Labour Party: Otti, Obi leadership tussle deepens crisis

A leadership tussle between Abia State Governor Alex Otti and former Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate Peter Obi is fueling the protracted crisis in the party, it was learnt yesterday.

Otti is the only governor elected on the ticket of the LP.

Although there is no personal feud between the two chieftains, their followers are locked in conflict over who should be the national leader of the party in the post-election period.

According to party tradition and convention, the highest ranking elected public officer is usually accorded the honour of party leadership in the major political parties.

Thus, the preponderance of opinion in the LP is that Governor Otti, who is the only LP governor, should automatically become party leader.

However, supporters of Obi, particularly ‘Obidients,’ many of who only identify with the party because of Obi’s interest, believe that the former Anambra State governor is the party leader as a former presidential candidate.

A party source said these fanatical supporters of Obi have invaded the social media to compound the current crisis over the proposed convention.

According to the source, the initial choice of Umuahia, capital of Abia State, by the Julius Abure-led National Working Committee (NWC), was rejected by vociferous Obi loyalists who decried the move in the social media.

The choice of Umuahia was misinterpreted as legitimising the claim of Otti’s supporters that he is the party leader.

The Abia governor, who has managed to stay clear of the festering crisis that had engulfed the party, had an opportunity to escape the Obedients’ virtuperation when the owner of the hall chosen for the convention in Abia said the proposed venue was no longer free.

Although Otti is in a vantage position to secure another venue for the party, he never objected to the shift of venue from Umuahia to Nnewi in Anambra State, where Obi was governor for two terms on the ticket os the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), before defecting to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and later, LP.

Following the decision to shift the venue to Nnewi, Obi’s loyalists, who perceive Otti’s current position as governor as a threat to Obi’s leadership of the party, have sheathed their swords.

The source said: “We picked Umuahia. Officially, we booked a hall. The hall was already paid for, one week. Later, the place was no longer free because another person had booked before us.

“Governor Otti is expected to be the leader of the party, being the highest ranking elected figure in the party. But, Obidients believe that Obi is there and he played his role during the last elections.

“The bulk of supporters – Obidients – believe that going to Umuahia means dishonouring Obi. The governor of Abia thinks that this is not a good narrative. The governor would have provided an alternative venue. Afterall, he is the governor of the state. But, he doesn’t want crisis.”

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He added: “We agreed to go to Nnewi. We don’t want to cancel March 27. The NEC meeting in Asaba last year gave us one year to hold convention. Supporters of Obi felt slighted when Umuahia was proposed. We needed to shift to Nnewi to assure Obi that we are not against his political interest.”

LABOUR Party founders and Trade Union Veterans have joined the call for the resignation of Julius Abure as the party’s national chairman.

In a statement issued in Lagos yesterday and signed for and on behalf of Trade Union Veterans (TUVs), Lawson E. Osagie, the founding fathers of the party regretted that the noble ideals that made them to form the LP to free Nigerians from decades of bad governance had been desecrated by Abure.

The TUVs, who issued the statement, included the pioneer President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Hassan Sunmonu, the 2nd President of the NLC, Comrade Ali Chiroma, the pioneer General Secretary of the Congress, Comrade Aliyu Dangiwa, the 2nd National Treasurer of the NLC, Comrade S. O. Oshidipe.

Others are: S. O. Z Ejiofoh, the Board of Trustees Chairman and pioneer Chairman of the Labour Party, Comrade Lawson Osagie Esq, Comrade Salisu Mohammed, all of who were the main actors in the formation and registration of the Labour Party.

The statement reads: “We cannot sit down and continue to watch as the ideals, principles, and ethical values of Labour Party we toiled so much to build over the decades are being rubbished by one man.

“Consequently, we urge Abure to step aside now as the National Chairman of Labour Party and in his place, the Board of Trustees should appoint a Caretaker National Chairman that will organise congresses in the states before the national convention can be convened.”

The Labour leaders stressed the need for the Board of Trustees (BoT), under the Chairmanship of Comrade Ejiofoh to be enlarged to accommodate representatives of the new stakeholders, including the former Presidential candidate of the party, Peter Obi, Governor of Abia State, Alex Otti and the party’s Legislative Caucus.

It added: “This body will be charged with the implementation in spirit and letter of the MOU referred to earlier.”

The Labour leaders said the Supreme Court, under Justice Uwais, ruled long ago that workers have the right to form a political party to defend and promote their interest.

“How then can any well-read and informed lawyer say that NLC has no business in politics or is a meddlesome interloper in the affairs of the LP formed by the trade unions.

“For the benefit of those who want to know, the 2009 Constitution of the LP in which NLC and TUC Presidents and Secretaries are made statutory members of NEC of LP were the input and contribution by the Edo State Council of the LP and Julius Abure was secretary of the subcommittee on the Review of the Constitution while Comrade Lawson Osagie was the Chairman and a Benin-based legal practitioner, Adams Aliyu was also a member.”

They noted that Abure’s current rhetoric about the role and place of NLC in the LP was not only disappointing but embarrassing to the culture of comradeship and solidarity of the trajectory and historical perspective of the Labour movement in general and Labour Party in particular.

The veterans emphasised that those attacking the Presidents of the NLC, including the current one, Comrade Joe Ajaero for defending the ethical values of the founding fathers of Labour Party now being desecrated by Abure, are not informed or knowledgeable in the hierarchical structure or organs of the NLC and how decisions are made.

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