Sesan Olufowobi, John Alechenu and Oladimeji Ramon
There were indications on Wednesday that the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, conceded victory to Babajide Sanwo-Olu, his main opponent for the All Progressives Congress governorship ticket in Lagos, to calm frayed nerves and avert impeachment.
There had been expectation that the governor would fight the declaration of Sanwo-Olu as the winner of the state’s Tuesday governorship primary, which was initially cancelled by the APC National Working Committee panel that had promised to announce a new date for the primary.
The panel made a U-turn on Wednesday to declare Sanwo-Olu the winner, sparking speculations that the governor would reject the move.
A few hours after the panel’s new decision, the governor’s media team sent a press statement that the governor would host a “world press briefing” by 2.pm, causing more speculations.
In the briefing, which eventually turned out to be a broadcast by 4pm, Ambode accepted defeat and congratulated Sanwo-Olu.
One of our correspondents gathered through sources in both Ambode and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s camps that the move was meant to remove the tension, as well as avert the impeachment move being considered by party elders.
One of the sources said before and after the broadcast, Ambode had contacted Tinubu and some party leaders in a bid to assure them of his loyalty to the party, and in order to avert the impeachment option.
“He (Ambode) did not want the matter to get to that level; that is why he accepted the defeat to reduce the tension in the state and stop any panicky action by the party elders. He also wanted them to leave him in peace to complete all his projects,” the source said.
The APC Publicity Secretary in Lagos State, Mr Joe Igbokwe, said he did not know about any peace move by the incumbent governor, as well as any deal.
He said, “I don’t know about that.”
One of Tinubu’s aides also said it was still early to say.
He said, “Ambode just made his speech, every other thing would flow from the governor’s decision to accept defeat and congratulate Sanwo-Olu.”
NWC bows to Lagos APC, declares Sanwo-Olu winner
Earlier on Wednesday, the APC panel changed its position on the validity of the primary conducted in the state on Tuesday.
The fresh stance was contrary to the position of the NWC panel, led by Mr Clement Ebri, on Tuesday that the primary did not hold.
The panel said on Wednesday that the primary held.
It went on to declare Sanwo-Olu as the winner of the primary with 970,851 votes ahead of Ambode, who recorded 72,901 votes.
The Ebri-led panel in a press statement, said, “After resolving some of the hiccups, the Lagos State APC Governorship Primary Committee collated the results from the 245 wards in the 20 local government areas.
“At the end of the exercise, these are the votes scored by the aspirants: 1. Gov Akinwunmi Ambode, 72,901 votes. 2. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, 970,851 votes.
“Following these results, I, Clement Ebri, the Chairman of the Lagos State APC Governorship Primary Committee hereby declare Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the winner.”
‘Why APC NWC upheld primary’
Another source said the decision to uphold the result was informed by the presence of relevant government agencies, including representatives of the Independent National Electoral Commission at the primary.
A member of the party leadership, who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity said, “Most people spoken to said the governorship primary was held in Lagos yesterday (Tuesday).”
Another party source confided in one of our correspondents that the President left the decision to the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, who had earlier said there was election in Lagos.
The source added that Ebri did not take directive from the NWC before announcing that no primary took place.
Ambode accepts defeat, congratulates Sanwo-Olu
In his broadcast on Wednesday, Ambode congratulated Sanwo-Olu, saying it was time for the state to move forward.
The governor said although events of the last few days had been characterised by intense political activities which created tension, the interest of the state superseded that of any personal ambition.
He, therefore, urged members of the party and all Lagosians to support the candidate of the party.
He said, “The APC is a great party and the interests of our beloved state must always supersede that of any person or group. It is in this regard that I wholeheartedly congratulate the winner of the Lagos State APC Primaries, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and urge all Lagosians to immediately support our party’s gubernatorial candidate in the 2019 elections.”
While assuring that he would work to ensure a smooth transition in 2019, the governor said the progress of the state was non-negotiable, as he would remain forever devoted to the development of Lagos.
The governor thanked Tinubu, the leadership of the party and all Lagosians for the support extended to him, and urged the people to continue to support the APC.
Lagos is under siege
However, the Convener of Lagos Solidarity Forum, Comrade Mark Adebayo, said on Wednesday that Lagos was being pushed in the direction of the precipice by enemies of democracy.
In a statement, the group boss said the state APC primary was “another hatchet’s job.”
He said, “Every society that has ceased to exist starts from the point of aggravated injustice that provokes intractable anarchy.
“Unfortunately, Lagos State is being pushed in the direction of that precipice by forces which can best be described as, not only enemies of democracy, but enemies of the people. These same forces have been responsible for the mobile retrogression of Nigeria since 1999 that we have moved into civilian governance. Their weapons have been domination, imposition and brazen overthrow of the people’s mandate.
“The shameful shenanigan orchestrated by the APC governorship primary committee chaired by Clement Ebri, the former Cross River State governor erroneously thought to be a man of impeccable integrity was another hatchet’s job executed in the service of merchants of inhumanity and derogation of all elements of societal value….
“The time has come for Lagosians to rise up through a mass action to liberate ourselves.” (Punch)