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Tinubu reaffirms control in Lagos as Ambode bows

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Bola Tinubu. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has admitted defeat in the state’s gubernatorial primary, ending weeks of intrigues amid failure by the presidency to stave off the incumbent’s fate.

The governor’s press conference on Sunday where he dismissed his challenger as unfit raised tension. Yesterday, however, Ambode was conciliatory, congratulating Babajide Sanwo-Olu and urging Lagos residents to work towards the party’s victory in the 2019 general elections.Admitting “the last few days witnessed intense political activities that gripped the attention of the nation and created palpable tension in the polity,” the governor said he strongly believed the time had come for the state to “move forward, so that the gains of the last three and half years are not lost.”

He described the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a great party, stressing that the interest of the state transcends that of any person or group. Observers would be quick to note the admission, coming after accusations that the governor failed to carry the party and its members along.“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 and work for the success of our dear party,” Ambode said.He promised to do “everything possible to ensure a smooth transition in the remaining period of this administration and ultimately to the new governor, come May 2019.”

According to Ambode, the progress of the state is non-negotiable and appealed to party members to unite behind Sanwo-Olu to move Lagos forward. According to him, “It (Lagos) is a project that I have passionately worked for in the last three and half years as your governor and one to which I will forever be devoted.”He also thanked the party’s leadership and faithful and APC National Leader Bola Tinubu, his estranged political godfather who threw his weight behind Sanwo-Olu.

The lead-up to the primary and Ambode’s acceptance of defeat meanwhile was not without controversy. The exercise was the subject of false starts, holding after three postponements.A delegation of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), led by Mr. Clement Ebri, had been tasked with overseeing the poll. Its insistence on the use of ballot papers was however rejected by the APC leadership in the state. But as people waited for what could be a fourth and indefinite postponement, the state chapter announced the exercise would go ahead. Across the state, party supporters, aligned with Tinubu’s stand, delivered a landslide victory to Sanwo-Olu.

A huge political crisis with the potential for violence loomed as the NWC delegation rejected the result while the state leadership stuck to its guns and declared Sanwo-Olu winner. Ebri said the NWC never authorised the exercise and modalities were not followed. He said the state executives failed to turn in the list of officials appointed to supervise the election. The list only got to the panel at about 3:00 p.m., he explained, stressing that it would have been impossible to go ahead with the process without the list.

“We received from one party a list about one hour ago. At one point, they brought a list for seven local governments out of 20. About five hours later, they brought a list for 11. Even the other two local governments have not been provided till this moment. Do you blame me? “Will you have expected us to collect 18 from one person and 20 from another person? No. This is all about fairness and equity. This is about integrity and I think that at the end of the day, what we did was the best. I couldn’t have collected materials and say because the other party didn’t come, I give to the other person and say go and conduct the election,” he said.

Ebri however made a dramatic U-turn at the Murtala Muhammed Airport yesterday and upheld the result, saying: “The Lagos State APC governorship primary was contested by two aspirants namely Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and Sanwo-Olu. 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 Area (LGAs). At the end of the exercise, these are the votes scored by the aspirants: Ambode 72,901 and Sanwo-Olu 970,851. Following these results, I, Clement Ebri, the chairman of the Lagos State APC governorship primary committee hereby declare Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the winner.”

The Guardian learnt that Ebri agreed to accept the result following an intervention by APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole. He had earlier hinted he was open to directive from the national headquarters on the matter. It was also gathered that after the announcement, Ebri was whisked away to Abuja in Tinubu’s private jet.Efforts to reach the acting national publicity secretary of the party, Mr. Yekini Nabena, to confirm the NWC’s position on the primary failed, as he did not pick his calls. The state publicity secretary, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, however said the party would immediately begin preparations for the 2019 governorship campaign.

A group, Lagos Solidarity Forum, nevertheless rejected the outcome of the primary. In a statement by its convener, Comrade Mark Adebayo, the forum said: “The time has come for Lagosians to rise up through mass action to liberate ourselves. Lagos cannot continue to be in the prison of Asiwaju Tinubu.” It added that it was shameful that Oshiomhole could force the party’s NWC to endorse the result.

Also, some stakeholders congratulated Ambode for accepting defeat. According to the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, the governor has affirmed his loyalty to the party and would therefore enjoy brighter days politically.On his part, a former member of the Assembly, Avoseh Suru, said: “It shows that he (Ambode) is beginning to understand the nitty-gritty of politics, which is a game of numbers. The people of the state have spoken and he has shown maturity and intelligence. Despite having committed some errors, he has taken the right decision. I think he has a bright political future.”


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