Ahead of the forthcoming House of Representatives by-election in Surulere Federal Constituency 1, the Lagos chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has resolved to throw the party’s ticket for the poll open to all contestants and allow free and fair exercise within the constituency.
The party was said to have thrown the race open after another strong member of the party, Abdulraheem Owokoniran, who joined the race for the Surulere 1 Federal Constituency ticket where the elected lawmaker during the 2023 general election, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, resigned to take up the position of the Chief of Staff to President Bola Tinubu.
Also, the party took the decision as a measure to address complaints raised by members including aspirants that Gbajabiamila was moving to impose his own candidate on the members which they have all kicked against, protesting that the race be left wide open to all interested APC members within the constituency in the state.
As gathered, the move had thrown fresh air into the race with members commending the President, members of the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC) the highest decision-making organ of the Lagos APC, and party executives for allowing fair play in the race for the ticket.
A party leader from the constituency disclosed to The Guild that Lagos APC leadership decision was announced by the state Chairman, Cornelius Ojelabi, during a meeting with members from the constituency at the party secretariat in ACME, Ikeja, on Monday.
He added that the move, according to the party leaders, was to prevent any possible implosion and to approach the election with a united house and not divided since any imposition by Gbajabiamila would divide the members and make them lose interest in the exercise.
According to him, during the meeting, the leaders discovered that over 80 percent of the members wanted the race to be thrown open and not the imposition that Gbajabiamila had wanted which was the reason he took Fuad Laguda, his anointed candidate to the President, in order to cajole members that Tinubu had endorsed his choice for the ticket.
He added that the arguments of members at the meeting were that denying aspirants especially Owokoniran, whose contribution over the years to the party’s successes was immeasurable, the opportunity to contest could affect APC chances since many members wanted him to represent them in any elective offices.
The party leader noted that the APC chairman, after listening to all arguments, disclosed that the ticket has been thrown open to allow a free and fair exercise during the primaries.
According to him, the State Party Chairman disclosed that the form for the House of Representative seat has not been sold to any aspirant. So, I can assure you that we do not have any candidate yet. This is an opportunity for other members to contest for the Surulere federal Constituency 1 ticket.
“He said no one is bringing any preferred candidate for the ticket and that the slate is open to all members. And we should be rest assured that the President does not have any choice for the ticket. Do not allow anyone to cajole you on this”, he added.
The chairman could be referring to the stories making the rounds that President Tinubu had an interest in Laguda after he was led to Asiwaju’s office using his status as the Chief of Staff to the president.
When The Guild contacted the presidency, a female aide at the president’s office, who did not want her name in print, dispelled reports that Tinubu spoke with the aspirant during the visit, saying there was no conversation o such.
She added that what happened barely four days ago between the President and Laguda was very brief and there was no discussion between them especially since the president did not know him.
Another aide, a male, who was also present in the room, described the meeting as very brief and Gbajabiamila sought his consent, he maintained that the choice of the people should prevail, saying we were shocked to see the stories that were being disseminated across major media platforms.
In a telephone chat with another female aide, she stressed that the President, who has many national issues before him, has not considered endorsement of any candidate.
The aide added the president has severally indicated that the choice of the members must be allowed to prevail since he also emerged through the primaries, saying he is in absolute support of the primaries.
It was learnt that a Lagos State ex-Governor, Babajide Fashola, has also been advocating that the contest be thrown open to strengthen internal democracy within the party, especially in Surulere.
Fashola, who had been a major rallying source within Surulere, maintained that the primaries should be allowed to be held, in determining who takes the APC ticket in the constituency.
Earlier, in Owokoniran’s letter of intent obtained by The Guild, the aspirant disclosed that his decision to join the race was taken after thorough consultations with members and a desire to bring better representation to the constituency in the state.
According to him, I write with infinite faith in the Almighty and total confidence in the ability of all our elders to see the relevance of my aspiration aimed towards contributing meaningfully to the process of actualizing our collective objectives of taking Surulere Federal Constituency to greater heights.
“Specifically Sir, with deep conviction that you will identify with keen passion to follow in your footsteps towards lifting our dear constituency, our great state as well as our dear nation to greater heights; I hereby solicit your invaluable blessing and support for my aspiration to represent Surulere Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.
“As you already know Sir, I am one of the young men whose experiences and participation in the deepening of progressive ideals in our dear state suggest a clear capacity to sustain loyalty to the party and mobilize further towards the consolidation of our democracy under the leadership of our great leader, and President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
“I look forward to an opportunity to meet you Sir and further explain my plans towards the continuing progress and development of Surulere Federal Constituency and our great party, APC, when given the chance to step into the big shoes that you have left behind”.