In this over 35-minute interview, which took place on Arise Television’s “The Morning Show” on Thursday, Lamidi Apapa, the Factional National Chairman of Nigeria’s Labour Party, the man in the eye of the storm, took time to explain what actually transpired at the Presidential Election Tribunal of the Federal Appeal Court, Abuja. He explained how he became chairman of the party, insisting that he demands respect and recognition from Barrister Julius Abure’s and Peter Obi’s camps. In the fiasco that happened in court, he accused Abure and Obi of engaging thugs to harass him. He promised to show up in court tomorrow.
Are you indeed a mole in the Labour Party trying to sabotage the party, as many of those who celebrated your experience at the court claim?
Well, that’s not correct. I am not a mole in the Labour Party. If anybody is telling you that I am a mole, that person is just being mischievous, and the statement is incorrect.
What really happened was that I went to court to assert my authority as the acting National Chairman of the party. You will recall that on April 5, a federal high court in Abuja restrained Abure, the former chairman of the party, and three others from parading themselves as officers of the party. And on the 5th of May, when Abure went to court for the vacation of the order, the court failed, and the whole thing was turned down.
Therefore, it is my responsibility as the authentic acting chairman of the party to assert my authority wherever party issues are taking place, and that is why I went to the tribunal court yesterday to assert that authority.
And when I got there at the beginning, there was a big drama because the person who was asked to represent the party was Mr. Oshintokun, and I told him point blank that you cannot sit here because the person who is supposed to be there is around, and that is me.
During the argument, some people intervened and said that I should allow him to sit, and since there were other seats, we went and sat on the other seats. During the introduction issue, Dudu, a woman leader, stood up and said that she was representing the Labour Party—this I objected to—and that anywhere I am as the acting National Chairman of the party, no other officers should be recognised as representing the party. The judge ruled that because there was an argument over it, none of us would be recognised at the venue as being representatives of the Labour Party.
But after the close of the court, I was just moving out, and the thugs that were brought by Abure and Obi confronted me, abused me, humiliated me, removed my cap, and beat me. There was a pre-court meeting that took place a day before the court, when my team went to see Peter Obi’s group and said that if I should appear in court, they were going to deal with me.
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Do you have evidence that the attack on you was sponsored by Julius Abure and Peter Obi? Who are you representing and whose interests are you representing, especially after the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) have denounced
Thank you so much. I am happy to hear that from the NLC and TUC. The NLC and TUC have their own constitutions; the Labour Party has its own. No one can override the other, and you cannot use your own constitution to operate the other one. If anybody wants to talk about the NLC, TUC, I am a member of the NLC. When this party was formed in 2002, I was secretary of the Labour Party in Oyo State, and I was the chairman of the party for 10 years in Oyo. Even when it was transformed into the Labour Party, I was the chairman. None of them should say that they have more authority over the Labour Party than myself; since that time till date, I have been in the party for 21 years now. I have never been a member of another political party.
Those people complaining are recognising illegality because Abure is illegal. If NLC and TUC, because of what they collected, what they must have collected, or what they want to collect, are supporting illegality, then we have a problem in this country. Because if they say they are supporting him, where do I derive my legality from? Then I don’t need to ask them for legality. The Labour Party constitution is clear on this, and I don’t need to make any approach before that is given to me. It is clear that in the absence of the national chairman, the deputy chairman takes over in an acting capacity. And I want to get it clear to those who have no knowledge of it: truly, today we may have three deputies, but one is superior to the other two.
At the last convention in Akwanga, during the era of Late Salam, this convention produced the chairman of the party and two deputies. These two deputies were elected deputy chairmen, and on the list of the heriechy of officers, we have the party of Absalam; I was the next person to him, and we have one woman, Rebecca. These are the two deputies that were produced by that convention.
Later, Rebecca and Abure had an issue, and they left the party. I became the only democratically elected deputy of the party. It was not quite a year during the crisis with the NLC and so forth that the two other deputies, one from the NLC and the other from the TUC, were seconded to the Labour Party. These are platform deputy chairmen, and on no condition will you impose a platform deputy on an elected deputy chairman. So if they don’t know, they need to be educated—and at this point, I am telling them that I don’t need authority from them (NLC, TUC) to become the acting chairman of the party.
If the NLC and TUC had no effect on the party, how could they put in deputy chairmen? The allegation that you collected money from the APC is that true? There were allegations that you wrote a letter to all Labour Party lawyers in all states saying that they should withdraw and bring their cases to you. Is that true? And if not, what letter did you write?
I didn’t write any letters; after the sitting of the court at the FCT, I only said that now that I am in charge of the party, as the acting chairman of the party, I am entitled to be brief. Of all the goings-on in the party. I didn’t write any letters, I didn’t collect any kobo from anybody, and I will never do so.
Since yesterday, have you contacted Mr. Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the party? Even with the threat, are you going to show up tomorrow and confront them?
There was indirect contact with Peter Obi. Elders of the party and Igbo leaders here and abroad have been having conversations; they have been intervening, but it has not been fully actualized, but we have been interacting indirectly. During the pre-court process, my team and Peter Obi’s and Abure’s teams met, and during the argument there, they said Obi insisted that he would not recognise me as the acting national chairman of the party. There was an argument over it—who should be there? If Abure has stepped aside and I am the next person to him, and no matter how much you like my face or don’t like me, by right and by law, I am the next person to Abure.
