By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
As Gbajabiamila told to quit speakership race
With 24 hours to the inauguration of the 8th National Assembly, the contest for the position of Senate President between Senators Bukola Saraki (APC, Kwara Central ) and Ahmad Lawan (APC Yobe North) took a different dimension over the weekend with 33 out of 59 All Progressives Congress (APC) senators openly backing the candidature of Lawan.
This was even as Saraki, in a press statement issued yesterday, claimed to have the backing of 65 senators across party lines for the contest tomorrow, the faces of whom he promised to show the public at a press briefing today in Abuja.
Out of the 65 senators, Saraki said are supporting his candidature, 39 are of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which has a total of 49 Senators-elect since there are only 26 senators left for him in the APC fold after Ahmad Lawan had secured the support of 33 who elected him as the sole candidate of the party for presidency of the 8th Senate tomorrow.
Depletion of Saraki’s support base among the APC senators – elect from 35 earlier claimed by his group, the “Like Minds Senators” to 26 on Saturday night, was as a result of last minute defections made by some of them into the Senate Unity Forum, the Ahmad Lawan group, allegedly due to strong threats from the party through the governors.
Notable senators who made such defections as glaringly captured on Saturday night by our reporter at the International Conference Centre (ICC) Abuja, the venue of the APC primary election, where Ahmad Lawan emerged Sole candidate, were Comrade Shehu Sani (Kaduna central), Usman Bayero Nafada (Gombe Central), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West), etc.
But Saraki, in his press statement signed by coordinators of the ‘Like Minds Senators’, Dino Melaye (Kogi West) and Rufai Ahmad Sani Yerima (Zamfara West), said the outcome of the APC primary election has no binding force on his aspiration, saying he will contest against Ahmad Lawan on the floor of the Senate tomorrow since there are 65 senators across party lines on his side.
The statement reads in part: “We the Senators-Elect of Like Minds today 6th of June 2015, on the invitation of our party, attended an interactive meeting with selected 5 members from each group, the Unity Forum and the Like Minds Group.
“Regrettably, the Unity Forum insisted on open ballot voting which we discovered is different from the electoral process used to conduct the earlier election with the House of Representatives members elect. To us, this open ballot voting is primitive; undemocratic and against universal electoral norms and practice.
“In the light of the above, we the Senators elect of Like Minds hereby insist on our position of Open Secret voting process which we believe is in consonance with the provisions of the electoral act, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the universal electoral values.
“In conclusion we the Senators-Elect of Like Minds wish to state categorically that we will participate only in the constitutional election scheduled for Tuesday, the 9th of June 2015 in line with the rules of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
eanwhile, the APC preferred candidate for Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila has been asked to withdraw from the Speakership race.
The National Coalition for Credible Leadership which on Sunday called for Gbajabiamila’s withdrawal from the Speakership race sited his alleged past questionable law practices in the state of Georgia in United States where he was alleged to have defrauded his client.
The group in a statement by its National Coordinator, Mr. Chudi Okafor hinged their call on the alleged criminal and moral issues standing against him.
The allegations mentioned by the group include; dual citizenship and having a surname of Gbaja on his America passport, a surname different from Gbajabiamila that is currently being used by him in Nigeria.
The statement reads: “Hon. Gbajabiamila who practiced law in America with bar number 288330 was convicted of defrauding his client when he practiced law in the US State of Georgia”.
“It is worth mentioning here that the punishment for Femi Gbaja’s offense would have been outright debarment, however, he pleaded guilty before a full panel of the Supreme Court of Georgia led by Justice Leah Ward Sears.
‘Before the court ruled on the petition from his client, he (Gbaja) filed a petition for voluntarily discipline, filed under bar rule 4-227 (b) in which he fully admitted allegation from his client, while Georgia’s Supreme Court suspended him from practice of law for 36 months.”
“In light of the foregoing, we therefore call on Hon. Gbajabiamila to honourably withdraw from the Speakership race and go and clear himself in the courts.”
Efforts to get Gbajabiamila’s reaction to the allegations raised by his opponents did not sail through as he did not pick his calls or respond to our text messages.
However, a close associate of his, Rep Aliyu Sani Madaki (APC Kano), offered to give an insight. He said that, “There is a Supreme Court ruling on it, which said that a person can obtain dual citizenship if he or she desires. The constitution is very clear about that, it allows for an individual to have dual citizens. So as far as we are concerned, Gbajabiamila has not committed any offense.
He said according to the constitution, chapter 3 section 28, which started that, ” (1) subject to other provision of this section, a person shall forfeit forthwith his Nigerian citizenship if, not being a citizen of Nigeria by birth, he acquires or retain the citizenship or nationality of a country, other than Nigeria, of which is not a citizen by birth.
(2) any registration of a person as a citizen of Nigeria or the grant of a certificate of naturalization, to a person who is a citizen of a country other than Nigeria at the time of such registration it grant shall, if he is not a citizen by birth of that other country, be conditional upon effective renunciation of the citizenship or nationality of that other country within a period of not more than five months from the date such registration or grant.” But he did not agree to comment on the fraud allegation.
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