Lagos APC Crisis: Ambode’s commissioner resigns, may join PDP

Two months after the controversial gubernatorial primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State, the Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Olawale Oluwo, has resigned from the ruling party.

In his resignation letter dated December 3 to the state APC chairman and obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Oluwo, who is a confidant of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, stated he decided to resign as he could no longer shoulder the “heavy moral burden” the contentious primary election placed on him.

Mr Ambode was comprehensively defeated in the primary after he lost the blessing of the political godfather of the state, Bola Tinubu, who publicly chided him for not being “a good party man”.

Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was endorsed by Mr Tinubu, won the primary with 970,851 votes to Mr Ambode’s 72,901 votes.

The governor who originally rejected the result of the primary later conceded defeat and promised to campaign for the emergence of Mr Sanwo-Olu as governor. He has since appeared in several public events with Mr Sanwo-Olu.

But with Mr Oluwo’s resignation, it seems while everything appears calm on the surface, the embers of the primary are still smouldering underneath.

“I have found it rather difficult to come to terms or rationalise the party’s conduct of the October 2018 primary elections, which were largely characterised by massive voter disenfranchisement, intimidation, violence, undue influence and non-compliance with all known principles of democracy,” he wrote.

“In the particular case of the gubernatorial primary, which was conducted using the ‘open ballot’ option in violation of the guidelines of the APC that specified the ‘open-secret ballot’ option, it is clear to me that the core principles of merit, competence, justice and fairness have been sacrificed by the APC on the altar of political expediency,” added Mr Oluwo, who is a kinsman of the incumbent governor.

He said the primary election has rubbished the reputation of the state as the epitome of “free and fair democratic practice.”

“I have struggled for weeks to understand the rationale for the apparent desperation and the brigandage brazenly displayed by the party apparatchik in the various elections. I had never thought such vicious attack could be unleashed on the progress that the state has made in its steady democratic journey,” he said.

My Oluwo also suggested that the state’s legislature is being used by unnamed forces within the party to throw spanners into the work of the executive.

“The indifference of the APC to the continued use of an arm of government by a powerful group within the party to intimidate critical institutions or democracy in the state, undermines the doctrine of separation of powers, creates an atmosphere of uncertainty and impairs government’s ability to implement policies and programmes that will benefit the majority of the people. This is in conflict with my strongly held belief that group interest, no matter how powerful, must be subordinated to the interest of the majority,” the ex-banker stated.

Joining the PDP

A source close to Mr Oluwo, who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak with the media, told PREMIUM TIMES that the outgoing commissioner has decided to join the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and will be working to deliver his hometown, Epe, to the party.

“He is joining PDP and he is not doing it in some kind of underhand way. He is coming out in the open, I think either tomorrow or Friday,” the source said.

“We are going to be at Jimi’s [Jimi Agbaje, the PDP governorship candidate] campaign office where he will be formally welcomed to the PDP by PDP party leaders in Lagos and of course, Jimi Agbaje himself,” the source added.

The source, however, added that Mr Ambode has nothing to do with the resignation of Mr Oluwo from the party.

“This is the same governor that gave a concession speech and said that was no problem anymore. Everything is okay. And everything just went quiet.”

Uneasy Calm

Our source added that there are a lot of people who feel as strongly as Mr Oluwo over the manner the primaries in the state were conducted but they are not bold enough to speak about it openly.

“You know the truth, Nicholas. It is just like what Lucky Dube said: Everybody is crying for peace, but nobody is talking about justice. Right now, we have a sort of uneasy calm in Lagos and everybody thinks everything is okay; not about the economy but about the political atmosphere especially within the APC.

“So, he is just coming out boldly to say: ‘I will not be a party to this’. As we speak, you think the governor is going to achieve anything between now and the time he is going to take his exit? He is just there doing nothing. So, he just feels that he cannot be part of the bandwagon, so he has to leave now.”

Our source said the discontent within the party is “quite widespread”, adding that there are other commissioners in Mr Ambode’s cabinet who are not happy with the way the primary was conducted but are not bold enough to leave the party.

Our source said at some aspirants for other positions in the party who feel aggrieved are still in the party but will not be campaigning for the APC because of the way they were treated during the primaries.

Influential politician

When asked if Mr Oluwo was influential enough to be of any good to the PDP during the election, our source he is a very influential politician.

“He is not new to politics. He started way back in 2007. He contested as deputy governor alongside Tokunbo Afikuyomi under the platform of ANPP [All Nigerian peoples Party]. Now, even before then he contested House of Reps in Epe. He won the PDP ticket, but the party took the ticket and gave it to someone else. In protest, he resigned and joined the ANPP. Tokunbo Afikuyomi invited him to be his deputy and they contested the election.

“He is the only commissioner from Epe. We personally posted Jimi Agbaje posters in Epe. Let’s not deceive ourselves, I personally think nobody will vote for APC in Epe. Last night we deliberately took Jimi Agbaje’s posters and posted them everywhere in Epe. The governor came in and has turned Epe to London. You think they will now vote for any other person? He (Mr Ambode) is sitting in the APC because he can’t leave. Are you saying he is happy sitting there? No!

“Epe produced a governor, at least compensate them with something. Senate, they don’t have. House of Reps, they don’t have. Deputy governor, they don’t have. Meanwhile, you are claiming it’s their turn and you have already pushed their son out for no reason,” the source added.