* Shells out N.5b to suppress APC votes
*Tokunbo Afikuyomi angle
* Muiz Banire’s agenda
Tempers are again flaring within ruling All Progressives Congress in Lagos over reports of internal sabotage of the party in the February 23 national elections.
Even as party leaders gird their loins to secure victory for Babajide Sanwo-Olu in the governorship polls scheduled for next Saturday, emerging facts also revealed power blocs within the ruling party in the state may be working at cross purposes with a view to “settling old scores”.
Whereas one group is seeking to undermine the party’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, at home, the commitment of the other is said to be limited to only canvassing re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari. Both are however determined to scuttle Sanwo-Olu’s emergence as governor-elect.
Specifically, outgoing Governor Akinwumi Ambode, despite repeated denial, was accused of diverting huge resources to opposition elements as part of a high-stake plot to “embarrass” the party for denying him second term ticket.
This came just as indication emerged that the Lagos governor may have resolved to dump PDP’s Jimi Agbaje and switch clandestine support to the candidate of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Babatunde Gbadamosi (B.O.G).
Ambode lost his bid for second term ticket in the party primaries last October due to what was described as his non-challant attitude towards party interest and “contempt for party members and elders.”
Interestingly, for the umpteenth time, Governor Ambode said weekend he remains committed to Sanwo-Olu’s victory, apparently to dispel widespread reports that he was covertly working for the opposition.
In a statement signed by his Press Secretary, Habib Haruna, Ambode argued that he could not be held liable for “whatever action of certain individuals who might have shared (my) vision in the past but have proceeded to pursue their own interests as adults and citizens without any influence from or recourse to the governor.”
But bookmakers have continued to express surprise at the marginal voters turnout in the February 23 national elections which saw President Muhammadu Buhari polling 580,825 votes to beat PDP’s Atiku Abubakar who scored 448,015.
The aggregate of 1.2m turn-out last Saturday is a far cry from the 6.5m registered voters in Lagos.
In an emergency meeting convened to review the development early in the week, Asiwaju Tinubu expressed disappointment at the “complacency” of party leaders including council chairmen and ward heads. He argued that the results did not reflect even the membership strength of party put at over 1.4m, urging massive turnout in the forthcoming governorship polls, threatening sanctions against poor performance.
More than 1m members had voted in the primaries held last October to decide the party’s governorship flagbearer.
However, party insiders at the meeting told us that Tinubu’s position was different from the intelligence reports from field officers indicating that the party’s perceived poor showing in Ojo, Amuwo and Ajegunle resulted from massive “cash mobilization” of non-Yoruba groups by Ambode’s agents to vote against APC.
Areas similarly impacted included Ikorodu, Yaba, Ibeju-Lekki and Epe.
Funds for the voters-suppression operations allegedly came from the support group which is directly controlled by Ambode. Officially, the unit is designated as one of the campaign monitor for APC both at the national and state levels.
The disbursements, we gathered, were done in two tranches – N200m (for non-Yoruba groups to vote against APC) and N250m for B.OG. ahead of the next Saturday’s polls.
However, when contacted, a source close Ambode, who craves anonymity, denied the allegations as “nonsense”.
His denial fits into a pattern of denial of persistent accusations against Ambode of working against the emergence of Sanwo-Olu as Ambode’s successor come May 29.
The decision of the Ambode camp to dump Agbaje and work for ADP’s Gbadamosi was said not be unconnected with the former’s continued poor rating ahead of the polls.
Said a source close to the ADP candidate: “I can authoritatively tell you that Gbadamosi’s support has continued to grow with help now coming from Ambode’s supporters. We’ve also opened discussions with the Agbaje group which does not enjoy the support of the core PDP in Lagos to join forces with us in ADP to ensure Gbadamosi is victorious come March 9. Their interest will be accommodated when Gbadamosi forms his own government.”
In a dramatic move last October, Ambode’s Man Friday, Wale Oluwo had declared support for Agbaje’s governorship ambition on the same day he resigned as Energy Commissioner in the Ambode administration shortly after his mentor lost the APC primaries.
As a trusted member of Ambode’s inner cycle, Oluwo was said to have handled the multi-billionaire electricity projects in the state for three years, from which he was expected to play a prominent role in Ambode’s reelection campaign had he secured the party’s ticket.
Insiders tell us Oluwo’s financial contributions to Agbaje’s campaign have been “massive”, particularly in footing the bills for media advertising and provision of campaign souvenirs.
The new Gbadamosi project, it was gathered, is being coordinated by Fuad Oki and Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi. They are said to have, in turn, recruited activist Sina Soremikan to help them mobilize civil society organizations (CSOs) as foot soldiers.
Oki was the Director General of APC campaign organizations for the election of both Babatunde a Fashola and later Ambode in 2015.
Interestingly, the Lagos APC on Friday issued a disclaimer on Afikuyomi, labeling him a persona non grata, urging party members to desist from associating with him over alleged “subversive activities”.
A day earlier, media reports had linked Afikuyomi, who until recently was an influential member of APC in Lagos, with moves by PDP forces to take over Lagos in the coming state elections by launching anti-Tinubu campaign.
On the other hand, the Muiz Banire-led group within the party which is very strong in the Mushin axis is said to be committed only to Buhari’s re-election and is believed to be working clandestinely for Accord Party in the state elections.
Banire is the Chairman of the AMCON board.