Labour Party has winning structures than APC, PDP, says Sogunle
… ‘I am the candidate to beat in Ogun’
Former Ogun State Commissioner of Finance and governorship candidate of Labour Party (LP) in the state, Mr Kehinde Sogunle disagreed with critics that LP has no structure to win elections. He spoke to MUYIWA ADEYEMI on the crisis rocking the party in Ogun State and his chances of defeating other candidates in the 2023 elections.
Labour Party (LP) in Ogun State has been in crisis, do you think it can win election in the state?
I don’t agree that there is serious crisis as you think. The challenge in Ogun State LP is a reflection of the disparity in the cultures of the stakeholders that fused to form the new Labour Party that we have now. This usually happens when organisations with perhaps, same objectives come together but with differences in methods, strategies and styles. Around May this year, four entities came together to form the current Labour Party in 2022, as a political expression of the progressive tendencies of the – Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Nigerian Consultative Forum (NCF) with the Labour Party being the convenient and appropriate registered political vehicle.
This is expected to be the third force response to the existing traditional parties of APC and PDP. Meanwhile, Labour Party had been operating as a fringe refugee party before now as a convenient vehicle for people who have lost elections and were frustrated in the other bigger parties and have not built the right structure for critical activities and capacities for robust political action. With this fusion and the emergence of Peter Obi as the presidential candidate, a lot of interests and flurry of activities were stimulated at the various levels of the party and in the polity.
The idea is to have a party that is people-driven and that provides an alternative to the two dominant parties. However, the internal dynamics could not be developed over time to make it cohesive and effective. There are centripetal and centrifugal forces that are at play that will eventually lead to a state of balance and equilibrium. The existing traditional culture in the party saw an opportunity for the usual cashing out and horse-trading in the electoral process, whilst the change and progressive oriented culture see it as a development vehicle for engaging on a new political phenomenon, that would birth a new Nigeria through the ideals and values around unity, excellence, creativity, integrity and equity.
So, what you termed as crisis, which is not that serious, is the interplay of different orientations at this point in time, which has been managed carefully and delicately till now to push for enthusiastic acceptance of the populace and the wide acceptance of the candidates, particularly the presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi.
The good thing is that, it has not disturbed the winning chances of the flagbearers as they have been playing a somewhat independent and different political game, leveraging the social media, international connections, principles and values and promoting expectations that attend to the realities and hope of Nigerians. People identify more with the Obidient movement than LP. The party is clearly seen as a vehicle for Peter Obi and others of like minds to contest the elections.
How did you feel when you heard that Ogun LP purportedly suspended the national chairman of the party?
On the purported vote of no confidence decision on the chairman, it is another element of over-reaction. How can a state chapter do that, it is an absurdity to say that they passed vote of no confidence on him. What information do they have about the activities of the chairman? A state chapter operates at a level of a state and also some of the issues they are raising are beyond their reach, there are appropriate structures at the national level to deal with accusations and allegations they have made. It is just one recalcitrant member from Ogun State, who was an acting member of national executive that is using his position to fight an unnecessary internal squabble at the national level, apparently over his non-inclusion in the Presidential Campaign Committee.
The mute point is that this person is raising this dust to make up for his failure on some of his assigned national responsibilities to the party. We have a state party that only last week, got the order of the court to participate in the elections, despite the fact that we completed the party primaries process in June. Up until last week, their gubernatorial candidate and all other candidates have not been cleared by INEC, which is due to the negligence or the dereliction of the duty of this particular person. So, when the national chairman actually acted, saying enough is enough, let’s know what is going on, the reaction or the fallback happens to be pushing a state chairman and some executive members to take some rash decisions is unnecessary. So, you can see infantile politics at play, it’s like a fish in small pond that finds itself in a big pond, trying to use old tricks to survive in the big pond. What they have said was just an embarrassment to the party and the party has taken the right decision by suspending all of them. And they have put the party in the right path of probity and sanity. Their action was a just a little fly in a hot teapot. The NWC also met last Friday and passed a vote of confidence on the national chairman.
What is the implication of all these crises to your aspiration?
