Ambode: Agbakoba’s Group Rallies 30 Political Parties to Take over Lagos State

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Gboyega Akinsanmi

The rift between All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, and Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, has given impetus to an organised challenge of the party’s dominance in the state as a political group, the Peoples Trust, has indicated its intention to coalesce with 30 other political parties to mobilise the people for the takeover of Lagos State.

The group that has as its leading light, human rights activist, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), said it would use the rift as a window to mobilise the people to challenge godfather politics and take over the state.

Ambode’s return bid had been made difficult by Tinubu’s political machine, the Mandate Movement, which threw up the governor’s main challenger and Managing Director of Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC), Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

He is also being challenged by former Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, of the Justice Forum, another formidable political structure in the state.

Following pressure from the presidency and other top APC leaders, Tinubu had pushed the quest for right of first refusal for Ambode to the state’s highest political advisory organ, Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), for determination.

The GAC concluded on Monday that the governor and his challengers should test their contention at a direct primary scheduled for Saturday, saying it did not want to be accused of imposing anyone on the party.

However, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Dr Segun Obe, the People’s Trust unveiled a ‘Grand Alliance for New Democratic Lagos, which it said, would begin consultations with critical stakeholders today in its Lagos State secretariat, Ogba.

The statement noted that stakeholders from across the 30 political parties would converge for a major consultative rally on the way forward on the resolve of the alliance against godfather politics and imposition of candidates in Lagos State.

It said the alliance “is entirely a Lagos affair. Our grand mobilisation is purely against the imposition of anointed candidates in Lagos by godfathers and power brokers. This is the only strategic way to deter self-serving political godfathers and power brokers in the country from actions tending towards taking electorate and voters for a ride.”

Judging by the outcome of the Osun elections, the statement said, “We are indeed very optimistic and quite upbeat that our movement is now in a better situation to galvanise political stakeholders and electorate in Lagos to take advantage of the heightening power tussle within the ruling APC in ensuring that the third force and the Lagos Voters produce the next Governor of Lagos State in 2019.

“We strongly view the unfortunate power display of a clique of kingmakers of the ruling APC in Lagos as a mockery of internal party democracy. It also demeans the value and power of the teeming electorate and voting populace in Lagos to the effect that they can jettison the performance of Ambode, who is regarded as the whiz-kid of development in Lagos for the blind loyalty of their political crony and protégé.

“The Osun governorship elections could not have come at a better time than this as the outcome has turned out to be a signpost of what is to happen in Lagos and other progressive states in 2019. We are therefore of the firm opinion that the electorate should be wise enough this time around to reject any anointed candidate of APC power brokers.

“The undemocratic attempt of Lagos king makers to deny Ambode his second term in office should really send a strong signal to the Lagos electorate and voters that their power and mandate are already being undermined for them to rise in defence of their electoral power,”

APC Faction Makes Case for Ambode

Meanwhile, a faction of the APC in Lagos State led by Mr. Fouad Oki, has supported Ambode’s return bid, saying like his predecessors, he was entitled to a second term of office without a contest.

The faction, which broke away in February due to alleged cases of illegalities, manipulation and marginalisation against some members, warned that if the deep-seated cases of injustice “are not addressed in the interest of equity, fairness and justice, we may all suffer for it as we are currently suffering for the Osun debacle.”

In a telephone conservation with THISDAY yesterday, the Chairman of Lagos APC faction, Oki, supported the privilege of first refusal for a performing first-term governor, though admitted that there was no provision for such privilege in the APC Constitution.

Contrary to the position of the party leadership, Oki explained that every first term governor should be given the privilege of first refusal, though acknowledged that the APC Constitution did not make provision for such privilege.

However, according to him, it has become a convention in our party over the years. It is a privilege for elective officials in the executive cadres. And the purpose is to enable them complete the work they have started.

He, therefore, justified the privilege, which he argued, should be extended “to the person that occupies the office of Lagos State Governor because we rotate governorship position in Lagos State on the basis of senatorial district. Since 1999, this has been the practice. Why do we want to change it now?

“It is assumed that once a governor scales through the first term and once a governor performs well during the first term, the second term is automatic. It is just a privilege. The right of first refusal is not in the APC Constitution. Rather, it is a convention that previous governors in the state have enjoyed,” the factional chairman explained.

He cited the case of the APC National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu who ruled between 1999 and 2007, noting that Tinubu, who then represented Lagos West, enjoyed the privilege.

He also cited the example of Tinubu’s immediate successor and the Minister of Works, Power & Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), who spent two good terms in office between 2007 and 2015, representing Lagos Central.

Like his predecessors, the factional chairman said the case of Ambode, who hails from Epe in Lagos East, should not be different, noting that Lagos East should enjoy the same privilege irrespective of the person occupying the office of the governor.

Oki, specifically, said the rift with Lagos APC “is not Ambode. It is not about Sanwo-Olu. It is not about Hamzat. Rather, it is about equity, fairness and justice. This is how we started 26 years ago. This is how Sir Michael Otedola became governor in 1992. We may all suffer for it as we are currently suffering for Osun debacle.

“This is what we are facing in Osun because the party leadership has refused to be equitable to all the members. The party leadership has refused to be fair to all interests in the chapter. The party leadership has refused to be fair to all its stakeholders.”

Unless these issues are resolved, Oki warned that there might be “another Otedola phenomenon in 2019. We must not pretend that there is no problem in Lagos APC. Unless we go back to the basis of the APC crisis, we will continue to have challenges.

“They must address all issues on the last congresses. The chapter conducted congress in 337 wards instead of 245. It also conducted congress in 57 local councils instead of 20. The exercises were in violation of the 1999 Constitution. I cannot be a party to illegality.

“They had a meeting with me. But I made my position known to them. I cannot be a party to what is going on. I cannot be a party to illegality. They already know where I belong. I gave them audience because we belong to the same political family.

“But it does not mean I am supporting their candidate. We must be fair. We must be just. We must be equitable. We are just watching them. After Saturday, there will be acrimony that throws the chapter off the balance except there is fairness and justice.

“But if they continue this way, we are heading to a repeat of what happened in Osun State. I saw it. I told them. But they failed to listen. The same thing will happen if they fail to do the right thing. The party is yet to resolve the fallout of the last congresses that culminated in two factions. It is about fairness and justice.”