LP crisis: Obi’s visit worsens Abure’s woes

Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in last year’s general elections, Peter Obi, last week paid a surprise visit to the headquarters of the party in Abuja on Tuesday.

However, the visit earlier perceived to be an endorsement of the national chairman, Julius Abure, outlived its glamour quite shortly, as suspension hammer descended on the embattled national chairman over the weekend.

Reports emerged on Saturday that Abure was suspended from the party in Ward 3 in Arue-Uromi, in Esan North-East Local Government Area of Edo State for alleged high-handedness and anti-party activities.

A letter of suspension dated May 14, 2024, and another letter of ratification dated May 15, 2024, both of which were ratified at a meeting of the state executive committee on Friday night in Benin, stated that the suspension is with immediate effect.

It advised Abure to stop holding out or parading himself as a member of the party.

The letter of suspension was signed by the Ward Chairman, Thompson Ehiguese, and Ward Secretary, Stanley Usiomoh.

The embattled national chairman of the party has been caught in the web of several allegations ranging from financial misappropriation to anti-party activities. However, he has continued to deny any wrongdoing.

Obi had addressed his supporters on X space in March after the party’s controversial national convention.

He said he missed the convention because the party leadership, led by Abure, failed to consult widely with important party stakeholders before holding the convention.

The former Anambra State governor also said he was more committed to creating a new Nigeria than a new Labour Party.

But in what seemed like a change of heart, Obi visited the LP office, urging aggrieved party members to put the survival of Nigerians and Nigeria first above all other interests.

He said he was at the national secretariat for a visit to the chairman and that he would continue to work to bring all warring parties over the crisis in the party to become united.

“For now let us talk about how we are going to survive till then because we politicians always focus on the next election and not about human beings.

“Let us focus on Nigeria, and see that Nigeria works, if Nigeria is working, the Labour Party will work,” Obi said.

As expected, Abure seized the opportunity and swiftly urged varying groups of dissent voices over the controversial Nnewi convention to come together.

Abure said they should set their personal interests aside and work for a party that would make a good show in the next election season.

“I want to say this very clearly, the convention has come and gone, all those who are still angry with us over the Nnewi convention, we want to appeal to them and that they should all come together to work with us to build the party for a new Nigeria that has a vision.

“I believe very strongly that personal interest should be put aside and pursue a new Nigeria that will work for all,” he said.

The visit stirred further trouble for Abure, leading to his suspension from the party.

The Edo State chairman of the party said there were heavy allegations against Abure.

He stated that the party’s EXCO in Ward 3 in Arue-Uromi and the Esan North-East Local Government Area of Edo State presented a document containing various allegations leveled against the embattled national chairman to the state executive committee, leading to the endorsement of his suspension.

He said, “the Ward and Local Government EXCOs submitted some documents carrying various degrees of allegations of wrong doings.

“The state council looked at the matter and considered that there was sufficient weight in the allegation and that was why we endorsed the suspension.

“When there are such allegations, what we do is to put such a person in suspension in order to allow for a thorough investigation and that is what we did.

“He (Abure) was suspended in personal capacity not as National Chairman but just as a party member.

“We are setting up a committee to look into the allegations so that if at the end of the day, the National Chairman is not found guilty, the suspension can be vacated and he will return as a member of the party”.

Asked to explain the anti-party activities Abure was accused of, Ogbaloi said, “anti-party here doesn’t mean he has a strong affair with the opposition.

“If there is anything that is likely to bring the party into dispute, or attitudes that do not follow the objective of the party, we can term it as anti-party”.

On how the current leadership crisis in the Labour Party may affect the forthcoming gubernatorial election in the state, he said, “Although we are not clearly separated from challenges as you can see, we are doing our best. We are not losing focus due to the challenges we have at hand.

“We are keeping our parts right and making sure that all the required strategies that can lead us to winning this election are doubled up.

“I can assure Nigerians, especially party supporters, that we are not losing sleep in spite of the hard times we are currently facing.

