HeadlineBATTLE FOR CONTROL OF LABOUR PARTY: Obi Dumps Abure, Backs Moves to...

BATTLE FOR CONTROL OF LABOUR PARTY: Obi Dumps Abure, Backs Moves to Salvage Party

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March 31, (THEWILL)- The ongoing tussle for power and control of the Labour Party between the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party, entered a critical stage last week when the NLC formally announced its decision to take over the party as the LP presidential candidate in the 2023 general election, Petter Obi, may have dumped embattled National Chairman, Julius Abure and backs moves to salvage party.

But the newly ‘elected members’ of the NWC of the party have stuck to their guns, staring eye-ball to eye-ball with the union leaders.

Shortly after the Labour Party’s Board of Trustees, BoT, declared the controversial convention that returned Julius Abure as National Chairman of the party, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which is supposed to give legal backing to the convention by monitoring it, declared it a “charade” and washed its hand off the event, thus effectively adding fuel to a simmering situation.

Glo

Contacted for further explanation, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, restated his earlier position to THEWILL that the Commission did not monitor the convention. He refused to be drawn into further questioning about the implications of the Commission’s non-observance for the emergence of the party’s NWC.

Even so, the basis of the Commission’s absence cannot be far-fetched as Section 82(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022, states that political parties shall give INEC at least 21 days’ notice of convention, congress, conference or meeting. This includes the convention or meeting convened for “merger” and electing members of its executive committees and other governing bodies or nominating candidates.

The change of venue at short notices by the NWC, which at first planned the convention for Benin-city, then changed it to Umuahia in Abia State until Nnewi in Anambra State was finally chosen, is said to be the main reason for the absence of the electoral umpire at the convention.

THEWILL contacted the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Obora Ifo, on this. He was cautious in his response.

“We choose what we reply here,” he said, in response to INEC’s statement. When asked if INEC’s absence does not pose a legal problem for the party, he simply replied, “Thank you so much.”

OBI REACTS

Presidential candidate of the party in the 2023 general election, Peter Obi has described the Nnewi convention in uncomplimentary terms.

Speaking on his absence at the National Convention, Obi said Abure and other leaders failed to consult widely. Obi, who spoke during an X Space session hosted by Parallel Facts on Friday, said the time had now come for Abure and the leadership of the party to do the right thing in order to salvage it.

“We promised to build Nigeria, we did not promise to build a new Labour Party,” he jibbed at the Abure-led NCW

Director General of the presidential campaign team in the 2023 general poll, Akin Osuntokun in his reaction to the LP crisis at the weekend described the Nnewi convention as “kangaroo”, and the reserved 2027 presidential ticket for Obi as a “greek gift”, beyond the powers of the Abure-led NCW to give.

“That Obi was not at the convention speaks louder than words. Without Obi, there is no Labour Party. What we are likely to have now is three factions of the party, the Abure faction, the Apapa faction and the genuine one with substantial stakeholders that aligns with the visions of Obi and the Obidients”

NLC Vs ABURE’s LP

For the NLC’s Chairman of BoT, Comrade S.O. Z Ejiofor, who announced the union’s take-over of the party and declared the Wednesday, March 27, 2024, Nnewi convention a “farce,” the March 20, 2018 Federal High Court judgement delivered by Justice Gabriel Kolawole, was his legal authority.

The judge had recognised the NLC as the owners of the Labour Party and mandated that an all-inclusive and expansive National Convention of the LP be held.

Following the judgement, the NLC, Trade Union Congress and Abure had signed an agreement in the presence of INEC officials on June 27, 2022, to stick to the mandate as directed by the judgement.

In a detailed reaction, however, the Abure-led NWC of the party expressed surprise at the existence of a BoT for the party.

According to Ifo, the last time they heard of Comrade Ejiofor was two decades ago when he was the first National Chairman of the party. Since then, he maintained, “Ejiofor is not even known in his ward and he has not paid a single dime as membership dues which qualifies him as a member.”

