National Chairman Labour Party, Alhaji Abdulkadir Abdulsalam in this interview in Abeokuta he speaks with journalists on leadership problems, influence of money in politics, economy and 2019. Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Nigerian NewsDirect Dr SAMUEL IBIYEMI was there. Excerpts:
How did you emerge National Chairman of Labour party and what is the situation of things currently in the party?
My emergence as National Chairman of Labour Party was surprising, though I have been the National Secretary for close to eight years. I was committed to registering the Labour party which I did. I have been in the Labour party quite for sometimes now. I understand and appreciate the party.
Immediately I was elected as National Chairman in Akure, I told everyone at the venue that my administration will be all inclusive, open, transparent, and reliable.
By God’s Grace I have been doing the best I could and I have been attracting dignitaries to the party. There are things you cannot run away from in a political party, there are good and bad people who are guided by different motives for joining the party.
Some individuals because of their selfishness want to derail this administration but I was guided and grounded because of my experience as a trade unionist. I am a unionist since my days in the college in Sokoto and I joined the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) during my NCE and degree programme. Immediately I finished, I went for my master’s programme in Jos.
I am a veteran trade unionist and no bad condition can shake me, rather I will overcome it and change the situation for the best.
You have been going round states in the country since your assumption of office, what is the situation of things in Labour party?
I am a nationalist and I was the national secretary for NULGE and there is no single local government in this country that I have not visited. I know virtually all the terrains in this country and I related with them very well.
As a politician now, the situation is very shaky and unstable. The country is faced with leadership problem. When we were young, there was no division and discrimination in the country, the nationalists like late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and the late Sardauna of Sokoto were straight forward individuals. The country currently is faced with hunger, penury and poverty.
There is hunger in the land and everybody is angry. The situation of the country cannot be said that we are progressing as a nation; recession has only ended on paper and radio. Nigerians are hungry except those that stole during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and those that are still stealing now during this present administration.
Nigeria is characterized by suffering and smiling because of leadership problem.
Since 1999 people are still stealing government money, what is your agenda as a party since your party has not produced many governors and presidents since the beginning of the Fourth Republic?
The situation is getting worse and you cannot produce president in this type of situation. I was in Edo, Ondo and Anambra recently during the election and each voter was paid a minimum of N3,000 and from the just concluded PDP convention, it was a politics of moneybags, a situation of the highest bidder.
Oil well is concentrated in the south- south region and because they have the wealth to play and that is why Prince Uche Secondus emerged national chairman of PDP.
Labour Party does not have the money to spend lavishly that is why we are calling on the marketwomen, Okada riders trade unions, the Nigerian Labour Congress, the teachers, to join us in the party.
At present, not many states have been able to pay workers’ salaries up to date except a few among the governors. Osun State owes up to 12-15 month salary and not that they cannot pay but they refused to pay.
Labour Party has not been able to produce presidents of Nigeria and governors because of the calibre of people in Nigeria’s politics that I mention. Labour Party has no money to play with but with the Grace of God and the support of NLC and TUC, we will take over governance in 2019.
What is your experience and how did you get into politics?
I did my NYSC in Ondo state and at that time, the political situation is quite different from what we are experiencing now. I picked interest in National Party of Nigeria (NPN) because of Maitama Sule. I was interested in reading and analyzing issues.
We understood what Maitama, Awolowo, Sardauna were saying during their times. When Babangida transition started and he wanted to register the political parties, I was among the first call then we tried to register Labour party but Babangida did not register it.
The Labour decided to move to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the likes of late Chief Alfred Rewane, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, and Solomon Lar, Oloye Saraki, were all holding meetings on how SDP will be formed. I was a worker in the local government union. When Ernest Shonekan was the interim president he wasn’t allowed to act for long before late General Sani Abacha took over.
I was naturally an SDP man but when National Republican Party (NRC) wanted to submit names, they submitted my name as a caretaker committee member. Mrs. Latifat Okunnu midwifed NRC to the extent that we have the convention in Rivers state, I was a staunch member with the caretaker committee.