“We will get there and compete appropriately like any other political party, we are going there to win the election and nothing else.”

Allegations of embezzlement

It could be recalled that Obi in February 2024 called for a thorough and forensic investigation into an embezzlement allegation against the embattled chairman.

The call by the former Anambra Governor was in response to allegations earlier made by Oluchi Oparah, the national treasurer of the party, accusing Abure of allegedly misappropriating N3.5 billion.

Oparah also alleged that the Abure-led National Working Committee, NWC, was working hand-in-hand with the Edo State Government and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, ahead of the September 2024 governorship polls.

Abure’s face-off with NLC

The Abure-led NWC of the party was recently under attack by the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, over allegations of maladministration and fraud.

NLC and some stakeholders of the party accused Abure of running the party as a “sole administrator”, leading to the picketing of the party’s national secretariat.

The Deputy President of the NLC Political Commission, Dr Theophilus Ndubuaku, who spoke when the workers occupied the Labour Party headquarters in Abuja, said the decision to picket the party’s national secretariat was taken to express workers’ grievances against Abure’s style of leadership.

He said, “now, it is in the hands of this usurper, he is looking for N30 million, N40 million, and so on to buy forms, excluding the people who founded the party. Enough is enough, Abure must go,” said the acting General Secretary of NLC, Comrade Bello Ismail on the cost of governorship interest and nomination forms.

Similarly, in a letter issued by Comrades TItus Amba and Chris Uyot, the chairman and the secretary of NLC Political Commission, respectively, the union also knocked Abure for not being committed to the ideology of the Labour Party.

Controversial national convention

The Abure-led NWC held a controversial national convention in Nnewi, Anambra State, on March 27 despite opposition from several stakeholders.

Many stakeholders fell out with Abure after the notice of the convention was issued to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on March 13.

The move was rejected by critical stakeholders, such as the House of Reps Caucus and the NLC.

Both Obi and Governor Alex Otti of Abia State did not attend the convention.

Recall that prior to the exercise, the NLC Political Commission, in an open letter dated March 15, condemned the convention, saying that critical stakeholders were not carried along.

While demanding for the immediate resignation of Abure, the commission described the convention as illegal, noting that it would not allow any form of illegality in the affairs of the party to stand.

But despite the controversy, the convention was held on March 27, with Abure and seven other National Working Committee members of the party reelected.

Obi’s romance with Abure divides Obidients

Although Obi had assured Nigerians that the outcome of the investigation into the allegations against Abure would be made public, he is yet to speak on the matter.

Speculation about Obi’s romance with the party chairman was further escalated on Tuesday after his visit to Abure’s office at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja.

Some stakeholders of the party who were not comfortable with the development, had distanced themselves from Abure and Obi.

A chieftain of the Labour Party and director of Mobilisation and Contact in Diaspora, Chief Patrick Eholor, at the weekend, expressed dismay over the inability of Obi to resolve the intractable leadership crisis that has continued to plague the party.

According to him, the lack of interest to call a spade a spade, especially in the face of the allegations against Abure speaks volume, wondering why Obi had not waded into the crisis to save the party.

Eholor said, “Peter Obi has his own tricks on his sleeves, that’s why he is afraid to either condemn Abure or address the matter because of his 2027 ambition. I say that categorically without apologies.

“Labour Party, LP, has its own peculiar problem. Its problem has to do with the leadership. The likes of Peter Obi got the party ticket on a platter of gold.

“If you can’t fix your political party and you continue to sleep with Abure on the same bed with all the allegations within and outside your party, how can we now trust you that you will be able to manage the affairs of Nigeria? If you can’t trust a messenger, how do you now trust his message?

“I sacrificed a lot for Peter Obi and Ahmed Datti. I know my contribution financially and emotionally. I also know the risk that I have taken so far to ensure that Peter Obi becomes the president of this country. Unfortunately, we were ‘rigged out’.”

Similarly, a chieftain of the party in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Mr Peters Olaigama said Obi is “no longer interested in the party”.

