Labour Party in disarray ahead of Edo guber poll – (Dis)Obidient

The factional crisis between members of the Labour Party (LP) and loyalists of the Obidient movement in Edo State is assuming a worrisome dimension. With the September 21 governorship election approaching, genuine reconciliation remains elusive, leaving them ill-prepared to face more formidable opponents at the poll, MICHAEL EGBEJULE reports.   Less than three months to Edo State governorship election, Labour Party (LP) is embroiled in internal crisis, threatening its chances of living up to expectations as a third force in the state.   The factional crisis is between core members of LP and members of the Obidient movement in the state being led by the governorship candidate of the party, Olumide Akpata (SAN), who seems not to be on the same page with the Julius Abure-led National Executive Committee (NEC) of the state.   Curiously, Abure hails from Edo State and he is a stakeholder in Edo politics.   However, some members of the party have blamed the crisis on the recent suspension of Abure by his Ward 3 Arue-Uromi, Esan North-East Local Government Area chapter and the purported dissolution of the State Working Committee (SWC) led by Kelly Ogbaloi by Abure.   For Abure’s group, Ogbaloi’s tenure elapsed in April. In his place, former speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Elizabeth Ativie, was appointed as the chairman of the caretaker committee.   It is against this backdrop that the seeming game of thrones began to play out. While Ogbaloi is believed to be loyal to Akpata, Abure moved against him in the guise that Ogbaloi had overstayed his term in office.   While Abure has succeeded in planting Ativie as the caretaker chairman, Akpata and his supporters have not accepted the new leadership and this further deepened polarisation of LP members in the state.   However, the war of attrition became manifest during the recent inauguration of the party’s campaign council and unveiling of the Akpata Campaign office in Benin City where Abure and members recently appointed caretaker committee were conspicuously absent leaving only members of the Obidient movement and the presidential candidate of the party in the 2023 general elections, Peter Obi, to preside over the event.   Speaking on the crisis that has bedevilled the party, Ativie condemned Akpata’s decision to take side with Ogbaloi stating that: “To see a lawyer of the magnitude of our candidate, Akpata still working with an executive that has overstayed for 13 years still beats my imagination.   “The party constitution says three years and if you have worked so well you can be returned for another three years, but he has been there for 13 years. He was neither reappointed nor did he go to congress and Akpata saying he stands by that is an aberration. The painful aspect of it is that this problem will not help us in the election. That is my pain. And, we don’t have time.”   But while Ativie believed that the internal crisis rocking the party is capable of affecting its fortune in the forthcoming election, Akpata did not share the same sentiment. To him, the LP internal crisis would not stop Edo people from voting for him if they believed in his message.   He said: “If we were having primaries, I would be bothered. But this is a state election and our target audience is the people of Edo State. They’re the electorate. It is their votes that we need. It is not in contention that I am the candidate of the Labour Party. Nobody is contesting that.   “Every organisation must have its issues as long as human beings are there. So, the best way is to stick to what the law says, then you can’t go wrong. But we are trying our best by keeping faith with our internal dispute resolution mechanism to ensure that we find a solution.  “There’s no doubt that a united house is better than a divided one. We move on. I don’t think any voter in Edo will say because there is a quarrel between two people inside one place, they will not go and vote for Olu Akpata. They’ll listen to the message Olu Akpata has for them. If they are convinced, they will vote. If they’re not convinced, they won’t vote. All these crises are just side attractions.”     The crisis between Abure and Akpata has given room for snide remarks about how the governorship primary of the party was conducted and some ignoble roles played by some leaders. It was also believed that Abure did not support Akpata to emerge as the candidate of the party.   Recall that Kenneth Imasuangbon and Olumide Akpata keenly contested the primary. Akpata however, emerged winner and became the party’s flag bearer for the September 21 governorship contest.   Dissatisfied with the outcome, Imasuangbon dragged Akpata to court, challenging his emergence on the grounds that Akpata was not properly nominated and not qualified to contest the shadow poll. Imasuangbon has been calling on the party’s leadership to recognise him as the authentic LP’s flag bearer.   All these have contributed to the confused state of things in the party such that within the past two weeks, there were suspensions and counter suspensions by factions loyal to Akpata and Abure.   Some observers said the suspension of Abure, who has been accused of misappropriation of funds and high-handedness, among other infractions, is unhealthy for LP in the build-up to the Edo governorship election, but members of the Obidient movement believed that Abure is suffering credibility crisis and not good to market their governorship candidate.     A letter of his suspension dated May 14 and another letter of ratification dated May 15, both of which were endorsed at a meeting of the state executive committee on May 24, stated that the suspension of Abure “is with immediate effect.”   Abure was also warned to restrain from parading himself as a member of LP. His letter of suspension was signed by Thompson Ehiguese (ward chairman) and Stanley Usiomoh (ward secretary), while the letter of ratification of his suspension was forwarded to the State Executive Committee of the party, by the chairman of the party in Esan North-East LGA, Patrick Onogbeni and Secretary, Ehikioya Eromosele.   Part of the letter of ratification reads: “Here forwarded to you and for your consideration is the ratification of the suspension of Comrade Julius Abure from the membership of Ward 3, Arue, Uromi, Ean North East LGA, Edo State.   “The LGA Executive met on May 15, 2024, about 12 noon, to consider the matters presented on the suspension and accordingly found them weighty and the suspension ratified and upheld.”   But reacting to the suspension, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party led by Abure said the ward executive has no power to suspend the national chairman, going by the constitution of the party. The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Obiora Ifoh said the party is not perturbed by the attempt to remove Abure from office, noting that the suspension was a nullity.   He cited Article 17 subsection 1 of the party’s constitution, which according to him, stipulated that only the national convention convened solely for the purpose of removal of the national chairman with two-third majority can suspend or remove the chairman.   Ifoh insisted that the ward, local government, or even the state has no powers under the constitution of LP to suspend the national chairman.   He said, “Against the fake news being disseminated in the media, the National Chairman of Labour Party, Mr Julius Abure has not been suspended by the ward executive of Ward 3, Arue, Uromi, Esan North East of Edo State.   “The Court of Appeal, Benin Division on August 14, 2023, under Justice Theresa Ngolika Orji-Abadua, in a case brought before it by Lucky Shaibu and others against Abure and others, corroborated the judgement of the lower court in its ruling that the national chairman of the Labour Party cannot be suspended or removed by the ward executive.   “The leadership of the party is, however, investigating the source of the purported letter of suspension and will summarily act in accordance with the party rules in disciplining any officer of the party found guilty of contravening the rules of the party.”   While inaugurating the caretaker committee in Benin City, the Deputy National Chairman of the party, Dr Ayo Olorunfemi, said the new leadership of the party in Edo State came on board due to the expiration of the tenure of the Ogbaloi-led executive in April. He said the new leadership in the state is expected to take charge of the affairs of the party, pending when a fresh congress will be held to elect a new executive.   Responding, Ativie promised to move the party to a higher level in the state. She vowed to reconcile all aggrieved members of the party, adding that a reconciliation team to resolve all pending issues in the party will be constituted.   But will Obi and Akpata who rely so much on the support of the Obidient movements to prosecute the election ready to work with Abure and his caretaker committee see more of a liability than assets? Time will tell.             The post Labour Party in disarray ahead of Edo guber poll – (Dis)Obidient appeared first on Guardian Nigeria News.

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