The National Working Committee panel of the All Progressives Congress sent from Abuja to monitor the party’s governorship primary in Lagos State has nullified the exercise held across the 20 local government areas of the state on Tuesday.
The Chairman of the panel, Mr Clement Ebri, who addressed the press in Alausa, Ikeja, said the election could not have held because the committee was still expecting the full list of representatives of one of the two aspirants as of 4pm.
The primary is being contested by the state Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, and Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the anointed candidate of the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Ebri, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, however, did not mention the aspirant that defaulted on the modalities for the election.
He said the committee was interested in credible exercise that would not disintegrate the party and would therefore ensure that the aspirants were given a level playing field.
The chairman, who displayed empty result sheets, said that was the evidence that the primary did not hold officially.
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.
“We had a session with the representatives of both aspirants, they were here as early as 8 am and at that meeting we discussed some of these modalities and asked them to furnish us with names of people who will act as agents for this exercise.
“So, we received the list from one party about one hour ago. 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 (4 pm). 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 and I think 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.”
Ebri said he would contact the NWC to seek further directives on the new date for the exercise.
He said the NWC 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.
“Because of the political tension in the state, we decided to be very careful, very methodical and very meticulous. As party men, peace is more important to us than victory. We want victory that will be celebrated by both parties. We are ready to go to the field and execute this in clinical fashion so that at the end of the day we will not be accused of partisanship,” he added.
When prodded further on whether the election had been cancelled or not, one of the members of the panel, Chief Clever Egbejie, said, “It has been cancelled. No election held.”
Lagos APC chairman says primary stands
But the APC chairman in the state, Tunde Balogun, said the election was held across the 245 wards in the state, describing it as free, fair and transparent.
Speaking in Alausa, Ikeja, before the cancellation of the election, Balogun said bonifide members of the party were accredited between 9am and 12 pm after which the voting started under the supervision of officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“The results were signed by the agents of the two aspirants. The results were credible because INEC officials were there to witness the exercise; there was no violence,” he added.
Asked whether the NWC members were involved in the election, Balogun said he did not go round the wards, but he saw some observers apart from the agents and INEC officials.
He said, “The election was properly conducted; constitutionally done and we leave the rest for the people. The conduct of the election was seamless and there was no chaos.”
However, a member of the APC from Ward E, Bariga, Somolu Local Government Area, Oluwabunmi Adetola, said the exercise was marred with violence.
She said, “The council chairman went round with thugs. They beat up people; some of our people are in hospitals. They did not allow us to vote. Anybody that wanted to vote for Ambode was not allowed to vote. There was nothing like election in Lagos.”
However, at a later press conference at the state APC secretariat in Ogba, Balogun said the governorship primary remained valid and the result would soon be announced.
Balogun said, “The primary election took place in all the wards – 245 wards in Lagos State – and it was peaceful; not a single case of violence was recorded.
“The election stands because it was conducted according to the constitution of our party. The results were recorded under INEC supervision.
“I am the APC chairman for Lagos and I can’t disenfranchise about 1.5 million people that took part in the exercise all over the state. It will be unfair, it will be unjust to do so.”
Asked when the results will be collated and announced, Balogun said, “The results are coming in.”
Lagos APC Reps, senator reject cancellation
Also, the APC House of Representatives members from Lagos State rejected the decision of the NWC to cancel the primary election.
Two of the members, who spoke exclusively with The PUNCH, said they were in shock over the party’s action.
The member representing Kosofe Federal Constituency, Mr Agunsoye Ojo, said the NWC made a “costly mistake” with the cancellation.
He claimed that the election was “peaceful, free and fair.”
Ojo said, “I don’t know the reason given for this cancellation, but the party must tell us.
“Even the Deputy Governor of the State came out to declare her support for the choice of the party, yet they are talking about cancellation.”
He advised the NWC to reverse itself since the result of the primary would still be the same if the poll was repeated.
“If you conduct this election 10 times, the result will not change; this is like wasting time,” Ojo added.
Another member representing Ikorodu Federal Constituency, Mr Jimi Benson, told The PUNCH that the primary was like a mock examination.
“If you sit for a mock examination, your result is not likely to change in the main examination.
“This election went smoothly and the massive turnout of voters was a test of democracy in action.
“This cancellation is unnecessary and if the election is conducted again, nothing will change,” Benson stated.
In the same vein, the senator representing the Lagos West, Olamilekan Adeola, warned that the same reason for which the governorship was cancelled could also affect President Muhammadu Buhari’s emergence as APC candidate from the primary conducted on September 25.
