The Chairman of the Labour Party in Bauchi State, Hussaini Saraki in this exclusive Interview with Oluwatimilehin Owolabi shares his thoughts on the crisis rocking the party at the national level. He explains why the presidential candidate of the LP in the 2023 elections, Peter Obi should extend the olive branch to warring parties. Excerpts!
As the Chairman of the Labour Party in Bauchi State, can you tell Nigerians the faction you belong to?
I don’t belong to a faction. I belong to the Labour Party under the leadership of Alhaji Bashiru Lamidi Apapa who is the acting National Chairman of our party as it is presently.
It’s believed in some quarters that the internal crisis may consume your party. What do you have to say about that?
I don’t want to believe that it will consume the party because it is part of politics. Just like APC and PDP have their challenges and I don’t want to believe that it is insurmountable.
Things like this will come and go. I believe it will even deepen democracy because when one or two people come together, conflicts are bound to happen. It is part of human nature that no matter what, you cannot say you belong to a political party and that party will stay for years without having Its conflict.
How many State Chairmen are with the Lamidi Apapa-led faction?
I think I’m the only state Chairman that is with the Apapa’s camp, other chairmen are with the Julius-Abure-led faction.
However, after the NEC meeting held in Delta, the National Working Committee, NWC, led by Baba Apapa had to suspend all the other chairmen and more so because their tenure had expired, they now formed another fresh channel in all the states of the federation. So as far as I’m concerned, I don’t have any grudges or any problem with the other side. All I’m saying is that let us follow the due process and being a lawyer, I have to be very careful with whatever I am doing.
The fact that they are on the other lane doesn’t mean I should just blindly follow them. As you are aware, Barr. Julius Abure is my very good brother because he is a lawyer and I’m a lawyer too. I have been supporting him come rain come sunshine. I have been on his side all the time. The only time we parted ways was when the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) barred him and three other national executive members of the party from parading themselves as national officers of the party.
Even when the working committee suspended him, I was with Julius Abure in Edo State to show him solidarity. I said that decision cannot hold water.
However, when there was a court order restraining him, that was when the issue came up. I said if there is a court order no matter the love I have for Abure, the court order needs to be obeyed.
As you know, we are having an election season coming up in Bayelsa in Imo and Kogi state. So is it because I have a love for Abure, I should just forget about due process and follow Abure at the detriment of the 6 million people in Imo State, 7 million people in Kogi, and 4.5 million people in Bayelsa? If I do that I didn’t do justice. We advised that since there is a court order, let another person constitute the committee that would conduct our primaries in those states but Abure refused.
He (Abure) appointed me as the Chairman of the Appeal Committee in Imo State but if I had gone there I would not be doing justice to LP. So, I told them categorically that I am not going to go and I came back to the side of Baba Apapa because the constitution under section 15 of our LP says that ‘If the Chairman is absent, the Deputy Chairman shall be there to act in an acting capacity”. So I now look at it, I said if I participate in Abure’s primaries, anything we do within the period of that court order would be a nullity and at the end of the day, all that APC and PDP will do if we win the election in Imo, Kogi, and Bayelsa is just to go to the tribunal and the court will take away our winning because of this avoidable circumstances.
So why should we venture into it when we know that even if you know what you are doing and you are on the right track, facing PDP and APC in court is not an easy thing, talk more when you know you have a skeleton in your cupboard. So I think Barr. Julius Abure should have put aside his interest and looked at the interest of the people of those states and the party.
It’s also believed in some quarters that Apapa is being sponsored to cause disaffection in the party…
We are not talking about whether Baba Apapa is sponsored by the APC, APGA, or PDP. I don’t care about that because it is not something that has been established but the court order against Abure has been established, and it’s something that I can touch and see but the accusation about Baba Apapa, I have nothing to show that he has been hobnobbing with the APC or he is with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
It is a mere rumour because there is no single evidence, not to talk more of pictures, or videos that show Baba Apapa mingling with APC or Tinubu.
Even the allegation that he has not been with the party is not true because Abure is the longest-serving officer of the party. He has been with the party for 23 years. He is the oldest elected Deputy National Chairman we have.
But won’t the crisis affect Peter Obi’s chances in court?
This case has nothing to do with the Tribunal because already tribunal issues have been joined. Though Peter Obi the other time was saying that he believes that Baba Apapa has been used to cause problems for him in the tribunal. But with due respect to him, Obi as a leader has not done much in terms of standing firm to resolve the crises of the party as he is the father and national leader of the party.
