Mike Omotosho, the national chairman of Labour Party (LP), in this interview with newsmen in Abuja, he unveiled his plan to reposition the party ahead of the forthcoming general elections. In an interview session with was at the interactive session with Tribune Newspaper. Read excerpts.
Some sort of controversies surrounded your emergence as national chairman of the Labour Party. What really transpired?
My emergence is an intervention to restore peace and dignity to a party that hitherto has been consumed in disunity, mismanagement, and mediocrity. That is the reason why followed due process, conducted a proper election that was monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) where I emerged as national chairman.
I have been a member of Labour Party since I was fielded as a governorship candidate on the platform of the party in the 2015 election and I have consistently paid my membership dues even in arrears. Mine is a call to serve my fatherland and an opportunity to exemplify altruistic leadership laced with the welfare and well-being of the average Nigerian as my driving force. Our intent as Labour Party is to provide a platform for Nigerians as the most dominant alternative because all is not well with our dear country in almost all ramifications. The clarion call by like minds in the Labour Party who were not comfortable with the way things were being run in the party, coupled with my passion for purposeful, accountable, transparent and responsive leadership made me accept to lead the Nigerian masses to our desired destination. I am focused and determined to bring a fresh breath of life to the party with a view to repositioning it to take its rightful place in political space in Nigeria.
However, let me set the records straight on this issue. I was invited to the National Working Committee meeting where I discussed my vision for the party and my willingness to serve. Then we moved to the National Executive Council meeting, the same thing applied and lastly we had a National Convention. The convention of` the Labour Party that was held at the Stone Hedge Hotel in Abuja on October 3, 2017, and it was witnessed by INEC, and in compliance with 21 days notification and security agents. The proceedings have also been widely published and televised on national media. The convention followed due process. I was elected the new chairman of the Labour Party in accordance with the party’s constitution and where there is a new chairman, the predecessor is usually addressed as ‘former.’ So, it is laughable that the former chairman still insists that he remains the chairman. No individual is bigger than the Special Convention of the party. People deserve to know the truth that the current leadership of Labour Party has zero tolerance for corruption and unwholesome practices. So, on the corruption and forgery allegations levied against the immediate past chairman, we shall follow due process. We will not tolerate any form of lawlessness in the Labour Party anymore, as there is a new sheriff in town.
Putting the issues that led to the change of leadership behind us, we are reaching out to all to ensure we put our differences aside and work for the common good of the party and Nigeria. We are already at work building a strong party that will bring about a revolution in the political landscape of the country, making the family first for all of our developmental priorities and ensuring that there is equal opportunities and social justice for all.
Before the election in 2019, what should Nigerians expect from the Labour Party?
Nigerians are going to see a brand new party, a party that is very responsive to the needs of the people, a party which is going to work strictly within the ideologies of the party. I did reiterate earlier on that we are a social democratic political party, meaning that the bulk of our ideologies would be based on welfare systems where we would ensure that everybody is catered for and to that extent, you would remember that our motto is “providing equal opportunities and social justice.”
So, moving forward, we would ensure that everybody is carried along primarily, or more importantly ensure that everybody has a stake in who governs them and how they are being governed. To this extent, this is a clarion call for all well-meaning Nigerians to join the Labour Party today, so that we can all advance a course for the development of our nation.
We have embarked on a massive membership drive, using community engagements. We are also active on social media, recruiting people so that they can understand and know that Labour Party is truly going to lead using innovative strategies, using developmental leaderships and most importantly, focusing on the people and making the family first. Besides that, for us, we don’t even talk about gender equality because we are providing equal opportunities. To that extent, we are not just talking about youth inclusion; women and youths will have a special privilege to be able to run without the huge financial constraints. Parts of the things we are also putting in place is the avoidance of moneybags that will take over the party. So, we are going out and coming up with different and unique funding strategies.
You will not expect me to divulge all of those but I have just mentioned one. For instance, we are crowd-funding, where we intend to raise just N1bn and this is simple. We have a population of almost 183 million people. What we are looking for is just 1 million of these 183 million people to donate just N1, 000 towards the development of this nation using the ideology of people first, family first, under the Labour Party.
We have 1 million people, give us N1000, just N1000; we will have a billion Naira. You can imagine what that can turn into. We have a lot of strategies, more importantly, we are not an opposition party, we are providing ourselves, the Labour Party as the major dominant alternative. If we see what the government of the day is doing right, we will applaud them but when we see what they are doing wrong, we will be the first to screen. Because for us, it is not about opposing the government in power, it is not about supporting the government in power, it is about looking out for what is good for the ordinary man on the street. Once we are able to communicate this, using your help (media), we are sure people will line up and give power to those that truly want to serve them.
You talked about looking out for the man on the street, what is your position on the current fuel scarcity and the attendant hardship on Nigerians?
Obviously, it is not the right thing to have. Incidentally, about three weeks ago, I granted an interview on Ben TV in London and I applauded the government of the day that the price of fuel has not come down but we have not been queuing anymore, only for me to get back to the country a week later and there were queues. So, it is unacceptable; it is unfortunate but we must also commend them because compared to previous administrations, we have had fewer queues.
What do you think should be the way forward?
Hitherto, there are usually bottlenecks during festive seasons and there are usually solutions, maybe in anticipation of the problems that are expected. And I expect a very responsive government to do the same, project ahead of what they think may be the bottlenecks and then begin to provide solutions and prepare plans for it ahead of time. Even accidents; a lot of people will be travelling during festive season, so we expect responsible government to anticipate what problems are likely going to be and be very proactive and begin to take actions, because for us in the Labour Party, it is still about the people so, when we have a government in power, that is people-centric and thinks for the people, most of the problems we see today will be a thing of the past.
Is Labour Party fielding a presidential candidate in 2019 or adopting a candidate as usual?
Most certainly, we will not adopt a presidential candidate the way we have been doing in the past. Add a caveat to that, because we have an ideology that we are working with and we intend to field a credible, people-centric candidate as our presidential standard-bearer. Of course, if there are needs or there is an opportunity to work with another presidential candidate; it is not about Labour Party winning, it is about Nigerians winning. If the people win, then the Labour Party has won.
Are you considering adopting the APC’s presidential candidate then?
No, we are not, at this moment.
LP is perceived as a platform for aggrieved aspirants, who have lost out in the primaries of dominant parties, rush to your party and pick tickets. What is your leadership doing to correct this?
You will notice that unlike in previous administrations or leadership in the Labour Party, we do not have such. We are already going out on a precise membership drive; we are giving people the opportunity to suggest the likely leaders they would want to see and we will approach personally such credible people to come and work with the Labour Party.
But more importantly, once we are able to see or identify credible candidates, we will seek them out from the beginning now, so that together, we can build the structure and not wait. I granted an interview about three weeks ago in which I expressly stated that defectors will not be allowed into Labour Party this time around. We want people that want to stay with us, build the structures with us and hopefully win and when they win, the chances of defecting will be slim if not brought down to zero. I mean, if you are part of building a house, the chances of pulling down that house will be very slim; but if you are there to just rent, you can do whatever you want to do. So, we are not going to be available as a platform for defectors anymore. They should come in now and this is an opportunity for credible aspirants to come in, join the party and let’s build the party of our future together and have that desired nation that we all crave for.
Read full interview at Nigerian Tribune.