Akinwunmi Ambode wins Lagos APC governorship primaries

Akinwunmi Ambode at his declaration ceremony on October 24, 2014

Akinwunmi Ambode, the man widely believed to have been anointed by Bola Tinubu, a former Lagos governor and a national leader of the All Progressives Congress [APC], has defeated his 12 challengers for the APC governorship ticket in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, by a landslide.

About 5,700 delegates from 20 local government areas cast their votes for the 13 candidates who sought the ticket of the party.

Mr. Akinwunmi polled 3,735 votes to emerge the party’s flag bearer at next year’s general election.

Obafemi Hamzat took the second position with 1,201 votes.

Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, came a distant third with 182 votes.

During vote counting, the moment Mr. Ambode’s tally overtook that of Mr. Hamzat, the people in the VIP section of Onikan Stadium, jumped and cheered in jubilation. Mr. Ambode, who had been seated  through the night, sat quietly and savoured the moment.

13 aspirants participated in the party’s governorship ticket, but by the time the final result was announced, Mr. Ambode, the eventual winner, was the only one left at the venue.

The other 12 candidates had left by Thursday evening.

Other aspirants scored as follows: Lanre Ope [0 vote ], Tokunbo Wahab [7 votes], Adekunle Disu [9 votes], Abayomi Sutton [0 vote], Tokunbo Agbesanwa [0 vote], Adeyemi Ikuforiji [182 votes], Tola Kasali [68 votes], Supo Shasore [121 votes], Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon (GOS) [272 votes], Lekan Pitan [112 votes], Obafemi Hamzat [1,201].

The exercise was largely peaceful but with Mr. Tinubu discreetly anointing a candidate, it was a one-sided race all along, with Mr. Ambode largely projected to win. He did not prove bookmakers wrong.

Mr. Ambode, 51, is a former Accountant-General for Lagos.

Not known to be a politician before now, Mr. Ambode frequently flaunts his public service credentials.

At his official declaration to run on October 24, Mr. Ambode said he played an important role in raising Lagos State’s monthly internally generated revenue from N600 million to N12 billion.

“I am resolved to offer you genuine leadership that will be accountable with all the principles of good governance, a government of inclusion that will not leave any race or gender behind. No matter your age, sex, tribe or any other status, as long as you reside in Lagos, we will make Lagos liveable for you,” he said at the time.

“We will work to create opportunities for all and offer selfless service. As we proceed we will leave no one behind. What our great party stands for is change, positive change. We will create wealth. We will create new jobs. We will challenge ourselves to make Lagos a better place. We will take Lagos to the next level. We are going to do it together.”

Mr. Ambode promised to run an inclusive government that would cater for the aged, widows, artisans, students, children, the physically challenged, professionals.

“For corporate Lagos, Lagos is open for business, even for greater business. We have the political will to move Lagos to the next level. We are going to face our challenges by ourselves. Nobody is going to do that for us. With our collective will, we will overcome them.

“I call on all Muslims, Christians, and people of other religious persuasions to come out en masse and ensure we vote in a candidate that has the interest of Lagos and Lagosians at heart. A candidate that is passionate about Lagos. A candidate that truly understands the needs of the ordinary people. I am that candidate.”

‘A generational bridge’

Those opposed to Mr. Ambode’s candidacy have questioned his roots, insisting he is not a Lagos indigene.

At his declaration ceremony in October, he arrived the stadium in a black, tinted jeep with Epe boldly inscribed on the plate number.

In his speech, he described Lagos as the most cosmopolitan state in Nigeria with no room for discrimination.

“Whether you are Igbo, Efik, Ijaw, Hausa, Fulani, a foreigner, whoever you are, so far you live or work in Lagos, our government will work for you and you will be adequately represented.

“We want a Lagos that will protect Abdullahi; that will address the issues of Chukwuma and uphold the well-being of Yewande. We want a Lagos that will not deny any Nigerian citizen the right of political participation and access to services. It is not about sectionalism. This is the new Nigeria that we want to build and Lagos is the focal point from where we would build the Nigeria of our dreams.”