Obi hasn’t done much in terms of standing firm to resolve the crisis in the party. He should have called both parties. For instance, look at Atiku, even though he had problems with Wike. I can’t count how many times he held meetings with Wike both within the country and outside the country. I believe it won’t take Obi up to an hour to resolve the LP crisis. It’s just for him to go to the Transcorp Hilton hotel and hold meetings with the aggrieved leaders and before you know it, this matter will be resolved but he has not done that. The only thing he does is to make accusations that someone is working for APC.
This is not the best way to go as a leader and a lot of people are saying that if he cannot resolve the micro crisis in the LP, how can he resolve the complex problem of the Niger Delta, IPOB, or Boko Haram in the north. So it is a kind of a test for Peter Obi and the chance is still open for him to make sure that he calls for dialogue and resolves all this crisis because I believe they are not insurmountable.
More so, another thing that deepened the crisis was when the acting chairman, Apapa was attacked at the tribunal. Though I wasn’t there, they said Peter Obi was in court, Abure was there and they saw how Apapa was being maltreated but he (Obi) could not place a call to him, he could not even condemn the act of obedience on his Twitter handle.
You remember when Wole Soyinka said something about Peter Obi, the Obidients insulted him and the LP presidential candidate had to go to his house to apologise on behalf of them. So this has also deepened the crisis to the extent that people like Abayomi Arabambi, the National Publicity Secretary of the LP vowed that except Peter Obi apologised for what happened to Baba Apapa, he will not stop challenging him openly and you can see, in many newspapers, Arabambi has been attacking Obi left and centre. Let me tell you, between me and my almighty God, we have held a series of meetings where Baba Apapa and everyone were present.
We’ve tried to talk to Arabambi not to join issues with Peter Obi because he is our presidential candidate and the product that we are all selling but Arabambi kept on saying that he will not stop because of what happened to Baba Apapa at the tribunal after they were all attacked.
If Obi had called a meeting to broker a truce this would not have degenerated. The other time I called the LP Vice Presidential candidate, Datti Baba-Ahmed. I advised him to call for a meeting no matter what and I know Baba Apapa to be a very simple man, he will attend it.
The fact remains that if something is not done, at the end of the day, no matter what, there could still be this kind of problem here and there and our political rivals will be happy with the development because the Labour Party is trying to become a force to reckon with.
Do you foresee Obi leaving the party in the future?
Well, that’s his own decision to make but I think the party that appears to be more palatable or inclined by Obi’s ideology and everything is the LP. I think he will remain in the party to see how he can make things happen because you can see this is somebody that came to the party in less than a year but as God would have it, look at the kind of goodwill the LP has received as a result of the coming of Peter Obi.
So it will be a bad calculation for him to say he is going to change his political party at this material time. I think what he needs to do is to use his wisdom as somebody who is internationally recognized as a leader of high repute, to put all machinery in place, put all sentiment aside, and look at the interest of the party and nation at large.
He should call all the warring parties together, let’s sit down, and believe me within 2 days, this matter will be over, but up till now, Peter Obi has not called for that meeting, which is very unlike him.
Are you saying that Obi deliberately doesn’t want to settle this crisis?
No, I can’t say that he deliberately doesn’t want to settle it and I can’t say what his reason is.
But is he taking sides with any faction?
Already he has taken sides with Abure and it is not helping matters because you remember even when there was a court order, Peter Obi participated in the Delta NEC meeting, and that caused a lot of issues in the party. If not because of the respect that people have for Peter Obi, they wanted to initiate a contempt proceeding and that would have been so bad.
And that is even what informed my resolve to believe that Baba Apapa has not been sponsored by the APC. Let me tell you something, there is a Supreme Court authority that says that a person in disobedience of a court order cannot be heard. It’s an authority. If you are disobeying a Court order you will not be heard in the court of law. It’s a Supreme Court authority and all those on the side of Baba Apapa are aware of this authority but nobody is of the view that such a case should be filed against Peter Obi because he is one of us.
The only problem they have is Abure and the way he (Obi) is taking sides with him. Hence, the reason some people are coming out to attack him openly. They have seen that Peter Obi has already made up his mind that no matter what, he will be with Abure.
So what advice do you have for Peter Obi now?
It will be a good development if he tries to manage the crisis in the LP and resolve it because it is a signal to him that he will be a good leader. One of the fundamental problems Nigeria faces today as a nation is lack of security, so if you cannot resolve a micro problem in your party, people will laugh at us outside and say look at your Peter Obi, he cannot resolve a simple crisis and you want us to carry a whole country and give to him?
We won’t do that and it will be a slap on us. So my advice to Peter Obi is ‘please no matter what the people say to him about Baba Apapa and co, he should give us a fair hearing’. Let him hear from us and the other party. Then come to the centre and resolve this matter amicably. The Labour Party is bigger than all of us.