Labour Party now hot cake as politicians hustle for its tickets
The emergence of former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi as the Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party has surprisingly turned the party to a beautiful bride, with many politicians jostling for its ticket. This jostle is not unconnected with the yearnings of Nigerians for a change from ‘old and recycled leaders’, especially, those who see the Labour candidate as a ‘beacon of hope’, who will bring about the desired change they crave for in the country.
LP, which was created in 2002, had remained relatively unknown in the country’s electoral process until Dr. Olusegun Mimiko was elected on its platform as governor in Ondo State, even though he eventually returned to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where he was before he joined LP.
Before the emergence of Obi as LP’s presidential candidate, the party had conducted its governorship, National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) and Houses of Assembly primaries across the states between May 26 and June 8, 2022 and uploaded the names of successful candidates on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) portal before the June 17 deadline.
However, the party’s tickets, which have now become politicians’ delight, have attracted a major crisis, as it was alleged that the party’s national leadership has swapped the lists to accommodate new candidates.
The Guardian gathered that about six state chapters are currently embroiled in crisis over the unilateral replacement of names of candidates already submitted to the INEC with another set of names by the national leadership of the party.
The affected states are Lagos, Plateau, Imo, Ebonyi, Kaduna and Enugu. The candidates, whose names were earlier submitted to INEC, were shocked by the decision of the national leadership to replace their names with the intent of announcing them as placeholders who had voluntarily withdrawn their nominations.
According to the letter written to INEC, titled: “Notice of Withdrawal and Date of Primaries,” the national leadership of the party informed INEC of its intention to hold substitution primary elections to produce its candidates for the governorship, National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly in the 2023 general elections.
The National Chairman of the LP, Julius Abure and National Secretary, Umar Farouk Ibrahim, jointly signed the letter.
Some state chapters of the party have since elected new sets of candidates for the general elections, while others are in the process of conducting the substitution primaries, where new candidates will emerge. However, the move has been met with stiff opposition from the aggrieved candidates who accused the party of forging their letters of withdrawal.
IN Lagos State, one of the affected candidates, Ifagbemi Awamaridi, has approached the Federal High Court to restrain the party and the INEC from recognising Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour as its gubernatorial candidate.
Rhodes-Vivour was elected Labour Party’s governorship candidate in a substitution primary, witnessed by the INEC and was subsequently issued a certificate of returns by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Abayomi Arabambi.
But Awamaridi has described the event as ‘comic’. Still fuming in rage when he was addressed as the factional candidate of the party, Awamaridi thundered, “to say that I am a factional candidate for Lagos State is a very wrong statement.”
While saying, the election that saw the emergence of Rhodes-Vivour as the governorship candidate is ‘fraudulent,’ Awamaridi described the certificate of return given to Rhodes-Vivour, as a “piece of paper,” that is “unconstitutional and irrelevant.”
He said he remains the “substantive governorship candidate of the party” and no candidate should be presented whether by the party or the electoral body except in a case of withdrawal or death.
He words: “I have not resigned, I have gone to court to make a declaration when I got to know about the comedy and shenanigans. I went to court and made a declaration on oath that I have not withdrawn my candidature. I’m alive, I’m not dead.”
He added that he remains the candidate “until the final determination of the suit in court.”
In an affidavit of non-withdrawal by Awamaridi at an Abuja High Court, he stated under oath, “I did not withdraw my candidature and I am not withdrawing my candidature and do not intend to withdraw my candidature and I shall not withdraw my candidature.
“I hereby state under oath that I am alive, I am not dead and do not consent to any obituary documentation whatsoever done in my name.”
Awamaridi noted that according to the 2022 Electoral Act, the only means of replacing him is through voluntary withdrawal or death.
Awamaridi noted that he had decided to speak out, because he cannot afford to be “complacent” after another aspirant had been declared a governorship candidate.
He said the party works with “constitution and not the imaginations of (some) individuals,” adding, he came in through the congress and is the authentic state chairman of the party.
Awamaridi denied reports that he had been elevated to the national level of the party and the gubernatorial ticket handed over to Vivour. He stressed that nobody had contacted him on that. He maintained that he remains the duly elected state chairman of the LP in Lagos State, whose tenure, he added, had not expired. He stressed that there must be documentation and letter if at all he had been unseated as Chairman. He said the National Executive Council (NEC) had not met in the last two years to even take such a purported decision, while imploring party members to maintain peace with a view to winning the 2023 poll.
“Delegates elected me across the state, from the ward to the local government officers as LP gubernatorial candidate in Lagos State.
