Nigeria’s Political Space Watch: The Unexpected Rise Of Labour Party
There’s no hiding it -The recent conclusion of the Nigerian elections has left citizens pondering the results. Nonetheless, the Labour Party has emerged as a significant player in the political sphere, no longer overshadowed by the two primary parties, and this is a positive many political aficionados will be focused on. The party’s unexpected success in specific regions is attributed to its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, who helped gain momentum despite not winning the election. Today, the Labour Party (LP) stands as one of the three dominant political parties in Nigeria, alongside the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
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About Labour Party – Brief History
The political party in Nigeria is known for its social-democratic beliefs and principles. Originally called the Party for Social Democracy (PSD), the party was established in 2002 and later changed its name to the current Labour Party. Its main objective is to promote social justice, progress, and unity by advocating and defending democratic ideals. Interestingly, the Labour Party had already existed as an organization before its registration, owing to its progressive and labor-based involvement in national politics. This dates back to the struggle for national independence from British colonialism, making it a part of the party’s rich heritage.
Following the passing of the late National Chairman, Alhaji Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, in 2020, the Labour Party faced a severe leadership crisis. In 2021, Barrister Julius Abure was elected as the new National Chairman by the Labour Party National Executive Council (NEC), succeeding Abdulsalam. However, Calistus Okafor, the former Deputy National Chairman, disputed Abure’s claim to the position and challenged him. Nevertheless, Abure retained his position as chairman and has continued contesting warring factions and his challengers for the party’s top position. However, that’s a story for another day.
As the 2023 Nigerian general election approached, Peter Obi received endorsements from the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, who urged their members to support him. This was the first time the trade union federations publicly backed a political party candidate. Additionally, Alex Otti, the Labour Party Governorship candidate, made history by becoming the party’s first Eastern Governor-Elect in recent years during the gubernatorial election in Abia state. However, it should be noted that Olusegun Mimiko had previously served two terms as the governor of Ondo State under the Labour Party banner from 2009 to 2017 before returning to the PDP in 2020.
From May 2022, the Labour Party experienced a significant membership and support base surge. This was mainly due to the decision of Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra State, to join the party. Following his exit from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Obi launched his bid for the Nigerian presidential election in 2023. This move by Obi effectively opened the door for the Labour Party to secure numerous Senate and House of Representative positions in the National Assembly elections held on February 25, 2023. Such developments caused a significant shift in the Nigerian political landscape, as the Labour Party emerged as a formidable force to reckon with.
Obi chose to join the Labour Party after failing to garner enough support to win the PDP’s presidential primary. He also declined the opportunity to be Atiku’s running mate as Vice. As a result, he emerged as the sole presidential candidate for the Labour Party after his competitors, Pat Utomi, Faduri Joseph, and Olubusola Emmanuel-Tella, withdrew from the contest. In Lagos state, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour became the party’s governorship candidate -and what a run they had at the polls.
The enduring popularity and widespread support for Peter Obi, the former Governor of Anambra State and presidential candidate for the Labour Party, propelled the party onto the national stage. It has gained a reputation that made both the ruling All Progressive Congress and the main Opposition, the People’s Democratic Party, feel threatened. The 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections were marked by surprising and unprecedented results that have not been seen since the return of democratic governance in 1999. Seven incumbent governors who typically use the National Assembly as a retirement home were unsuccessful in their bids for re-election to the 10th Senate. However, the most surprising outcome was the Labour Party’s ability to unseat many serving lawmakers, including principal officers.
The current distribution of Senate seats in Nigeria is a testament to LP’s influence in the recent elections. The All Progressives Congress came out on top with 57 seats, while the Peoples Democratic Party secured 29 seats. The Labour Party and New Nigerian Peoples Party won six and two seats, respectively. The Social Democratic Party and All Progressives Grand Alliance secured two seats, and the Young Peoples’s Party won a single seat. These results reflect the growing Nigerian politics’ diverse and dynamic nature and the importance of active participation in the democratic process.
Also, in the House of Representatives, APC won 262, PDP 102; LP 34, APGA four; African Democratic Congress (ADC), and SDP won two, while YPP won one. This would make the incoming 10th Assembly the most diverse since 1999 in terms of party representations. Some notable LP wins include defeating the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, who was seeking re-election for a fifth term. He was defeated by the Labour Party’s candidate, Ngozi Okolie, in the Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency of Delta State. Elumelu polled 33,456 votes, while the LP candidate polled 53,879 to emerge the winner.
Additionally, Chief Amobi Ogah of the Labour Party easily won the election, ending Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha’s (APC) hopes of serving a fifth term as deputy chief whip of the House of Representatives: the returning officer, Barr. Nneoma Nnochiri announced the results, noting that LP scored 11,769, PDP 6760, APC 8752, and APGA 1,198.
