…Uncertainty over Merger plan between Delta APC, Labour Party
Barely a week after Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru resigned his membership of the Labour Party, the national leadership of the party, in a paid advertorial in a national newspaper yesterday, suspended him and seven others from the party.
The advertorial which was signed by the national chairman of the party, Alh. A.A. Salam, accused Ogboru of anti-party activities.
The party warned that anyone who relates with Ogboru in the capacity of a member of Labour party does so at his own peril.
All effort to get Ogboru’s reaction to the development has proved abortive.
For about two months there had been anxiety on the proposed formal declaration of Mr. Great Ovedje Ogboru, the Labour Party governorship candidate in the April 11, 2015 election, for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Delta State. The national executive of the Labour Party and that of the state had meanwhile dissociated the party from the proposed merger with the APC.
As if the disagreement between Ogboru and the state and national exco of the Labour Party was not enough barrier to the proposed fusion, The New Diplomat gathered that Ogboru’s demand to have a huge slice of executive position in the arrangement that will emerge from the merger is stalling the process as the APC would not accede to his demand.
It would be recalled that shortly after the decision of the Supreme Court on the appeal on the governorship election petition filed by Ogboru and his APC counterpart, Mr. O’tega Emerhor, Ogboru and his supporters decided to fuse into the APC structure in the state, apparently with a view to raising a formidable structure for the 2019 election in the state.
The New Diplomat gathered that the national body of the APC gave its nod to the fusion of Labour and Accord parties in the state into the APC for the purpose of building a stronger opposition with the capability of wresting power from the PDP come 2019 and beyond.
However, it was alleged that Ogboru came into the arrangement demanding 50 percent of the existing APC executive structure to accommodate him and his supporters. A source told The New Diplomat that at that stage, APC made it clear that rather than a merger stuff, the arrangement was actually a fusion of Ogboru and his supporters into APC’s structure, adding that the party resisted tampering with the existing executive whose tenure is still intact until 2017. It was gathered that, to give a sense of belonging to incoming Ogboru and his supporters, a body was set up called Leaders and Elders’ Council of both parties from which a nine-member committee comprising selected members from APC, Labour and Accord parties led by Mr. Fred Okpowhori of APC and Mr. Richard Odibo of Labour Party to meet, negotiate and come up with a mutually acceptable positions sharing formula and thereafter, preparation for the formal reception ceremony.
A source close to the membership of the committee told The New Diplomat that representatives of Ogboru made a request of 50 percent of the executive positions, which was resisted. According to the source, it was suggested that Ogboru representatives should be contented with 30 percent while APC takes 50 percent leaving the Accord Party with 20 percent.
Ogboru, it was learnt, rejected this sharing formula thus creating a stalemate which is yet to be resolved as at the time of filing this report. It was at this point that the internal conflict in the Labour
Party boiled over with the party at the national level and the state executive distancing themselves from any fusion with the APC or any other party. This development, we gathered, has split the party between Ogboru and his supporters on the one hand and the executive of the party led by its state chairman, Mr. Tony Ezeagwu on the other.
In an interview, Ezeagwu insisted that he was the final authority as far as the Labour Party was concerned in the state, insisting that Ogboru could not drag the party into such merger stuff against the party’s wish even as he warned that he (Ogboru) risks being suspended should he go ahead with the merger plan.
The position of the state executive of the Labour Party, New Diplomat investigation revealed, was indeed the position of the national executive of the party. In a letter dated April 26, 2016 titled ‘Letter of Dissociation’ signed by the national chairman of Labour Party, Alh. A.A. Salam (Baraden Paiko) and addressed to Ezeagwu, the position of the national body of the party was made clear. It states inter alia, “Having read through the undated memo on the fusing/merger of the Labour Party and APC in Delta State, we wish to categorically dissociate the Labour Party from such fusing/merger,” adding that “the Labour Party is not interested in merging/fusing with APC or any other party and anyone or group of persons doing so on behalf of the party does so at his own peril.”
The national chairman’s letter reiterated the chairmanship position of Ezeagwu in the state, adding that he has authority of the national body to “issue queries or carry out disciplinary actions against any member of the party found to have committed any form of anti-party activities and report to the national secretariat for ratification.”
From The New Diplomat findings, Ogboru appears to have been synonymous with the Labour Party in Delta State. Prior to the pitching of his tent with the party in 2014, nothing was heard of the Labour Party in the state. It has also been argued in some quarters that what constitutes the structure of Labour Party in the state was indeed the structure made up of Ogboru and his supporters. Some have also contended that both Ezeagwu and his executive have been sustained from the personal pocket of Ogboru since he joined the party. Under this scenario, what would become of the Labour Party in the state if Ogboru withdraws his sponsorship and his supporters from the party? In short, the question then was, “Between Ezeagwu and Ogboru, who would suspend the other?
