By Rafiu Ajakaye
LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) – In a political shock, Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has voted to replace the governor of the country's largest state of Lagos in next year's general election, with party hierarchies accusing him of sidelining the party.
Akinwunmi Ambode was trounced in the primaries held in the state yesterday, polling just 72,901 votes. His challenger Jide Sanwo-Olu garnered 970,851 to emerge the party's flag bearer, Clement Ebri, the APC committee chair who oversaw the voting, said on Wednesday in Lagos.
Nigerian law says that anyone wanting to occupy public office must belong to a political party under which they would stand for election. The parties often hold shadow (internal) elections to pick who will represent them in the general elections.
After collating the results from 245 wards in the 20 local government areas, Ebri declared Sanwo-Olu the winner.
The declaration came after days of tension in the country's commercial capital and a repeated shift of the primaries as party hierarchies led by APC national leader Bola Tinubu openly rejected Ambode’s second-term bid and endorsed his challenger.
Ambode, returning fire, addressed a news briefing on Sunday throwing darts at Sanwo-Olu, accusing him of being convicted in the U.S. of counterfeiting, triggering anger among party stalwarts and the public.
But the outgoing governor has now congratulated Sanwo-Olu, who pledged to work with the party and ensure a smooth transition, amid speculation he might face impeachment in the coming days for challenging the party hawks.
"Fellow Lagosians, the last few days have witnessed intense political activities that have gripped the attention of the nation and created palpable tension in the polity,” said Ambode.
“I strongly believe that the time has now come for the state to move forward in order that the gains of the last three-and-a-half years are not lost."
"Dear Lagosians, the APC is a great party and the interests of our beloved State must always supersede that of any person or group. It is in this regard that I wholeheartedly congratulate Sanwo-Olu and urge all Lagosians to immediately support our party’s gubernatorial candidate in the 2019 elections and work for the success of our dear party."
The APC and other political parties, especially the main opposition PDP, are currently holding primaries to nominate candidates for the February 2019 general elections, amid claims of violence and irregularities.