By Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon & Olasunkanmi Akoni
Ambode deviated from master-plan — TINUBU
LAGOS—Less than 24 hours to the rescheduled governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Lagos State, National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, yesterday, endorsed the aspiration of Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, saying he understands the state’s blueprint better.
Tinubu, who was making his first statement on Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s troubled re-election bid, said the present administration has deviated from the path of development taken by previous civilian administrations in the state.
This came as Governor Ambode declared Sanwo-Olu unfit to govern the state.
He also raised the alarm over alleged recruitment and arming of political thugs to disrupt the exercise.
Tinubu backs Sanwo-Olu
“My goal is and shall always be a better Lagos. To this objective, I have dedicated the greater part of my public life. Roughly 20 years ago, a crop of dedicated and patriotic Lagosians put aside personal interests and rivalries to put their minds and best ideas together for the good of the state. Out of this collaborative effort, was born a master plan for economic development that would improve the daily lives of our people. “Bestowed on me was the honour of a lifetime when I was elected to be your governor in 1999. My administration faithfully implemented that plan. The government of my immediate successor, Tunde Fashola, also honoured this enlightened plan.
“Where state government remained true to that blueprint, positive things happened. During my tenure and Governor Fashola’s, Lagos State recorded improvements in all aspects of our collective existence, from public health to public sanitation, from education to social services, from the administration of justice to the cleaning of storm and sewage drains. Businesses, large and small, invested, hired millions of workers and thrived.
All Lagosians were to fully participate and justly benefit from the social dividends and improvements wrought by this plan. From the common labourer, to business leaders, to professionals and our industrious civil service.
“We all were to be partners in a monumental but joint enterprise. None was to be alienated. None was to be left out. And none were to be pushed aside. This is especially true for those who contributed so much to our development, whether as a business leader who has invested heavily in Lagos, the home-owner who struggles to pay his fair share of taxes or as someone employed in the hard work of keeping our streets and byways clean so that others may go about their daily tasks unimpeded.
Lagos master plan
“I make no pretence that the master plan is perfect. It can always be fine-tuned. However, whenever a government departed from this plan without compelling reason, the state and its people have borne the painful consequence of the improper departure.
“To ignore this blueprint for progress in order to replace it with ad-hoc schemes of a materially inferior quality contravenes the spirit of progressive governance and of our party. Such narrowness of perspective does not bring us closer to our appointed destination; it takes us farther from that destiny.
Deviations from governance
“For reasons unknown to me and most Lagosians, we have experienced such deviations from enlightened governance recently.
This trend is that which most concerns me as the primary nears. We must arrest this trend before irreparable harm is committed against the people and their future. For the record, let it be known that I shall vote in this primary because I see it as one of extreme import to our state and our party.
“Just as I shall vote, I equally urge all party members to do so.
We must vote in a manner that returns Lagos to its better path, the one that promises a just chance for all to enjoy the fruits of our prosperity. “We must always pursue our goal of a Lagos energised by creative dynamism, tolerance of others, and guided by a leadership capable of extending a collegial hand to all stakeholders, far and wide.
“I am encouraged by the emergence of a candidate in this primary who has served the state in senior positions in my administration, the Fashola administration and even in the current one. While possessing a wealth of experience and exposure, he is a young man endowed with superlative vision and commitment. Most importantly, he understands the importance of the blueprint for development. He esteems it as a reliable and well-conceived vehicle for the future development of the state. He also knows the value of reaching out and working with others in order to maximize development and provide people the best leadership possible.
With people like him at the helms, the state will write the proper history for itself.
“When the final word is given let it be said that we want all Lagosians to look to the future with the hope and optimism that our best days remain before us and not behind us.
“We walk into this primary strong and confidently believing in the right course we are to take. We shall emerge from this primary even stronger and more confident that we have taken that course by returning Lagos and our party to their finest path.”
We shall overcome — Ambode
Meanwhile, Governor Ambode restated his determination to contest in spite of pressure on him to step down from the Governor’s Advisory Council, GAC.
Ambode, who expressed confidence in clinching the party’s ticket, however, engaged in mud-slinging, saying Babajide Sanwo-Olu was “improper and unfit” to govern Lagos State.
The governor said this at a press conference in Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.
His words: “Dear Lagosians, it has become necessary for me to address you in view of the events of the last two weeks, particularly media reports in respect of the imminent APC Governorship primary election in Lagos State.
“The last three and half years have witnessed tremendous improvement in our security apparatus and a significant drop in the incidents of crime in our State. “However, the current political situation has caused palpable tension and unnecessary fears among law-abiding Lagosians.
“Security reports available to the state government indicate that there is an ongoing recruitment and arming of political thugs to disrupt the tranquil atmosphere of Lagos State, in the guise of holding primary elections.