“I was elected state chairman and my tenure has not expired. Nobody can take over the party’s position from the backyard. The NEC meeting was held about two years ago. You can’t come through the backyard and claim to own the party or be the gubernatorial candidate.
“We are going into elections, and we don’t want division in LP. The party is one in Lagos State.”
On his part, Rhodes-Vivour, who defected to the LP last month, after losing at the PDP primary, said his documents have been submitted to the INEC.
He corroborated that INEC officials were present at the substitution primary that saw his emergence and “INEC officials will not come to witness a substitution primary if the person that was there had not withdrawn.
“There are processes that the party went through to create that substitution primary, which was followed and INEC approved it. And my name has been submitted to INEC as a candidate of the party.”
He added that his candidacy was given more credibility, when the party’s national leaders came to Lagos to give him a certificate of return.
Rhodes-Vivour explained that the party used Awamaridi as a placeholder, because they wanted a ‘credible’ candidate to “come and use their platform.”
“These placeholders do not pay the premiums that candidates paid for those nomination forms.
“You also find that these placeholders sign withdrawal letters before their names are submitted,” he added, that the party has not received any petition from Awamaridi.
However, Arabambi, the National Publicity Secretary of LP, has warned Awamaridi, to desist from parading himself as the candidate of the party.
Arabambi, who noted that the party had concluded all necessary documentation with INEC regarding its new candidate, said the party is disappointed at Awamaridi’s ‘unscrupulous and dubious politics.’
“Awamaridi was the Chairman of the LP Lagos Caretaker Committee at one point. He was made a placeholder for the governorship primary election. His name was submitted as the governorship candidate since Lagos LP was yet to finally conclude all the required processes.
“The placeholder status given to Awamaridi was one from which he formally tendered official resignation. His letter of resignation was willfully, voluntarily and clearly signed and tendered. Documents don’t lie.”
Arabambi added that if Awamaridi, by any stretch, felt or feels aggrieved, he could approach the court to seek legal redress, stressing that his tenure has expired as the chairman of the caretaker committee.
“We officially and very strongly re-affirm with all authority that the winner of the substitution election on the platform of the LP as the governorship candidate for 2023 for Lagos State is Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour,” he said.
Arabambi said the party has inaugurated the newly-appointed 24-man caretaker executive committee of the party in the state on behalf of the National Working Committee (NWC).
Also, one of the affected candidates in Lagos, Sunday Achurefe, who had emerged as the Labour Party’s candidate for Agege 1 Constituency, Lagos State House of Assembly at the primary held on May 26, said he was shocked when he saw a letter written by the state chapter announcing another round of primaries to produce its governorship and House of Assembly candidates.
“I was preparing for the election proper, when I suddenly learnt that our names had been replaced by the national leadership of the party.
“How is that possible? I spent several millions of naira to get to this stage. And out of nowhere, the party is announcing that I am no longer its candidate.
Where is that done?
“What even baffled me is that they (party leaders) claimed that I signed an oath before a competent court of jurisdiction to withdraw from the race.
“Please, help me ask them when and where I signed the affidavit. This is a clear case of forgery. It must not go unpunished. We are already in court to correct the anomaly,” said Achurefe, who spoke on behalf of affected candidates.
THERE is also crisis in Imo State chapter of the Labour Party. Dr. Okorondu Nwachukwu, who had, on June 9, emerged the party’s Senatorial candidate for Imo North, petitioned INEC over the withdrawal of his candidacy by the party’s leadership.
Nwachukwu is insisting that he is still in the race and denied that he had withdrawn.
In a petition to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, by his lawyer, Emmanuel Adedeji, titled, ‘Re: Purported withdrawal as candidate of Labour Party for Imo North Senatorial Zone’, Nwachukwu expressed shock that his party wrote to the electoral commission about his purported withdrawal.
“It was brought to the notice of our client that the Labour Party wrote a letter to the commission, informing the commission of his withdrawal as the candidate of the Labour Party for Imo North Senatorial Zone, and also informing the commission of the party’s intention to conduct a fresh primary election.
“Our client hereby informs the commission that he did not at any time withdraw as the candidate of the Labour Party for Imo North Senatorial Zone, and that he never wrote any letter of withdrawal nor deposed to any affidavit in support of any letter of withdrawal.
“Our client was shocked when he discovered that some persons concocted plans to mislead the commission into believing that he has withdrawn as the candidate of the Labour Party for Imo North Senatorial Zone.
“Our client states unequivocally that the purported letter of withdrawal and accompanying affidavit (if any was submitted by the party to the commission) were forged.”
