Before a huge crowd, Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode yesterday urged residents to embrace a “government of continuity”.
Presenting All Progressives Congress (APC) flag to its governorship candidate, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the governor said: “By this handing over, we believe we will all join hands to make him the next governor of Lagos State.”
The governor and other speakers at the rally, including party Chairman Tunde Balogun, Asiwaju Olorunfunmi Basorun, Senator Tony Adefuye and Chief Lanre Rasak, urged party members and supporters to prepare for the poll.
But the well-attended rally was disrupted as party chieftains were concluding their remarks. Some hoodlums invaded the Skypower Grounds, venue of the campaign kick-off at the Government Reservation Area (GRA), Ikeja. They were said to belong to rival drivers’ unions. They shot guns and wielded other dangerous weapons.
Two people, whose identities were not disclosed as at the time of filing this report, were feared killed. Three reporters were injured.
Balogun condemned the disruption of the rally, which he described as “very successful”. He wondered why some groups who had scores to settle would use the occasion as their battle field.
“We had a very successful outing but some people decided to use the venue of our rally to settle scores. We know nothing about the disruption,” the party chair said in a chat with this newspaper last night.
He apologised to the media organisations whose reporters were injured.
Party spokesman Joe Igbokwe, described the gathering as “unprecedented” in the history of Lagos politics.
“We only have our teeming supporters and the leadership of the party in the state to thank for displaying absolute trust, loyalty, commitment and affection for the party they have cherished for years and still continue to cherish till date.
“His Excellency and our own Governor Akinwunmi Ambode was on ground to boost the morale of the party and its candidates. We all witnessed an electrifying moment as the governor and the candidates drove in together to the venue.
“Some 63 chairmen of other political parties in the state added beauty and glamour to the great event by coming out en masse to endorse the candidates of APC, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Obafemi Hamzat.
“However, we regret that towards the end of the rally two factions of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) engaged themselves in a brawl that led to some people sustaining various injuries. We deeply regret this ugly and unacceptable rude behaviour with a firm promise that such an incident will not repeat itself again in the cause of the campaigns.”
The party leaders took turns to address the crowd of supporters at the venue where no fewer than 63 political parties under the aegis of the Coalition of Progressive Parties in Lagos endorsed the Sanwo-Olu/Hamzat ticket.
The crowd was massive. Brooms filled the air. On the band stand was ace musician Wasiu Ayinde, who thrilled the crowd with partisan songs. The party’s candidates were accompanied by their supporters.
Conspicuous in their banners were the photographs of the various parliamentary flag bearers, including Senator Oluremi Tibubu, Senator Olamilekan Adeola, Alhaji Bayo Osinnowo (Lagos East), Yemi Alli (Mushin), Fatai Oluwa (Ajeromi Ifelodun), Abiodun Ganiyu (Osodi Isolo), Mosunmola Sangodare (Surulere), Sola Giwa (Island), Jide Jimoh (Mainland), Bisi Yusuf (Alimoso), Lukman Oluwa (Ajeromi Ifelodun II) and Lanre Okunlola (Surulere II).
There were excited party elders and leaders, including Deputy Governor Mrs. Oluranti Adebule, members of the Governorship Advisory Council (GAC) – Third Republic House of Representatives member Prince Tajudeen Olusi, Chief M.A Taiwo, and Cardinal James Odunmbaku – party Secretary Dr. Wale Ahmed, Woman leader Jumoke Okoya-Thomas and Ekiti Central Senator Mrs. Raji Rasaki.
Also there were: Chief Michael Olawale-Cole, former Deputy Governor Sarah Sosan, Ambode’s wife, Bolanke, Mrs. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, Oyinlomo Danmole, Wahab Alawiye-King, Mrs. Fausat Gbadebo, Mrs. Kemi otitolaye, Bayo Osiyemi, Publicity Secretary Joe Igbokwe and his deputy, Abiodun Salami, who was the master of ceremony.
The highlights of the rally, which started with an opening prayer by Mrs. Kafilat Ogbara, included the presentation of party flags by Balogun to Senator Tinubu (Lagos Central), Senator Adeola (Lagos West), James Faleke, House of Representatives candidate for Ikeja Constituency and the two House of Assembly candidates, Folajimi Mohammed (Ikeja I) and Adedamola Kasumu (Ikeja II).
The leader of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Col. Folorunso Ibrahim (retd) and former Lagos State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) deputy chairman, Ola Apena defected to the APC.
Receiving the party flag from Balogun, Apena, who described himself as a foundation member of the PDP and deputy chairman for six years, lamented that he was in a wrong party. He said he defected to the ruling party to contribute his quota to the APC’s victory at the polls.
The Accord leader, Otunba Fatukasi, who led the 63 opposition parties to the rally, said the opposition leaders resolved to work for Sanwo-Olu in the interest of Lagos.
He said: “We members of the opposition are behind Sanwo-Olu. We will support him. We will use the powers given to us by God to work for Sanwo-Olu across the 57 councils. On November 8, last year, 45 political parties endorsed Sanwo-Olu. But, today, from 45, we have risen to 63.”
Hailing the defectors for taking the right decision, Balogun said it was unprecedented.
Ambode, who wished the party supporters a happy New Year, acknowledged the endorsement as a sign of good things to come during the election.
Reflecting on the challenges ahead, the governor said: “The APC campaign is a united campaign in this state and we are going to do it together.”
In his view, Lagos deserves a government of continuity that will build on the achievements of former Governors Bola Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola and the current administration.
Ambode stressed: “Lagos State has witnessed progressive growth in the last 20 years, since 1999. Why have we been experiencing progressive growth? The answer is very simple: I have had predecessors who have actually delivered on their promises.
“I have followed in the footsteps of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola under one party. We need a government of continuity. APC is a party to trust and rely on. The next government will be a government of continuity.”
Adefuye urged party members, particularly from Lagos West, to learn from the 2015 experience when the opposition defeated the APC during the parliamentary polls.
He said: “In the last elections, we lost in in the House of Representatives. That should not happen again. By this time in March, we will gather to rejoice over our victory.”
Basorun called for unity and cohesion, urging aggrieved members to bury their grievances and differences. He enjoined them to return home and work for the success of the candidates at the polls.
Rasak, Balogun of Epe, advised Lagosians to vote wisely, stressing that the return of the PDP to power will be a disaster.
He said: “For 16 years, Atiku’s party, the PDP did nothing for Nigerians. Don’t vote for thieves.”
Balogun added: “The progressives have turned Lagos around. Through solid financial engineering initiated by Asiwaju Tinubu, Lagos from a partly N600 million has moved to N36 billion monthly. Lagos has become a mega city. Asiwaju Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola have done well to Lagos.
“On May 29, Sanwo-Olu will continue to deliver dividends of democracy. Sanwo-Olu is qualified. He has experience. There are many parties. Vote for APC after sighting the broom on the ballot paper, using the index finger. Vote for Osinnowo in the West, Oluremi Tinubu in the Central and Olamilekan Adeola in the West.”