Plans by former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, to contest next year’s presidential election on the platform of Labour Party (LP) appeared shaky yesterday, as a faction of the party threatened to renew its legal battle this week.
Former Deputy National Chairman of the LP, Calistus Okafor, gave the hint in an interview with THISDAY in Abuja.
Similarly, yesterday, lawyer to Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr. Femi Falana, confirmed that the case, which the unions instituted against the late Abdulkadir Abdulsalam leadership of the party, now under the Julius Abure faction, was still pending in court.
Okafor, who leads a faction of LP, wondered why Obi failed to carry out due diligence before he, allegedly, identified with a faction of the party, which the factional national chairman described as the wrong faction.
Obi left the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last week and announced his readiness to pursue his presidential aspiration in the LP faction led by Abure.
However, Okafor told THISDAY that Obi decided to defect to LP without proper information on the fact that the party’s leadership had been a subject of litigation since 2018.
Okafor claimed that he remained the authentic national chairman of the party. He explained that he got the post by virtue of his position as Deputy National Chairman of the party when the late national chairman, Abdulsalam, was in office. He added that Abure, who is currently leading a faction of the party, was Acting National Secretary, when Abdulsalam, died in 2020.
Okafor further claimed that Abure announced himself as National Chairman without recourse to the provisions of the party’s constitution, following Abdulsalam’s demise. He said the LP constitution stipulated that the deputy national chairman should act and/or replace the chairman in the event of death or resignation.
Okafor explained, “The decision of Abure to make himself chairman, with the active collaboration of some members, actually led to the current leadership crisis in the LP.
“I, Calistus Okafor, approached the court to get a pronouncement to force Abure out and the case has been pending.
“The matter will come up tomorrow (today) at the Federal High Court. There is no way we would allow an Acting National Secretary to forcefully take over the party and replace the late national chairman against the provisions of the constitution of the party.
“I also want to confirm to you that apart from the suit I instituted against Abure and his team, the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) are also in court, to claim ownership of the party.”
Okafor urged Obi to thread softly, stressing that he LP, under which he intends to realise his aspiration at the moment, is in a deep crisis that may not be resolved before the 2023 presidential election.
He said, “The NLC and the TUC actually registered the Labour Party in 2006, but they were not the ones administering it.
“Peter Obi, at the moment, has been deceived and he is sitting on a keg of gunpowder and it is a pity. He went to wolves in sheep clothing thinking he was discussing with the right people. Staying in the PDP would have been better for him.
“The LP has not done any convention since 2014, after the last one it did in Akure, the Ondo State capital.
“In 2017, after the removal of Abdulsalam as the national chairman, Julius Abure, being the acting national secretary then and myself as the deputy national chairman (South), wrote the Independent National Electoral Commission, to organise a convention for the purpose of electing a new leadership.
“Along the line, Abdulsalam went to the leadership of NLC and TUC, as the people who registered the party, to join him in forcing us out.
“NLC, being smarter than him, demanded a written agreement that he had agreed that the LP actually belonged to the NLC and TUC. He accepted the offer and signed the agreement.”
Okafor further said, “The NLC then approached the court to authenticate the agreement. The court ruled that the organised labour could not run the party but should work with us being the administrators to organise an all-inclusive convention.
“The inability of the party to organise an inclusive convention made it impossible for former Governor Olusegun Mimiko to contest the 2019 presidential election on the platform of the Labour Party.
“It was then that Abure dumped our cause and joined Abdulsalam to organise a National Executive Council congress in Akwanga, Nasarawa State, without carrying other stakeholders along.
“They then notified the INEC that they had elected some people and removed others from the leadership, when they lacked such powers based on the court ruling.
“The crisis lingered until Abdulsalam died and Abure promoted himself to the office of the national chairman, from his position of the acting national secretary.
“Abure is not qualified to hold the position because in hierarchy, we still have two Deputy National Chairmen and six Vice National Chairmen.
“As we speak, I am in court and by Monday (today), I will get an order which I will post on the walls of the LP secretariat and gates.
“Peter Obi should know that there is no way for him in the LP and that even if I, Callistus Okafor, did not go to court and he wins, the structure that produced him would be challenged.
“I expected him to investigate properly before joining LP instead of allowing himself to be messed up by hungry wolves.”
Several attempts to get the reactions of the NLC leadership and Abure through phone calls and text messages were not successful at the time of writing this report.
Meanwhile, Falana confirmed that the case, which the labour unions instituted against the Abdulsalam leadership, now under Abure, was still pending in Court.
Falana said, “The case is still pending in court. The case we have in court is against the Abdulsalam’s leadership.
“That of Okafor could be their own internal affair. We are the people that went to court against Abdulsalam and while the case was pending, they went to do convention in Benin.
“Meanwhile, the court had ruled that parties must have a unity convention and we were not part of it.”