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Labour Party Crises Take New Turn

Peter Obi, former Presidential candidate of LP

The Labour Party (LP) emerged as the third force during last year’s general election, winning one governorship seat and many state and national legislative seats. But, the success of the party has again thrown up another round of crisis leading to an alleged takeover of its administration by the Board of Trustees (BOT). Will the party survive this crisis or will it disintegrate?

The recent national convention held in Nnewi, Anambra State, by a faction of the Labour Party (LP) led by embattled National Chairman, Julius Abure has further widened the scope of the internal crises in the party.

The LP, which was formed by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its sister Labour Centre, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), has been embroiled in one internal crisis after the other since its formation. Incidentally, all the crises have always had one thing or the other to do with its national chairman. After a successful stint as national chairman, Dan Nwanyawu left the party to establish the Zenith Labour Party and return the certificate of registration to the NLC.

However, the NLC has had to intervene in the crisis in the party at every instance through its political commission. It is an open secret that the nation’s two Labour centres, NLC and TUC are responsible for the registration of the party, but has left its management in the hands of politicians. Interestingly, the LP constitution gives the two-labour centre due recognition in the composition of its leadership. President and General Secretary of the NLC and TUC are automatic members of the National Executive Committee, and the Board of Trustees of the party. The Labour Centres also sit on the National Working Committee of the party with the President and General Secretary as well as the Chairman of the Women Commission being members.

The exit of Nwanyawu paved the way for the emergence of Abdulkadir Abdulsalam as National Chairman of the party. But his tenure was dogged by lots of crises and controversies. While the crisis with Abdulsalam lasted, Dr. Mike Omotosho, backed by the NLC emerged as factional National Chairman of the party. The emergence of Omotosho as National Chairman in 2018 also had the backing of some state Chairmen of the party who accused Abdulsalam of financial impropriety. He was accused of embezzling N1.3 billion belonging to the party. While the crisis lasted, Abure was in the background serving as the National Secretary of the party. Incidentally, while Abdulsalam died in 2020,  Dr Omotosho died in 2022, after stepping aside from his factional chairmanship position to pave the way for Abure to emerge as National Chairman in 2021. 

Shortly after the emergence of Julius Abure as National Chairman, the LP found itself in another leadership tussle with Lamidi Apapa claiming leadership of the party and alleging that Abure was not duly elected as National Chairman. while suspending the Abure-led executive. But Abure had the backing of the NLC having emerged after a peace process brokered by the Labour Centre and the Independent National Electoral Commission. So, when Apapa claimed leadership of the party, the NLC led a protest to the party secretariat in support of Abure.

In addition, the Political Commission of the Labour Centre lashed out at Apapa, describing his actions in the party as shameful, especially when he went to the tribunal as national chairman. Secretary to the political commission said “The shameful conduct of Mr. Lamidi Apapa at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal today, 17th May 2023, has once again brought to the fore the desperation of certain elements in the political class to deploy all manner of subterfuge and criminality to divide and despoil the massive goodwill currently being enjoyed by the Labour Party all over Nigeria. It is very unfortunate that Mr. Lamidi Apapa who continues to act lawlessly as an impostor ascribing to himself a vague status as the Chairman of the Labour Party and on the claims of representing the Nigeria Labour Congress, is receiving protection from institutions of the state whose mandate is the preservation of law and order. This perfidy by Mr. Lamidi Apapa and his cohorts has been sustained by interested political actors in Nigeria whose abiding wish is the death of the Labour Party. Mr Lamidi Apapa is a meddlesome interloper who is being used by reactionary forces to deny Nigerians the benefit of alternative political thought and organisation geared towards genuine national redemption and transformation.

The NLC Political Commission wishes to reiterate its earlier statement disowning the so-called factional leadership of the Labour Party led by Mr Lamidi Apapa. Any attempt to allow Mr Lamidi Apapa to foist the show of shame he and his minions exhibited today at the sitting of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal would be strongly resisted by Organised Labour.”

The latest crisis in the party has led to a series of name-calling and accusations against each leader. For example, when the House of Representatives caucus of the party called for the postponement of the Nnewi convention to allow for wider consultation, the leadership of the party  described them as unknowledgeable in the working of the party.

They went ahead with the convention, even though some major stakeholders stayed away from the convention. It also elected leaders without putting in place proper modalities for such. Some stakeholders in the party said there was no convention or electoral committee put in place for the convention which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it did not monitor.

It was the erstwhile National Treasurer, Oluchi Opara that ignited the latest crisis when she accused Abure of fraud, alleging that he could not account for about N3 billion of the money the party got from the sale of nomination forms for the 2023 general elections.

