Two months after the inauguration of its presidential campaign council and few weeks to 2023 general elections, Labour Party is yet to find its bearing over internal wranglings bordering on leadership tussle, allegations of corruption among some officials of the party as well as the composition of its presidential campaigns council. Emmanuel Gabriel reports
The Labour party which has become the new political pride in the country electrified by massive youths support, came to limelight after the defection of Peter Obi from the the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
But beyond this euphoria of a Third Force movement that has left critics of Obi in surprise, leadership of the party have been locked in horn over who gets what and who decides what for the party.
The National Youth leader of the party, Eragbe Anslem, was recently suspended by leadership of the party over allegations bordering on abuse of office – a suspension Eragbe has challenged and has insisted was illegal, null and void, therefore calling for his reinstatement with immediate effect.
The national chairman of the party, Julius Abure, who has been a subject of attacks by some agrieved members of the party led by the suspended National Publicity Secretary, Arabambi Abayomi, had said he is not going to be deterred by baseless allegations.
“I have a lot of work to do and I will not take my eyes off the ball. These things are distractions. As a journalist, go and study those documents to find out anywhere my name was mentioned.
“I have a lot to do and my priority right now is to mobilise Nigerians for our party and our candidate, Peter Obi. I have this responsibility resting on my shoulder and I will not rest till the people’s mandate is delivered”, embattled Abayomi told THISDAY.
The party had last weekend after its last National Working Committee (NWC) meeting dissolved the executive of Ogun State chapter including the chairman, Michael Ashade, over allegations of corruption and anti party activities.
Their suspension followed a resolution made and adopted by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) after a two-hour meeting held in Abuja. The party has also announced the constitution of a caretaker committee to manage the affairs of the party in Gateway state pending when investigations of allegations levelled against the affected members is concluded.
Addressing journalists at the end of the meeting which lasted for almost two hours, the National Secretary of the party, Umar Farouk, said a disciplinary committee has been constituted to investigate the activities of the affected members.
According to him: “The acting National Publicity Secretary has been suspended after investigating his anti-party activities as a member of the party. The Labour Party chapter in Ogun State has also been dissolved.
“The Chairman and his excos have also been suspended. A caretaker committee will take care of the party. Also, disciplinary committee has been set up to investigate their anti-party activities and report to the NWC”.
Farouk who described the allegations levelled against the national chairman as baseless, said “the NWC has also unanimously passed a vote of confidence on the leadership of the National Chairman, Julius Abure”
He therefore called on party members to “adhere strictly to the provisions of the constitution and code of conduct of the party in the conduct of their activities.
“We also call on the general public to have more confidence on the party. We are anticipated these kind of issues to be coming up but the leadership of the party is working very hard to ensure that we are not distracted”, he added.
Findings by THISDAY have also confirmed that apart from Ogun and Lagos States, the crisis in Labour Party has spread to more states.
However, the leadership at the national headquarters told THISDAY that it is normal for crisis to break out, especially when elections are near and the party has deployed its internal conflict resolution mechanism to manage the differences.
“It is normal to have disagreement over certain issues. This is not limited to Labour Party alone. Don’t forget these are people from different backgrounds and political ideologies coming together to form a common front to right the wrongs in the country.
“Whatever you see today, I can tell you will not by anyway affect our chances at the polls”, said a senior party member.
Recall that recently, executives of the Ogun State chapter of Labour Party had in two separate press briefings expressed their displeasure over the conduct of some officials of the party at the national headquarters.
They also suspended the membership of Doyin Okupe who they said ceased to be a member of the party having failed to pay his membership dues for six months as prescribed by the party’s constitution.
Although the party at the national headquarters earlier called off their bluff, Arabambi raised fresh allegations of corruption against the national chairman, Julius Abure, in a document he made available to journalists last Thursday.
The agrieved party executives of Ogun State had also demanded the immediate dissolution of the entire party’s Presidential Campaign Council, over alleged lopsidedness in its composition, stressing that the composition of its PCC did not reflect the federal character, unlike what was contained in the constitution of the party.
How ghost of Jonathan’s Campaign Fund Triggered Division
“Okupe and others never knew providence would bring us together in Labour Party. They didn’t expect it. The main cause of the matter is Doyin Okupe. We (LP) supported Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, and Jonathan gave Labour Party N50m”, the party’s suspended National Publicity Secretary, Arabambi Abayomi, told THISDAY.
The crisis in the party became public when the list of the party’s presidential campaign council was announced in early October.
The then spokesperson of the party, disapproved of the list, saying it was not the true position of the party and was not in line with the provisions of its constitution which recommends federal character in the distribution of leadership positions, including campaign council committee.
Arabambi who has distanced himself from the activities of Labour Party since the inauguration of the party’s presidential campaign council, narrated that his grouse was with former presidential spokesperson, Dr Doyin Okupe, who he accused of executing untoward things in Labour Party.
In an interview with THISDAY, he said, “that is not the party’s programme. He (Okupe) can’t be talking about our party, our party all the time. Which party? Is he the leader of Labour Party to now be announcing himself as the DG? It’s an anomaly. Who announced the DG of Atiku? Atiku did it. When Tinubu announced his DG, the party did it.