“As a responsible government that has invested so much in enhancing security of lives and property in the state to enable Lagosians pursue their lawful endeavours, we will not allow any disruptive elements to cause panic or wreak havoc that will affect the progressive strides which Lagosians are known for.
“This is more so that we have the assurances of our party leaders to conduct free and fair primary elections for aspirants into the various political offices.
“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 to collaborate 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.
“While assuring all Lagosians to be calm and go about their normal businesses, criminal elements are hereby advised in their own interest, not to foment any trouble in the name of politics or under any guise, as the full wrath of the law will be brought to bear on any lawbreaker.
“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.”
While responding to questions whether he was still a member of the APC, Ambode said: “You can see that I am wearing APC attire, I am a full-blown member of the APC. I am going nowhere. We believe that the tenets of democracy is to allow the democratic values that we have preached as a political party is to foster.
“I believe that all the things that I have projected in the last three and half years is more or less to bring more people into the folds of our party.
“With the kind of projects that we have embarked upon, we have brought in more members into the party than at any other time in the history of politics in Lagos State. The party constitution allows us to engage in direct or indirect primaries, depending on what the members in the state decided.
“In Lagos State, we have decided to engage in direct primary, it is open to all contestants. So, it is very clear that doing the direct primaries, I am eligible to participate in the primary. What we want is to allow a clean board to allow everyone to participate.
“We believe, just as the leaders have decided that it is in the greater interest of our party to allow reasons to prevail and to allow every contestant to participate in the process and show their strength. I believe strongly that it is in the interest of the country that we must show what APC is known for. And that is what I stand for.
‘Other aspirants can’t deliver for APC’
“As to the aspiration of other contestants, Nigerians and residents of Lagos have seen the performance of this government in the last three years. The vision of this government is to take Lagos to higher ground.
“For the other aspirants, we welcome competitions but again, we will not allow them to filter away opportunities that our great party has and then allow the opposition to win Lagos in next year’s poll. If we allow the opportunity before our party to filter away, we will be jeopardising the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket on which I am 100 percent standing for. But other aspirants cannot deliver the ticket for the party.
‘Sanwo-Olu is unfit’
“In the last two or three weeks, they have been putting a lot of campaign of calumny on the social media and also disparaging our personalities and characters.
But we have been extremely humbled, we have never responded, we have never abused anybody because we believe that there is always a reason for us to come together. We are one family in APC.
“Now, the truth is this, the aspirant that is being put up to compete against us is not a fit and proper person. This is the truth. Party leaders and party members have been misled to understand that he is a better candidate than me. I have done everything in the last three years and half to serve people selflessly. This particular aspirant has been arrested for spending fake American dollar in a nightclub and was detained for months.
“He also knows that he does not have the competence to do what he is being propelled to do. The records are there in the Gbagada General Hospital, Lagos. This is somebody that has gone for rehabilitation before. We do not want to go so far.
“We know our leadership should have a rethink because the truth is this. I will not stand here, on the mandate of Lagos State residents and allowed our great party, APC to fritter away that opportunity to put in somebody that opposition will easily kick-out because of credibility, so I appeal to all our leaders, they should have a rethink. This is not about me. It is about the greatest opportunity that APC has to change the progress of Nigeria.
“We have shifted governorship primaries three times now. Apparently, it is taking place today. As we speak, the APC National Secretariat has already sent in its Electoral Committee to Lagos, but I am yet to receive the guidelines.
“I am an aspirant in today’s competition. I ”I believe strongly that preparation is on-going. There are two things we need to iron out: I believe the APC Chairman 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 will not accept is to disenfranchise millions of people we have been able to bring into the APC fold in the last three and half years. What we hear is that there is a register that is being brought to the state.
“The register only includes members that registered in 2014. What about millions of supporters that we have brought in from 2015 to date. I take my membership slip anywhere I go. I do not have a membership card. Are they saying that as a governor, I will not be entitled to vote today?
“The APC National Secretariat needs to make immediate adjustment. All persons that registered as members of APC should be able to vote in the direct primary. That is how to entrench the democratic values that we are all preaching. If someone like me can be disenfranchised because I do not have a card, what then happens to ordinary members of the APC? We believe strongly that these things can be corrected.
“We should allow every member to come out and exercise their civic duty and rights to choose who will represent them in the governorship election.
Sanwo-Olu replies Ambode
Reacting to Governor Ambode’s claims, Sanwo-Olu, in a statement titled: ‘Time to respect the people of Lagos State and the office of the Governor’, described the governor’s allegation as unfortunate.
His words: “Let it be heard by all that I hold the people of Lagos state with great respect and affection. Their welfare is my utmost concern and it is what drives my pursuit for the governorship nomination of the APC. As such, I also hold the office of governor of our state in high esteem. I shall never consciously do anything that will undermine the dignity of the office nor will I engage in personal attacks against the holder of that office.
