By Folasade Adeniran
Lagos – Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State on Monday urged the panel appointed by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to conduct the Governorship Primaries in the state to ensure a level playing field for all aspirants in the contest.
Ambode spoke when he received members of the panel led by its Chairman, Mr Clement Ebri, at the Lagos House in Alausa, Ikeja.
Ambode said it was important that the election when conducted, is seen to be free, fair and credible to all aspirants concerned.
He added that it was only in such situation that democracy, which the party upholds was entrenched.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that members of the panel include Alhaji Ahmed Mahmud Gumel as Secretary; Mr Nze Chidi Duru; Chief Clever Egbeji, Sen. Clever Ikisikpo and Ambassador Jerry Ugokwe.
Expressing confidence in the selection of members of the panel, Ambode said he had no doubt that the panel would live up to expectation and deliver a credible process.
According to him, the panel will go a long way to determine the future of Nigeria and the greatness of Lagos in particular.
“This is a very star studded election team, they are distinguished Nigerians in their individual and collective rights.
“There cannot be any better collection of a team to any state election monitoring in this country than the distinguished personalities brought to Lagos and it only shows us the importance that the national chairman of our great party attaches to what is happening in Lagos.
“I must tell you that what you have taken up, may look like a political assignment, but history is on your side that at this very moment in the annals of the history of this country.
“Today marking our 58th Independence anniversary celebration, you are being called upon to discharge a selfless service.
“That will determine the future of this country and the greatness of this particular state.
“I receive this election team as being acceptable and credible to me enough to discharge their civic responsibility to the best of their abilities and to also to say that whatever it is that is the outcome of the primaries, your presence has also shown that this will be credible and this will be acceptable to me,” he said.
Ambode recalled that he had gone through the same process with 12 other aspirants to emerge as governorship candidate of the APC in 2014.
He said that it was not out of place to have other aspirants contest for the same ticket this time, however, the eventual process of choosing who flies the party’s flag must be seen to be fair to all concerned.
“So, it is very clear to me, all I seek is credible primaries, transparent primaries and level playing ground that we will all be proud of at the end of the day for the outcome.
“There were issues that we have raised that we are also trying to correct.
“The bottom line is this, we are family, we must not go into the elections divided because this is the very first time that our party is controlling the centre and also the state, that is what I want us to continue.
“The issues that I raise have been put in form of a letter which I will pass to the chairman and I believe the committee will look into it judiciously.
“And also I welcome the stakeholders meeting which will allow you feel the pulse of what is going on in the state,”Ambode said.
He also urged the panel to use its prerogative to decide the best possible time for the primaries election and make a public announcement on the time, date and venues of the exercise to enable members of the party partake in the process.
Earlier, Ebri said the panel deemed it fit to pay a courtesy visit to the governor as the number one citizen in the state and to also intimate him on the process for the conduct of the primaries.
“As the number one citizen of Lagos, we felt obliged to come and see you particularly when you are contesting for the position of governor for which we all believe you have done so well.
“We are the panel that has been constituted to conduct the primaries. We are seven members and there are indications that there will be one or two additions due to the work load here.
“We have come to intimate you that this exercise is going to take place in the next few hours.
“I also like to apologise for the delay, it had to be postponed as a result of logistics in Lagos, Imo and some other states because of the pressure and work load from the secretariat and other developments that have taken place,” the chairman said.
Ebri, a former governor of Cross River, assured the governor that he and his team were ready for the task ahead and would do everything possible to ensure that the process is seen to be free, fair and credible.
He said: “Lagos is more like a decider and like they say, when Lagos sneezes the rest of the country catches cold.
“So, that is why we are very careful about what we are doing and the National Chairman asked me to send his best wishes to you and ask us to come and do the right thing to the satisfaction of all members.
“More so that the president of this country stands for transparency and detests corruption and a situation where no one feels manipulated.
“The process we are laying out is such that we ensure and guarantee transparency and credibility, we have people of integrity in this panel.
“These are not rookies in politics, they are people who have been tested. You can see senators, former governors, former deputy governor, former member of the House of Representatives, so this is a star studded team.
“I can assure you that we have all the experience that you want and you can think about to conduct this exercise. We assure you of our sincerity and transparency and we seek your cooperation in providing a level playing field.
“I want to assure you that we have come here to do our work and to ensure that this party is given the greater control in the affairs of this country by getting the right persons to assume the mantle of office. We know that you have done so well and there is no doubt about it.
“But you have a contestant and we have assured everyone that since this party stands for democracy and we want to ensure that there is a level playing field and everyone would be given an opportunity to test out his strength.”
He said the stakeholders’ meeting fixed for Monday evening at the party secretariat on Acme Road was to enable aspirants and other concerned stakeholders voice their opinion concerning the primaries in accordance with the democratic principles of the party.
Ebri said the meeting would afford the panel to look at the possibility of conducting the primaries at the most convenient time and where there are still grey areas.
“Then, we will contact the national headquarters and get the necessary approval to make the adjustments,” he said.
Ebri also sought the governor’s assistance in ensuring the safety and security of members of the panel, a request Ambode granted, assuring the team that adequate security would be provided to ensure a hitch-free exercise.