THE Labour Party (LP) has come under heavy criticism by some non-members of the party who think that they have a duty to decide whether the party should be or not. To most of them, the party ought not to have given its presidential ticket to Mr Peter Obi. Some argue that the party is just labour by name, and does not have any plans for the rank and file of workers and the struggling masses. Some do not believe that the party will be different from APC and PDP. Others say Obi is a bourgeois who has moved from APGA to PDP and now LP.
Some of the arguments raised are to a little extent correct, while many of the arguments are neither here nor there. We must state clearly that right from the point of registration, Labour Party was never intended to be a socialist party. Except if we want to deceive ourselves, it is difficult to have a thriving socialist labour in a capitalist economy. Most labour leaders today are even more capitalist than their employers.
Labour Party no doubt has been an abode for political destitute and urchins since it was registered in 2002. It has provided easy landing space for defeated and fleeing bourgeois politicians who could not match the spending capacity or political intrigues of their peers in the big parties. The reason it has been so is because Nigerian workers never took possession of the party. From day one, everyone wanted a share of the national cake that only the big political parties can provide. Rank and file workers, self-employed artisans, market women, unemployed youths and students were all with the big political parties. Right from inception, LP has been an empty house! The structural development was never completed. Like every uncompleted building, the party became shelter for political urchins and the destitute.
The leadership of the Nigerian labour movement did not see the need to develop an alternative political platform that will be capable of challenging the misrule of the big political parties. In fact, many of them were and are still nocturnal members of the big parties.
Oshiomhole’s Labour Party victory in alliance with the Action Congress of Nigeria in Edo State was just the hand of Esau, but the voice of Jacob. We know the people that financed that election and at the appropriate time he joined this bourgeois group.
In the 2015 elections that produced Muhammadu Buhari, it was Comrade Oshiomhole and Comrade Umar that persuaded NLC into giving a blind support to APC. All affiliate unions of the Congress supported NLC leadership position. Food Union leadership who was then looking for government support for its many atrocities, categorically told their members that the union was for APC.
I understand the pains and frustration of few genuine activists and socialists in the true sense of the word, but we must remember the African proverb that says that “anytime a person wakes up is his or her morning.” Nigerians have been bruised, battered and buffeted from all sides as result of bad governance and misrule, insecurity, corruption, tribalism, etc. President Buhari’s government has deepened the misery of Nigerians. Nigeria has never been this bad. As a matter of fact, in saner climes, APC will be ashamed to be asking for power again. The party leadership has not delivered any good thing.
What should be of utmost concern to all Nigerians and especially NLC, working masses and activists, is how to take ownership of the Labour Party and turn it into a party of choice, a mass movement that can provide good leadership. This cannot be achieved in one day, and people who think that because the party is called Labour Party therefore, the moment labour unions appear on stage every other person must scram should be told that it does not work that way. The building of a political party, just like nation-building, requires persistent and painstaking commitment to galvanising all elements and forces and harnessing their energies towards attainment of the core objectives, mission and goals of the party. It takes a great deal of time and effort to achieve.
Sometimes, quarrels and disagreement set in and if the party’s intra-party conflict resolution capacity is weak; it might lead to early death. Some of the mushroom political parties who pride themselves of resting or standing on strong ideological beams have shown weakness in managing quarrels. There’s no unity of ideas among the self-acclaimed progressives. There amoebic multiplication is nothing but disintegration. It reduces their sizes and values as they move. If labour leaders, working masses and activists, that have just arrived the party can settle down, in a short while, we will be able to take full ownership of the party at all levels and probably turn the party into one that can transform this country from bad to good.
Labour Party of today appears to have no ideology, because labour movement itself has lost its ideological steam. The labour movement is like a rudderless ship on a rough sea. Nigerian Workers Charter of Demand is a beautiful ideological template, and if it is implemented by the Labour Party, it will make our dear country a good Welfare State.
An ideology is simply a roadmap of what you intend to do or achieve in any given situation. Nigerian Workers Charter of Demand is a beautiful roadmap that will help labour party restore the dignity of this country.
Obi’s welfarist disposition is closer to what we advocate as labour in the Charter of Demand. His record of no corruption allegations or charges makes him a good choice for Labour Party. The working masses have been pushed to the wall, and we have suddenly woken up from our long slumber. We have seen the need for us to democratically take control of the reins of power for the purpose of entrenching good governance.
Labour Party under Mimiko and Oshiomhole my appear not to be different from other bourgeois political parties, but that should not be used to judge the party. Mimiko and Oshiomhole met an empty house when they ran into Labour Party. Using the party platform was easy because the party owners abandoned the party. No one was around to guide and instil rules.
The enthusiasm that Peter Obi’s presence in the Labour Party has elicited should not end with 2023 elections. This energetic excitement should go beyond 2023! The Labour Party leadership should learn from the big political parties, who keep oiling links and joints of their political machinery whether there’s elections or not.
The glory of Labour Party should not be weaved around an individual. While we savour the aura that Obi’s presence has brought to the party, we should take time to build necessary structures from the ward, the local government to the state and federal. It is achievable.
Critics will talk and complain from the side-lines, it is normal. The critic is a lever with which people of action track their motion.
Comrade Amechi, a trade unionist and pro-democracy activist, writes from Lagos.