Abure and Burden of Leading Labour Party

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With the February, 2023 presidential election fast approaching, Emameh Gabriel writes on the efforts of Julius Abure to provide required leadership for Labour Party

The Labour Party has shown itself as a formidable contender for the 2023 general elections. While names such as Peter Obi and Datti Baba Ahmed have become synonymous with the presidential and vice presidential tickets of the party, one name which the media have overlooked but has fundamentally been instrumental for successfully steering the ship of this resurgent party, is the lesser known Julius Abure, who is the National Chairman of the Labour Party.

The Labour Party is one of the major center left political parties of the fourth republic. Since its founding in 2003, and most significantly with the backing of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), it has remained somewhat of a shadow political party among others in the country’s multi-party democracy.

Although the party had between 2003 and 2009 tested power in Ondo state, under Dr Olusegun Agagu, and has over time, every now and then, seemed to have made one or two showing of possible strong contenders.

But its biggest catch came when in the first quarter of 2022, former Anambra state Governor, Peter Obi defected from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and eventually won the the party’s presidential primary election.

Obi’s new romance with the party came after both former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former Lagos Governor, Bola Tinubu, respectively emerged as the presidential candidates of the PDP and the ruling APC.

His decision was borne by alleged marginalisation of the Igbo by both leading parties. In other words, their unwillingness to ensure the full operationalization and rotation in gentlemanly agreement.

Zoning as it is known, has become the underlying principle of Nigerian politics since the return of democracy in 1999- an idea that saw the major political parties, the PDP and the then AD-NPP alliance fielding Olusegun Obasanjo and Olu Falae respectively.

So expectedly Obi’s entrant into the party and the presidential race stirred the imagination of certain sections of Nigerians, particularly those from his geo-political zone, the South East and part of the 2019 EndSARS movement that rocked the country having its crescendo as the October 20, shooting of protesters at the Lekki toll gate.

Obi went on to choose Datti Ahmed as his Vice Presidential candidate to cement the image of the joint ticket as a forward looking one, with Ahmed being an academician and a Northerner.

While the emphasis has been on both presidential and vice presidential candidates, most Nigerians have overlooked one most important person (Julius Abure) who has been saddled with the task of shouldering this huge burden of steering this hitherto fringe party, that it was even suitable enough to attract the likes of Obi and Pat Utomi to its presidential primary, that ultimately advanced Obi’s presidential ambition.

And after Obi’s emergence, he has been able to manage this seismic shift in the internal party structure as a result of the mass immigration of new members as the party gains traction among Nigerians, making the platform more attractive to political gladiators unable to secure the tickets of the leading political parties to stand for the 2023 general election.

Out of nowhere, the party now has functional structures extending from Borno to Lagos and from Sokoto to Taraba, from Rivers to Edo State, Abure’s home state where the OBIdient movement has established itself as a dominant force against the major political parties in the state.

The movement has become a household name with ubiquitous presence on social media.

Who is Julius Abure?

The Labour Party in its founding in which the NLC played an important role was intended to be different from the prevailing leading political parties of the time, which were perceived as too bourgeois, and lacking adequate representation of all shades of Nigerians, particularly the working class.

It was designed to be a party of artisans, traders, market women, civil servants, among others.

As such, leadership and ideology were always critical factors in the party and which must uphold the highest ideals to break the glass ceiling required for the attainment of a transformational country where opportunities are evenly distributed.

Julius Abure who was until now relatively unknown on the national political space was the national secretary of the party, until 2020, when after the death of the former National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Abdulkadir Abdulkadir, was elected by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) as new National Chairman.

Since the emergence of Obi as the presidential candidate of the party, and the ensuing war of words and round the clock administration of this enlarged and growing party structure, even if Abure has been a subject of attacks, he has not been found wanting in action.

A man in his early fifties, he has brought his youthful energy and charisma to bear on the party. He has always been in the media, speaking tirelessly to Nigerians about Nigeria, and the need for a paradigm shift in the national governance equation, and ardently defending Obi who has become the subject of innuendos and a massive propaganda campaign.

Speaking recently on the comments on Obi by former CBN Governor, who is the current Governor of Anambra state, Prof Charles Soludo, Abure said, “You can see the comment is borne out of selfishness, the comment is borne out of self centeredness, is borne out of desperation, it’s borne out of envy and jealousy.

