Hours to the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primary in Lagos State, the national leadership of the party has made a last-ditch effort to resolve the crisis that has threatened the second term bid of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
Ambode is bidding for the APC ticket, alongside Managing Director of the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in a direct primary election holding in 20 local government areas and 37 local development areas of the state.
Ex-governor and National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, had endorsed Sanwo-Olu’s aspiration, as, according to him, governor Ambode has derailed, having abandoned the Lagos masterplan.
This came just as Ambode has demanded a level-playing field in the primary that would determine the APC candidate for 2019.
Sources revealed that the APC national leadership, weighing the implication of having a fresh candidate in Lagos, at a time President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking re-election, reached out to party stakeholders in Lagos and impressed it on them to support Ambode.
In the interventions, sources revealed, the APC leadership asked members to put the interest of the party first; before any other considerations.
Specifically, it was gathered that the APC National Chairman, Adam Oshiomhole, is interested in the amicable resolution of the crisis in favour of Ambode.
Sources revealed that Oshiomhole is not comfortable with the prospect of Ambode losing the primary and perhaps, joining the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in a critical state as Lagos.
Daily Sun gathered that elements in the Presidency are also not in support of the move to bring a fresh candidate in Lagos when the party has a sitting governor.
Towards this end, these elements have told APC leadership to ensure that the boat is not rocked in Lagos.
It was gathered that in order to ensure that a candidate that would help the APC win next year’s election emerges, the National Working Committee (NWC) panel set up to conduct the governorship primary in Lagos has been asked to ensure a level-playing field.
The panel, made up of former Cross River governor, Mr. Clement Ebri (chairman), Alhaji Ahmed Mahmud Gumel (Secretary); Hon. Chidi Duru; Chief Clever Egbeji; Senator Clever Ikisikpo and Ambassador Jerry Ugokwe, arrived Lagos yesterday and paid a courtesy visit to Ambode.
A member of the panel, who declined to be named, told Daily Sun that the panel has the mandate to ensure that the interest of the APC, as a party, prevailed.
He said the panel will ensure that APC members vote according to their conscience, “bearing in mind that the ultimate is for the party to not only retain the governorship seat but, also, that president Buhari wins the state in the presidential election.”
Meanwhile, Ambode, yesterday, told his visitors that he is not afraid of the primary, having gone through the same process with 12 other aspirants to emerge as governorship candidate in 2014.
He simply asked for a level-playing field in the primary.
“The eventual process of choosing who flies the party’s flag must be seen to be fair to all concerned
“All I seek is credible primary, transparent primary and level-playing ground that we will all be proud of at the end of the day, for the outcome.”
He reminded the panel that he had raised such issues earlier.
“The bottom line is this; we are family, we must not go into the elections divided because this is the very first time that our party is controlling the centre and also, the state. That is what I want us to continue.
“The issues that I raise have been put in form of a letter, which I would pass to their chairman and I believe the committee will look into it judiciously and also I welcome the stakeholders meeting, which will allow you feel the pulse of what is going on in the state.”
He also urged the panel to use its prerogative to decide the best possible time for the primary election and make a public announcement on the time, date and venues of the exercise; to enable members of the party partake in the process.
Ebri, on his part, said the panel deemed it fit to pay a courtesy visit to the governor, as the number one citizen in the state and to also intimate him on the process for the conduct of the primaries.
He said: “We are the panel that has been constituted to conduct primaries. We are seven members and there are indications that there would be one or two additions; due to the work load here.
“We have come to intimate you that this exercise is going to take place in the next few hours. I also like to apologise for the delay. It had to be postponed as a result of logistics in Lagos, Imo and some other states because of the pressure and workload from the secretariat and other developments that have taken place.”
Ebri assured Ambode that he and his team were ready for the task ahead and would do everything possible to ensure that the process is seen to be free, fair and credible.
“Lagos is more like a decider and like they say, when Lagos sneezes the rest of the country catches cold.
“So, that is why we are very careful about what we are doing and the national chairman asked me to send his best wishes to you and ask us to come and do the right thing to the satisfaction of all members, more so that the president of this country stands for transparency and detests corruption and a situation where no one feels manipulated.
“The process we are laying out is such that we ensure and guarantee transparency and credibility; we have people of integrity in this panel; these are not rookies in politics; they are people who have been tested.
“You can see senators, former governors, former deputy governor, former member of the House of Representatives; so, this is a star-studded team and I can assure you that we have all the experience that you want and you can think about to conduct this exercise.
“We assure you of our sincerity and transparency and we seek your cooperation in providing a level playing field.”
On the stakeholders meeting, which later held yesterday evening at the party secretariat on Acme Road, Ebri said it was to enable aspirants and other concerned stakeholders voice their opinions concerning the primary, in accordance with the democratic principles of the party.
He said the meeting would afford the panel look at the possibility of conducting the primary at the most convenient time and where there are still grey areas, “then, we will contact the national headquarters and get the necessary approval to make adjustments.”