The Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC) of the All Progressives Congress, Lagos State, yesterday decided that the state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, and two other governorship aspirants would face the primary contest scheduled to hold on Saturday, September 29.
With the decision of the GAC, the party denied Ambode the right of first refusal despite the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; former Ogun State Governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba; and Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, among others.
Notwithstanding the decision, THISDAY sources said that Ambode was still locked in a meeting with the party’s national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, and former national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, in Lagos last night.
The spokesman of the advisory council, Dr. Abayomi Finnih, disclosed this during a press briefing at the secretariat of Lagos APC, Acme Road yesterday.
He addressed the journalists alongside an APC chieftain, Prof. Babatunde Samuel.
Ambode’s political future has been uncertain after the Managing Director of Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC), Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and former Commissioner for Works & Infrastructure, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, declared intention to challenge Ambode.
Consequently, the Mandate Movement, a powerful political machine of the National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, endorsed Sanwo-Olu for the governorship contest, thus heating up the state’s political climate ahead of the primary election slated for September 29.
Ambode’s travail had attracted the intervention of the presidency, Osoba, Ajimobi, the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) and the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), pleading for reprieve for the governor.
With the presidential intervention, the APC national leader decided to consult the GAC, the state’s highest advisory political organ comprising 22 APC chieftains across the three senatorial districts.
The members of the GAC include Chairman of Lagos APC, Prince Babatunde Balogun, his immediate predecessor, Chief Oladele Ajomale, Otunba Bushirat Alebiosu, Dr. Olorunfemi Bashorun, Senator Anthony Adefuye, Prof. Babatunde Samuel, Chief Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Alhaji Tajudeen Olusi, Cardinal James Odumbaku, Chief Lanre Rasak, Dr. Yomi Finnih, among others.
At the session with journalists yesterday, Finnih noted that the GAC under the chairmanship of the APC leader adopted direct method to choose its governorship candidate out of the three main contestants rather than giving Ambode the right of first refusal like all his predecessors.
Finnih also noted that the same method would be used to select the party’s candidates for the three senatorial seats, 24 House of Representatives slots and 40 positions in the state House of Assembly in the state.
By implication, Finnih explained that Lagos APC “will conduct primary elections for all elective positions in the state. All aspirants seeking governorship, federal and state legislative elections will face primary contest on the scheduled dates.”
Contrary to some reports, however, he noted that the party had put all necessary machinery in place “to ensure a peaceful, free and fair primary contest for all categories of aspirants. There will be level-playing ground for all the aspirants.
“The primary elections will be conducted without fear or favour to any particular aspirant. It is not the affairs of Tinubu. Most reports on the social media are misleading and untrue. We have put structures in place to ensure credible process.”
He acknowledged that the GAC members held a meeting on Saturday during which they deliberated on how to conduct the primary elections peacefully.
At the meeting, Finnih disclosed that it was agreed that direct method was adopted “to adopt primary elections to choose party candidates for the 2019 elections. We have no preferred candidates among the governorship aspirants.
“It is not about Tinubu for any reason. It is our collective decision. We resolved to provide a level-playing ground for all aspirants without fear or favour. The adoption of direct primary method is to further democratise the electoral process in the state.
“We adopted the direct method in order to do away with the usual belief of anointed candidate. We will also ensure the process is credible and fair. Every aspirant should go to the field and test their popularity. The people will decide.”
Before the decision of the GAC to adopt direct primary method, Finnih explained that a stakeholders’ meeting had been held at the party secretariat “to adopt the method. The stakeholders agreed to it without any dissenting views.”
Also in a statement yesterday, a frontline socio-cultural organisation, Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum expressed concern about the gang-up by some political leaders, including Tinubu over Ambode’s re-election, noting that the governor should be given the privilege of seeking re-election unopposed.
The statement, which the group’s Secretary-General, Mr. Akin Malaolu, issued yesterday, said it was important “to educate the political leaders in Lagos State that the victory of APC and Ambode at the polls in 2015 elections were due to many factors.”
In 2015, the statement explained that Yoruba Ronu worked underground “to ensure Ambode’s victory due to the altercations between the Oba of Lagos and the Igbo community in Lagos over the lagoon saga that turned political. We are prepared to work for him regardless of his minor shortcomings.”
It warned that the threats “to deny Ambode his deserved second term and fair performance so far may snowball into massive protest votes if care is not taken. The hypocrisy of the political leaders of Lagos State has gone too far.
“They have veered off commonsense road into political carelessness in future polls that will have consequences on the presidential as well as other elections in the state if APC should go into 2019 elections without quick resolutions to unnecessary distractions it has embarked upon.
“We are putting the APC leaders in Lagos, including its so-called Mandate Movement and Justice Forum on notice that the general people and voters in Lagos and the South-west are not in companionship with your lots over attempts at denying Ambode his second term in office.”
The statement, thus, urged all the party leaders in the state “to sheath their swords for better political negotiations to reduce the political tension that has enveloped the people of Lagos State and the South-west in general.”
It, however, noted that Ambode “is a far better political leader than the nonentity APC leadership foisted on the people of Osun State for eight years and who had made mess of the golden opportunities democracy offers to the people which are happiness and prosperity and not vanity projects.
“We have no intention of addressing anyone on this subject again as our position is final and cannot be changed to another alternative. A stitch in time saves nine,” the statement said.