That was the argument, and there was a text message from one of the groups saying that if I appeared, they were going to deal with me, and they actually executed that threat. And that is why I accused Obi and Abure of having committed the act, even if they openly said no. but the way they behave and the way they have been behaving to me confirm that he is the type of person who can do it that way. Again, I did not collect a kobo from anybody, and if anybody has evidence to prove it, come forward and show the whole world that this is how much I have collected.
On letters to the tribunal, I have never written any letters to any of the tribunals in Nigeria.
A purported letter from the factional chairman instructing the River State governorship candidate was read. They say the letter came from you, and Mrs. Beatrice said that she doesn’t know you. So where did the letter come from?
It is a lie; if I want to write a letter to any lawyer, don’t I have my own signature to sign? It is a lie; it is nothing but manipulation. That letter did not emanate from me. They are just doing that to blackmail me. It is not true. I have my name; I have my signature.
Are you going to show up at the court tomorrow, and are you prepared for another likely attack by those you say belong to the other faction?
I intend to go there tomorrow. If one has authority to do something, irrespective of whether there is politics somewhere, even your own view as a journalist, am I doing something that is contrary to the law of the party, to the law of the land, by asserting my authority as the acting chairman of the party? What type of system are we running? If Abure, who failed to honour court orders, is appearing at the tribunal with Peter Obi, who is trying to claim his mandate from the tribunal through the rule of law, is that how to rule a country? I am surprised. Let’s go ahead and see what will happen. If you want to claim a mandate through the court of law and you disobey the court of law and you call yourself a good Nigerian, it is unfortunate.
It seems that you are acting against your party and speaking against your presidential candidate. What really are your plans for the party as acting chairman?
I am fully behind Obi’s mandate. Nobody will tell me that they are more obedient than myself because where I voted and the vote I got are confirmations of my wish for Obi to rule Nigeria. None of them can tell me that they are more of it than myself. So I am fully with him, and on Obi’s mandate I stand, because if he wins the election and he becomes president, I think my life will be better than what it is now. There is no doubt about that, so anybody who is saying something contrary is just mischievous. I prefer to be there, and I keep on maintaining that on Obi’s mandate, I stand. I have said that I am acting chairman of the party.
If Abure is lucky to get himself cleared from his forgery cases, he can come back and take back his position—I am in the acting capacity. But because people want to misinterpret the whole thing, they are saying it the way they understand it. Some people are acting out of ignorance, but if they knew the consequences of disobeying court orders, I don’t think they would have done it.
Did you win your ward for the Labour Party? And why didn’t the Labour Party do well in Oyo State? Tell us your ward number so that we can check it out and be able to verify. Secondly, do you believe that your actions yesterday have made a mockery of your chances? Does party supremacy ever count in your dictionary?
Yes, party supremacy counts. My actions yesterday were never a mockery. For someone to ask for his rights is never a mockery. We’re going to court there; is that a mockery? Is it a mockery for us to go to the tribunal? For us to claim our rights is not a mockery? It depends on your own interpretation. To me, it is not a mockery. And what I asked Obi to do to me was not a mockery. Was I the person who caused the pandemonium? So if you are saying that now, then refer it to who initiated it, not me, who was obedient? Who was orderly? It is never a mockery. I was there to claim my authority. If you talk of the authority of the party, as far as I am concerned today, I am the authority.
If I cannot be recognised there and a woman leader is there in the court, then if it can go that way, then let’s leave it as it is and see the end of the matter. If I cannot be recognised there and a woman is there raising her hand and the court is silent over it, it is an abnormality.
Do you love the party so much that you are ready to die for it, or do you plan to go tomorrow with your own team of thugs?
I intend to go, but nobody should compel me not to go. Those who said I should not go, are they not the supporters of Obi that he brought to the court to beat me up? There is something called the “law of karma,” and it will bounce on everybody who misbehaves.
Do you think the Labour Party should challenge the result of the election in court, or would you rather they withdrew and supported the government of national unity of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu?
I don’t support the idea that they should withdraw. I have said it several times: when you have a good case to handle, how will you withdraw? I am not in support of withdrawing the case from the court. On the issue of a national unity government, it is nothing but grammatical. Whether democratic or whatever, every government is a unity government—it’s just semantics. So it is the grammar. I am not in support of withdrawal because we have a case with the APC, and that case must be treated accordingly and according to the logical conclusion. That is my belief, and I stand by it.
If Bola Tinubu calls you for national unity, would you honour the invitation?
I will consult the national executive council, and if they say I should go, then of course I will. In that case, it becomes the position of the party, not mine. If we go and see him, it becomes the position of the party, not the position of Alhaji Lamidi Apapa.
Were you involved in the process of putting together the legal team to challenge the outcome in court?
By the time the legal team was put together, I was the deputy chairman, and Abure was the one who assembled the team. When he (Abure) now stepped aside, I demanded that I be briefed. I don’t think it is too much for me to ask.