He argued that the 350 delegates that participated in the Nnewi convention was more representational of the membership of the party as they included Governor Alex Otti of Abia State who was represented by his deputy, Ikechukwu Emetu, the Deputy Minority Whip in the House of Representatives, Hon. George Ozodinobi, who led 10 other members of the National Assembly to the event, the Deputy Minority Leader in the Imo State House of Assembly, Hon. Clinton Amadi, as well as their counterparts from the Enugu State House of Assembly.

He contended that since the Labour Party is, according to article 77 (1) of the Electoral Act, a corporate body with perpetual succession and a common seal which may be sued and can be sued in its corporate name, the party cannot be taken over by a union like the NLC.

Efforts to get a reaction from the NLC failed. The General Secretary of the union, Mr Emmanuel Ugboaja, failed to answer his call or respond to messages.

THE CRACK BEGINS

While the combatants are still in the trenches, the crisis has begun to take its toll on the party and its supporters.

A day after the controversial convention took place, six members of the Enugu State House of Assembly on the platform of the LP defected to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP last Thursday. The lawmakers are Ejike Eze, representing Igbo-Eze North 1; Johnson Ugwu, representing Enugu North; Princess Ugwu; Enugu South Rural; Pius Ezeugwu, Nsukka West; Amuka Willams, representing Igbo-Etiti East and Osita Eze, representing Oji River.

The defectors cited the “existence of irreconcilable division, an ongoing crisis within the Labour Party at the national level and across the state chapters,” in a letter read during plenary by the Speaker of the House, Uche Ugwu.

THEWILL however gathered that the ‘Obidient Movement,’ now has what can be called partisan and non-partisan members. The partisan members, according to a reliable source, are those who have joined forces with the embattled National Chairman of the LP, Julius Abure, while the non-partisan members still retain the core leadership of the movement at inception in 2023. These stalwarts include Aisha Yesufu, Prof Chris Nwakobia, Dr Paul Moses, Dele Famoroti, March Oyinki. They have reacted to the fallout of the convention stoically.

In a note made available to THEWILL, Dr Moses paints a picture of this group. He recounts how he had been overwhelmed with calls and messages “in the aftermath of the Labour Party Convention”, by those who “feel disheartened, disillusioned and drained by the outcome.”

He said, “The Labour Party never pledged to deliver a new Nigeria nor did it promise transparency, integrity and efficiency. The party never vowed to transition from consumption to production or dismantle the structures of criminality. Mr@Peter Obi did. So, this is not a moment for blind outrage or aimless uproar, it is time for clarity, focus and unwavering determination.”

Moses called on fellow ‘Obidients’ to exercise patience and restraint, “For in due time, our revered leader, Mr @Peter Obi, will guide us with wisdom and clarity. Our journey towards a better Nigeria continues, fueled by hope, resilience and an unwavering belief in our collective potential. Together, we shall forge ahead, undeterred by momentary setbacks, towards the brighter tomorrow we envisioned.”

The general thinking now within the party and movement is that Obi may leave the party, even though leaders of the NLC are said to be persuading him to stay.

But his influence in the party appears to be waning. At the peak of the crisis, before the controversial convention, Obi had intervened and called for the postponement of the convention, wider consultations over the lingering problems, until frayed nerves had calmed down.

According to the spokesperson of the Obi/Datti Campaign Organisation, Tanko Yunusa, the party’s 2023 presidential candidate met with the warring parties at an Asaba meeting alongside party members at the House of Representatives to wade into the crisis.

WAY FORWARD

The NWC looks prepared not to concede defeat, ready to stick to its gun and have its way. Mr Ifoh told THEWILL that the newly elected members will go for the Easter holidays when asked, “Where do you go from here?”

He said, “After the holidays, we will all resume duties.”

For the ‘Obidients,’ investigations further show that the aforementioned non-partisan members are only waiting on Peter Obi to make a decision on what a dependable source called, “the next step”.

Many comrades within the NLC think this is the time to reform the Labour Party and turn it into a fee paying mass movement that is representative of the welfarist aspirations of workers drawn from 48 –affiliate members of the union and Nigerians at large.

About the Author

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Amos Esele is the Deputy Editor of THEWILL Newspaper. He has over two decades of experience on the job.

Amos Esele, THEWILLhttps://thewillnews.com
Amos Esele is the Deputy Editor of THEWILL Newspaper. He has over two decades of experience on the job.

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