The Gloves are Off, Ambode Says Sanwo-Olu’s Aspiration Will Endanger Buhari’s Chances

  • Alleges opponent has criminal record, was at rehab, not fit to be gov
  • Tinubu: I am fighting to restore Lagos’ governance blueprint
  • Oshiomhole to monitor primary

By Gboyega Akinsanmi in Lagos and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, yesterday formally asserted his right to participate in today’s primary election for the selection of the All Progressives Congress’ (APC) candidate for the state in the 2019 general elections.

The governor, who was brought under intense pressure on Friday by the party’s National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, and the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), to stand down for their preferred aspirant and Managing Director, Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC), Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, spoke at a press conference and warned that his main challenger’s ambition could injure the chances of President Muhammadu Buhari in the state in the impending presidential contest.

Ambode also took a major swipe at Sanwo-Olu, saying he was improper and unfit to govern Lagos because he had been arrested and detained for months in the United States before for spending fake dollars in a night club, and that he had once gone for rehabilitation in Gbagada General Hospital.

But in a swift response, Sanwo-Olu denied ever been arrested in the US and said the party would respond to all issues raised by Ambode, explaining that he would rather remain focused on his bid to pick the party’s ticket in tomorrow’s primary.

At the conference held at the Government House, Alausa the embattled governor spoke on diverse issues relating to the APC governorship primary election rescheduled to hold today in 245 wards and 20 Local Government Areas across the state and warned against alleged plan to manipulate the process.

Shortly after the governor’s conference, the national leader released a statement in which he gave a veiled explanation for his opposition to the return of his godson, saying he had deviated from the governance blueprint he instituted in 1999 and was sustained by his successor, Mr Babatunde Fashola, between 2007 and 2015.

Ambode’s return bid had been opposed by Tinubu’s political machine, the Mandate Movement, which threw up Sanwo-Olu to challenge the governor.

Also up in arms was the former Commissioner for Works & Infrastructure, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, who also declared his intention to challenge the governor in a primary contest.

Ambode’s travail had attracted the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari, former Ogun State Governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba, Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) and the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), pleading for reprieve for Ambode.

With the presidential intervention, the APC leader, Senator Bola Tinubu decided to consult the GAC, the state’s highest advisory political organ comprising 22 APC chieftains across the three senatorial districts. But in its resolution, the GAC directed Ambode and the two other aspirants to face the direct primary election.

At the news conference, Ambode noted that he was not afraid of a fair political contest, but warned that the APC should not fritter away opportunities before it “to allow the opposition party to win the 2019 governorship election in the state.”

Ambode said, “If we allow the opportunity before our party to fritter away, we will be jeopardising the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket on which I am 100 percent standing for. But other aspirants cannot deliver the ticket for the party.

“I will not stand here on the mandate of the people of Lagos and allow the APC to fritter away that opportunity to put in somebody that opposition will easily kick out because of credibility. So, I appeal to all our leaders, they should have a rethink. This is not about me. It is about the greatest opportunity that APC has to change the progress of Nigeria to better a place.”

Apart from the threat to the Buhari-Osinbajo re-election bid, Ambode said, “The aspirant being put up to compete against us is not a fit and proper person. This is the truth that the party leaders and members have been misled to understand that the aspirant is a better candidate than myself.

“I have done everything in the last three years and half to serve people selflessly. This particular aspirant has been arrested for spending fake dollars in a night club in the United States. As a result, he was detained for months. He knows that he does not have the competence to do what he is being propelled to do.

“The records are there in the Gbagada General Hospital, Lagos. This is somebody that has gone for rehabilitation before. We do not want to go so far. We know our leadership should have a rethink because this is the true position.”

Ambode, also, expressed discontent about the guideline for the governorship primary, rejecting the plan “to use the 2014 party membership register for the contest. The register only includes members that register in 2014. What about millions of supporters that we have brought in from 2015 to date?

