There seems to be no end in sight for the trouble rocking Nigeria’s Labour Party—the party whose presidential candidate, Peter Obi, at the February 25 presidential election is contesting the outcome that declared Ahmed Bola Tinubu the winner.
The crisis took another stage as the principal officers of the warring factions, Patrick Abure and Lamidi Apapa, both men claiming to be the national chairman of the party, exchanged words, allegations, and counter-allegations on national television.
As guests on the Arise Television Morning Show on Thursday, Prince Kennedy Ahanotu, the Deputy National Secretary of the Labour Party loyal to embattled National Chairman Patrick Abure, threw allegations of corruption and anti-party activities at the Apapa-led Labour Party, which was represented by Akingbade Oyinlekun, the factional Labour Party National Legal Adviser.
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Questioned about the party’s plans to challenge the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the presidential election tribunal, including the scuffle in the party, Ahanotu pointed accusing fingers at Akingbade, Apapa, and five others for not only engaging in anti-party activities but also corruption and trying to subvert the chances of their candidate at the court of law.
“What actually happened was that on the 5th of April, Akingbade, Apapa, and some five other individuals attempted to hijack the party by breaking into the party’s office and distributing positions to themselves without prior notice of any meeting of any sort, for either the NWC or the NEC,” Ahanotu said.
He accused Apapa and his supporters of recalling members of the party that had been suspended, thereby throwing the party’s future into confusion and grave uncertainty.
“No notice was given; we have a platform, and they hijack the party. They besieged the party office, broke in, and distributed positions to themselves, and immediately the same day decided to recall back people that were suspended,” he explained, describing further how they tried to weaken the basic fabric of the party by dissolving the campaign council without consulting the NEC or anybody else.
He also presented a specific case of antiparty activity carried out by Akingbade, the factional national legal adviser, where on the 7th of April, a notice of withdrawal was issued in Edo State, where he was said to have represented the party without consulting the national chairman and leadership of the party and pushed for the withdrawal of the cases of the party’s candidate.
He added that, “There are instances where candidates from Obiorko have also called for such action to be taken against him and also in Lagos.
“What is happening is that the Labour Party is under attack, and the instruments that have been used are the same Akingbade, the same legal adviser, because the NEC has suspended him.”
In response to the allegations made by Ahanotu, Akingbade insisted that he and his principal (Apapa) have never and will never withdraw the case of Peter Obi in court, and they stand by him in reclaiming his stolen mandate.
He said that all those pushing such falsehoods should produce legal documents asking the court to withdraw Obi’s petition.
“I want to say emphatically that there was never an attempt to withdraw Peter Obi’s petition from the tribunal,” he said.
“I also read it on the news online, and I challenge them to present documents where we actually filed to withdraw the petition of Peter Obi from the tribunal. There was nothing like that,” he insisted rather emphatically.
Akingbade accused Kennedy and those in Abure’s camp of just being “alarmists and confusionists,” claiming again that any talk of withdrawing the Labour Party’s petition is false and shouldn’t be taken seriously.
He said, “Not that alone; he talked about what happened in the buildup to this crisis. I told people that there is no crisis in this party; we only have misunderstandings.
“Now we are talking about a court of competent jurisdiction giving an order to restrain four officers that we indicted by a police investigation report—and the party National Working Committee acted on it.”
On the allegation of breaking into the national secretariat of the party, he rebutted it, claiming that they only acted on the order of the court.
“He spoke on the fact that we broke into the office; there was nothing like that. As a matter of fact, we got to the office and acted on the order of the court because messages were sent to members of the NWC, only for Ahanotu to claim that he did not receive the notice,” he said.
“Members of the National Working Committee were 18, four were restrained, two were initially suspended, and we lost one. So we were left with eleven. Seven from eleven met, which formed a quorum and took a decision. …..the decision of the national working committee is binding on every member,” he added.
On the allegation of the substitution of a party candidate in Edo State, Akingbade insisted that the rightful candidate was Murphy, not the former speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly.
He accused Abure of compromising, especially after taking money from the former speaker to substitute Murphy.
He said, “I want to also let us know that in Edo, the Labour Party candidate is Murphy, not Etire. Murphy went to court and won because he participated in the primaries of the party and became the winner, but Julius Abure, the former national chairman, in his usual way, collected money and changed names. These are the things that happen all over the country.
“Like in the case of the police report, Eze in Ebonyi had his name changed because N200 million was collected. The person who paid the money wrote a statement that is before the police that he paid N200 million in four installments, which was why they changed the name of a candidate.
“So what we did in Edo was to stand by our candidate, Mr. Murphy, and say no, that the former speaker of the House of Assembly in Edo State is not our candidate because he did not participate in our primaries, and that the person who emerged in our primaries is the person we are giving support to.
“So we are telling the court that that person who filed a petition in court is not our candidate.”