In June 2022, the NLC gave credence and recognition to the Julius Abure-led leadership of the party. The then NLC President, Ayuba Wabba said in a statement that “the point is that the Labour Party is what the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) say it is”. The leadership of the NLC and TUC recognize the leadership of the LP led by Abure, a former trade union leader and workers are part of the leadership. INEC recognizes only the LP leadership led by the Chairman, Barr. Julius Abure and the National Secretary, Alhaji Farouk Umaru Ibrahim. They are the only Labour Party officials whose details are provided on the INEC website. 

We understand that with the current repositioning of the Labour Party as the party for workers, youths, students, women, traders, farmers, professionals, physically disabled persons, the unemployed and the downtrodden, the Labour Party has become the albatross of establishment political parties who have suddenly become jittery and are devising all forms of conspiracy theories and subterfuge to distract the Labour Party from ongoing mass mobilization efforts for sweeping electoral victory in the 2023 general elections.

Ironically, the Abure-led LP has continued to deny ownership of the party by the NLC, even though it acknowledged the fact that the Labour Centre registered the party. It argued that the electoral act does not confer ownership of political parties on any individual or organization as it of registered as a body corporate. But acting on what the party called pressure from the NLC, its Board of Trustees said it was taking over the running of the party, promising to reposition it and conduct an all-inclusive national convention.

Established under Article 8 of the Labour Party constitution, the Board of Trustees is assigned its duties in Article 9. The Nation discovered that none of the duties assigned to the BoT by the party constitution include taking over the running of the party in times of crisis or at any point in time. Rather, the constitution expects them to ensure that the highest standards of morality are maintained in all the activities of the Party, with powers to call to order any officers of the Party whose conduct falls below the norms. 

Part of the responsibilities assigned to the BOT is also to ensure that the Party enjoys a good image before the Nigerian populace and that the Party is in good political health, mediate in disputes between the executive and legislative arms of government; carry out all such other functions and activities as may be referred to it by the National Executive Committee or the National Convention.

Apapa appeals judgment reinstating Abure as LP national chairman
Labour Party runs into turbulent waters
In taking over the running of the Labour Party, the BOT said “Following the expiration of the tenure in office of the immediate past National Working Committee of the LP headed by Mr Julius Abure, the BoT, in line with the party’s constitution, has stepped in to steer the affairs of the LP. This step is to avoid any leadership vacuum in the LP. Furthermore, the BoT of the LP, in consultation with major stakeholders in the party will soon communicate the processes for the conduct of an all-inclusive and expansive national convention of the LP.

This is in line with the March 20, 2018, Federal High Court consent judgment delivered by Justice Gabriel Kolawole which recognised the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) as the owner of the LP and mandated that an all-inclusive and expansive national convention of the LP be held. The decision of the BoT is also in furtherance of the agreement signed between the former national chairman of the LP, Mr Julius Abure, and the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) on 27th June 2022, which was mediated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

It added: “Unlike the charade that took place today in Nnewi and tandem with the principles of popular democracy, the all-inclusive national convention will start with grassroots congresses at ward, local government, state and ultimately at the national level. This process will not leave any genuine member of LP out and will be held in the full view of the INEC, media, civil society, security agents and the general public.”

But the Abure-led LP has denied the existence of any BoT for the party, adding that since stepping down as the first National Chairman of the party, Comrade Ejiofor has not attended any meeting of the party, not known even in his ward and has not paid membership due to qualify him as a member of the party. The statement by the party said “The point here is that the LP is not aware of the existence of any Board of Trustees. NLC has continued to propose for the reconstitution of the BoT as well as the convocation of the National Convention. 

Over 90 per cent of persons being suggested to form membership of the proposed BoT have since left the party to join other political parties. Some even contested various political positions on the platform of other political parties while some others featured prominently in the presidential campaigns of the other political parties even when LP equally featured a candidate in the 2023 general election. This is what desperation in the ranks of the NLC can cause. Why not let the man enjoy his retirement? Why drag him into your mess? Let Comrade Ejiofor show evidence of one meeting he convened in the last decade of his so-called BoT.”

They describe the action as muscle flexing, adding that “the NLC should no longer be under any illusion that it owns the LP. LP is not a political association; it is a party subscribed by all Nigerians, including workers, non-workers, and students, amongst others. Only people who understand the rules of the party and play by it such as carrying party cards and paying membership dues can have a say on the matters of the party. Incidentally, Comrades Ajaero and Ejiofor are not members and will not be allowed to interfere with the internal matters of the party.”

However, a study of the party constitution indicates that the BoT has no power to convene a national convention of the party as only the National Secretary, on the directive of the National Executive Committee can summon a national convention. In addition, the Electoral Acts mandates the Independent National Electoral Commission to relate and receive information regarding the activities of the parties from the National Chairman and Secretary and not the Board of Trustees.