“My pursuit of office will continue to be based upon issues that matter to Lagosians and not on attacks against someone’s character, even when he attacks mine. For anyone to engage in unwarranted character attacks against me, reveals more about that person’s character than it says about mine.
“Thus, I felt sad for Lagos as I watched press conference by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. Many things he said was beneath the dignity of our people and the exalted office he now holds. Perhaps the tension and anxiety of the moment got the better of him. If given a chance at cooler reflection of what he said, I am sure he would regret his descent into such low conduct. In this vein, I forgive him and hope he regains his balance and proper comportment no matter the outcome of tomorrow’s contest. After all, we are both here to improve Lagos not to wrestle in its streets.
“However, I must clear up some inaccuracies in the Governor’s statement. His allegation that I was arrested for spending fake dollars at a night club in the United States was untrue. In fact, the governor knows I travelled to the United States just last month. I would not have been allowed to travel or even get a visa if I had been involved in what the Governor falsely alleged.
“That the Governor claimed that I underwent some unidentified type of rehabilitation at the Gbagada General Hospital was also shameless and untrue. Promulgation of salacious rumor should not be part of the job description of a governor. This is not the stuff of high office. People should question whether it is ethically right for the Governor to turn what should be confidential medical information about a citizen into a weapon of political warfare? But for avoidance of doubt, let it be stated that I never received any treatment whatsoever at the Gbagada General Hospital.
“Today, instead of making a convincing defense of his performance, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode sought to sow fear into the hearts of Lagosians.
“But Lagosians are intelligent and brave people. They can see through the smoke and the fog. I am here not to tear my opponent down but to help build Lagos up. With me, you will hear about progress on education, health, sanitation, proper tax levels, economic development, infrastructure, jobs, public services and other things that enhance the lives of people. I am a serious person and this primary is a serious matter.
“I have not the time or inclination to attack character when there are so many real issues to address.
“We will continue to focus on the issues that matter in the lives of the people of Lagos. Lagosians want an answer to the sanitation crisis and loss of jobs caused by Mr. Ambode’s Visionscape misadventure. Our people will want to know why Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode has not been able to build a single General Hospital in the State when his immediate predecessor Mr. Babatunde Fashola built 11 General Hospitals. Lagosians are waiting to hear what our solutions are. They want to know why hundreds of competent civil servants got summarily dismissed and how this has undermined public services.
“As a candidate for the party’s nomination and hopefully as your next governor, my approach will not be to sling insults but to propose solutions to the problems of the day.”
House of Reps Caucus endorses Sanwo-Olu
The Reps caucus, who pledged their support during a courtesy visit to Sanwo-Olu, were led by Majority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila.
Those who endorsed him include Jide Jimoh, Ayo Joseph, Taofeek Adaranijo, Babatunde Balogun, Rotimi Agunsoye, Joseph Bamgbose, and Jimi Benson.
Speaking on behalf of the lawmakers, Gbajabiamila, said: “We are deliberate in our decision to support Sanwo-Olu. We looked dispassionately and came out with a consensus. We did the same to Ambode a few years ago.”
Ambode’s group wants APC chair disqualified
Ambode Mandate Support Group, AMSG, yesterday, petitioned the APC National Working Committee, NWC, demanding that the Lagos State party chairman, Babatunde Balogun, be disqualified from conducting the primary in the state.
AMSG alleged that Balogun had thrown his weight behind Babajide Sanwo-Olu ahead of today’s primary, saying, the action negates the constitution of the party.
Lagos PDP awaits APC’s primary
Meanwhile, strong indications emerged, yesterday, that the main reason the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Lagos State postponed its governorship primary, indefinitely, was because it was awaiting the outcome of the governorship primary of the APC.
The Lagos PDP had earlier scheduled its governorship primary for Sunday, September 30, 2018, but later shifted the date of the governorship primary “till further notice.”
A top party leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Vanguard that “we want the APC to conclude its primary and know what the outcome will look like before we now re-schedule.”
The source, who said Messrs Jimi Agbaje and Adedeji Doherty were the only two aspirants that have so far obtained the nomination forms, but “none of them is marketable. In all fairness, we don’t have a candidate.”
The source, however, expressed hope that the PDP would reap from the outcome of the APC governorship primary in Lagos State, which is expected.
PDP speaks out
Similarly, the PDP, has said having reviewed the world press conference addressed by Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode; it has come to the conclusion that the All Progressives Congress, APC, consists of fraudsters and election riggers.
Governor Ambode had in the press conference stated that his opponent in the race, Babajide Sanwoolu, was arrested for spending fake dollars in the United States.
In a statement signed by the spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party said: “By this, the whole world can see that the APC is nothing but a den of fraudsters and corrupt persons who not only cheated their way to power through lies and propaganda in 2015 but have also continued to bleed and defraud our nation with sleaze and massive corruption in very high places.