“For somebody who was Central Bank Governor who should know the importance of investments which has been acclaimed by all governors to be one of the best that has been done in Anambra State, for such a man to demean such an investment will tell you that he is acting from a selfish point of view. Soludo does not have control of the majority of the people of Anambra State.

“Even Soludo rose on the legacy of Peter Obi because Obi was the first Governor that rose to power through the platform of APGA. Obi built the party, consolidated it, and worked for the people of Anambra State which gave people confidence to continually vote for APGA”.

But keeping his seat as national chairman of the party and keeping together an emergent party with new structures extending from, particularly in this electioneering season of double faced cutthroats is no doubt an odd which for now he seems to be weathering as he strategies and focuses on mobilizing and galvanizing support for the party.

Party in crisis well managed by Abure

The crisis in Labour Party, like in other major political parties in the country, is not new.

The factions within the party have always jostled for control of it’s structures. Recall that as far back as 2017, a faction of the party led by its deputy national chairman (South), Comrade Calistus Okafor, expelled the late national chairman, Abdullah and replaced him with one Dr Mike Omotosho.

Even after the emergence of Obi, two other factions emerged having their presidential candidates as Samson Uchenna and Chief Diga Ezenwafor respectively. Added to this, the former deputy national chairman, Okafor, who in the past had attempted severally to remove the late national chairman, is claiming to be the rightful national leader of the party.

But the Independent National Electoral Commission later confirmed Abure as the authentic National Chairman of the party..

INEC’s National Commissioner for Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, explained that the commission is not aware of any faction in the party. That the commission only identifies with Julius Abure as chairman of LP.

Okoye said, “The Independent National Electoral Commission has in its custody the list and verified signatures of all the national chairmen and national secretaries of all the registered political parties in Nigeria.

“As (at) today, the commission is not aware of any faction in the Labour Party. The person whose name is on the docket of the Independent National Electoral Commission as the National Chairman of the Labour Party is one Julius Abure who has in the last few months successfully marshalled one of the strongest movements in the country”.

The APC is alleged to have infiltrated some Labour Party structures in the region, such as Lagos, Kwara and Ogun states.

Just last week, the party dissolved the executives of Ogun State chapter over anti-party activities. This came few days after the chapter penultimate week announced the sacking of the Director General of the Obi – Datti Presidential Campaign, Dr Doyin Okupe and 10 others for allegedly not paying membership fees, high-handedness and financial recklessness.

The national body also sacked its National Publicity Secretary, Abayomi Arabambi, who is alleged to be complicit. Arabambi is not the first member of the National Working Committee to come under the hammer, in October, the party suspended its National Youth Leader, Anslem Eragbe, over allegations of forgery and insubordination to the party leadership. He was also accused of receiving money from unnamed persons.

Although Eragbe has denied the allegations and vowed to get justice from the appropriate quarters over his suspension, the party has called his bluff.

Like Obi, Abure himself has also not been spared this mudslinging and unproven allegations, such as high handedness and abuse of process in candidates selection.

Despite the crisis rocking some chapters of the party, Abure has so far maintained his ideal influence over the party.

The National Working Committee recently passed a vote of confidence on the leadership of Julius Abure. This came few days after the South East caucus of the party in Owerri, the Imo state capital also passed a vote of confidence on the national chairman. Analysts posit that such developments are expected, as primaries are bound to produce aggrieved aspirants.

The Labour Party which has professed unprecedented commitment to the cause of the common man, seems to have used the Obi candidature, a man reputed for his common lifestyle and exemplary leadership qualities, to rejuvenate the platform, and rebranding it as a truly Nigerian party. Little wonder why the common people especially in the Southeast, the South South, the Northwest and North Central have pledged themselves to the cause.

Speaking about the general popular support, the National chairman, Abure, affirmed that Nigerians have taken over the party.

He said, “ The people will fund the process because they say he who plays the pipe dictates the tune. And therefore the people are the owners of the party and that is why they are funding these activities.

“People are contributing money, N1000, N10,000 and so on to carry out rallies for themselves. People are donating their buildings and the people of Nigeria are gradually owning the Labour Party.

“And of course, you know that the Labour Party is a party for the poor, the artisans, students, market women, the downtrodden, civil servants, hewers of wood and fetches of water and the ordinary man in the street. They own the party and they form more that 90 percent of Nigerians”, Abure said.

Observers posit that the crisis within the party is largely localized, which may not significantly affect the chance of its presidential candidate which has fanatical support among certain sections of Nigerians.

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