It doesn’t have that much significant implication on my aspiration, other than delaying our campaign traction as the gubernatorial candidate of the state. We have shown a measure of resistance, resilience and robustness, we are in the mind of the people, with high expectations and the party and candidate to beat in Ogun State. People are contending that these recalcitrant former executive members that have taken all these unfortunate actions are actually working for the incumbent state government and what they are doing is to find a way of delaying our traction. We have noticed all of that because this is not the first time they are doing it. In the past four elections, these characters have thwarted efforts of candidates on the platform of the party. So, we have been quite open, circumspect and observant about what they are doing. We have developed what they called complex redundancies, supportive mechanisms to boost and build our traction despite the fact that our candidature had not been confirmed. And we know that will happen in the few coming days. We are leveraging more, not strongly on the party but on the supplementary structures we have created. We have known this because the time was too short to form a formidable party and we needed the vehicle, so as we allowed that to go on. The NCF, TUC, NLC and many civil society, youth and faith-based organisations had already created what we called the Big Tent, which is a coalition of stakeholders that may not even be ready to join the party but they are ready to work for our mandate. And all hands are on deck to mobilise and ensure that LP is the party to beat in Ogun State.
Many analysts often say that LP has no structure to win a national election; is the same thing not affecting your chances in Ogun State?
I am also an analyst but a lot of analysts do what we call static analysis, that is analysis that look at what has happened and deriving their inferences from what they have seen. But there is a new phenomenon called dynamic analysis, looking at how things are changing and how it is also influencing the kind of phenomenon and the conclusions that you can draw. That is dynamic analysis.
At the initial stage, check the organisations that formed the Labour Party, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). Does it have a structure, yes there are 43 affiliate Unions, TUC has 33 affiliate unions all of them with their political commissions that report to the central bodies. We are talking of NUT, NUPENG, ASSUU, etc from the states, local government and at ward level, they’re saying this is the time for us to move from protests and advocacy to playing their own politics and actualise their well articulated charter of demands and vote for the party we believe can fix Nigeria.
The same thing with faith based organisations that are saying, look, our prayers are answered with you people coming out at this moment to fix Nigeria. We are talking of Muslims and Christians that are saying we need to move our prayers to action. There is no political party that has structures more than the faith based organisations. I know one of these faith-based organisations with over 2,600 branches in Ogun State and these are organisations closer to the people, whereas we have just 236 wards in the state. Every neighbourhood or polling unit has a cluster of churches and mosques around it with a young dynamic population (age between 18-40) that constitute about 70 percent of the voting population.
What are those things you think are not properly done in Ogun State that you want to do differently?
We have been in politics and governance for some time. And we have been part of the development and strategy agenda for the state. What has happened is that we lack continuity of government programmes and policies. I was in the Otunba Gbenga Daniel administration for eight years and I was in charge of the implementation of the regional master plan. My first issue is that the scale and rate of the economic growth in the state is not as anticipated. This is a state with a very huge potential with the right context and people but it appears we are focused more on distractive perspectives. The last government led by Senator Ibikunle Amosun was vindictive and too sectional and the current one concentrates more on optics and cosmetic projects that are not critically essential for our sustained development.
Our agenda is captured by the acronym SHIELD, which revolves around building social, economic and physical protection and sustainable living for our people. First ‘S’ is about security; we want to ensure that we have a watertight security to build a defence system built on comprehensive intelligence for the state. This is important because without security, you cannot build other things.
The second one is ‘H’, which is human capital development, with three pillars, one is about health and nutrition, the other one is the quality of education and the last is generating employment and promoting entrepreneurship. This will help us to build strong, resilient and dynamic people, that are globally competent that will generate wealth not just from their skills, not only in Nigeria, but anywhere in the world.
The next on our agenda is infrastructure; we need to create what we call bold essential and functional infrastructure. We want to open the state, Ogun is locked by low quality of roads and restricted transportation system that we have, we need to complement it with rail, to make sure that we can move within the state, from Ijebu to Abeokuta, from Shagamu interchange to Ibadan, Lagos and Ilaro and other parts of the state. This will open up the economy. We will do a lot of construction that can stimulate jobs and create new cities around Ogun State because the land is far better than any other land anywhere in Southwest. And this will lead us to develop utilities like power and portable water etc.
That the next one is rapid economic development; we have identified six pillars on which we want to build our economy, in construction, entertainment, sports, agriculture, technology, and services. We want to raise billionaires from boosting those six sectors we are going to simulate through effective private local and international partnerships.
We are the only state in Nigeria that has four stadia and what stops us from making money from sports. Best entertainers in Nigeria come from Ogun State, why can’t we create a business environment for them for the state to make money. The leading technologists in Nigeria are from Ogun State and we cannot harness them to be globally relevant.
Then we talk about ‘L’ for leadership development, which is to build capacity to lead and maintain all these things, as well as ‘D’ digital transformation, which is to explore the opportunities of the digital age to transform government, the economy and living in the state. So, SHIELD is our agenda, it is what we want to use to protect the state and the citizens for sustainable development.
What are your chances of winning the election, considering the strength of APC and PDP?
The point is that people are tired of these two parties, they have given them the room to operate in the past 23 years, and there has not been any difference.