The Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday disregarded the invalidation of the governorship primary election by the National Working Committee of the party and declared Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the winner of the primary election.
The announcement was made in defiance of the party’s National Working Committee panel, which had earlier yesterday invalidated the governorship primaries held across the state, saying there was no election because the committee never authorised that the exercise should go ahead when the modalities were not followed as scheduled.
Announcing the results collated at the party secretariat located on Acme Road, Ikeja, Lagos, the party chairman, Alhaji Babatunde Balogun, said Sanwo-Olu polled 970, 851 votes to defeat the incumbent governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, who polled 72,901 votes.
Flanked by party chieftains in the state, the APC state chairman said the election was transparent, free and fair.
Balogun said, “The election took place simultaneously in all the 245 wards. Our members were visible in the local government areas. For example, our national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was at Ikeja, his own ward.
“He took part in the election and we saw the results. The results have been signed by the agents of the two aspirants. Those results were credible because INEC too was there and they all signed off. We were all witnesses to the conduct of the election. There were no violence, no chaos; it was free, fair and transparent. That’s what I am saying.’’
Asked whether any member of the NWC panel members were there, he said, “What I know is that I did not go round the wards. The venue I went to I saw some observers apart from the agents and INEC.
“They elections were publicly conducted, constitutionally done and I think we will leave the rest for the people and the press. That is why we have to wait for the committee charged with the responsibility to announce the results. We are not to announce the results”.
Responding to the question on whether he was satisfied, he said, “I am, surely for the fact that the conduct of the election was seamless, free, no chaos, no violence and people conducted themselves well.’’
There Was No Election, NWC Panel Declares
But chairman of the APC NWC panel, Mr Clement Ebri, insisted yesterday that the governorship primary purportedly held across Lagos State stands nullified.
He said the committee never authorised that the exercise should go ahead when the modalities were not followed as scheduled.
Briefing journalists in Ikeja, Ebri said that the APC state executive failed to turn in the list for officials appointed to supervise the election.
Noting that the list only got to the panel at about 3pm, Ebri noted that it would have been totally impossible to go ahead with the process without the list.
Meanwhile, explaining why the committee nullified the primary, Ebri said, “First and foremost, yesterday (Monday) we held a Stakeholders meeting, certain submissions were made and on the basis of these submissions, I contacted the National Headquarters and they asked us to adjust the procedures in line with the provisions.
“Having done that, we now had to reach out to the party executives to submit list that could be utilised for the purpose of posting officials to supervise the elections. Those list only arrived at about an hour ago and so anything that was done without the list that we wanted was of no effect because we wanted harmony and I told you, we are more interested in harmony than victory, so we had to wait for them.
“There was no way we could have gotten up at 8am, sat down in this place for about eight to nine hours without seeing anybody and then I would go ahead and do something? It is only fair that when you don’t see one party, you have to wait and be patient and that is what has brought us to point.”
Ebri explained that the Panel also met with representatives of the two aspirants in the governorship primary in the early hours of Tuesday and directed them to furnish the committee with the names of people who they have appointed to act as party agents for the primary.
He continued: “We had a session with the representatives of both aspirants, they were here as early as 8am and at that meeting we discussed some of these modalities and asked them to furnish us with names of people who will act as party agents so that we could use for this exercise.
“So, we received from one party, a list about one hour ago, and at one point, they brought a list for seven local governments out of 20 and about five hours later, they brought 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 explained.
Ebri, however, said the panel would contact the APC national headquarters and seek further directives on the new date for the governorship primary.
He said the panel was committed to ensuring a free, fair and credible process in line with guidelines and extant rules for the exercise to avoid being accused of partisanship.
He further stated: “There were a number of things we needed to adjust. Fortunately we have concluded the preparatory process for the primary and right here with me are the list local governments and the agents and returning officers for the entire State.
“Because of the political tension in the State, we decided to be very careful, very methodical and very meticulous in doing it. As party men, peace is very important to us than victory, we want victory that will be celebrated by both parties, we want victory that will be credible, a victory that will be in line with the guidelines and extant rules and laws in this country. We are ready to go to the field and execute this in clinical fashion so that at the end of the day we will all be happy.
