The sudden resignation of Lagos State Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Mr. Olawale Oluwo, from the government and ruling party yesterday is stirring serious controversies in the party.
Oluwo's decision, less than three months to the 2019 governorship election, indicated that there may not be an end in sight to the controversial governorship primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Lagos State chapter, in which Governor Akinwunmi Ambode lost the return ticket to Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was the preferred candidate of the national leader, Bola Tinubu.
Although, Ambode has since accepted his fate, as he has on several occasions promised to support the second term ambition of President Muhammadu Buhari and his vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo in the 2019 election, likewise the governorship aspiration of Sanwo-Olu, there are however strong indications that the governor might simply have been making lip promises, especially about supporting the Lagos standard-bearer following his alleged refusal to fund his (Sanwo-Olu) campaign.
The speculation became stronger when Oluwo resigned from Ambode's cabinet and left APC for major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Oluwo, a confidant of Ambode from the same Epe division of Lagos East, in his resignation letter dated December 3 to the state APC chairman, Chief Tunde Balogun, said he decided to leave APC because he could no longer shoulder the "heavy moral burden" the contentious primary election placed on him.
"I have found it rather difficult to come to terms or rationalise the party's conduct of the October 2018 primary elections, which were largely characterised by massive voter disenfranchisement, intimidation, violence, undue influence and non-compliance with all known principles of democracy."
In his letter, Oluwo expressed disgust over the 'open ballot' option that was used to conduct the primary instead of the 'open-secret ballot' option that was stipulated in the party's constitution.
"It is clear to me that the core principles of merit, competence, justice and fairness have been sacrificed by the APC on the altar of political expediency," he lamented.
He flayed the governorship primary, stressing that the election rubbished the reputation of the state as the epitome of "free and fair democratic practice."
Said he: "I have struggled for weeks to understand the rationale behind the apparent desperation and the brigandage brazenly displayed by the party apparatchik in the various elections. I had never thought such vicious attack could be unleashed on the progress that the state has made in its steady democratic journey."
He also accused the leadership of Lagos APC of using the House of Assembly to frustrate the efforts of the executive in executing some of the ongoing projects across the state.
Lamenting the indifference of the APC to the continued use of an arm of government by a powerful group within the party to intimidate critical institutions or democracy in the state, which undermines the doctrine of separation of powers, creates an atmosphere of uncertainty and impairs government's ability to implement policies and programmes that will benefit the majority of the people, he said: "This is in conflict with my strongly-held belief that group interest, no matter how powerful, must be subordinated to the interest of the majority."
Meanwhile, a strong source from the government cleared Ambode from Oluwo's resignation. The source stressed that the commissioner did not take the governor into confidence before tendering his letter yesterday. This was contrary to insinuations within the party that the incumbent is working out a script to frustrate Sanwo-Olu in the coming governorship race.
"Oluwo had decided to leave the party immediately after governorship primary in October, but the governor refused. It should also be recalled that Oluwo was a member of PDP before he defected to APC sometimes in 2014 or 2015. He worked for Ambode and was compensated with the appointment. There was nothing new in his returning to PDP, since that was his former base."
The source also dismissed the allegation that Ambode has refused to fund Sanwo-Olu's campaign.
He said, "The peculiarity and structure of Lagos politics does not support that unfounded allegation in the sense that Ambode, who was a former accountant general of the state before becoming the governor, would be the first victim, if PDP takes over Lagos. Moreover, the onus is on Lagosians to task the state's lawmakers to impress it on the executive, if truly they are sincere, to complete all ongoing projects that seem to be dragging and creating untold traffic across the state, instead of the unfounded allegation and propaganda that the incumbent is not funding Sanwo-Olu's campaign."
Although, The Guardian further learnt that some commissioners, who were as well uncomfortable like Oluwo over the conduct and outcome of the governorship primary may leave the cabinet and the party soon, the government source however dismissed such. "As far as I know, no other cabinet member is planning to leave. Oluwo just returned to his base, if perhaps he has joined PDP."
Efforts to confirm from Sanwo-Olu or the director-general of his campaign team, Mr. Tayo Ayinde, if it was true the governor refused to release fund as being speculated, failed after several calls yesterday. But a source close to the flag-bearer told The Guardian that the relationship between the governor and Sanwo-Olu remains cordial. This is contrary to insinuations that some top traditional rulers in Lagos have called and appealed to the governor to support Sanwo-Olu on the assurance that his (Ambode) interest would be protected after his exit by his would-be successor, if the ruling party retains power in 2019.
When contacted over the resignation of Oluwo yesterday, the state's publicity secretary of APC, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, said that the development was inconsequential to the chances of the ruling party retaining the state come next year.
He said: "We are definitely going to win the governorship election."
In separate statements, Lagos PDP and Jimi Agabje Campaign Organisation lauded Oluwo for dumping APC and also having the courage to condemn his former party's governorship primary.
Agbaje said: "Babylon is falling! APC is crumbling! The commissioner has displayed uncommon courage by the decision. He is a good example for others to follow, as this empire begins to fall to pieces. I am gladdened by the news of my brother's defection to PDP. Indeed, it is a welcome development, which must be lauded and applauded by all lovers of freedom and democracy. By this singular gesture, Oluwo has counted himself worthy as a man of integrity.
"I look forward to teaming up with him to liberate our dear state from the shackles of misgovernment and corruption."
The state publicity secretary of PDP, Mr. Taofik Gani, urged the people of Lagos to join the party to liberate the state from Tinubu, who has pocketed the most prosperous black state on the continent.