The recently held elections in Enugu and Anambra states have created a buzz in the political arena. The Labour Party (LP) has emerged as the winner in both states, which is a significant achievement for the party. In Enugu, the LP candidate Okey Ezea defeated Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu North) in the Senatorial race. As a result, the LP secured a majority of positions, except for two won by the PDP. This victory has strengthened the position of the LP in Enugu’s political landscape.
In Anambra, the LP has managed to secure most of the National Assembly seats, including two out of three senatorial zones and almost all of the Federal House of Representatives seats. This is a remarkable feat for the party as it has established a strong presence in a state that other political parties have traditionally dominated. Furthermore, the LP’s success in both states is a testament to the party’s growing popularity and the people’s trust in their ability to deliver on their promises. Overall, this is a significant win for the LP and a clear indication of its growing influence in the Nigerian political arena.
LP supporters retired many political actors in the state, especially two of the incumbent senators, Uche Ekwunife of the People’s Democratic Party (Anambra Central) and Stella Oduah of the People’s Democratic Party (Anambra North), both of whom lost to their Labour Party opponents. In Lagos, Thaddeus Attah of LP defeated incumbent Jide Obanikoro in Eti-Osa Federal Constituency. At the same time, in the Federal Capital Territory, LP candidate Ireti Kingibe garnered 202,175 votes to defeat incumbent Senator Philip Aduda of the PDP.
Birth of “Obi-dients”
Unlike previous presidential elections, where only the APC and PDP parties were the major contenders, this time, Peter Obi representing the LP party, entered the race, creating a new player in the political field. His emergence led to the ‘Obidient’ movement, mainly composed of young people, who utilized his positive reputation to establish a third political force. Peter Obi is currently viewed as the most capable candidate to steer the country out of its present economic and security predicaments and is even recognized by the international community. However, it’s crucial to note that the Obi-dient movement is not just a group supporting the LP’s candidate but also a leaderless movement that aims to promote citizens’ welfare and demand transparent governance from elected officials who should prioritize the people’s interests over their own.
It is pretty amusing to witness the growing strength of the Obi-dient movement, especially because both the ruling APC and central Opposition PDP previously labeled the Labour Party as a “Party without structure” and Obi-dients as mere “social media noisemakers.” PDP’s presidential hopeful, Atiku Abubakar, even stated that the Labour Party lacks the necessary “structure” to emerge victorious in the 2023 presidential election.
Indeed, before the elections, the “Obi-dient Movement” faced criticism from various Party leaders and the President-elect of the APC, Bola Tinubu, who deemed their actions as immature and disorderly. However, the influence exerted by the movement during the election results and the surrounding events that raised concerns about INEC’s decision-making process caused a shift in the Opposition’s stance. In light of these developments, the Opposition has retracted their previous comments and is advocating for “alignment.” This shift in political dynamics has piqued the interest of many, making this year’s polls one of the most intriguing in recent times.
The “Obi Effect” And The Rise Of Labour Party
Yes, Peter Obi’s influence is undeniable and continues to grow, and he is even well-acclaimed amongst the international community. But mind you; Obi didn’t do this alone, even though he seems to be the frontman. His running mate, Yusuf Datti, is one of the most seasoned educators in the country, and it’s unsurprising he joined forces with Obi to preach the gospel of a Better Nigeria.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the “Obi Effect” significantly impacts the Labour Party’s recent successes. This has led to the party gaining a reputation for political integrity and respect, even among those traditionally privileged and staunch of the Opposition who have openly been vocal.
In recent political news, the presidential candidate for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, had expressed interest in allying with the Labour Party (LP) led by Peter Obi even as the duo seeks to contest INEC’s decision in court. This is a surprising development, given that Atiku had previously criticized the LP for being disorganized. However, it seems that Atiku is now willing to put aside his differences with Obi to challenge the legitimacy of President-elect Bola Tinubu’s inauguration. Atiku has been vocal in his Opposition to INEC’s decision to declare Tinubu the winner of the election, and he seems determined to seek a fair resolution of the results. However, even if it means that Obi is declared the winner, Atiku is committed to upholding the principles of democracy and the rule of law. This is just one of the numerous examples that have arisen following the effect of the rise of LP in politics.
It is important to note that Peter Gregory Obi didn’t “win” the Presidential Polls -he didn’t even place 2nd as ruled by INEC. Still, he remains the most-talked of all presidential candidates since Goodluck contested against Buhari. True, INEC’s ruling is still challenged in the Tribunals as Atiku joins Obi and other concerned Parties to challenge the “Stolen Mandate.” What becomes of this outcome in the courts will go down in the annals of history -Good or Bad.
The recent court ruling is expected to garner significant interest from the Nigerian populace, who have demonstrated a growing interest in their political landscape and are eager for a government that truly values the people. Indeed, It is widely acknowledged that Obi’s efforts in stirring the populace into awareness have played a pivotal role in promoting political consciousness among the citizens, thereby catalyzing the emergence of the Labour Party.