Fresh battle for the soul of Labour Party in Lagos
Beyond the popularity of its candidates and sweeping votes recorded on the streets of Lagos at the last general elections, all is not well with the Labour Party in Lagos State, KEHINDE OLATUNJI reports.
Internal crisis rocking the Labour Party (LP) is getting messier as factions have inaugurated different state executive members within 24 hours in Lagos State.
While the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, under the leadership of Lamidi Apapa, inaugurated a 24-man executive committee on Saturday, the Julius Abure group that has the backing of the presidential candidate of the party in the last election, Mr. Peter Obi, and its chieftain, Prof. Pat Utomi, also put in place a caretaker committee to direct the affairs of the party on Sunday.
Political watchers believe that the impending bye-election to Surulere1 seat in the House of Representative, vacated by Femi Gbajabiamila for Office of the Chief of Staff (CoS) to the President, must have been the reason for the crisis.
The situation has further polarised members, who have been looking for solutions to the leadership crisis that is dwindling the popularity of the party in the state.
Executive members inaugurated by Apapa group are: Adesoyin Olumide (Chairman), Omotayo Anjorin (Deputy Chairman), Olanrewaju Ibrahim (Deputy Chairman), Kayode Yusuf (Deputy Chairman), Felix Odusanya (Deputy Chairman), Peter Olusegun (Deputy Chairman), Nnaemeka Anajemba (Secretary) and Richard Oliseyenum (Assistant Secretary).
Others are: Azubike Peters (Treasurer), Akinrele Abioye (Financial Secretary), Kunle Okunola (Organising Secretary), Ademola Hassan (Auditor), Abass Ibrahim (Legal Adviser), Dupe Awe (Woman Leader), Elliot Ebije (Youth Leader), Samard Okofuwa (Publicity Secretary), among others.
While inaugurating the caretaker committee, Apapa said LP remains a creation of the law, warning that no member of the party is above the law. He also maintained that his faction of NWC is ready to steer the party’s affairs.
To him, Abure has been suspended as the national chairman of the party, adding that LP would not accept illegality. He noted that the High Court and Court of Appeal had ruled against Abure, and so, he had since stopped being the chairman of the party.
Apapa said: “We believe there is a court process. The Labour Party is a product of law. I have no problem with Abure because he is my friend. Trouble started when he believed that I didn’t belong to the party. The LP is a creation of the law and anyone who violates the law will not be tolerated. I want the world to know that our members supporting Abure are liars. Peter Obi dishonoured me by saying he didn’t know me. I led the team that hosted him in Edo and Delta states. I was in the team that received him in Ekiti State, yet he did not recognise me.
“Despite the illegality carried out by Abure, our principal (Peter Obi) said that Abure is his man. But, there is no going back, Abure must go.
“LP believes that nobody is above the law. You (speaking to the audience) are on the right side. If the other camp fails to join you, the train will soon move. Tell them to come and join us because we need more people,” he said.
However, while addressing the caretaker committee for the state and 20 local councils, Abure expressed confidence that the party would be victorious at the presidential election petition tribunal going on in Abuja.
Accompanied by some party members, including Obi and Utomi, the embattled national chairman of the party noted that the 2023 general election was “a struggle to liberate Nigeria.”
Appreciating the Dayo Ekong-led Lagos State executive committee for providing leadership, Abure said the real structure of the party remains with the executive members.
He appealed to party leaders and loyalists in the state to close ranks, saying, “I want us to come together, put aside our grievances, and come together as one family.”
Speaking with The Guardian, Adesoyin said he has the authority to steer the affairs of the party in Lagos State, noting that the Dayo Ekong-led group is only a support group.
He encouraged members to go ahead and prepare for the House of Representatives by-election in Surulere 1, stressing that any candidate that his faction of the party puts forward would win.
Adesoyin maintained that the tenure of the Dayo Ekong-led executive had expired, urging her to stop parading herself as the state chairman. He stated that Abure remained suspended as the national chairman of the party until a court order of the High Court and Court of Appeal are set aside.