With the suspension of Ogboru and seven others form the labour Party, this poser has been settled
The New Diplomat had stumbled on a copy of a seven-paragraph communiqué purportedly issued by the Labour Party in a meeting held on Tuesday April 26, 2016 in Warri which ratified the proceedings of an earlier meeting held on April 22, 2016, which passed a vote of no confidence in Ezeagwu as the chairman of the party in the state.
Paragraph 4 of the communiqué reads: “Therefore, the house resolved to pass a ‘vote of no confidence’ on Chief Tony Ezeagwu and hereby declare him persona non grata. This implies that every member and leader of the party whose signature appears below from across the 25 Local Government Areas of the state who agrees with the merger, can no longer hold meetings, private talks or even phone calls with Chief Tony Ezeagwu.”
Surprisingly however, in paragraph six of the communiqué which was signed by one Evangelist Ossai Abeh and Tosan Awani, another body called the ‘Light of Labour’ (LOL) was created within the Labour Party in the state. Paragraph 6 read in part: “… the house has decided as follows: – that henceforth, the house will be called the ‘Light of Labour’; that the chairman of the Light of Labour (LOL) will be Evangelist Ossai Abbey (Delta North Senatorial chairman LP) and the Secretary will be Mr. Tosan Awani; that the negotiation with APC will now continue under the name of Light of Labour (LOL) of LP.
The communiqué went a step further to announce that the “entire structure of the house, (presumably Ogboru’s structure in Labour Party), are converted automatically to the Light of Labour from the State, down to the LGA’s and wards…”
It concluded in paragraph seven that, “All members and structures of Light of Labour in the Labour Party have relinquished their membership of the Labour party and are fusing with the APC under the arrangement of the nine-member committee…”
From the above, it could be seen that things have fallen apart in the Labour Party in the state apparently due to the plan by Ogboru to fuse the party into the APC in the state.
Responding to a question on the threat by Ezeagwu to suspend him from the party for anti-party activities, Ogboru disclosed that “there is an understanding within the Labour Party that when he (Ogboru) is leaving the party with his supporters they would hand over the party to the original chairman of the party.” He accused Ezeagwu of anti-party activities, alleging that he is using the party to make money. According to Ogboru, Ezeagwu has not been able to win a unit in his ward, adding that it was by his (Ogboru’s) grace he still remained chairman till now.
It is also very clear that even the activities of the nine-man joint committee set up to negotiate and harmonize positions for the purpose of formalizing the fusion has been hamstrung and stalemated due to what an insider described as a “greedy demand” by Ogboru and his supporters for positions.
Ogboru and two of his supporters who won elections into the Delta State House of Assembly on the platform of the Labour Party – Hon. Evance Ivwurie representing Ethiope East Constituency and Hon. Uviejitobor representing Udu Constituency, have however parted ways. Just like what happened in 2011 election where Ogboru’s DPP produced nine lawmakers in the House of Assembly, two House of Representatives and a Senator, Mr. Ogboru lost touch with his lawmakers no sooner the elections were over. While Ogboru would also not comment on the allegation that he failed to carry the two House of Assembly members along, an aide of his who spoke on condition of anonymity disclosed that the two lawmakers who got to the House on the platform of the Labour party have compromised their party’s interest for the ruling party, PDP. According to the source, “they are no longer members of our party, they are now PDP members.”
While all these was playing out at the Labour Party in the state, it is still very difficult to ascertain whether or not the situation in the tattered Labour Party is affecting the formal declaration of Mr. Victor Ochei of Accord Party for the APC. Mr. Ochei’s decision to cross over to APC has been seen by many as a plus for the future of the party in the state considering the fact that he is a political big fish from Delta North and the fact that he also parades an overwhelming support that cuts across the three senatorial districts in the state. In fact, his decision to team up with the APC train in the state has sent a strong warning signal to the camp of the PDP, especially with the much-touted speculation that the APC is likely to field him as its governorship candidate in 2019. For the past few weeks, anxiety has reached fever pitch over speculations that Ochei would formally declare for APC at his ward in Aniocha North.
The waiting game continues as to when the trio of Ogboru, Ochei and Ovie Omo-Agege would formally declare for the APC as has been speculated over the past five months or so. However, whatever is causing the delay may be seen as being in favour of the State PDP which seems not to be comfortable with the coalition of the combined forces of the opposition.
In fact, recently, at a grand reception organized by the PDP in Delta Central in Oghara, Ethiope West Local Government Area, in honour of the state governor, Mr. Ifeanyi Okowa, the state PDP chairman, Mr. Edwin Uzor, remarked that the “house” being contemplated by the trio of APC, Labour and Accord parties in the state was already crumbling even before the foundation was laid.
Whether in the face of these challenges, the merging or fusion of the opposition in the state can still take off is indeed a matter of conjecture. But the feeling within the camp of the APC as investigation has revealed, is that those who opt to join the party should be bold enough to go to their various wards to declare their membership and that the constitution of the party does not allow anybody to join the party at Abuja or in their state capitals. The APC, findings show, is also saying that those coming to the party from other parties must do so unconditionally. What steps Ogboru will now take in view of the latest development remain to be seen.