After three weeks of titanic struggle to secure a return ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, yesterday conceded defeat to his main challenger, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
The governor threw in the towel after the Chairman of Lagos State APC Governorship Primary Committee, Chief Clement Ebri, declared Sanwo-Olu the winner of the primary election, which he had earlier said was not held in line with the guidelines.
Ambode gave a speech in a state broadcast on Lagos Television (LTV) yesterday, saying time had come for the state to move forward in order that the gains of the last three and half years would not be lost.
There has been palpable tension across the state since the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC) and the APC National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, denied Ambode the right of first refusal and favoured Sanwo-Olu as his likely successor.
With the development, the APC NWC constituted an electoral panel, which comprised Chief Clement Ebri as Chairman, Alhaji Ahmed Mahmud Gumel as Secretary, Mr. Nze Chidi Duru, Chief Clever Egbeji, Senator Clever Ikisikpo and Mr. Jerry Ugokwe, among others.
The panel held a meeting with the party leaders Monday night and resolved to use open secret ballot system; accept membership cards and equally authorise the use of membership slips for the party members, who are duly registered between 2015 and 2018.
Shortly after the stakeholders’ meeting Monday night, the Chairman of Lagos APC, Prince Babatunde Balogun directed that only members with the APC cards would be allowed to vote during the process and that Option A4 would be adopted contrary to the open secret ballot system the electoral panel had earlier adopted.
Specifically, the panel’s chairman noted that the APC National Secretariat advised the panel “to use ballot papers and we came into Lagos with thousands of them,” thereby expressing discontent at the approach of the executives of the party chapter.
Despite the position of the panel that the primary election was never held, Balogun declared Sanwo-Olu the winner of the process Tuesday night, polling 970, 851 votes to defeat the incumbent governor, who polled 72, 901 across the state.
With the intervention of the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Ebri affirmed the outcome of the primary election, a development that put paid to political tension that had become palpable in the last fortnight.
In the broadcast, Ambode conceded defeat to Sanwo-Olu, acknowledging that the last few days “have witnessed intense political activities that have gripped the attention of the country and created palpable tension in the polity.”
Specifically, Ambode noted that he believed 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.”
He said, “APC is a great party and the interests of our beloved state must always supersede that of any person or group. It is in this regard that I wholeheartedly congratulate the winner of the Lagos State APC Primaries, Sanwo-Olu.”
He, therefore, urged all Lagos residents “to immediately support our party’s gubernatorial candidate in the 2019 elections and work for the success of our dear party.”
Ambode said in his capacity as the governor of Lagos State, he pledged “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.”
The governor, also, appealed to all APC members “to remain one family and unite behind the candidate of the party so that the party could continue to move this state forward. The progress of Lagos State is non-negotiable.”
According to him, it is a project that he has passionately worked for in the last three and half years as governor and one to which he will forever be devoted.
He thanked Tinubu, the leadership of the party at state and national levels, all party faithful and all Lagos residents for their unflinching support.
He urged all Lagos residents “not to relent in their support for the APC as we prepare for the 2019 general elections. I thank all Lagos residents for their faith and trust in me.”
Affirming the outcome of the primary election yesterday, Ebri declared Sanwo-Olu winner in a race, which he said, was contested by the two governorship aspirants.
After resolving some of the hiccups, Ebri noted that the electoral panel collated the results from the 245 Wards in the 20 Local Government Area (LGAs) from the collating officers.
At the end of the exercise, the panel’s chairman declared that Ambode polled 72,901 while Sanwo-Olu scored 970,851.
He said, “Following these results, I, Clement Ebri, the Chairman of the Lagos State APC Governorship Primary Committee hereby declare Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the winner.”
Meanwhile, Sanwo-Olu in a speech yesterday appreciated Ambode for his sportsmanship and for providing the conducive environment for the primary to hold.
He also thanked Tinubu and said his fatherly role would not be taken for granted even as he saluted the leaders of the party at the state and national level and promised not to let them down.
Ambode pledged that if he is elected governor, he would make integrity his watchword.
He said, “Fellow Nigerians, I want to thank us, thank all of you for the numerous support I have received from everyone, I should seize this opportunity to thank everyone. But first I need to thank the Almighty God who has kept all of us, Lagosians, Nigerians, up until this very moment; all glory, honour and adoration goes to the Almighty God.
“I think it’s appropriate I thank our national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who has provided the platform for all of us, so many of us that have looked up to him, the fatherly role, a political landscape that one cannot take for granted.
“I want to also use this opportunity to thank the national chairman of our great party, the All Progressives Congress, His Excellency Adams Oshiomhole and the national working committee for giving us tremendous support, for encouraging us and for letting true democracy reflect, for sustaining this direct primary and for letting it be the true test of what it should be.
“In Lagos State, I think it is appropriate to thank the entire leadership of our party from the GAC, our numerous fathers, our uncles who have held on to this journey, who have demonstrated leadership to the highest level, who have demonstrated impeccable integrity at all levels, I think I owe them deep level of appreciation, I thank you.
“I want to thank the entire structure that we have in APC, from our national assembly members, distinguished senators from Lagos State, members of the House of Representatives, especially the majority leader and his entire team, the speaker and members of the Lagos State House of Assembly. I want to thank all the 57 chairmen and all our 57 local government areas. I want to thank all our ward chairmen, our councillors.”
Promising an inclusive government, Sanwo-Olu said, “Lagosians, I think with what you have done for me, I cannot take you for granted, I cannot take this mandate and this confidence for granted, I’ll cherish it for the rest of my life but more importantly, like I’ve always said, I’ll remain committed, I’ll keep an inclusive government, I’ll be responsible, integrity will not run far from me and I will not do things that in any form would make you to begin to doubt my capacity or capability.”
He urged the electorate to come out en masse and vote for him during the 2019 elections in order to “realise a Lagos of our dream.”