The near feisty race of who becomes the governorship flag bearer for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos, took a feverish turn early on Saturday as one of the aspirants, Dr Obafemi Hamzat stepped down to back fellow aspirant, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, thereby reducing it to a two horse contest with incumbent Governor,
The near feisty race of who becomes the governorship flag bearer for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos, took a feverish turn early on Saturday as one of the aspirants, Dr Obafemi Hamzat stepped down to back fellow aspirant, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, thereby reducing it to a two horse contest with incumbent Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode in the primaries now slated for Monday, October 1st.
Hamzat, former commissioner for Works and Infrastructure renounced his decision to contest the APC governorship primary election at a press briefing attended by Sanwo-Olu, former commissioner of Establishment, Training and Pensions and other party members in Lagos.
This could pose a huge challenge for the incumbent, Governor Ambode as the two aspirants have joined forces to upstage him in the APC primary. The earlier decision of the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), the Lagos APC highest decision making organ, to ask the Governor to face the two other challengers may not have been heart warming for Ambode, the first incumbent to have been denied automatic second term ticket.
Also chilling for Governor Ambode are reports that the national leader of the ruling APC Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who also heads the Mandate Group, a powerful caucus, has withdrawn support for his re-election in favour of Sanwo-Olu who was also a former Commissioner of Commerce and Industry.
Tinubu has however been under intense pressure to have a change of heart after President Muhammadu Buhari, some state governors and other leaders of the party tried to persuade him to support the incumbent.
The grouse of the Mandate Group is that Ambode has sidelined the group on major policies and pursued a “politics of exclusion.” He’s also accused of abandoning key projects initiated by his predecessor, Mr Babatunde Fashola, now Minister of Works, Housing and Power. The problem of Ambode, a former Accountant General of the state, who is also accused of “undue arrogance,” is said to have been compounded by his frosty relationship with public servants. His sacking of about 36 permanent secretaries to give way to those perceived as his cronies is also not salutary.
To further stoke Ambode’s goose pimples is that his main challenger, Sanwo-Olu is not only believed to have the backing of the Mandate Group, led by Tinubu but that its kingpins and other party godfathers have been showcasing his candidacy to all the crucial platforms. The group, on different occasions also maintained that Ambode’s exit is a closed deal.
Also, chairmen of 52 out 57 local councils in the state have endorsed Sanwo-Olu as the party’s governorship flag bearer, with 36 members of the House of Assembly also stating their resolve to back him.
Undaunted, Ambode appears resolved not to go down without a fight. He’s throwing all it takes into the ring. He has scoffed at the advise to step down to avoid the humiliation of a seating governor losing his party’s ticket and has instead declared his readiness to contest his return ticket for next year’s election.
Ambode has rolled out his second term campaign structure which covers the entire 20 Local Government Areas and 37 Local Council Development Authorities in Lagos State.
Hon Hakeem Omoyele Sulaimon-Oris, Director General of the Akinwunmi Ambode Mandate Support Group while addressing party members in Ikeja GRA office of the group, said Governor Ambode has the assurance, blessing and support of Ashiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader, members of the Governor’s Advisory Council, all layers of party executive leadership, and party members for his second term ambition.
Sulaimon-Oris said Ambode second term campaign outfit is people centred, multi dimensional, inclusive and is constituted by past and serving LGA party chairmen, past and serving council chairmen, past and serving leaders of Community Development Associations, past and serving leaders of Community Development Committees.
Also former Sole Administrators, former Executive Secretaries, past and present Education Secretaries, past and serving Secretaries to Local Governments, past and serving Councillors and volunteer groups are members of the organization.
Sulaimon-Oris explained that over 130 volunteer groups, student bodies, trade groups and NGOs have signed up to work for the Ambode second term project.
The former council chair said Ambode like every mortal is fallible. “The Governor has taken stock of issues; he is deeply remorseful and has commenced the process of making required corrections and restitutions.” He explained that Governor Ambode will deal with the party executives and members directly; not through agents, proxies or middlemen.
What is not contestable is the popular approval of Governor Ambode sterling performance. His social engineering of spreading development projects to many densely populated areas is seemingly his strongest thrust. Many say they are not ready to pay the party gladly if Ambode is denied a second term ticket. Even the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has offered Ambode its platform should he fails to get the APC ticket.
A foretaste of what may await the leaders of the party if Ambode fails to make it was the hauling of abuses on Tinubu on Saturday by Ambode’ supporters who had taken over the secretariat complex on ACME road, Ogba, forcing the national leader to make a retreat, which subsequently led to the postponement of the governorship primaries.
In readiness for the direct primary election, Ambode’s team has approved specialised training for one thousand, nine hundred and sixty personnel that will serve as agents in all the 245 wards in the constitutionally recognised 20 Local government areas where the primary election is expected to take place. This development comes on the heels of the inauguration of the Ambode Campaign Organisation (ACO) coordinators and offices in the three senatorial districts in the state, with functional outposts across the 20 local governments.
A press release on Thursday from the Directorate of Media and Strategy of ACO, said the agents have been selected and trained “to be the eyes and ears of Governor Ambode as the candidate of choice in the primary election.”
The statement added that while being vigilant and uncompromising, the agents have been tutored to conduct themselves in a peaceful and orderly manner as loyal members of the All Progressives Congress who want the best for the party and for democracy by ensuring that the best candidate emerges on a level playing ground.”
Governor Ambode had on Wednesday reiterated his intention to participate in Sunday’s primary election in line with the preference of the party and the influential Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC).
The governor’s position saw jubilation by his teeming supporters who believe that Ambode deserves a second term in office in order to consolidate on his numerous landmark socio-infrastructural achievements in the past three and half years.
In his declaration on Wednesday, Ambode had stated his intention to seek re-election with a “grateful heart, open arms and a pledge to open and deeper attention to the concerns of this one, big family.”
He also stated that a return of the party’s ticket to him will “guarantee the stability of the state’s growing economy; ensure continuation of the growth and development it has witnessed over time and ensure that the opposition does not take root in Lagos State.”
Meanwhile, buoyed by the Governor’s genuine commitment to the development of the state as well as his gratitude and reference to the National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and elders of the party in the state, several special interest groups in Lagos APC are said to have endorsed the Governor’s candidacy, insisting that his sterling performance and reconciliatory conduct should earn him the deserved second term in office.
Many fear that if the internal bickering within the ruling APC is not checked, it may pave the way for the victory of the candidate of the PDP, the same way internal rift amongst members of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the early 90s, led to the unexpected victory of Mr Michael Otedola of the National Republican Convention (NRC).