Ahead of next year’s general elections, the protracted crisis in the Delta State Labour Party (LP) is taking its toll on the chapter. OKUNGBOWA AIWERIE examines the genesis of the crisis and its impact on the preparations for the 2019 governorship poll.
There is unease within the ranks of the Labour Party (LP) in Delta State, following a leadership tussle threatening to tear the chapter apart.
The factional leaders, Chief Tony Ezeagwu and Emeka Nwaola, are in court to seeking adjudication on the rightful person to lead the party.
Ezeagwu has already filed a suit at the state High Court in Kwale, praying the court to restrain the caretaker committee chairman, Nkwoala, from parading himself as chairman.
Nkwoala said the caretaker committee which he heads as chairman has raised a team of lawyers to defend the case.
He stated that going by the constitution of the party, Ezeagwu’s three year tenure ended in September last year, adding that a special national convention formally dissolved the Ezeagwu-led executive and inaugurated the caretaker committee in October, 2017.
Nwaola stressed: “Because Ezeagwu has taken us to court, it shows that he has accepted the decision of the convention, and should therefore, stop parading himself as chairman until the court gives a ruling on the matter.
“For now, he is still going about illegally claiming to be chairman of the Labour Party by operating from the party’s former office. Ezeagwu does not share the ideology of the party; he is neither a trade unionist nor a member of a professional body.”
Ezeagwu told reporters that the court has already issued an order restraining Nkwoala from parading himself as chairman.
The crisis in the party started last year when the governorship candidate of Labour Party (LP) in Delta State for the 2015 election, Chief Great Ogboru, resigned from the party, shortly before dumping the party for the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Ogboru had claimed to have entered into an agreement with the leadership of the LP in the state and at the national level to use the party to realise his ambition.
As stated by Ogboru, part of the agreement was that members of LP would form the government with him and his DPP, if he had won the election, and the party would revert to status quo, if he failed.
In his letter of resignation addressed to the party chairman, Nkwoala, Ogboru said all the members of DPP who came into the LP would be defecting the APC to provide “a strong, formidable, reliable and credible alternative to leadership in our state, and by extension good governance.”
The letter dated April 26, 2016 added that all those who came from DPP to LP “and others of like minds will henceforth, cease to be members of the LP.”
Ogboru added: “This, of course, is part of our agreement when we moved enmass to the LP. I have also written to you as chairman because this was our understanding with you then, that you shall revert back to the chairman in the event of our mass exodus to a new party,” it added.
But, the national leadership of the party distanced the party from Ogboru’s claims. Instead, it suspended Ogboru and 13 others over alleged anti-party activities, gross misconduct and conspiracy.
The LP National Chairman, Alhaji Abdulkadir Salam, dismissed the resignation, saying that Ogboru resigned to an “unfounded and unknown chairman created by him.”
Salam reaffirmed Ezeagwu as the authentic chairman recognised by the National Secretariat, stressing that he did not receive any resignation letter from Ogboru, but got to know about it on the pages of newspapers.
The leadership crisis further deepened in last year, following a special national convention of the party and the emergence of a caretaker committee headed by Nkwoala as a parallel structure to the state executive committee led by Ezeagwu.
The factional National Chairman of the party, Dr. Michael Omotosho, who was represented by his national youth leader, Andrew Ukpebitere, inaugurated the caretaker committee, saying that the Ezeagwu-led state executive committee was dissolved alongside the national executive under the chairmanship of Salam at the party’s special convention in Abuja.
However, Ezeagwu described his purported removal as illegal, insisting that he remained the chairman.
Ezeagwu described the national convention as illegal, saying that it was organised by disgruntled elements in the party. He said they did not have a right to organise a national convention in the first instance.
Ukpebitere urged Ezeagwu to summit himself to the disciplinary committee that was set up to try his anti-party activities and other allegations proffered against him or risk being arrested.
He said: “Ezeagwu’s constitutional three years tenure has since elapsed. INEC participated in the Special National Convention. The dissolution also affected the executives of the party in Anambra and Rivers states. He will be arrested in accordance with the law if he does not stop parading himself as the state chairman of the party.”
The chairman of the caretaker committee, Nkwoala while vowing to rebuild the party and make it the beautiful bride ahead of council elections in the state, said his appointment has been communicated to the state Commissioner of Police and the Director of the Department of Security (DSS).
But, Ezeagwu is optimistic over the chances of the Labour Party at the next general elections. He said the emergence of an authentic chairman at the end of the day will help the party emerged stronger.
He said: “The main reasons I have gone to court is for the court to pronounce who the authentic chairman of the party is? The LP is strong and on ground .When a judgment is delivered, the LP will field candidates for the forthcoming elections. I have obtained an order restraining Emeka Nwaoala from parading himself as Chairman of the Labour Party.”
But, with the legal battle between the two gladiators, the party is weakened and preparations for the governorship elections is taking a back seat, paving the way for the ruling PDP to profit from the festering crisis, ahead of the poll.
– The Nation