From Ogbonnaya Ndukwe, Aba

Newly elected National Vice Chairman (Southeast), of the Labour Party (LP), Chief Ceekay Igara, has said outsiders were responsible for the disagreements that tried to mar the Nnewi national convention of the party in March, during which current National Chairman, Julius Abure, was re-elected. He said the labour movement, especially the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), acted in error to engage in ordering the party on what to do, despite not having any legal authority to do so. The outgoing Abia chairman of the party, lauded Gov Alex Otti, for working towards repositioning the state, building infrastructure and creating conducive environment for socio-economic development.



There seems to be many haggling, litigations in and out of court, in the national body of your party. A planned national convention was shifted twice from Benin to Umuahia and finally got held in Nnewi, Anambra State, though some groups and individuals have denounced its outcome, calling it a non event. What exactly is the problem?

Do we have any problem? We don’t have any. It’s just a creation of imaginations by some people, those that believe when they call themselves, “Obidients,” even when not being LP members, they will be directing us on what to do, how to run the party. The party said, “No,” it wasn’t going to be run like that. Before anyone starts telling us what to do, he or she must be a registered member. That settles it. I mean, one cannot tell me how my house ought to be built when he or she isn’t a member of my family. That’s why some people hired thugs to start rubbishing our activities but at the end what happened? The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said what we did was okay with them.

   Are you saying in other words, that what the NLC, was quarreling about, on the re-election of your National Chairman, Chief Abure, for another term in office, has been quashed by INEC?

Of course, yes! It must. The labour movement, especially the NLC, is not the owner of the Labour Party. It must have facilitated its registration as a political party. That does not confer on it the right to own it. Likewise, the people who registered other parties like the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC), the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and a host of others, don’t own them. Only the registered members of any political party form its ownership. If you read Section 2, of Nigeria’s Constitution, it said, “We, the people of Nigeria, have decided to give ourselves this Constitution. It didn’t say, Nigeria Labour Congress, so they don’t have any such right to claim ownership of any political party except they resign from their positions to become members of the party. If they think they did, why have they now resorted to negotiations with us? This is because their former ground was not legitimate, not legal.

So, they are currently negotiating with your national executive, on what grounds, one may ask?

Of course, they – the NLC and TUC (Trade Union Congress), have one office each, in our party’s national executive committee (NEC), as deputy chairmen. Both, also have positions as deputy chairmen, in state executive committees (SEC), across the 36 states. These are the people who are supposed to inform them on our activities within the national and state party leaderships. It is not our duty, to report daily runnings of the Labour Party to the trade unions.

Having what you are saying in mind, how come, labour, said it owned the party, which is referred to as, “Workers’ party”?

That’s what they had claimed in the obvious fact that it was the leadership of the movement, that registered it as a political party and have the certificate of registration from INEC. The question is, does that matter? We say “No,” to that. Registration does not confer one with authority or right of being owner. NLC or TUC, are not registered as participants in politics. They are not run as political parties, so it is only a political party that can operate as one. Like we said earlier, if NLC officials want to engage in politics, they should resign their industrial union offices and register as party members.

      I tell you, INEC, has given us a clean bill of health on the conduct of the Nnewi national convention. It gave us approval on what transpired there because, the Commission, was notified that it was going to be held. Section 28, of the Nigerian Constitution, said political parties should give INEC, 21 days notice. It didn’t say, bring INEC, rather to notify it. That’s what we have done. I really don’t know why some people were shouting through the window from outside because we that were inside the house, knew what we were doing. LP is ruled by law. We are an organised people.

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There was the rumour that prominent individuals in the party, including the presidential candidate in last year’s election, Peter Obi, Abia Governor, Alex Otti, among others, distanced themselves from the event. In fact, it was claimed that Obi, was planning to dump the party, that was why he refused to attend. What can you say to this?

It’s not true. He knew and knows everything about the convention. The only difference, is that our party constitution, did not recognize the office of a presidential candidate, rather that of former or serving president, former and serving governor, members of the national and state assemblies, elected on its platform, as special delegates. Obi, was governor of Anambra State, in the platform of another political party, APGA. That’s why people misunderstood his absence. Abia governor, Dr Alex Otti, was there through his deputy, Ikechukwu Emetu. His commissioners, members of state and national assemblies, adviser, assistants and other party delegates well attended and it was a success.

Let’s come to Abia to look at the activities of Gov Otti’s administration. It’s your party, LP, that is in power in the state but if asked to sincerely appraise the government and its style this 12 months, what would you say?

When the administration started, we told the people that it has come to uplift Abia to greater heights, to upgrade the welfare of the people, pay arrears of workers salaries and pensioners emoluments, build infrastructures, as well as provide security because without it, none of the things mentioned earlier will work. Now, I want to judge from the issue of security. The government pursued it headlong, identifying and dislodging the criminals that held sway at Lokpanta in Umunneochi. Immediately after, it set up a taskforce called, “Operation Crush,” which is operating in every corner of the state today. They have been able to maintain serenity, quietness that is subsisting today in Abia.