When the registration of many political parties was in progress, the NLC mandated Joseph Akinlaja who is now at the House of Representatives and I to register the party and it was formed as Party for Social Democracy before it was changed to Labour Party. Since then I remain an active member of Labour party and subsequently in Nigeria politics till this day.
Comparing Nigerian politics of today with what we have before, has it changed for the better?
In the days of Awolowo, patriotism, honesty of purpose were the order of the day but now Nigerian politicians are Nomadic politicians and when the grass is green, they stay but when it is otherwise they move to another party. Nigerian politicians are shameless group of people.
When APC won the election, people who have benefitted in 16 years of PDP defected to APC. There is no way you can convince me to go to another party, rather I will go back to my state and relax rather than jumping from one party to another. Nigerian politicians have not learnt the acts of politics.
In recent times, leadership of the country is rotated between PDP and APC, since you have experienced both governments, how can you access them?
I won’t pick anyone because both of them have no sense of direction, mission and vision; they are not committed to Nigerian cause. They are selfish, self-centered and they discriminate among women and disabled people. I won’t choose between the deep blue sea and the devil. Rather I will choose Labour party.
2019 is fast approaching, approaching, can you give us an insight into the party’s preparation towards the election?
I am in Ogun state now to start the politics from here, and from here I will move to another state. The party’s legal adviser is here with me and we are warming up and projecting what is good and possible for the party.
If you are good, you will be selected and if you are bad, the party won’t manage you. As 2019 election is fast approaching, willing individuals and groups are welcome to the party without discrimination of whatever form and all ambitions would be accorded equal treatment.
Labour party is looking forward to a fruitful election and in Ogun state, the party is prepared to take over the seat of governance in the 2019 election from the present ruling party.
Since your assumption in office, how many people are willing to join the party and is there any threat from anyone?
Labour party cannot receive threat from anybody, we are not moneybags, and it is only those that have moneybags that will be threatened. People have been following our pedigree and we are the real opposition party in Ogun state based on development facts.
We took the government of Ogun state to Court, National Assembly, House of Representatives and we won. When the senate wanted to grant Ogun state government loan, we wrote to them that Amosun should not be given any loan because he will not use it appropriately and at the end the loan was not granted. As a party we are focused and we are sure of our pedigree and we are the party the masses are clamouring for to come on board.
At present, people have been contacting us especially after the PDP election, because no responsible person will do what PDP did in that election.
In the election the South West played with their hands. Even right from time, the South West knows full well that the South-South and East delegates are many and eventually the South west put their eggs in one basket. By the time the Labour Party calls for its conference, the party will be better.
What lessons should be learnt from PDP Convention
Both APC and PDP are the same, they are party for discriminatory people and they aren’t interested in the oneness and progress of Nigeria. Political parties should be tolerant and accountable, and political space should not be regimented. When PDP discovered that Buruji Kashamu was coming to popularity and acceptability, the party decided to suspend him which shouldn’t be so.
Some Political bigwigs have been contacting you, what will be the stand of the party concerning those coming from other parties.
When they are coming to Labour Party, we screen them and check their records. If a new member is a good product we will elect him. The Labour party will not allow any ex-Military man to occupy strategic position in Labour Party because of their regimental way of life.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is a good politician and if Buhari has not sidelined and excluded him in governance and in participation of strategic decisions-making in the party, APC would have been better.
What is the way forward?
Labour party will take over governance in 2019 because APC deceived millions of Nigerians with their pseudo programmes. Average Nigerians have lost hope in the country because many youths are roaming the streets in search of jobs and the present government has not found a lasting solution to the problem of unemployment.
When Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was vice president during Obasanjo’s administration, he never talked about restructuring. Now, he is clamouring for it. Nigerian workers will not be deceived in 2019 election because they are now wiser and the leadership of NLC is giving the workers new orientation to differentiate between bad and good governance.