By Dapo Akinrefon, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Ebun Sessou & Monsuru Olowoopejo
LAGOS—CONTROVERSY, yesterday, trailed the rescheduled governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Lagos State as the panel of the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party, distanced itself from the earlier exercise conducted and fix today for a fresh primary.
The NWC APC nullified the governorship primary, saying due process was not followed.
The panel’s decision was, however, faulted by the state chapter of the party which insisted the exercise was credible.
Exercise was credible—Lagos party chair
Distancing himself from the panel’s decision, state chairman of the party, Alhaji Tunde Balogun, said: “The election took place simultaneously in all the 245 wards. Our members were visible in the local government areas. For example, our National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was at Ikeja, his own ward.
He took part in the election and we saw the results. The results have been signed by the agents of the two aspirants.
“Those results were credible because the INEC too were there and they all signed off. We were all witnesses to the conduct of the election. There were no violence, no chaos; it was free, fair and transparent.”
Asked whether members of the NWC panel were present at the venues, Balogun said ‘’I did not go round the wards. The venue I went to, I saw some observers apart from the agents and INEC. They were publicly conducted, constitutionally done and I think we will leave the rest for the people and the press to judge. That is why we have to wait for the committee charged with the responsibility to announce the results. We are not to announce the results.’’
He added that he was satisfied with the primary because ‘’the conducts of the election were seamless, free, no chaos, no violence and people conducted themselves well.”
This came as Lagos Deputy Governor Dr. Idiat Adegbule, abandoned her boss, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, and announced her support for Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu in the governorship primary.
No election took place, NWC insists
Invalidating the earlier exercise said to have been held across the state, Chairman of the NWC panel, Mr. Clement Ebri, said the panel never authorised it and the modalities were not followed as scheduled.
Briefing newsmen in Ikeja on the NWC’s position, 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.
“Having done that, we now had to reach out to the party executives to submit lists that could be utilised for the purpose of posting officials to supervise the elections.
“Those lists only arrived at about an hour ago and so anything that was done without the lists that we wanted, because we wanted harmony and I told you, we are more interested in harmony than victory, so we had to wait for them.
“There was no way we could have got up at 8am, sat down in this place for about eight to nine hours without seeing anybody and then I would go ahead and do something. It is only fair that when you don’t see one party, you have to wait and be patient and that is what has brought us to this point.
“We had a session with the representatives of both aspirants, they were here as early as 8am and at that meeting we discussed some of these modalities and asked them to furnish us with names of people who will act as party agents we could use for this exercise.
“We received from one party, a list about one hour ago, and at one point, they brought a list for seven local governments out of 20 and about five hours later, they brought a list for 11, even the other two local governments have not been provided till this moment.
“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, this is about integrity and I think that 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.
“There were a number of things we needed to adjust, fortunately we have concluded the preparatory process for the primaries and right here with me, are the list of local governments and the agents and returning officers for the entire state.
“Because of the political tension in the state, we decided to be very careful, very methodical and very meticulous in doing it. As party men, peace is very important to us than victory, we want victory that will be celebrated by both parties, and we want victory that will be credible, a victory that will be in line with the guidelines and extant rules and laws in this country. We are ready to go to the field and execute this in clinical fashion.’’
Displaying the result sheets, the Panel Chairman said it was “in impeccable condition and not one single sheet is missing and it is not possible for this Committee to do any other thing than it has been instructed to do. We have guidelines and we will stick to those guidelines to be sure that we are fair to both parties.”
Fouad Oki backs NWC panel
Commenting on the confusion that trailed the primary, factional chairman of Lagos APC, Mr Fouad Oki, said: “There was never an exercise; it was just some rascality by some overzealous party officials at the Lagos party secretariat, who took the law into their hands by conducting the primary without recourse to the national headquarters of the party. The guideline for the primary was just released to the party.
The APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomole speaking on Lagos state in Abuja after seeing the president,said that the National Working Committee was in charge of the Lagos primaries and that every situation has been put under control.
The former Edo State Governor ruled out the possibility of honouring parallel results on the primaries from states, stressing that no matter how highly a member may be, he must subject himself to the Constitution of the party.
On what he told the President about Lagos Primaries, he said, “All that is good to go on, direct primaries, and everything is being done to ensure that there is no violence, that it is very potent.
Democracy doesn’t flourish with violence and Nigeria must begin to learn how to differ in opinion and in choice without fighting. At least something people have to acquire over time. And for me I am excited that if we can do it in Lagos, we can do it anywhere.
Ambode has not conceded defeat — ACO
Meanwhile, the Ambode Campaign Organisation, ACO, has refuted claims of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode conceding any defeat because the primary election has not been held.
“There are guidelines and procedures which the NWC has insisted must be followed in conducting a credible poll. 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 are yet to be distributed. As a loyal and responsible party member and a democrat, Governor Ambode is guided by the process announced by the party and shall await the new date of the governorship primary.
“We urge all party members and our teeming supporters to remain calm and peaceful and to refuse to be intimidated. Governor Ambode is still very much in the race and is poised to win in order to continue the good works he has been doing in the last three and half years,” it said in a statement.
Lagos Deputy gov endorses Sanwo-Olu
Announcing her support for Mr. Sanwo-Olu, Dr Adegbule told newsmen at Ward A and D, in Iba Local Council Development Area of the State where she participated in the cancelled primary, “the party has chosen a man and it is that man that I will support and follow.”
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that when the deputy governor arrived at the ward, some of her aides came with Sanwo-Olu’s posters and banners.