“Those that win elections today are majorly people with baggage. Labour Party never stole any money from our common resources…”
Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Labour Party (LP) chairman, Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, speaks on the chances of the party ahead of the 2019 general elections. He argued that money politics has made it possible for persons with baggage to win elections in Nigeria.
Has peace returned to the fold of Labour Party now?
There has not been crisis in Labour Party. What people saw was pseudo crisis and self-imagined crisis. There has been beehive of activities at the national secretariat of this party. We have conducted our primaries and submitted all our nominations for the National Assembly and the presidential elections to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Our presence is felt in every aspect of the current electoral process. To say the least, we are on course. We have some rabble-rousers involved in anti-party activities that have been suspended by the National Executive Committee (NEC). They are the people sponsored by the opposition party jittery of our pedigree and success in the upcoming elections. The summary is that we have no crisis in the Labour Party.
How do you feel seeing the ‘rabble-rousers’ accuse you of embezzlement and fraud?
In a political party, we have platform to resolve any allegation of embezzlement or crisis. No responsible loyal party member or official will go public to announce that his/ her party will not be fielding any candidate. Their actions proved that they are either political jobbers or agents of other political parties.
I assure you that there is no crisis in the real Labour Party. We are not joining issues with them because some of them recently confessed that they have discovered that the allegations are not true representation of the situation in the party.
We did not want to make them popular and feel important by joining issues with them. We will not bother about them, knowing our focus, vision and target. The preparations for the 2019 general elections have been going on seamlessly.
They are people of no consequence, otherwise, what are their constituencies; ask Calistus Okafor the same question? And he knows that he was an errand boy in Lagos. Ask Ebere Ifendu her constituency and whether she can win it in her home state, Abia?
We don’t care about them because they constitute nuisance and we can describe their exit as good riddance to bad rubbish. Even if you want to look at the crisis, you should understand that no political party is crisis-free. The difference is how the crisis is managed, handled and resolved.
Can you itemise the challenges Labour Party had or may encounter preparing for the 2019 general elections?
I can conveniently tell you that we don’t have problem because we are prepared for it. We went through our constitution to prepare for the primaries for our presidential aspirants and National Assembly in every state of the federation.
We have submitted the forms of the candidates in the 36 states of the federation to INEC. We are about to submit the governorship candidates forms to INEC. We are not facing any serious challenge. The aspirants did not also face any challenge because our expression of interest and nomination forms is very cheap. The aspirants confessed that our forms are far much cheaper than other political parties. They could not complain of much challenge.
We gave waivers to the newcomers depending on their dispositions. We ensured that aspirants don’t just pick our form because they were rejected by other parties.
How much of a threat is the Zenith Labour Party to your party?
We don’t even know that they exist. Some states are already calling them Zero Labour Party. What influence have they been able to make? It was ridiculous hearing one of them announced recently that the party is comfortable with the owner of Accord Party joining them. The question they should answer is, where is the secretariat of the new party? We even need to investigate the registration of the party. In which part of the world do we have an acronym attached to Labour Party?
In Israel, Great Britain, it is always Labour Party except in Nigeria where we duplicate things. We are not aware of the existence of Zenith Labour Party but Zero Labour Party.
How can Zenith Labour Party with Olusegun Mimiko be inconsequential?
Mimiko was here and wants to take over the party structure but we resisted it. He has been moving from one party to another which does not portray him as a responsible politician. He is a nomadic politician, grazing from one end to the other. His membership of Zenith Labour Party does not bother us at all. The exit of Mimiko was good riddance to bad rubbish. We have enough prominent personalities in our party and they have shown interest from the presidential to the legislative elections. Of what importance is Mimiko even in Ondo State?
He cannot make any headway because the Ondo people are wiser and responsible people who cannot be used anyhow by any individual.
Is Labour Party ready for the 2019 general elections?
I earlier said that we are ready and on course. We are on the move and we have hit the ground running, we are set to go and we will make it. The problem we have in contesting elections in Nigeria is not the acceptability of the party but the party in power. Nigerians don’t want to build party to stardom, they prefer the party I can call ‘food is ready’ and ‘already made’. Many Nigerians are nomadic politicians ready to leave a party at the slightest provocation. There is no basis for ideology, programme and manifesto. There is no politician that wants to use a party platform who will ask about the party’s manifesto. Nigerian politicians don’t bloody care about party manifesto. In that regard, they can move from one party to the other.
But you have also not been able to nurture Labour Party to be among the five biggest political parties in Nigeria. So what is happening?
People usually want to cause confusion. Before now, the party was in the marketplace, today we are in a serene atmosphere. That is an achievement in itself. We have produced members of the House of Representatives and a senator who defected to the APC and he is even a crisis-ridden person in the APC.
Before now, we have never fielded a presidential candidate but we have done that for the 2019 general elections. We are moving forward and nobody can say that the Labour Party is not moving forward. We are yet to conduct the 2019 general elections to ascertain the number of elective positions we will get.
It is wrong to judge us with the past elections. I took over the mantle of leadership in 2014 and the nomination of candidates for the 2015 general elections had been conducted at the time.
We participated in all the staggered elections but could not win any. In Osun, our candidate tried his best but could not win because he has no money. In Kogi, the former deputy governor contested on our platform, but could not win because he has no money. In Ekiti, the person who contested on our platform was a former civil servant, but could not win because of money. Those that won the staggered elections are either the APC or the PDP. PDP used our stolen commonwealth for 16 years while the APC is using our collective fund to rig elections. If there is balance and equitable distribution of the resources, many parties will produce governors.
But as it is in Nigeria today, it is impossible for smaller parties to win because the two parties use state resources to manipulate things and win elections by rigging massively. We all saw how it played out in Osun State recently. My submission, which is the stark reality, does not mean that Labour Party has given up winning the 2019 general elections. But as I earlier said, we have submitted the candidates
for all the elective positions in the 2019 general elections. We will participate and do the best we could. In politics, you cannot win the election before they are conducted. Before one talks of 2019 target, one has to be sure of the resources. It is not even easy to pay for the agents during elections. Parties spend as high as N15,000 to N20,000 on an agent.
Money has so much influence in Nigeria politics. It has been monetised and unless you have it in abundance, you won’t make any headway. Even when credible people, people that have no baggage contest, they won’t win because they have no money. Those that win elections today are majorly people with baggage. Labour Party never stole any money from our common resources, but we will try our best to emerge victorious among all of them.
Some are already saying that 2019 election is pregnant with some uncertainties. What do you think?
Politics is full of uncertainties the world over. Look at small Gambia, the former president never imagined he would lose the election. There was also uncertainty when a young man emerged winner in France.
What is your take on the legality or otherwise of your tenure which appears to have been extended?
We don’t do things here off hand. We do things based on our guidelines and constitution. When Dan Nwanyanwu was here, we extended his tenure for over one year. My tenure expired this year, precisely October 11, but after our NEC meeting on October 9, the entire NEC members agreed to extend it by one year.