National Chairman of Labour Party (LP), Julius Abure, in this interview with OLUFEMI ADEDIRAN, speaks on the myriads of challenges confronting Nigeria and suggests ways through which they could be solved. He also speaks on the chances of his party in the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State
What is the view of Labour Party on the call for decentralisation of government, especially giving powers to the local government areas?
If you have followed Labour Party’s position, we have a clear cut position on local governments’ autonomy. We believe that local governments should not just have political autonomy; there should also be financial autonomy. We believe that local governments should be able to generate their funds and that funds accrue to them should be given to them directly. We also believe that state governors should not have absolute control over the affairs of local governments. That is why we have advocated that there should be abolition of State Independent Electoral Commissions. We also believe that the legislative councils should make laws for the good governance of local government councils and not a situation where the state Houses of Assembly are the ones making rules for the local government councils.
What is the position of your party on rotational presidency?
I think that for the sake of equity and justice, it will be fair for us to actually rotate the presidency because you can have a situation where a section of the country may have the highest number and if you don’t have rotational presidency, it may result to a situation that one section of the country will continue to produce the president. So, I subscribe to the view that we should, even if it is not a matter of law, but as a matter of principle, we should be able to rotate the presidency.
Will your party backing a candidate from the South-East for the 2023 presidency?
As a party leader, the party, Labour Party is yet to take a decision on that and it will be out of place at this stage to make such a policy statement without wide consultation. As we speak, we have aspirants from the North, South-East, South-West and so on. Therefore, as the National Chairman of the party, you will agree with me that, I will be doing an incalculable damage to the party if I stand before you to say that this is the position of the party. For me to make such pronouncement, I need to consult widely. It will not be my decision alone, it has to be a decision that the party should take.
Some people are of the opinion that youths have failed the nation, but Labour Party is picking a youth as its governorship candidate for the Anambra election. What informed this decision?
I do not subscribe to the position that youths have failed woefully. Youths have never been given the opportunity to express themselves. For God’s sake, the names that we have been hearing since independence are the names we are hearing now. The names that we have been hearing since the 70s are still the names we are hearing now. The names that have dominated the political space as we speak today are those people who were either military administrators; those who sabotage our democracy are still the names we are hearing today. So, the people who have asserted that the youths have failed the country have no basis for that argument.
Name the youth who has been given the opportunity in this dispensation and who has not performed exceedingly well? They have not been given the opportunity and I subscribe to the fact that there should be a paradigm shift from what we used to have and this was what informed the picking of our candidate in Anambra State. We have made it clear that there is going to be a paradigm shift in Labour Party’s approach and we have demonstrated it in the choice of our candidate in Anambra and the people of the state overwhelmingly supported us. Members of the party also believed in it.
Some apirants who are of older age were told clearly by the party that we are supporting a youth and that also informer the choice of the deputy governorship candidate and we are going to make a difference. We are the first party to conduct a primary election and we are the first to start campaigns. As we speak, some other parties are still sleeping.
Maybe, they believe that they will use their money to buy votes, but the people of Anambra State will disappoint them this time, the people of Anambra State are ready to work with a governor that is ready to provide infrastructure. You will agree with me that Anambra people are very industrious; there is no village that you will go to in Anambra State that you cannot find an industry.
So, if you have a proactive governor, who is determined to work for the people, it will not be difficult to industrialise the state. Give us a year after we win Anambra, the state will become the Shanghai of Nigeria. We will ensure that all what Nigeria needs in terms of fabrication would be provided by Anambra State.
What do you think is responsible for voters’ apathy on the part of Nigerian youths, and what is Labour Party doing to do to correct this?
The youth have not had a stake in the affairs of this country. Youths have been agitating that they should be given the opportunity to lead and the political parties in the past have not given them that opportunity but I can assure you that as we speak today, the youth of Anambra State will come out en mass come November 6 because they have one of their own running for the governorship. We are going to replicate this in the country come 2023. We are going to speak to the youth, we are going to give them the opportunity, we are going to give them the privilege whether they have the money or not. Once they have the pedigree, once they have the knowledge and capacity to drive governance, we are going to support them. I’m very sure that when we do that, there will be no apathy from the youth and they will rise to the occasion and defend what truly belongs to them.
