth Senate. Nwaoboshi is a known ally and staunch supporter of Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki.

Saraki has not openly declared support for any of the frontline contenders for the Senate President of the Ninth Senate.

The implication of Nwaoboshi’s open declaration of support for Lawan is that PDP Senators may not go for block vote during the election of the presiding officers of the Ninth Senate as being taunted in some quarters.

It may also mean that PDP Senators are in disarray, especially as more in their fold are said to be warming up to declare support for Lawan ahead of the inauguration of the Ninth Senate this month.

Nwaoboshi noted that the leadership of PDP will not direct its elected senators to vote for any particular candidate for the position of the Ninth Senate President.

The Delta North Senator, whose victory was revalidated by an Appeal Court judgement on Thursday, said the best the PDP leadership would do was to give the elected members of the incoming Ninth Senate the direction to follow.

He insisted that the party would not necessarily impose a candidate on its elected members of the National Assembly.

Nwaoboshi said: “The PDP has not taken a decision as a political party as far as the presiding officers of the Ninth Senate is concerned. Our party has not also told us the candidate we should vote for.

“I know the PDP leaders will not say this is the candidate they want. They would only give us a guideline.

“I also have a right as the representative of my people to determine what is good for the Anioma people.

“I am a loyal PDP man. I have not left the PDP and it is not part of my agenda to do.

“However, regarding the leadership of the Ninth Senate, I know my people would be happy with my choice of Lawan.

“My people know what they benefitted from the support that I gave the incumbent Senate President.

“I can make a choice on my people’s behalf because I have lived among them over the years.”

Nwaoboshi added that even if his party, PDP, takes a position on the issue of Senate President, as a senator, he has the right to decide who to support for the position.

He noted that most importantly, his constituents, the Anioma people of Delta State, preferred Ahmad Lawan to other senators-elect eyeing the same position.

Nwaoboshi explained that although he did not support Lawan’s aspiration during the Eighth Senate in 2015, realities on ground as far as the 9th Senate is concerned, showed that Lawan is the most qualified, having been in the National Assembly as an elected federal lawmaker since 1999.

He said: “All those contesting for the position have approached me for support and as a student of history, I have studied their backgrounds which clearly show that in terms of experience, Lawan is the one with the requisite legislative experience.

“I have found in him competence and the required intelligence legislatively and politically to steer the ship of leadership of the 9th Senate and by extension, that of the 9th National Assembly.”

The Delta North Senator noted that opposition of many of the PDP Senators to Lawan had been watered down by recent pronouncement by the Deputy National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Lawal Shuaibu, that leadership at both chambers cannot be imposed but through consensus across party lines.

On the revalidation of his victory at the poll, Nwaoboshi dismissed insinuations that his challenger at the Appeal Court, Ned Nwoko, would present the Certificate of Return issued to him by the Independent National Electoral Commission to be inaugurated as Senator on June 11 during the inauguration of the Ninth Senate.

He said: “Once the election has been declared and the certificate of return issued to the winner, it is only the highest court in the land that can order the withdrawal of the certificate.

“I have my certificate of return. Nobody has withdrawn it. What was issued to Ned Nwoko was a piece of paper and not a certificate of return.

“I was the one that contested the election, having defeated him in the primaries.”

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