The presidential candidate of ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2023 general elections, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, says he is still searching for a running mate.
He said this in Abuja yesterday at the unveiling of a book, Legislative Mentorship Initiative, to mark the 60 birthday of the speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
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Tinubu is expected to name his running mate by the July 15 deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to replace Kabir Ibrahim Masari, whom he had selected in placeholder capacity.
Tinubu said yesterday described Gbajabiamila as “a contributor to our democratic growth, thank you. You have character. You’re a great mentor and you’re doing a good job charting a path to success. You’ve done a good job and I say thank you, thank you.
“What you did during my primary is a story for another day. I’ve spent more time, too many times and people might be bored, they might be envious too, they might be jealous. I won landslide, I thank you.
“I could see his deputy (Wase) sitting down there too, you are a very good symbol of unity, dependability, and honesty, thank you. Thank you for both of you. You’ve not rocked the boat. I’ll need to learn from both of you, how you made the pair work because I’m still searching for my running mate”.
He said he discovered Gbajabiamila and saw in him, a potential politician even though the speaker was reluctant at first.
He said despite Gbajabiamila’s initial reluctance, he encouraged him to get involved in politics and he took up the challenge.
“As a minority leader, he consulted widely and he’s always there to see the thinking of opposition that we must bring a revolution to the House to be able to beat the PDP. And then, he’d brainstorm for any length of time about political strategy.
“When he was challenged for the position of the speaker, I think after our merger, he worked with me tirelessly. Femi is a workaholic. The problem of failure stared him in the face. He lost the election to become the speaker.
“I was close to tears. Stamping my foot to the ground, I said we’ll win again. Femi keep up, pick yourself up. I’m very proud of you that you did, you didn’t give up. You did the opposition and the support job. You demonstrated what we learnt from textbooks and other authors that life is not about education of one section of the society. “Remember what we discussed about paying the WAEC fee of omo iya oniboli (the son of the woman who roasts plantain), and my mum was alive then, asking me to see to it each time I gave her money, it doesn’t last.
“And I said whatever you do with the money, I don’t know. Mama will say no, those women there are mothers, they want to pay WAEC fees. And Femi was one of the first set of people I consulted. Are we going to say that the children of the poor are not deserving of becoming governors, doctors and engineers? I said I was afraid. He said do it. So, that is how a junior brother can inspire a senior leader”.
On his part, President Muhammadu Buhari described Gbajabiamila as a true patriot, a team player and a skillful parliamentarian who had shown his pedigree in the business of law making
Buhari, represented by his Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, said for Gbajabiamila,”what matters is not so much the party differences, but what unites Nigerians and that’s why he’s a passionate advocate for a peace democracy and unity of Nigeria.
“And no amount of parliamentary maneuvers or differences between parties would deviate him from this. He introduced the term legislative diplomacy.
“When there were issues between Nigerian and Ghanaian traders, he went to Accra and met with his colleagues and tried to resolve the issue.”
Buhari said he was proud that he did not need to interfere in how the National Assembly’s affairs because he had trust in the capacity of the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives.
He added: “It’s also a fact that under the Speaker and leadership of the senate there is no automaticity of opposition and antagonism to the executive. The role of legislature is not to be antagonistic as a matter of routine, but to be partners for good governance for the people of Nigeria. They’re working together to make Nigeria better”.
In his remarks, Gbajabiamila asked Tinubu to consult him in choosing his running mate.
He promised to help Tinubu to get a running mate that would work smoothly with him.
He said: “You (Tinubu) said in your address that many years ago you consulted with a younger brother on the issue of WAEC and that consultation bore fruits.
“I give you my own parting shot. It’s that time again to consult with your younger brother. I’ll give you a running mate that you’ll enjoy working with. But this time, the consultation, I promise you, will not be for free”.
Gbajabiamila said the book was not just about him, but also a tribute to everyone that had helped him get to where he is today particularly, Tinubu.