The recent crisis in the Labour Party at the national level has attracted differing comments from warring gladiators in the party with accusations and counter-accusation among its leaders. HEAD POLITICS DESK, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM examines the issues and implications for the party in 2019.
The leadership crisis rocking the Labour Party in the country did not come as a surprise to many politicians especially with the removal of the lid by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to set the ball for 2019 elections rolling.
According to chairman of the commission, Professor Mahmud Yakubu last week, Presidential and National Assembly Elections will hold on February 16, 2019 while that of Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections has been scheduled for March 2nd, 2019.
While the clock continues to tick for the election of new set of leaders that will drive the political machinery of the country’s politics come 2019, affairs in the camp of one of the prominent parties in the country seems to have gone above board. But what is really the issue with the leadership of the Labour Party? Was it an attempt to create division in the party to allow some people that had wanted to leave the party the opportunity to do so or it was a case of working behind the party to sell its franchise to the highest political bidder? Better still, how best can the current crisis in the party be resolved to guide against further fragmentation, which has already started to manifest with some high profile defection already?
The drama at the national level of the party has happened in sequence and the last scene appears to still be very far off if events in the polity are anything to go by. It began with the purported suspension of the National Chairman of the Party, Alhaji AbdulSalam AbdulKadir and the Deputy National Chairman South, Calistus Okafor by the National Executive Council (NEC) of the party.
At an emergency NEC meeting held at the AED Apartments, Airport Road, Abuja few weeks back, the party member, who introduced himself as National Youth Leader, Mr Andrew Ukpebitere, addressed journalists and announced the appointment of the former Deputy National Chairman for South South, Bobo Adou and Akinbade Oyelekan as Acting National Chairman and Secretary respectively.
According to Ukpebitere, the NEC took the decision after noting that since the October 11 , 2014 national convention of the party held in Akure , Ondo State , the LP’s affairs had been mismanaged.
He said members were disappointed that despite attempts to make Abdulkadir change his leadership style, he continued to rule the party with “persistent impunity, high-handedness, dictatorship, and crudeness”, “which led to the unjust, unconstitutional and unilateral dissolution of the state executive committees of the party and the suspension and/or expulsion of prominent members and leaders of the party by Alhaji Abubakar Abulkadir Salam, supported by his willing lackeys”. He was also accused of refusal to communicate amendments made to the LP’s Constitution at the party’s last convention to INEC.
In his further explanation over the issue with National Pilot, the Acting National Secretary, Akinbade Oyelekan, in a telephone chat from Abuja last week, accused AbdulKadir of wanting to sell the party’s principles and using his position to defraud members of his party:
According to him, “Alhaji Abdulsalam is fond of doing things in contrast to the constitution of the party. It will shock you to know that many of the aspirants in Labour Party for 2015 general elections paid money running into 500 million naira into his personal account instead of the party’s account. That man is Satanic.
“Also, he is fond of exploiting members of the party…because some of our candidate lost the election and they went to the tribunal. This same man will be threatening you to bring money or he will withdraw from you petition. You can imagine a candidate that has his own petition, sponsor the petition himself and engage a lawyer; the same chairman will say he will withdraw the petition. He has actually collected a lot of money from them and so many people where not happy about the development.
“And not that alone, it was discovered that he was actually making a secret move to merge Labour Party with the PDP and we vehemently objected to that because we believe in the ideology of Labour Party. That was what led to his sack. He is still parading himself as the party chairman but a couple of days from now, we will cross the river because there is provision for everything according to the constitution
Oyelekan further told National Pilot there is no other better time to sack him than now. “We all know that both APC and the PDP are having serious crisis and it is only Labour Party that is devoid of any crisis and that is why if we don’t come together to reposition, this man will just be using us to do trade by batter. Many aspirants in Labour Party are young vibrant people who have a lot to offer Nigerians and we will not want him to come and jeopardize their chances and that of the party or trade away the dignity and integrity of the party”.
He said the party is not ready for any merger, adding that it is already working on modalities to reposition the party and reduce the registration form from over N10 million to around N2.5m to allow other people and graduates who have tasted politics one way or the other in school to come and build their career from the party.
On how will it affect some states chapter of the party, Oyelekan said the party will be calling a meeting of all states chairmen to iron out some of these issues. “When you have issue like this, you still have one or two states that are benefiting from the embezzlement of AbdulKadir, you can’t rule that one out, you still have to carry everybody along and make them see reason why the party took the decision to reposition the party. But for now, “there is no going back on AbdulSalam, it is absolutely total and we have written several letters to INEC telling them about the new development. They will soon make their position known very soon. It’s a simple thing, we are not fighting him per se but we are fighting his incompetence as chairman of the party and gross misappropriation of fund. We have photographs of some of his properties all over the country and we have already submitted letter to the EFCC. It is not a joking issue, it a serious matter”.
But the whole issue took another twist when the party denies sack of AbdulKadir and accused Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta State) of sponsoring the crisis to create division in the party and allow him defect to the ruling APC.
The party’s leadership dismissed the purported suspension, describing those behind it as strangers and miscreants. It said none of its national officers or national executive members was part of the meeting where the chairman was allegedly removed.
Addressing a press conference at the party’s national secretariat, the National Publicity Secretary, Ebere Ifendu, said the leadership of the party was intact, adding that the lone senator of the party, Senator Omo-Agege’s plot to join All Progressives Congress (APC) was the reason for fuelling the ‘fake faction’.
She said the alleged sack of the chairman of the party was part of grand design to achieve the sole target of creating a faction in Labour Party so as to enable those who want to defect to do so without attracting the wrath of the law.
She said the party was aware that the senator had been romancing the ruling APC, and attending its meeting in Delta State since he won his election on the platform of Labour Party, thereby causing artificial crises for him to officially decamp to APC.
“You can see for yourself here, the national chairman and other national executives of the party are here, strangers cannot sack a constituted authority. We just heard it from the media that some miscreants came to Abuja from Delta State and they are not members of our party, they are just strangers,” citing various provisions of the party’s constitution.
Ifendu said: “In every constitution, there is a way an officer can be sacked including the national chairman and other officers. Look at page 31, article 12 of Labour Party constitution clearly written that the chairman of the party may be suspended or removed from office on a vote of no confidence passed at least by two-third majority at a national convention convened for such purpose. So, how can people just come to the street to make noise to say that they have removed the chairman? They don’t have the capacity to do that”, she added.
When, National Pilot contacted the embattled AbdulSalam on phone on the issue, he said “There is no issue there, we have since moved on”
Also a former National Chairman of the Parry, Dan Nwayanwu told this medium that he has since left the party and no more interested in whatever crisis the party is going through.
“Who told you that I still have any stake in the party. I have left Labour Party and since then, I don’t want to have anything to do with the party anymore. Count me out of the crisis” he said. Efforts to get Ovie Omo-Agege, who had since defected to the APC to react on the matter was not successful as an aide who picked the call said only the senator can comment on the issue. Similar efforts to get to the appointed acting chairman also was not successful as he did not pick several calls to his telephone line. But for now, has the burble really burst for the party? That is the questions to answer event ahead in the coming months will reveal.