Lagos Labour Party in quagmire over mistrust, lack of confidence
Things have continued to fall apart for the Lagos chapter of Labour Party (LP), despite the facade that everything is in order by members.
Weeks after the March 18 governorship election, the party has been confronted with different crises, the latest being the suspension of its ex-chairman, Olukayode Salako and five others.
Other members suspended by the party are Lagos West Senatorial District candidate, Moshood Salvador; member, Peter Obi, Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), Opeyemi Taiwo; former Special Adviser to Salako on political matters, Olumide Adesoyin, Mutiu Okunola and Theodore Ezeunara.
The Guardian gathered that the suspension was linked to the endorsement of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s re-election bid and other opposition flag bearers vying for elective seats during the March 18 poll.
Announcing the suspension, the state’s secretary of the party, Sam Okpala, said a disciplinary committee setup for the purpose approved the suspension after the review of the roles members played during the poll.
Okpala disclosed that the disciplinary committee was chaired by Paul Igene, who ensured that all members were given fair hearing on the anti-party allegations brought against them before the committee.
According to him, seven chieftains of the party were invited after they were discovered to have contravened the party’s constitution.
“Of the seven chieftains that were discovered to have engaged in anti-party activities and invited for questioning, one was found to have withdrawn his membership of LP and decamped to the APC. And that is the Lagos Central Senatorial candidate, Olasunbo Onitiri, who left without notifying the party leadership.”
Recall that Salako, in January, ceded his position as the party’s state chairman, which led to the state’s deputy Woman Leader, Dayo Ekong, to take over on the directive of the national leader to the party, Julius Abure.
Salako said Abure called him to his hotel in Osogbo, Osun State and asked him to assume the position of his (Abure) Senior Adviser (SA) on Lagos Affairs. Salako also claimed that he resigned as the party’s state chairman to focus on his election as the party’s candidate for the House of Representatives seat in Oshodi-Isolo Constituency 1.
But before his resignation, there had been insinuations as to his mission in LP, with many describing him as a mole working for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
This is because Salako had been a major force in the APC before his sudden appearance as an executive in LP. Meanwhile, his wife, Foluke Daramola, was also a member of the campaign council of APC Presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. To the surprise of Lagosians, Salako, after the governorship election, said the governorship candidate of LP,, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour (GRV) deserved to lose at the polls.
He further disclosed that contrary to the postulations that he voluntarily resigned as the chairman of the party, he was forced to step aside. He said: “The Obidients said they could not trust me with the campaign funds the presidential candidate, Peter Obi, wanted to send to Lagos, because my wife worked for Tinubu’s presidential bid and the APC. They saw me as Tinubu’s man, so, they said I was a mole in their midst. They said if any money was sent to Lagos, I would divert it for personal use or use it to work for Tinubu. For those reasons, I was forced to step aside.”
Salako claimed that after GRV got the governorship ticket, he became arrogant, intolerant to opposing views and started calling himself my leader.
“Rhodes-Vivour’s type cannot rule a local government let alone Lagos. He didn’t carry me along. I ran the office of the state party chairman for five months without anybody giving me ‘shishi,’ because they saw me as Tinubu’s agent. I didn’t betray anybody but Gbadebo and those party chieftains in Lagos betrayed me, and God does not reward betrayal. I felt betrayed and badly treated by the Lagos State chapter of the LP and I am not happy at all.”
Salako, who refuted the claim that he was a mole in the party, said that Rhodes-Vivour, who he worked hard to get the governorship ticket for, orchestrated his removal.
“He betrayed me. He wasn’t doing well with the party as the governorship candidate and I reported him to the Forum of Leaders and Elders’ Council of the party for them to tell him to do the right thing. Instead of that, he decided to make me his enemy and he became vindictive.
“He pushed me aside and was working with strange people that did not know how he got the ticket. He didn’t run anything by me and because there was no way he could operate without working with the state chairman of the party, he chose to work with some persons for me to be removed and he did that in connivance with the current state chairman of the party, Ekong; the secretary, Okpala; and his running mate, Islamiyat Oyefusi. They all thought I was a mole who would not make them win Lagos State, but we can see what happened afterwards.”
Replying to Salako, GRV stated that he would not engage in verbal sparring with Kayode, claiming that he is only speaking under the influence of his state of health.
“Sadly, this condition is used by others to manipulate him for political gain. I wish him well and hope he gets the medical attention he needs.”