The senator said, “We did direct primary in Lagos State. There is nowhere our constitution says that ballot papers should be used. Those saying that ballot papers should be used should remember that for the presidential primary, no ballot paper was used and it was successful. If they want to upturn the Lagos governorship primary, that means they want to upturn that of the President also.
“They have to respect the wishes of party members who trooped out in their thousands to exercise their right under the APC and Nigerian constitutions. We have exercised our rights as party members to elect a governorship candidate and our wishes should be respected.”
‘There was no election in Lagos’
Meanwhile, the Ambode Campaign Organisation on Tuesday said the governor had not conceded any defeat as primary election had yet to hold in Lagos State.
In a statement on Tuesday, the ACO argued that there were guidelines and procedures which the NWC said must be followed in conducting a credible poll and which were not followed.
“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 have 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,” the statement read in part.
Also, in a fresh statement, another group, #Letthetruthprevail, said there was intimidation in the Tuesday primary.
“Lagos APC took charge of an election which it had no authority over. All primaries across the nation are conducted by the National Working Committee.
“All APC members in Lagos with either their voter’s cards of slips whose names are on the register are eligible to vote. In this case, registered members with their slips were not allowed to vote, thereby excluding a significant majority of eligible voters.
“The poll should have been conducted by open secret ballot system, which removes any form of voter intimidation. In this case voters were forced to stand behind the pictures of candidates and were openly intimidated,” the statement read.
Ambode did well, but not a good party man – Tinubu
Meanwhile, Tinubu said on Tuesday that although Ambode did well in office, he was not a good party man.
Tinubu explained that it was for this reason that the party decided to withdraw support for the governor, who wanted to go for a second term.
He stressed that the decision to abandon Ambode for Sanwo-Olu was beyond him, adding that he was only doing the wishes of the party, which had entrusted him with its leadership.
Tinubu spoke at Ward C in the Ikeja LGA after he cast his vote in the Lagos APC governorship primary.
Tinubu said, “Who did I support in 2014? Ambode. Life is dynamic. The party members, who made me the leader of the structure in Lagos, say this is what they want; it is only if you have followership that you are a leader in a democracy.
“If I look back and I don’t find them again; if I don’t respond to them, if I fail to accede to their request, I would have failed the leadership test.
“This is not personal; it is beyond me as a person. Every democratic constitution is preceded by ‘we, the people.’ So, I had to submit myself to the wishes and the yearnings of our party.
“This is an elixir for the general election. Ambode Akin, he is doing well, yes; but he hasn’t been a good party man; not only the glamour, not only about brick and mortal. A talent is determined by character. For you to become an influential person, you have to respond to the yearnings of the people. This is politics; democracy, one man, one vote.
“It is yours today, tomorrow it may change, you have to abide by it. You don’t bring the roof down; you don’t bring the house down, except the foundation is bad.”
Tinubu dismissed the suggestion that the development in Lagos State could negatively affect the fortune of the party at the national level in 2019.
“The exercise you have witnessed today is equally good for the general election of the party. You see how they trooped out for Buhari’s endorsement to continue; 1.9 million votes,” he said.
He described the direct primary as the best, saying it had helped to eliminate intra-party corruption.
APC NWC in charge in Lagos – Oshiomhole
Oshimohole on Tuesday said the party’s NWC was in charge of the Lagos primary.
He said every situation had been put under control.
Oshiomhole spoke with State House correspondents shortly after he had a closed doors meeting with Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said, “Everything that is being done is done under the control of and supervision and directions of the NWC.”
Oshiomhole said the direct primaries adopted for Lagos was meant to ensure that there was no violence.
He added, “Democracy doesn’t flourish with violence and Nigeria must begin to learn how to differ in opinion and in choice without fighting.
“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, 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 to determine whether a governor should run again or not run again.”
When contacted to comment on Lagos State governorship primary, the acting National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Yekini Nabena said, “I have no information at the moment. We have to hear from the committee sent to Lagos first.”
Lagos APC declares Sanwo-Olu winner
However, around 9pm on Tuesday, Balogun declared Sanwo-Olu as the winner of the governorship primary.
Balogun said Sanwo-Olu polled 970,851 votes to defeat Ambode who had 72,901 votes.
The chairman, who insisted that the election was free and fair, thanked members of the party for coming out to vote.
Balogun said, “It is my pleasure and delight to read the result of the election conducted all over Lagos State in all the 245 wards to the public.
“The results are as follows: Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, recorded 72, 901 votes; Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu had 970, 851 votes. Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu is the winner of today’s primary election.”