“Lagos is a flagship of APC and must continue to remain so for years to come and so, in conducting anything that has to do with Lagos, we have to do it with a lot of circumspection and objectivity and it should be a showpiece for the rest of the country.
“In the next few minutes, I would contact the National Headquarters and inform them that we are done with the preparatory process and for the timing of the release of the materials for this process”.
Displaying the result sheets, the Panel Chairman said it was “in impeccable condition and not one single sheet is missing and it is not possible for this Committee to do anything other than it has been instructed to do”.
Tinubu, Ambode Camps Trade Tackles
As the controversy over the validity or otherwise of the Lagos State governorship primary rages, the camp of APC national leader, Ahmed Bola Tinubu and that of the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, yesterday went for each other’s jugular over the mode of voting to be used for the primary.
While members of the Tinubu camp alleged that members of the NWC had been compromised to discredit the direct primary election held in the state, the Ambode camp insisted that ballot papers and boxes should have been used for the primary to protect it.
The Tinubu camp maintained that it will not accept any election conducted through use of ballot papers and boxes.
The Ambode Mandate Support Group noted in a statement that Governor Ambode never conceded defeat to Babajide Sanwo-Olu who is believed to have won the primary election by wide margin.
They said, “There are guidelines and procedures which the National Working Committee (NWC) has insisted must be followed in conducting a credible poll.
“These include the usage of membership slips and membership cards by registered party members as well as the adoption of secret ballot system which protects the electorate.
“The NWC came from Abuja with sufficient ballot papers which are yet to be distributed. As a loyal and responsible party member and a democrat, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is guided by the process announced by the party and shall await the new date of the governorship primary election.
“We urge all party members and our teeming supporters to remain calm and peaceful and to refuse to be intimidated. Governor Ambode is still very much in the race and is poised to win in order to continue the good works he has been doing in the last three and half years”.
But the national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, who spoke with journalists in Ikeja, said the best way to prove that one is democratic is to embrace direct primary, even as he argued that no one will be able to buy the number of people involved in the process.
He insisted that the position of the party is that Ambode had deviated from the template of governance in the state; hence the party has resolved to change him.
Also, Dr Idiat Adebule, Ambode’s deputy who voted against her boss said she has to go with the decision of the party, hence her decision to vote for Sanwo-Olu.
On his part, Sanwo-Olu said the turnout gave him confidence that he would win the primary if the National Working Committee had not invalidated the process.
He said, “So far, you can see that the process has been peaceful. Although, you may say it is a bit rowdy, but it is about people’s enthusiasm and this is Lagos Island, my family house is about three or four buildings away from here.
“When we insisted on having direct primary, this is what we envisaged. To let people have their say in the voting process and so far everything has been orderly. I can say as it is here, so it would be across the entire 245 wards in the state. We are confident of victory”.
Situation Under Control, says Oshiomole
In his reaction on the controversy trailing the cancellation of Lagos State gubernatorial primary, the national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomole, said yesterday that the party’s NWC has taken control of the impasse.
Oshiomhole who spoke to State House correspondents after a closed door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa said he was at the State House to brief the president on developments in the party and also to get inputs from the president.
Asked if the NWC of the APC was in support of the Lagos governorship primary, he said, “Everything that is being done is done under the control of and supervision and directions of the NWC”.
He assured that the NWC was in charge of the Lagos primary and that every situation has been put under control.
On what he told the president about the Lagos governorship primary, he said, “All that is good to go on; direct primaries, and everything is being done to ensure that there is no violence, that it is very potent. Democracy doesn’t flourish with violence and Nigeria must begin to learn how to differ in opinion and in choice without fighting. At least it is something people have to acquire over time. And for me I am excited that if we can do it in Lagos, we can do it anywhere.
“We actually had one but you know when things go peacefully, it appears our editors will be more bias towards what is called sensational news. Kano people trooped out two days ago and we saw a governor queuing with the ordinary people in his own ward to nominate a governor, with all kinds of people participating because they are members of the party to decide who contest the next election. This is revolutionary.