“I take my membership slip anywhere I go. This is the membership slip I have. I do not have a membership card.  Are they saying I will not as a governor be entitled to vote tomorrow? The APC National Secretariat needs to make immediate adjustment. All persons that registered as members of APC should be able to vote.

“That is how to entrench the democratic values that we are all preaching. If someone like me can be disenfranchised because I do not have a card, what then happen to ordinary members of APC? We believe strongly that these things can be corrected. We should allow every member to come out and exercise their civic duties and rights to choose who will represent them in the governorship election.

“So, I plead with the National Working Committee. I also plead with the APC National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole and even the people that are interested in Lagos politics to do the right thing. They should make the process credible. I believe with God on our side, we will come out triumphant.

“Even though tomorrow is our independence day, it is important to know that everybody is prepared for the primaries. As we speak, the APC National Secretariat has already sent in Electoral Committee to Lagos. But I am yet to receive the guideline. I am an aspirant in tomorrow’s competition.

“I believe strongly that preparation is on-going. There are two things we need to iron out. I believe the APC Chairman will be able to correct some of these things that we have noticed. We are committed progressives. We are committed to the outcome of the primaries. We are committed to the tenets and principles of our great party. But what we will not accept is to disenfranchise millions of people we have been able to bring to the fold of the APC in the last three and half years.”

Tinubu: I’m Fighting to Restore Lagos’ Governance Blueprint

Meanwhile, in a veiled reference to Ambode, Tinubu yesterday explained why he decided not to support his re-election bid, saying it was due to the need to restore the state’s governance blueprint.

He said to ignore the state’s blueprint for progress in order to replace it with ad-hoc schemes of a materially inferior quality, contravened the spirit of progressive governance he and the APC were known for.

He expressed this disappointment in a statement he signed yesterday, saying, “Such narrowness of perspective does not bring the state and its residents closer to our appointed destination; it takes us farther from that destiny.”

Specifically, the APC leader said Lagos State recorded improvements in all aspects of its collective existence, from public health to public sanitation, from education to social services, from the administration of justice to the cleaning of storm and sewage drains under his administration and that of his immediate successor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN).

According to him, businesses, large and small, invested, hired millions of workers and thrived. All Lagosians were to fully participate and justly benefit from the social dividends and improvements wrought by this plan from the common labourer, to business leaders, to professionals and our industrious civil service.

He said, “The two administrations were to be partners in a monumental but joint enterprise. None was to be alienated. None was to be left out. And none were to be pushed aside.

“This is especially true for those who contributed so much to our development, whether as a business leader who has invested heavily in Lagos, the homeowner who struggles to pay his fair share of taxes or as someone employed in the hard work of keeping our streets and byways clean so that others may go about their daily tasks unimpeded.

“I make no pretence that the master plan is perfect. It can always be fine-tuned. However, whenever a government departed from this plan without compelling reason, the state and its people have borne the painful consequence of the improper departure.”

He said party members should vote in a manner that would return Lagos to its better path, the one that promises a just chance for all to enjoy the fruits of our prosperity.

Without mentioning the name of Ambode’s main challenger, Sanwo-Olu, the APC leader said he was encouraged by the emergence of another candidate who, according to him, had served the state in senior positions in his administration, the Fashola administration and even in the current one.

He said while possessing a wealth of experience and exposure, the candidate “is a young man endowed with superlative vision and commitment. Most importantly, he understands the importance of the blueprint for development. He esteems it as a reliable and well-conceived vehicle for the future development of the state.”

Oshiomhole to Monitor the Primary

As part of the efforts to ensure peaceful, free and fair conduct of the primary, the National Chairman of APC, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, will be in the state to oversee the exercise.

THISDAY gathered yesterday that Oshiomhole would be taking charge of affairs and is expected to meet with key stakeholders before the primary election begins.

A reliable party source who did not want his name mentioned said, “Oshiomhole said he will be in Lagos to monitor the governorship primary election in order to ensure that the situation did not get out of hand.”