Last minute efforts by the embattled governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode to get close friends and associates of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to intervene in the strong challenge posed by the latter’s political machinery against his second term aspiration have failed to achieve any tangible result.
Daily Sun can authoritatively report that rather than allaying the governor’s fears, Tinubu told all emissaries sent to him he would prefer all the three aspirants face party members to test their popularity in a direct primary election.
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To make good his decision, the party leader left Lagos for Abuja yesterday evening without any direct meeting with Governor Ambode.
Two formidable aspirants, Femi Hamzat and Babajide Sanwo-Olu are challenging Ambode’s bid to return for another term of four years in 2019. Between the duo, Sanwo-Olu is believed to be the preferred candidate of Tinubu for the coveted seat of Lagos governor.
As reported by this paper yesterday, Sanwo-Olu along with other APC leaders in Lagos, yesterday, stormed the party’s national secretariat in Abuja to submit his Expression of Interest and Nomination forms. It was not clear whether Ambode sneaked into Abuja to submit his or someone else submitted on his behalf as at close of work yesterday when the extended deadline for submission of forms for the President, Governors, National Assembly and State Assembly members expired.
What may further shock Ambode is the fact that when he was in Abuja on Monday to obtain his nomination form, he was accompanied by the APC’s National Legal Adviser, Babatunde Ogala, who is from Lagos but 48 hours after, Ogala was on hand to endorse and accompany Sanwo-Olu to submit his forms at the party’s headquarters.
A source very close to Tinubu told Daily Sun that, “Asiwaju has made it clear to all of them (Ambode’s emissaries) that he’s a national leader and a father figure to all, he said there’s no way he can ask other aspirants to step down for the governor when the party has made things easier for all to canvass votes directly from party members who will in turn decide who their candidate will be in a direct primary election.”
Obviously disturbed by the rapid turn of events, Ambode had to cancel the weekly state Executive Council meeting, which though has not been regular for sometime, relocated to his Epe home to brief his people about his present challenge, although under the official cover of attending the election of delegates for the presidential primary election and national convention of the party.
While the governor was holed up in Epe, local government chairmen, state government officials and party leaders across the state continued to pour into the Watercrest Hotel, Ikeja, which is the temporary campaign coordination centre for Sanwo-Olu to pledge their loyalty and support for the anointed candidate immediately they learnt the team was back from Abuja.
As at last night, leaders of the pro-Tinubu Mandate Movement, which is coordinating Sanwo-Olu’s campaign strategies have agreed on a catchy slogan for his campaign similar to Ambode’s Itesiwaju Eko l’oje wa logun.
In what may appear like a coincidence, the state House of Assembly will resume from their long recess on Monday, September 17. A member of the House told Daily Sun that though the resumption had been scheduled long before the political twist in the state, the lawmaker nonetheless said, “it is, however, a timely resumption to attend to any issue that may arise from the new political developments in the state. Don’t forget that the House also has its own issues with the governor. Ask him (Ambode), he has refused to call our monthly meeting in the last five months. So, nobody will need to tell us what to do, we have issues on ground already.”
Emboldened by the massive support he has got within 24 hours that his aspiration became public, Sanwo-Olu said yesterday, at the APC national secretariat after submitting his nomination form, said he was ready to serve. He expressed confidence that Lagos State will be better off with him as governor.
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He said as a three-time commissioner, two-time Special Adviser and head of the biggest corporation in Lagos, he has the required experience to run the state.
On the controversy generated by his entry into the race, he said, “the truth is that I not in Ambode’s shoes right now and what has been generated is a reflection of the fact that people have come to understand and know the kind of person that I am.
“A whole lot of us had to redefine the Lagos project. This is not the forum where I will begin to roll out to you the very many firsts that people think were done by some other individuals, but there were other people
behind them that brought out those ideas, policies and implementation plan.
“There are so many firsts that I can begin to attribute to myself in the 11 years thatIhavehadtodointhe public service. Like I said, I have served three different governors and in three different ministries, served twice in the governor’s office, head the biggest agency of government.
“So, the blueprint that we have been looking at since 1999 was put together by some of us. We are all friends, but it is politics.”
He would not be drawn into the issue of endorsement by Tinubu’s political machinery saying, “I am in Abuja now and certainly cannot know what is happening in Lagos. You are in the media and so have access to information that I don’t have. When I get to Lagos and there is a meeting called by the leadership, I will attend the meeting.
“But in terms of endorsement, it is a work in progress. People have been asking questions, wanting to know the type of person that I am. I certainly will never say it is hurray because it is a journey and not a destination. It will be very presumptions of me to stand before you and begin to imagine that because 57 chairmen have endorsed me, that means I am going to sleep. That will not be so.
“The Mandate Groups are my people; we are in the same family and will continue to work. It is Lagosians at the end of the day that have the bills to pay. We will ensure that we are not restricted and will get to all those we need to get to and not take anybody for granted.”
Ambode has said there is no rift between him and the godfather of Lagos politics and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Habib Haruna, quoted the governor as insisting that there was no disagreement between him and Tinubu whatsoever.
“I want you to know that there is no fight anywhere. The National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and my good self are not in any fight, we are not in any controversy.
“We are praying to God that the best is yet to come and the best will be what Lagos State deserves and I want you to just continue with your prayers that at this time, God will show His hand and make sure that everything that is of blessing to Lagos State and also blessing of Epe will come to pass,” Ambode said during the election of delegates for the presidential primary election and national convention of the party.
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He commended leaders and party faithful who contributed to the success of the delegates’ election in Epe, saying APC remained the party to beat in Lagos and Nigeria.