“Where is Peter Obi? He (Okupe) doesn’t know what he is doing. I want to be quoted. The DG ought to go to the North East or North Central.
“We are not a sectional political party. Our presidential candidate is Pan Nigerian. How can we have a presidential candidate from the South and the Campaign DG coming from the same South?”, he asked.
Although the party had subsequently endorsed the presidential campaign committee after one of its recent NWC meetings where some amendments were also recommended and thereafter confirmed that Okupe remains its campaign DG, Arabambi has remained adamant over his position, especially as regards Okupe who he said cannot be trusted from his personal experience with the former presidential spokesperson.
He has not only allege a grand conspiracy against him by the Okupe-led PDP group in the party, he has also vowed to expose him (Okupe) and other members of the party involved with substantial evidence of diversion of funds meant to prosecute the party’s presidential election.
On issues surrounding the composition of the party’s presidential campaign council and the claims of Okupe usurping his position as party’s publicity secretary, Arabambi maintained that Okupe and Ojukwu smuggled names of their surrogates into the list “so that they can manipulate things”.
Arabambi has vowed to seek redress in court to reclaim his constitutional responsibility in the party.
He said: “I am the National Publicity Secretary, the Constitution of the party is expressly clear that I shall handle all promotion, advertisment, campaign banners and anything that has to do with publicity. It’s there in the constitution.
“But it was just a gang-up of which I am still going to challenge in the court. When you cannot abide by your own constitution, something is fishing.
“They said I will not come back alive if I come to any of the campaign, so I have to run for my dear life. I have to be very careful because this is a man who came to Labour Party with not even one member from his ward. All the Executives of his ward still remain with the Ogun State chapter of the PDP. I will not be deterred. I am serious member of the Labour Party and I cannot be pushed back by anyone.
Meanwhile, a source from the party who spoke in confidence with THISDAY said the party is already working out a ground to accommodate every agrieved members to restore cohesion.
The source disclosed that Arabambi might be the problem but some moles working with the National Chairman who are envious of him want his seat.
However, findings by THISDAY have shown that there are crisis in various state chapters of the party.
Peter Obi has emerged as a powerful force ahead of Nigeria’s presidential election next February.
He has energised aggrieved and disenchanted Nigerians, especially from the youth demographic, with messages of hope, prudence and accountability that is today being preached by an army of social media users.
Like Buhari in 2015, Obi has gathered a cult-like followership on and off the social media nationwide and the once unpopular
Labour Party is today reaping from the Third Force movement his entrant into the party has amplified.
But with crisis in the party not only limited to Ogun and Lagos, with states like Adamawa where some members of the state executives passed a vote of no confidence on the state chairman of the party, Christopher Nicholas, accusing him of “collaborating with other political parties against the interest of our major candidates in the Labour Party”, it raises concern over the party’s chances, especially in the North where it has no strong base like the two major political parties, the APC and the PDP.
In Kano State for instance, there were allegations of the party’s leadership working for the ruling party, the APC, in the state.
In Enugu, it is a different ball game as some party members sued the party for excluding them from its governorship primaries despite buying the nomination form.
In Rivers, some groups within the party are reportedly angry about an alleged deal between the party’s presidential candidate, Obi, and the state governor, Nyesom Wike.
In Nasarawa State, the party’s governorship candidate, Joseph Ewuga, openly accused the state chairman, Alexander Emmanuel, of working for the ruling APC in the state.
Obi’s Chances in the face of internal party crises
With allegations of abuse of office across its state chapters among party executives, analysts believe that if drastic steps are not taking to address the trend, the chances of Obi winning the February 25, 2023 presidential poll appears threatened.
The suspended National Youth Leader, Anslem Eragbe, and suspended National Publicity Secretary, Arabambi Abayomi, have raised concern over Obi’s indifference about the crisis rocking the party at every level, even at the national level.
From a recent poll released, Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, took the lead for a second time in a row. In the first poll, Obi scored 87.9 per cent, with Tinubu trailing behind him with 8.5 per cent. The PDP presidential flag bearer, Atiku, had 1.8 per cent of the total votes.
The report from the survey came out just two weeks after another survey conducted by Nextier, a policy think-tank, which also placed Labour Party’s Obi, ahead of candidates of the ruling APC, Tinubu and his PDP’s counterpart, Atiku, to win the 2023 presidential election.
In the survey results released, Nextier said it used a sample size of 2,000 respondents from rural communities across the six geo political zones in the country to arrive at the figures provided.
The latest is from the prestigious Prime Business Africa Research Center, an independent Africa-focused multi-media organisation.
PBA in its latest opinion poll, said Obi has maintained the lead over Tinubu of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), Atiku of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian People’s Party (NNPP) in the final days of the presidential campaign by holding an average of 85 per cent to 10 and 4 per cent voters for Tinubu and Atiku respectively.
The survey by PBA is the second of a three-phase pre-election opinion poll being organised by the multimedia news and analysis platform, which shows a slight difference from the first.
But with Labour party struggling to maintain cohesion from within with less than three months to the presidential election, the question begging for answer is – what are Obi’s chances? The party leadership at the national level has maintained that the cracks within will have no effect on its outing next year but some observers have disagreed with the position saying the crises rocking the party if not quickly resolved will jeopardise Obi’s outing at the February, 2023 presidential poll.