     Coming to infrastructural development, I believe that you are in Aba and seeing the intractable roads the governor has embarked on rebuilding. Roads like Port Harcourt Road, Obohia Road, among others. Go to Osaa Road, in Umuahia, and other parts of the state. To us, the government is seriously working along the interest of the people and ensuring that majority of Abians are happy. Finally, on workers salary payment, we know that arrears owed by previous administrations have been paid. They may not be very perfect, but to a large extent, I am believing that in the next few months, everybody would be on the same beat to make sure those remaining would have been settled. So far, I can say, so good.

There’s an argument going on between Dr Otti’s style and those of his predecessors, in management of state affairs including finances. The governor, came out with an alleged involvement of about N107 billion in phantom contract awards, including doling out N10 billion, to a contractor, for a non-existent Abia airport project. However, the former administration of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, is saying, that was not true. In fact, the former governor, has accused his successor of witch-hunting. What’s your take on this? Don’t you think these arguments are a result of improper handover of governance, when it was due?

You may be right in your calculations. However, let’s put it this way. Though I don’t have much details of the governor’s statement alleging the spendings, one thing about it is clear; Dr Otti, may be speaking on the basis of facts in his custody. He may be speaking from the point of knowledge. According to him, he has recruited a reputable audit firm to look at the books and come out with actual standings of government’s financial activities and services, from who he had received the report of what transpired during the past administration. I’ve not been privileged though, to see the report, but he who has, has said what it contains. So, I do believe him and know that it’s not going to be thrown under the carpet, just like that. I know that he can’t say things like that when they ‘re not true. He can’t say things frivolously.

Recently, there has been mass defection from the PDP, one of the major political parties in the country to others, especially the APC. One would have expected the defectors to join LP, as the ruling party in Abia. Did you shut your door against such that may be interested or are they running away believing the rumour that your party leader/Gov Otti’s administration, is not favouring party faithful in appointments?

Like we say, “Birds of the same feather, usually flock together.” It’s obvious those leaving their former parties for new ones, have their reasons to choose where to go. For us in the LP, we run our house along an established process. We are a process based people, who follow the rules in all that we do. Knowing our people in politics, that may not be good for those that have always crash-landed in societies, wanting to be recognized and accorded leadership positions, even when they do not merit such accolades. To join us, one must strictly follow due process of membership registration. To be truthful, we’ve been receiving so many prominent members of the PDP and other parties that have resigned their positions, and wanting to join us from all over the state.  Before, sitting with you for this discussion today, I’ve got calls from persons in Osisioma Ngwa, Ukwa East, Ukwa West, Aba North, Aba South Council Areas, seeking to join LP. Some of those former PDP chieftains you mentioned, left without their supporters and such followers, foot-soldiers, are the people that vote en masse during elections. It has been our belief, especially through Gov Otti, that cost of governance should be reduced while more funds go into building and sustaining the people’s wellbeing. We don’t engage in frivolities, things that are jamborees. What we want is to bring glory to Abia and its people. That is why we are not in any way, disturbed. We are seeing what the governor is doing in terms of infrastructural development. So, we believe that with his current zeal to move the state forward, he will get good results in the coming years. It’s those results that’ll tell him, he’s done well.

… But people are saying that because he doesn’t have interest in patronizing party members with political appointments into government offices, defectors seeking where to birth, are distancing themselves and weighing particularly the APC, to get board appointments into federal agencies?

Point of information and correction, please. The governor did not and has not told anyone so. According to the information that I have, he said that he was into making Abians happy first. If I may ask, what is he actually supposed to do for us party members?  Is he supposed to share us money? Look at our party office here, the state secretariat of the Labour Party in Abia. It may not come from him personally, but his friends have refurbished and furnished it to create a conducive working environment. Our party doesn’t agree in sharing money to people, rather, the basic things should be put in place to run our office optimally. On appointment into government offices, a few of us are already working with him. He has selected those he feels would be useful and capable into his administration.

With your election as national vice chairman (Southeast), of the party, you’ll be leaving Abia, for a higher call. What would be your joy in terms of achievement, to which you’ll be beating your chest, saying, “Yes, we did it?”

Yes, the Labour Party, government that I midwifed in Abia, has been able to clear arrears of salaries and pensioners emoluments and paying monthly, as at when due. In the outside world, this is not a recordable achievement but the circumstances in which we found ourselves in our clime, made it a celebration issue. Constant and regular payment of government workers salaries, will reignite the state economy, as the money goes back into the society for service, keeping the economy in good, revolving order. Secondly, the governor, has raised the bar in attracting foreign direct investment into the state, with his policy programmes thrust of rehabilitation and upgrading of roads, healthcare and educational facilities infrastructures. Added to that and highly of great importance, is the conducive environment caused by security investments in place, in which people live and carry out their businesses without molestation or fear of being attacked. Everybody is seeing what the government is doing. People are coming from foreign lands to seek opportunities for investing in the state. I have been opportune to lead some of them from America, Europe, and other lands to discuss with the government on such matters. While interacting with them, they always point out that investment indices point to Abia, as presenting conducive, serene opportunities for foreign direct investment. They say it was the trust  they have on the governor, Dr Alex Otti, and his administration policy programmes, that is creating the confidence in bringing them to Abia. So, what again can I wish for, than to thank God, Abians and the man they have entrusted their fate on as governor.