Abure went ahead with the recent Nnewi convention, which returned him as national chairman, despite the opposition against it by party stakeholders. INEC which has the mandate under the Electoral Act to monitor such exercise denied monitoring the March 27 convention. It was however not clear why the commission failed to monitor the convention, even though the party said it notified the commission. But it is on record that the NLC wrote to the commission not to recognize the convention. The NLC, through its lawyers, also wrote the legal adviser of the party and warned that if the party did not desist and stop the convention, it would sue the LP for contempt because of the two valid judgements of the Federal High Court. The NLC argued that holding the convention would amount to contempt of court because of two valid court judgments.

According to the party constitution, its National Working Committee (NWC) is expected to be elected at a national convention must include one National Chairman, three Deputy National Chairmen at least one of whom must be a female,  six  National Vice Chairmen representing the six geopolitical zones, one National Secretary, three Deputy National Secretaries, NLC and TUC Presidents, General Secretaries of NLC and TUC, National Treasurer, National Financial Secretary, and National Publicity Secretary. Others are National Organizing Secretary, National Legal Adviser, National Auditor,  National Women leader, Six Deputy National Women leaders representing the six geo-political zones, National Youth Leader and Six Assistant National Youth Leaders representing each of the six geo-political zones.

However, a list of officers elected at the Nnewi convention seen by The Nation revealed that many of the constitutional positions were not filled at the convention. Those elected include the National Chairman, National Secretary two Deputy National Chairmen (all male), three Vice Chairmen (for North Central, South-South and South East), one Deputy National Secretary, National Treasurer, National Financial Secretary, National Publicity Secretary, National Organising Secretary, National Legal Adviser, National Woman Leader, National Youth Leader and two Assistant youth leaders (North West and South-South). 

The communique of the convention sighted by The Nation states that the newly constituted NWC was given the power to fill the vacant positions, but it is not clear which positions are to be filled as the list of elected officers indicates that only three deputy National Chairmanship positions were not filled. This is contrary to the positions indicated in the party constitution. It was not clear what happened to the other positions or why they were not filled. At the time of this report, it was not clear whether the positions were removed from the new NWC as a result of an amendment to the party constitution or a mere oversight. 

However, article 30 of the Constitution provides how the Constitution can be amended. It states that “the National Convention of the Party shall have the sole right of amending any provision of this constitution based on a majority vote, provided that the amendment does not contravene any of the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and shall be lodged with the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC) within 30 days from the date of the amendment”. Newly elected National Publicity Secretary of the party, Obiora Ifoh disclosed that an amendment to the constitution was approved by the convention to increase the number of years of tenure of elected executives at the ward, local government and state levels from three to four years. The amendment also includes making all former elected officers who are members of the party delegates to the national convention as well as increasing the number of Deputy National Chairmen from three to five.

Aside from the NLC which called for the postponement of the convention, the leader of the LP caucus in the House of Representatives, Victor Afam Ogene had also called for postponement to enable stakeholders to brainstorm and address the problems on the ground before the convention. Ogene was convened that the party did not conduct congress at the ward, state and local government levels before calling for the national convention. But the party came down heavily on him saying he was unknowledgeable as far as the party constitution was concerned. 

Obiora Ifoh who signed the statement against Ogene said “By this statement from Ogene, it is pertinent to point out that he is very unknowledgeable as it relates to the provision of the constitution of the party under which he was elected. We had expected, that even though he is coming from the background of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All-Progressives Congress (APC), he should not mistake the APC and PDP constitutions to that of the Labour Party. We would like to educate him to note that as the other parties’ constitutions are different, so is the Labour Party. In line with Article 15:1-4 of our party’s constitution, there is no equality of tenure. While the ward, local government, and state executives have three years of tenure, the national executive has four years of tenure. At the moment, party executives in over 16 states are subsisting because they have conducted their congresses. We had expected Ogene to read the constitution of the party before making public comments against the party. The Leader of the Caucus is the alter ego of the party who should defend the party policy and programmes in the National Assembly. And for him to say that the House of Representatives caucus was not informed about the convention is a mischief taken too far. Again, considering the sacrifices made by Nigerians in electing these Labour Party legislators, we had expected them to be the ambassadors of the people. It appears that they sit at the National Assembly for themselves alone. It is only when it concerns the party that they flex their muscles. We, therefore, advise our lawmakers to desist from rushing to the press on party matters. Party internal matters must remain and keep internal matters. The party will not hesitate to discipline any party member who will not respect the supremacy of the party. The party is prepared to defend its ideology and constitution at all times, irrespective of ox is gored.” NATION 

Source: Hardcore News 

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