“This time, very ordinary people are determined whether a governor should run again or not run again. So, nobody is going to take anybody for granted. Our democracy has to grow and move on. We must keep innovating, we must keep changing, we must keep digitalizing so that in over time, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We can grow to a level that Nigerians will really have a sense of ownership of the democratic process.”
Oshiomhole also disclosed that the party has disbanded the Ahmed Gulak-led committee for the party’s governorship primaries in Imo State.
He said the results being paraded as the result of the Imo governorship primaries was fake, noting that the party has disbanded the committee that was sent to the state to conduct the primaries and will set up another one immediately so that the process would be completed before the end of the week.
The party chairman said, “The case of Imo state is not too good news for today but not surprising. They have to learn to begin to comply with rules. They have two fake results and we adopt both two fake results, none of them is genuine and we will disband, we will appoint fresh committee, Electoral Panel, that will conduct a transparent direct primaries that reflect the will of members of APC in Imo state, regardless of the interest and the powers that were behind any of the groups.
“The truth does not require supporters club to stand; it has its legs, it has its heads and we will do just that. Our president is leading by example by subjecting himself not to fake petitions, subjecting himself to the dictates of APC ordinary members in the most remote village where we have APC members.
“With such a leadership, we don’t need to look for a role model; it is a test of going forward what we need to do better.”
He also ruled out the possibility of honouring parallel results on the governorship from states, stressing that no matter how highly placed a member may be, he must subject himself to the constitution of the party.
Party Suspends Imo Gov’ship Primary Indefinitely
Meanwhile, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has suspended the Imo State governorship primary election indefinitely.
The acting national publicity secretary, Yekini Nabena, who revealed the suspension through a press statement yesterday, offered no reason for the decision.
But in another twist, the chairman of the Imo State governorship primary election committee set up by the NWC, Hon. Ahmed Gulak, surprisingly appeared in Abuja to announce that Senator Hope Uzodinma scored 423,895 votes to defeat eight other aspirants including Uche Nwosu, the son-in-law of the state governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
Gulak also stated that he narrowly escaped being kidnapped by agents of the Imo State governor, Okorocha, even as he disclosed that about nine members of the 12-member committee were not that lucky as they were kidnapped by the governor who led a team of policemen to the hotel where they were lodged.
The former presidential adviser said that for safety reasons he had to leave Owerri at about 4am yesterday for Port Harcourt from where he took a flight to Abuja.
Gulak said that on their arrival at Owerri to conduct the primary, the committee members were to be taken to an unknown destination from the airport, but for his vigilance and insistence on going to the Commissioner of Police first before any other destination.
“In fact, when we got to the Commissioner of Police, I deposited the materials. Unknown to them, the materials I deposited with them were the ballot papers that were to be used when there is tie between aspirants at the wards.
“At 4am this morning, we had to leave Owerri because around 2am, some of my members disappeared from the hotel where we were supposed to be together and I gathered that they went to the Government House.
“Myself, Col Igbanor and Hon Bernard Miko were the only three doing this job as others disappeared and we learnt that they were at the Government House. So, when we sensed that something was fishy, by 4am we left Owerri after concluding the entry of the results.
“The AIG, Zone 9 called to inform me that they went for investigation and discovered that the governor himself and some policemen came and rounded up our members and took them to Government House and, until now, they have not been released,” he said.
Gulak dismissed the notion that what he presented was a minority report since a majority of the members were held up at the Government House.
“There is no minority or majority report. This is the result compiled by me as the returning officer. If anybody is not satisfied, the party has internal mechanisms to address that. There is an Appeal Panel.
“There were some incidences especially within the metropolis. But some of us did not go out because of the tension that was on ground. Be that as it may, I believe that the governor will release those members.
Speaking on the reported jubilation at the Imo Government House, he said, “Naturally, some of our members were rounded up in their hotel and taken to the Government House and whatever they might have done there should be expected. If I had not escaped, I would also have been rounded up and maybe forced to say something. That is the truth is the matter.”
He said he would submit his report to the party leadership.
“They gave me the assignment. I will submit the result to them and it is left for them to do whatever they wish with the result,” he said.
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