According to him, “the body language of Peter Obi says it all. He is obviously not interested in the party anymore. And you just can’t blame him.

“A party that came into the limelight just recently is having a crisis everywhere, this is not what will actualize his dream so I strongly believe that his love for the party has died.

“And trust me, the moment Obi leaves this party, nobody may hear of it again and all the crisis will end. All these problems here and there have been sponsored by those intimidated by his moves. They know very well that if the party is united, it will win any election in Nigeria.

“But then, I blame Obi for not speaking up against those bringing the party down. Somebody’s name has been stained and you still want him to lead the party? That’s not correct.

“It should not be what he feels but what party members feel. Stakeholders are no longer comfortable with Abure so why is he still heading the part? As a person who is planning to rule a country like Nigeria, you can’t settle an issue in your party? That is not correct”.

However, Dr Yunusa Salisu Tanko, the chief spokesperson for the defunct 2023 Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council, while speaking on Saturday, insisted that Obi’s visit to Abure’s office had nothing to do with endorsement.

He said, “His Excellency visited Abure’s office on reconciliation moves and not for the endorsement of anybody.

“He is only trying to reconcile everybody so that all of us can work as a single body”.

Reacting to reports of those threatening to dump Obi over his ties with Abure, Tanko said, “Peter Obi is a brand of his own. He is an independent brand. It was his popularity that brought into the Labour Party.

“Remember that we are the one who organized and mobilized the third force leadership led by Professor Pat Utomi and we announced the incoming of our movement into the Labour Party before Peter Obi joined the party.

“So it is not a sole right of a single person to lay claim to the success of the party. The success of the party is a conglomerate of everyone that loves Peter Obi.

“We are hardened supporters of Peter Obi and we will continue to do so unti by the grace of God, we win the election”.

On his part, one of the spokespersons for the LP Presidential Campaign Organization, Kenneth Okonkwo, said he was distancing himself from the Julius Abure-led National Working Committee of the Labour Party, LP.

Okonkwo, a veteran Nollywood actor, said he couldn’t continue with a corrupt and incompetent NWC led by Abure.

Okonkwo said he couldn’t continue with a corrupt and incompetent NWC led by Abure.

In a post on his X handle, the Nollywood veteran expressed strong condemnation of the national convention organised by Abure, saying it was rife with criminality and corruption.

“I am suspending my relationship in all ramifications with the purported Abure-led National Working Committee of the Labour Party.

“For me, it’s either a new Nigeria or nothing. I prefer to lose doing the right thing to winning doing the wrong thing.

“Nothing can wash out the criminality, corruption, and incompetence with which the purported National Convention was purportedly organised by Abure.

“I did not leave the comfort of a ruling party, APC, because I believe that they are incompetent and dishonest, only to come and join another incompetent and corrupt association, which is the current Abure-led National Working Committee of the Labour Party.”

Also, another supporter of Obi, identified as Dr A.I., in a post on his X handle asked the presidential candidate to clarify if he endorsed the Abure-led NWC of the Labour Party.

He wrote: “Dear @PeterObi

Did you endorse the Abure -Led NWC of the Labour Party? Was your visit hinged on endorsing the controversial NWC led by Abure? Accept our highest assurances as we await your kind response. A new Nigeria is possible! Thanks. Yours Sincerely, Dr. A.I”

While another supporter, Mallam Jabir wrote on X: “Peter Obi shouldn’t have honoured Abure’s invitation to the secretariat since it was not on his schedule.

“Look at what his good heart is causing the whole Obidients and stakeholders now.

“It’s not politically sagacious to allow a cheap ambush like this.

“Peter Obi should be seen to distance himself from Abure since Abure is no longer being recognised by virtue of his tenure expiration and the illegal convention at Awka.”

Jack the Builder also wrote on X: “Endorsing Abure is like Endorsing Yakubu Mahmoud or Bola Tinubu.

“If I see any evidence of him endorsing Abure, I will personally denounce him publicly and stop posting anything about him. It is an insult to soldiers like me that risked my life greatly in 2023. You can’t do that!”

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