The Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, on Sunday tasked the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to ensure that the governorship primaries scheduled to hold on Monday, October 1 (postponed again to Tuesday, October 2) in the state is free, fair and credible.
Governor Ambode, who gave the charge while addressing a world press conference at the Lagos House in Alausa, Ikeja, said that since the party had agreed to adopt direct primaries for the governorship candidate to emerge, it behoves on them to follow due process to ensure that every aspirant gets a fair chance to contest for the ticket in a credible democratic process.
“The party constitution allows us to do direct and indirect primaries. The Lagos State APC has agreed to go with direct primaries and in that wise it is open to all contestants and so it is very clear that during direct primaries, I am also eligible to participate in the primaries. What we want is a very clean board to allow everybody to partake in it.
“We believe that it is in the greater interest of the party to allow reason to prevail and allow every contestant to come out and show their strength. I believe strongly that it is in the interest of the country that our party should activate as much as possible all the democratic values that our party has always been known for and that is what I stand for,” he said.
Governor Ambode said he was concerned that with less than 24 hours to the primaries, membership cards were yet to be distributed, while even as an aspirant, he was yet to be given guidelines for the election, adding that it would be injustice to deny newly registered members of the party the opportunity to exercise their franchise.
“I believe strongly also that the preparations are still ongoing but there are some few things that we still need to iron out and I believe strongly that the chairman of our great party, Comrade Oshiomhole will be able to correct some of these things that we have noticed.
“We are committed progressives; we are committed to the outcome of the primaries; we are committed to the tenets and principles of our great party but what we would not want to accept is to disenfranchise all the millions of people that we have been able to bring into the APC fold just by our performance and so what we heard is that there is a register that is being brought into the state which only includes those who have registered since 2014. What about all the millions of members of APC that we have gotten in from 2015 till date?
“I carry my own membership slip anywhere I go and now they say this is the membership slip that I have, I don’t have a membership card and so the question is ‘are they saying me as a governor I would not be entitled to vote tomorrow?’ So, the national headquarters and the electoral committee need to make immediate adjustment to this.
“All the people that have registered as members of APC should be entitled to vote in the direct primaries; that is how we entrench the democratic values that we are all preaching. So, if someone like me can be disenfranchised because I don’t have a card, what happens to ordinary members of APC? We believe strongly that this can be corrected and we allow everybody to come out and exercise their civic duty and civic right to choose who will represent them as the gubernatorial candidate for APC. So, I plead with the NWC, I plead with our party chairman and even all the people that are interested in this whole process that we should do the right thing; we should make the process credible and I believe with God on our side, we would come out triumphant,” Governor Ambode said.
Reaffirming that he was a bonafide member of the APC who believes in the tenets and democratic values of the party, the governor said his administration’s strides in the last three and half years has won more members into the fold.
While welcoming the challenge from other aspirants, Governor Ambode said he was confident that his administration has set a pace since inception and any course to alter the process could have dire consequences on the party’s chances in the 2019 general elections.
“As to the other aspirant, of course, we welcome competition and yes it is an open space but we will not take something that is of good assurance to allow us to fretter away the opportunity that our party has to win the 2019 governorship. Beyond this, we would be jeopardizing the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket of which I am hundred per cent standing for by promoting another aspirant who would not be able to sell the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket.
But the Governor stated emphatically that he remains the best man for the job, noting that his closest challenger, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, does not possess the requisite experience and psychological know how to govern the State.
“Now the truth is this, in the last two of three weeks, they have been putting a lot of campaign of calumny in the social media and also disparaging our personalities and character but we have been extremely humble; we have never responded; we have never abused anybody because we believe that there is always a reason for us to come together as a family. We are one family in APC but now the truth is this, the aspirant they are putting up to compete against us is not a fit and proper person to take this position and they know the fact; this is the truth!
“Party leaders and even party members have been misled to understand that this is a better candidate than myself. I have done everything in the last three and half years to serve the people selflessly and to serve the poor and that is why you see that most of the projects you have seen is to alleviate the sufferings of the poor and the only way out for us is to continue to do that in the next four years.
“This particular aspirant as we all know, you can go and check it, the records are there. This is somebody that has been arrested for spending fake American dollars in a night club and he has been detained for months. He is also known that he does not have the competence to do what he is being propelled to do, the records are there in Gbagada General Hospital, the records are there; this is somebody that has gone for rehabilitation before.
“We don’t want to go too far; we don’t want to talk about all the things that we know but what we want is for our leadership to have a rethink because the truth is this, I will not stand here on the mandate of Lagosians and then allow our great party APC to fretter away that opportunity to put in somebody that the opposition will easily take out because of lack of credibility.
“We plead with all our leaders. They should have a rethink; this is not about me but about the greater opportunities that APC stands to better the progress of Lagos and Nigeria,” he said.
Governor Ambode also seized the occasion to express concern on the heated political situation in the state, saying that the government would not fold its arms and watch political thugs disrupt the peace the state has enjoyed in the last three and half years.
He disclosed that security reports available to the state government indicate that there was an ongoing recruitment and arming of political thugs to disrupt the tranquil atmosphere of Lagos State, in the guise of holding primary elections.
“It has become imperative to put every stakeholder on notice, especially the Federal Government and Security Agencies, to take more than a passing interest in the development in this state that has hitherto been adjudged as the safest city in Africa.
“Consequently, the state government will do all within its powers in collaboration with relevant security agencies to protect our citizens and insulate them from any condition that may breed insecurity or the breakdown of law and order in the State throughout the Primaries campaign and election periods,” Governor Ambode said.
While assuring Lagosians to be calm and go about their normal businesses, Governor Ambode warned criminal elements planning to cause trouble in the name of politics or under any guise that those caught in the act would be made to face the full wrath of the law.
“Without being immodest, after three and half years of remarkable performance in bringing growth and development to our dear State, I have humbly expressed my intention to seek re-election in order to consolidate on the giant strides that we have recorded for our dear State and our great party, APC. This is why I once again seek the support of every party member in tomorrow’s primary election. We shall overcome,” he said.