Barely 24 hours to the election of the speaker of the 9th session of the House of Representatives, the only female candidate in the race, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, has stepped down from the race.
Ms Onyejeocha announced her decision in a statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday.
She declared her support for Femi Gbajabiamila, the All Progressives Congress’ preferred candidate.
According to her, it was as a means of upholding her party’s desire as well as the need to ensure zonal balancing.
“I threw my hat in the ring to improve the legislative framework for inclusive growth and social justice in Nigeria, especially for a marginalised group like poor women and the youth, who have been clamouring for more participation in the Nigerian economy and the state of affairs in recent times,” she said.
“It is a common knowledge that I also entered the race on behalf of my zone, the South-east, to address the agitation of exclusion alleged against our party and to equally zonal balancing in first-line leadership arrangement of our country.”
The lawmaker said she was aware of her party’s stance since the inception of the race but decided to push ahead because of the exclusion the South-east zone and for gender balance.
“I am therefore stepping down with a greater hope based on assurances from my party leaders and colleagues, that in the leadership and management of the House of Representatives in the 9th legislative session, the interest and voice of my constituencies – Southeast and women in Nigeria – will be carried along, fully recognised and effectively reintegrated,” she said.
“I have confidence in this assurances and also that my campaign has further sensitised my party to the imperative of inclusion of the Southeast and women in the governance of the country in the next four years.”
She expressed her confidence in Mr Gbajabiamila and urged other members to support him.
The APC leadership recently declared support for the current house leader, Mr Gbajabiamila, to become the next Speaker. The party is also supporting Ahmed Lawan as the next Senate President.
The adoption of Messrs Gbajabiamila and Lawan was condemned by some APC lawmakers including Borno senator, Ali Ndume, who also seeks to be the Senate President.
Mr Ndume, from Borno State, has vowed to continue with his ambition, saying he enjoys the support of many elected APC senators.
There are two other members of the House of Representatives who will be challenging Mr Gbajabiamila at the polls. However, his main challenger is Umar Bago who is believed to be backed by the immediate past speaker, Yakubu Dogara.
Mr Gbajabiamila is, however, considered the leading candidate.
The APC enjoys a clear majority in the incoming House of Representatives, winning over 200 of the 360 seats.
The APC is expected to produce the Speaker, but as it happened in 2015, a different candidate other than that endorsed by the party leadership may contest (and win) the election.
While both Messrs Lawan and Gbajabiamila were endorsed by the party for the positions in 2015, Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara emerged as the Senate President and Speaker of the House respectively.
The two winners later defected from the APC to the PDP.