Nwachukwu urged INEC to refer his purported letter of withdrawal and accompanying affidavit to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) for investigation.
IN Plateau State, similar situation is rocking the state chapter of the party. The name of Ambassador Yohanna Margif, who emerged as LP’s governorship candidate for the 2023 election at a primary held on June 9 in Jos, was replaced with that of Dr. Patrick Dakum, who won the August 7 substitution primary. However, Margif is not going down without a fight.
According to the former envoy, he remains the authentic flag-bearer of the party in the state.
He also urged people of the state to disregard anyone parading himself as the new candidate of the party.
Margif said that some individuals had approached him “requesting that I relinquish the hard earned ticket to them, but being the serious minded politician that I am, I felt it will be unwise to toy with the party’s mandate and the peoples’ trust hence my stern refusal to grant their wishes.
“Surprisingly, while I was strategically going on with my campaigns, my attention was drawn to a purported and illegal primary election by some disgruntled political elements who disguised themselves as members of the Labour Party in Plateau State at which one Dr. Patrick Dakum emerged as my replacement.
“While I find that Kangaroo arrangement, which is obviously borne out of desperation laughable, it is imperative I set the records straight. I wish to state clearly that I am the only and authentic governorship candidate of the Labour Party in Plateau State.
“I wish to state clearly that I have not in any way contemplated withdrawing from the 2023 governorship election in Plateau State and I will not withdraw from the race.
“I am in the contest to win the election and give Plateau people good governance that will enthrone development.
“I am not in the contest to withdraw, and the ticket of the Labour Party in Plateau State is not for sale. Therefore, those who are clamouring for the ticket and misleading gullible people and Nigerians that I have withdrawn from the race should desist forthwith,” he said.
Margif’s insistence on holding on to the ticket has drawn the wrath of his party leadership, which expelled him for anti-party activities.
In a statement issued by the party, it informed the public that the former gubernatorial candidate of the Labour Party in Plateau State, Amb. Yohanna Margif, has been expelled.
MEANWHILE, embattled Ebonyi State governorship candidate of the party for the 2023 general elections, Eze Oko Splendour, has vowed that he will not surrender his ticket to any moneybag, despite the intense pressure from the national leadership of his party.
The governorship candidate claimed that the party’s national leadership might have forged his signature to write his withdrawal letter to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He, therefore, threatened legal action, announcing that he would deploy everything within his powers to keep his ticket, even as he gave conditions that can make him surrender the ticket.
He said he was duly nominated and voted for by the delegates that participated in the State primary election, which was monitored by INEC. The primary was held at the Ebonyi State party secretariat on June 9.
“NEC wrote a report and sent it to the national headquarters in Abuja and my name was uploaded as the rightful governorship candidate of the party. But after the successful primary, some power brokers, particularly Edward Nkwagu, who contested the governorship election in Ebonyi State APC and lost, suddenly developed an interest in joining Ebonyi State Labour Party through the national instead of joining through the state.
“As I speak now, the national leadership has sent a dissolution letter regardless of the fact that my tenure has not expired. I was appointed the state chairman of LP, Ebonyi State in May 2022. It is an appointment that will expire in the next three months’ time. But because the national leadership was desperate for everything, especially to take away the governorship ticket from me and hand it over to the moneybag, they decided to terminate our tenure.
“I disagreed with them because the new Electoral Act stipulates that if a candidate emerged from a validly conducted primary, there must be a written withdrawal letter with a deposed affidavit by the candidate. As I speak with you, I have not written any withdrawal letter, and I am not ready to withdraw for anybody.
“I have strong feelings that they must have forged my signature to write a withdrawal letter to INEC. But I am not disturbed because everybody knows that it is a criminal act. I am not ready to step down for anybody or bow to their threat or antics to give up my ticket. If I didn’t conduct LP primary then, there would not have been anything like the party existing in the state.”
IN Kaduna State, the state chairman of the party, Peter Hassan, has kicked against the substitution primary that produced the former President of the Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU), Jonathan Asake, as the governorship candidate of LP.
Asake was affirmed during a substitution primary, after the first governorship candidate of the party, Shunom Adinga, has said to have stepped down in the interest of unity and brotherhood.
However, the party is set to replace its governorship candidate for the third time, as Hassan described the substitution primary as undirected by the leadership of the party.
Hassan said those who participated in the primary election were not known to the party leadership and the substantial governorship candidate will be produced at a new date.
In a related development, INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has stated that the final list of the presidential candidates will be out on September 20 and that of governorship hopefuls will be out on October 4.