In a notice of appeal filed on July 14, 2023, and sighted by The Guardian, Abure and others had approached the Supreme Court to upturn the decision of the Court of Appeal in Benin City, delivered by Justices Theresa Ngolika Orji, Fatima Omoro Akinbami and Sybil Nwaka-Gbagi on July 10, 2023.
Abure, therefore, asked the Supreme Court to set aside the concurrent judgments of the Court of Appeal and High Court, both in Benin, Edo State, which ordered his removal.
In the document, he faulted the lower court for categorising issues of the leadership of political parties as particularly being a pre-election matter as against the provisions of Section 254 (14) of the 4th alteration of the 1999 Constitution No. 21 Act of 2017.
The Appeal Court sitting in Benin had in a judgment delivered by Justice Orji on July 10 maintained that the ruling of the lower court on the suspension of Abure by members of his ward was valid.
LP executives in Ward 3, Esan North-East local government in Edo State chapter had in March this year suspended Abure over alleged anti-party activities.
But the embattled national chairman had since approached various courts for his reinstatement, the last of which was the Court of Appeal in Benin, which maintained the status quo.
Adesoyin, therefore, wondered why Abure approached the Supreme Court to set aside the ruling of the lower courts if he had been reinstated as people were made to believe.
He maintained that at the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, presided over by the acting national chairman, Apapa and acting national secretary, Saleh Lawan, Ekong and others were suspended for “anti-party activities and unruly behaviour against the party leadership, which include issuing statement without authority of the party.”
Olumide urged members of the public to desist from having any dealings with Ekong, adding that the sale of forms for the bye-election in Surulere 1 Constituency has started.
Reacting to the development, Ekong described Olumide and his faction as impostors, urging the general public to disregard their claims because neither the party’s constitution nor the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recognises them.”
Also speaking, one of the leaders of the party in the state, Moshood Salvador, said: “The authority of the Labour Party (Apapa’s faction) has provided the party’s stand.
“Until another convention is done, Alhaji Lamidi Apapa remains the authentic leader of our party, socially, politically and legally. Those who don’t know should be advised so that they don’t go astray. We welcome everybody into our fold. We appreciate all of you for being part of this great event,” he said.
The founder of the 40 Million Ballots Movement, an Obi support group, Kennedy Iyere, told The Guardian that for peace to be restored in the party; both Abure and Apapa should step aside.
According to him, if other parties and organisations can allow their leaders to go for peace to reign when there is a crisis, why can’t LP allow Abure to go?
He said: “LP cannot solve the crisis. Abure has destroyed LP and even his tenure has expired. The people who are deceiving him with tenure elongation are also complicit in the crises bedevilling the party. They are killing the party. If the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) does not give judgment in favour of the party, LP would die.
“Both Abure and Apapa should go. There was supposed to be a convention in June but Abure manipulated the process and he was given an elongation.
“LP has two national chairmen and none of them will step aside for the other. The solution is to allow the two of them to go, so that peace will reign. The situation in the Labour Party is so critical that they even have cabals. Can you beat that?
“When you see people without a source of livelihood, and the only thing they do is politics, things like this are bound to happen. Beyond politics, people should have where they make money. Politics is not meant to be a full-time job. Abure doesn’t have another job, so he would rather lose his life than step aside. It’s like asking him to lose his livelihood, he would rather die.
“Politics is not meant to be a full-time job. The two of them should go so that a new person will bring sanity and breathe fresh air into the party.”
He disclosed that there is a crisis in the party in Kogi and Bayelsa states, noting that it’s unlikely for the party to win the forthcoming governorship elections in those states.
“LP is the poorest party in Nigeria because most of their leaders are hungry and jobless. Apapa became the acting chairman because Abure was suspended, when Abure’s term expired, if they had allowed him to go, there would have been a convention and maybe Apapa wouldn’t have had a chance of parading himself as the chairman of the party now.”
Iyere, who disclosed that he would be running for the governorship election in Edo State, said he was considering dumping the party because of its endless crisis.
“Labour Party does not have money to support any candidate and it’s a divided house. And when the crisis begins, they will leave you to spend your money in court,” he rued.
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