Furore In Lagos APC Over Direct Primaries

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Furore In Lagos APC Over Direct Primaries

L-R: Hon Mudashiru Obasa; Speaker Lagos state house of assembly, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode; Governor Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; APC National Leader and Alh Tunji Balogun; Lagos APC Chairman recently during the party stakeholders’ meeting at the secretariat, Ogba Lagos.

The adoption of direct primaries by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State ahead of the 2019 general election is setting tongues wagging in the state, Trek Africa has learnt.

While a lot of people have lauded the move, some people, especially those disposed to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s re-election, believe the directive was targeted at denying the governor a second term.

These proponents alluded to a recent claim by a chieftain of the party who claimed that some of the loyalists of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the party’s national leader, had approached him and solicited his support to scuttle Ambode’s second term bid.

Addressing party faithful at a stakeholders’ meeting last week in the party secretariat, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the party’s national leader, declared that all aspirants of the party would pass through a direct primary as the party would not give an automatic ticket to any aspirant for the forthcoming 2019 general election.

Addressing the party leaders and members, which included Governor Akinwunmi Ambode; Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa; Lagos APC chairman, Alhaji Tunde Balogun; members of the Governor’s Advisory Council, members of the national and state Assembly, and aspirants, Tinubu said all Lagos APC candidates for House of Assembly, House of Representatives, senatorial and governorship elections would be elected through direct primaries which, according to him, would empower party members to elect their candidates rather than the delegate system which provides opportunity for few to decide the fate of candidates.

He said: “We want to appeal to all our members to obtain the membership registration and embrace the direct primary that has just been introduced and adopted by our party.

“We are committed to our party. We see direct primary as President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption and internal democracy revolution.

“We are going to embrace that to ensure that the party is brought back to its owners; that is the people and not a few. We have embraced democracy and for you to benefit from it, you have to be a member of our party in the first place.”

He, however, assured the party members that he would be neutral during the primaries and, therefore, won’t endorse any aspirant.

“I only have one vote in my ward and my vote is not different from that of other leaders. There is nothing like you are going to meet Asiwaju; I am not going to endorse anybody.

“Everybody should go to the field and determine his or her popularity by votes. We will do primaries and whoever wins will be the party’s candidate,” he said.

Also speaking at the meeting, Governor Ambode urged members of the party to embrace the direct primary option and work for the party’s victory in the coming elections at the state and federal levels.”

However, shortly after the meeting, some of the governor’s loyalists who said they had been suspecting that Tinubu was not comfortable with Ambode’s re-election plans, said the development may be targeted at denying Ambode a second term.

A group known as Ambode Till 2023 (Itesiwaju Eko) said based on the overall endorsements received by Ambode so far, it was unfair that the governor would be asked to go through primaries, especially given the fact that no politician in the APC and the opposition had signified interest in contesting against him.

The group, in a message posted on its social media page, said the decision to ask Ambode to go through direct primaries was unfair and may be a ploy to deny him a return ticket.

When reminded that even if the governor was asked to go through primaries, there was no serious opposition against him, convener of the group, Olamide Otun-Elewe, said even if a dark horse emerged at the last minute and Tinubu directs APC members to vote for him, such an aspirant may pick the ticket.

“We are not comfortable with the directive by Tinubu on direct primaries. Our expectation at the stakeholders’ meeting was that our leader, Tinubu, would declare support for the governor and ask all of us to go and work for him. But subjecting Governor Ambode to direct primaries despite his sterling performance and massive endorsements, to us, is unfair.

“They claim Ambode is setting up political structures and treating party elders with disdain but they have not come up with a single evidence to back up their claim,” the group said.

Also speaking, Olawale Olaleye, a Lagos-based journalist, also disagreed with the directive by Tinubu that Ambode be subjected to primaries.

He said: “I’m not an Akinwunmi Ambode person, and that is public knowledge. But it will be utterly unfair for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to force him to a primary, when the practice has always been that governors of the party are given the right of first refusal across the nation.

“The choice of direct primary is clearly designed to humiliate him, because even governors who failed to win their second term election didn’t have to struggle for their tickets in the party.

“I can’t comprehend the logic behind it except that it is a grossly dishonest choice, informed by sheer political greed. The same Tinubu who allegedly asked some prospective aspirants to a particular senatorial seat in the state to back off, because the present occupant deserves the right of first refusal? And a few weeks to the primary, a Lagos governor does not know his fate?

“Now, the leader will hide under the facade of following party’s decision to teach the governor some lessons, because, like it or not, it is who they allow to vote that would vote and the outcome is inevitably guided. Watch out for the guidelines soon. You will be stunned.”

Speaking with our correspondent, Tunde Balogun, the Lagos State Chairman of APC, said it was wrong for anyone to claim that the idea of a direct primary was targeted at denying any aspirant or Governor Ambode the ticket.

He said: “That is a very wrong perception. It is a very wrong interpretation of the situation. Those claiming it is targeted at anyone got it very wrong. The direct primary is not targeted against any aspirant. Direct primary is a constitutional thing.

“It is one of the options for primaries in our constitution. You can either go for direct or indirect primaries. I don’t know who is misinterpreting it to mean it was suggested so as to get at anybody. Lagosians should ignore anyone spreading that rumour. It is not targeted at anyone.”

Also, in his reaction, Kamal Bayewu, a chieftain of the party and senatorial aspirant in the 2015 general election, said it was erroneous for anyone to think Governor Ambode was being targeted with the decision of the party leadership to settle for direct primary.

However, in his remark, Chief Babatunde Alabi, a chieftain of the party who said Ambode would emerge victorious even if a direct primary was conducted, argued that it will be hypocritical for Tinubu to single out Ambode for automatic ticket while asking other aspirants to go for direct primary.

In June, Fouad Oki, a factional Chairman of the APC in Lagos State, had alleged that Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, and the lawmaker representing Kosofe Constituency 1 at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Bayo Oshinowo, were plotting against Ambode’s second term ambition.

Oki, who was guest on a radio programme, Morning Digest on Lagos Talks, hosted by veteran journalist, Jimi Disu, said the duo had approached him to discuss the plot.

The report generated lots of ripples in the APC, especially in Lagos as members of the party wondered why Aregbesola, a right-hand man of Tinubu, may be plotting against Ambode’s re-election.

Aregbesola, however, denied the allegations saying Oki was only trying to cause mischief in the party.

Source: Daily Independent

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