The Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, has conceded defeat in the governorship primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In a broadcast on state television at 3:30 p.m., Mr Ambode congratulated Babajide Sanwo-Olu, his challenger for the party’s ticket with whom he had been locked in a fierce contest in recent weeks.
“The interest of our beloved state must always supersede that of any person or group,” Mr Ambode said. “It is in this regard, that I wholeheartedly congratulate the winner of Lagos State APC primaries, 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.
“As governor, I will do everything possible to ensure smooth transition of this administration and to the new governor come May 2019,” he added.
Mr Ambode had criticised the primaries held on Tuesday across the state, with both him and his loyalists alleging disenfranchisement, violence and other electoral malpractices.
Fouad Oki, a factional leader of the APC who backed Mr Ambode in the primaries, threatened to conduct a parallel exercise because political thugs prevented potential voters of the governor from voting.
They also said some APC members who visited ward units to cast their votes using membership slips rather than electronic chips were driven away.
A video was circulated online appearing to show a loyalist of Mr Sanwo-Olu threatening violence against anyone who voted for Mr Ambode at a polling centre as police officers stood watch.
But the state chapter controlled by Tunde Balogun said the claims of Mr Ambode’s loyalists were false and untenable. Mr Balogun went on to announce the results late Tuesday.
He pronounced Mr Sanwo-Olu winner with 970, 851 votes against Mr Ambode’s 70, 901 votes, becoming the first incumbent to lose own party’s governorship ticket in the 2019 general election season.
It initially looked like the exercise would not stand when on Tuesday evening the electoral panel sent in from the party’s national headquarters in Abuja said it was unaware of any primaries and that all the items needed to conduct the election were, in fact, in their possession.
But by Wednesday morning, Clement Ebiri, who led the panel, shifted grounds and declared Mr Sanwo-Olu winner, upholding the results announced late Tuesday by Mr Balogun.
Mr Ebiri did not say why he changed his mind over a 12-hour period. A spokesperson for the APC did not return requests for clarification from PREMIUM TIMES.
Adams Oshiomhole, the party’s national chairman, was reported to have said Mr Ebiri’s panel was sent to Lagos to collate results and not actually conduct the exercise, which took place at 245 wards across the state.
Although Mr Sanwo-Olu was unveiled to the public only recently, his victory appears to have been the outcome of a long-time politicking amongst Lagos power brokers led by Mr Tinubu.
No sooner had the candidate submitted the party’s nomination form on September 12 than crucial endorsements began to stream in for him. Between mid-September and October 2 when the primaries held, virtually all the biggest voices in Lagos APC politics had openly backed Mr Sanwo-Olu, including Mr Tinubu, who castigated Mr Ambode two days to the primaries after weeks of shying away from openly endorsing a candidate.
Mr Ambode’s concession statement was silent on specifics about his political future, although he hinted he might remain in the APC going into the election. There had been rumours he might defect to the Peoples Democratic Party to actualise his re-election hopes, with many attributing the opposition party’s delay in conducting primaries in Lagos to Mr Ambode’s possible defection to its folds.
Political analysts are suspecting that expectation might have been buried based on Mr Ambode’s assurances that he would respect the verdict of APC primaries voters and work towards Mr Sanwo-Olu’s victory and seamless transition into office.
“You have to understand that the governor could be impeached if he defects,” Femi Arobayo, an APC strategist in Lagos, told PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday evening. “He does not want to be the first Lagos governor to be impeached, more so when he could still benefit from the party in future.”
The governor has been rejected by 36 out of 40 members of Lagos State House of Assembly. His deputy governor, Idiat Adebule, abandoned him as primaries got underway Tuesday, voting for Mr Sanwo-Olu instead.
“With all these developments in mind, the governor knows things could get even worse if he moves to another party,” Mr Arobayo said. “It is a good thing he conceded, we only hope it is from the bottom of his heart.”
Mr Ambode’s concession speech is reproduced in full below:
ADDRESS DELIVERED BY THE GOVERNOR OF LAGOS STATE, HIS EXCELLENCY, MR. AKINWUNMI AMBODE, ON THE APC LAGOS STATE GOVERNORSHIP PRIMARIES ON WEDNESDAY, 3RD OCTOBER, 2018
Fellow Lagosians, the last few days have witnessed intense political activities that have gripped the attention of the nation and created palpable tension in the polity. I strongly believe that the time has now come for the State to move forward in order that the gains of the last three and half years are not lost.
Dear Lagosians, APC is a great party and the interests of our beloved State must always supercede 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 and work for the success of our dear party.
As Governor, I will do everything possible to ensure a smooth transition in the remaining period of this administration and ultimately to the new Governor, come May 2019.
I therefore appeal to all our party members that we remain one family and unite behind the candidate of the party, so that we can continue to move this state forward.
The progress of Lagos state is non-negotiable. It 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.
I wish to use this opportunity to thank our national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the leadership of our great party at state and national levels, all party faithfuls and all Lagosians.
I thank all Lagosians for their faith and trust in me. I urge you not to relent in your support for our party as we prepare for the general elections.
Long Live Nigeria
Long Live APC
Itesiwaju Ipinle Eko, lo jewa logun.
MR. AKINWUNMI AMBODE
GOVERNOR, LAGOS STATE
3rd October, 2018
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