Ekong, on her part, lambasted Salako, saying the former chairman represents the old order of politics in Nigeria. She alleged that Salako was a mole planted within the LP for a hatchet job and left immediately after completing his assignment for his paymasters.
“It’s sad that somebody like Salako, who was a chairman in the LP, could talk about his party’s gubernatorial candidates this way. The truth of the matter is that Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour represents what the LP ideology is all about. Salako to me represents the old system, the old ways of APC and PDP. And there is no doubt that with the values of the LP, he does not represent what the LP stands for.
“What Salako is saying now is that he’s not compatible with the values of the LP in the sense that he wants to be a lord, like it’s done in the APC and the PDP. He wants to wake up and see GRV call him in the morning to say, Godfather, here I come. That is not what LP represents. We’ve moved past that.”
The Labour Party chairman added that Salako, who was a member of the APC for many years, only joined the LP as a mole to destabilise the party.
“Salako had a mission. And he knows what he came into the LP to do. Let me quote him verbatim from the interview he granted to a national newspaper, when he was asked why he and his wife are supporting different political parties.
“He said and I quote him: “I left APC because in the many years I have been there… I didn’t gain anything as a member.
“So, it’s not about service, it’s about what he can get.” She continued: ‘He went on to say,’ “As a member of the party. I was only working and it seems as if they didn’t see me. I felt if I went to another party and proved what I could do in terms of capability to run things, perhaps, APC would see me.
“So, the Labour Party does not represent this. It’s not about what we want to gain, but what we want to offer Nigerians,” she explained. Also speaking with The Guardian, one of the suspended members, Taiwo said both GRV and his deputy, Oyefusi, were in the party to destabilise it.
Taiwo said he never appeared before the disciplinary committee as alleged by Okpala, while describing the suspension as Kangaroo, given that the tenure of the executives’ that carried out the suspension has expired.
He said: “During the presidential election, we worked for our candidate with our sweat and blood without collecting a dime. At a point, we learnt that the executives with GRV also in the know have received money to run the election. When it was time to mobilise for party agents, we requested for money but we were shrugged off. But we were able to do what we could and the result was good.”
Taiwo, who was also Lagos State director general of LP campaign council, alleged that after a while they got the hint that two billion naira was released for the presidential campaign.
“ When we saw the way these people were acting, we concluded that they were more after what they could get from the Obidients movement than winning the election.
“We mobilised people to work for the party but they weren’t paid and were given empty promises. After the presidential election, we urged the executives to call a meeting to appease those that worked for us and see how to compensate them, but we weren’t listened to.
“As the governorship election approached, Oyefusi called our bluff and even told us not to work for them and threatened that we would be arrested if we were seen anywhere around the party. That was the final nail on the coffin.”
Taiwo added that part of the things that caused disunity in the party was the role former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George, played before the governorship election.
“He (George) took over the campaign. GRV and Oyefusi came from PDP, they met us in LP, you can now imagine, people that came into LP, at a later hour, are now being suspended by the people that met them in the party.
“Remember there is a court case concerning GRV and Prof. Ifagbemi Awamaridi and the ticket was hijacked from the latter. It would have been a labour loss if we worked for GRV. If he won the election, by the time they get to court he might lose out and the mandate will be taken away from him because of how he got the ticket.
“That was why we decided to sit on the fence. If GRV and Oyefusi won the election, I bet somebody like me would serve a four years jail term because they would look for the means to get me arrested because we are not on good terms.”
Taiwo added that during the presidential election, GRV openly campaigned for the PDP senatorial candidate of Lagos West Segun Adewale, popularly known as Aeroland against the candidate of LP, Salvador.
“When we discovered that GRV, during the presidential election came out publicly to support Aeroland and even asked people to vote for him, that Aeroland is a friend of the Igbo even though LP has its own candidate in the person of Salvador. You know what that means, for a governorship candidate to announce that people should vote for PDP, an opposition party.
“If GRV won the election, he would disorganise the state. The guy is rude, young and immature. He lacks character; he doesn’t have what it takes to run a local government let alone a State.” On his part, Adesoyin said he wasn’t given a fair hearing regarding the suspension and when he contacted one of the executives to understand the situation, he wasn’t given attention.
He adds, “GRV endorsed Aeroland against the party’s candidate and I also endorsed Sanwo-Olu for the governorship election.” Salvador said, “I don’t have anything to say on that (on the suspension). I am not interested in discussing such issues. I don’t want any discussion. What is it?”