An acrimonious process

The processes leading to Thursday’s primaries was substantially acrimonious for the party, with some top Lagos politicians and the other candidates accusing Mr. Tinubu of manipulating the process to favour Mr. Ambode.

Mr. Tinubu had to meet with the candidates to disown Mr. Ambode, saying he had not anointed anyone and that he would allow a level-playing field for all contenders.

But not many believed him, with some openly saying he was merely playing politics.

By Wednesday, the eve of the primary, there was palpable tension in the APC camp in Lagos, with some candidates calling for a suspension of the process.

After a meeting at the Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja, some aspirants insisted the procedure used in selecting delegates to Thursday’s primaries was defective.

“Congresses held in April were based on 57 local councils, but the party’s Constitution recognizes 20 local governments. Now they are trying to merge the 57 into 20,” a source who was present at the meeting told PREMIUM TIMES.

“Also, under INEC’s delineation of wards, we have 245 in the state. But under the party’s arrangement, it is 327. What happens to the excess number?

“So it cannot fly. It breached both the Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution.”

Peter Obadan, a former Deputy Governor of Edo State (under John Oyegun, the APC Chairman), chaired the meeting.

The aspirants, PREMIUM TIMES learnt, were also angered by the fact that none of them – except Mr. Ambode – knew the delegates to Thursday’s primaries.

“We (aspirants) don’t even have the delegates’ list. If they bulldoze their way to the primaries tomorrow, any one of us can void,” the source said.

Any trouble ahead?

It is unclear whether all the other aspirants and party chieftains in the state would accept Mr. Ambode’s emergence as candidate.

But on Monday, some party members, led by one Olorunfemi Oluwatoin, filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos seeking a cancellation of the primaries.

Joined as respondents were the aspirants, the party, and the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC].

There were also indication Thursday that some candidates were dissatisfied with the process.

By midway into voting, almost all the aspirants had left the venue of the exercise. Only Akinwunmi Ambode, Ganiyu Solomon, and Leke Pitan were the only ones at the Onikan Stadium venue of the primary as at 6 p.m. 

As at 8.30 p.m., when delegates from 17 local governments had voted, only Messrs Ambode and  Solomon were still present at the venue.

It is unclear why the aspirants left and whether they would concede defeat to Mr. Ambode.

Earlier, Peter Obadan, the chairman the Election Committee, had appealed to the aspirants to monitor the exercise and channel any grievance to his committee.

There are fears that disgruntled party members could defect to other parties to achieve their ambitions.

But Henry Ajomale dismissed such fears, adding that he doesn’t expect any “crisis” after the primaries.

“In 2007, 23 members of our party, including our commissioners, contested in the primaries. There was no crisis then,” Mr. Ajomale told journalists on Thursday.

Tinubu appeals to aspirants to accept result

But Mr. Tinubu has appealed to all the aspirants to accept the winner of the contest as the party’s choice.

In a goodwill message to the aspirants, delegates, and party members on Thursday, Mr. Tinubu, hailed all the aspirants for being good democrats.

“I want to use this opportunity to commend all the aspirants. You have toiled hard and sweated for the good of the state,” Mr. Tinubu said in the message read by the party’s Publicity Secretary in the state, Joe Igbokwe. “You all have acquitted yourselves very well by selling your vision and not by tearing each other down. This is as it should be and must be.”

“When I met with all of you, you spoke of the need to ensure a free and democratic process. Today, you have that process,” Mr. Tinubu said. “However, we must be realistic. There are 12 (they were actually 13) good men seeking one post, only one of you will win this position.

“Accept the winner as the choice of the party that we may move forward and continue the project we highly seek. “You are 12 aspirants, and like the 12 tribes of Israel, let us work together.”

It remains to be seen whether the other aspirants will heed this call.

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Ben Ezeamalu is an Assistant Managing Editor and the Head of Lagos Operations/Metro Editor at PREMIUM TIMES. A graduate of Microbiology from the University of Jos, Ben won the 2015 Africa Fact-Check Awards and was a runner-up in the 2014 CNN/Multichoice African Journalists of the Year.

Twitter: @callmebenfigo.

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