Does Labour Party has the numerical strength to dislodge the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Anambra State?
The obvious truth is that APGA that you mentioned and other political parties have lost touch with the people. What you see is that they are living in their past glory,the abysmal performance of the government of APGA has made them to lose touch with the people. The people are tired of poor infrastructure, the people are tired of godfatherism, the people are tired of lack of provision of healthcare facilities and so on.
Therefore, the people are determined to make a difference, to make a change and if you have been following our rallies, if you have been following our campaigns, you would have seen that the crowd that we are pulling in Anambra State is mammoth and it is a clear statement to the fact that the people have come to accept Labour Party as the alternative. In terms of structure, in terms of the number, it is the people who will decide.
Power resides with the people and therefore, we have the number, we have the structure and strength as well as the capacity to dislodge any other political party in Anambra State. The people of Anambra have decided to change APGA for Labour Party and I can assure you that come November 6, we are good to go in Anambra and we are going to make a difference in the state. We have no fear about that at all.
What is the state of things in the Labour Party?
In December last year, precisely December 29, we lost our national chairman and then we had an acting chairman and in March this year, we had a National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, where I emerged as the national chairman of the party. Since then, we have given the party a focus, we have given it a direction, we have redirected the energies of the party towards realising the objectives of the party.
So, to directly respond to your question, I can conclude that the party is very set to win elections, we are preparing for Anambra election, as I have said, and then we are making preparation for the 2023 general election. It is our intention to have a formidable force to be able to confront the challenges that the country is facing.
You will agree with me that the myriads of problems that we’ve had in the country are as a result of failed leadership, so it is intention of Labour Party to provide an alternative platform for people to be able to, not just to realise their ambitions to hold on to power, but to work for the people. It is the vision of the leadership of Labour Party to reposition the party and reposition the country for effective service delivery to the people.
Today as we speak, the country is not working for the people, we don’t have welfare, we don’t have security, people are hungry, there is unemployment, there is hunger. The constitution provides clearly that the principal purpose of government is to provide security and welfare for the people. As we speak today, we don’t even have security, not to talk of welfare.
The people of Nigeria today are not asking for welfare, welfare is a luxury as we speak, but what the people are saying is that government should simply secure their lives, so that they can take care of themselves. And government, you will agree with me at all levels, have failed in carrying out that responsibility.
What is the view of your party in making governors leaders of parties in their states?
In the good old days, party supremacy held sway because the party leadership was supreme to executive positions. One can conclude that if you subsumed the positions together, then you have a situation where you never have supremacy of political parties and that is why we have crisis in our political system because political parties cannot call their Governors to order, they cannot call the President to order. So, for Labour Party, we believe that the party is supreme. In fact, it is even a constitutional matter, a constitutional provision in most of the parties’ constitutions that the party and its constitution is supreme. So, ordinarily, the views of Labour Party is that the party is supreme while the governor, the president have executive powers to run the country in terms of providing leadership for the party, while the party is supreme.
If you are to advise President Muhammadu Buhari, especially on security and economy, what will you tell him?
I have not made pretenses in stating clearly that Muhammadu Buhari needs to rise to the occasion as the president and commander-in-chief to deal with the issues of insecurity in Nigeria. As we speak today, the economy is in comatose, businesses are closing down, people can no longer go to farms, the agricultural sector is in comatose, even the educational sector in the North is almost destroyed. You will agree with me that the level of out-ofschool children in the North is higher and today, the level at which they kidnap children from their schools has destroyed education completely in the northern part of the country.
So, the security situation in the country has destroyed every fabric of our lives, the economy, political, sociocultural, just name it. I run businesses and my businesses have not fared well because of the level insecurity. The transportation sector is grounded completely, people no longer travel by roads, people cannot travel because when they travel, they are kidnapped and ransom is demanded. My appeal to President Buhari is that he should put tribal and religious affinity aside and become a patriot that we have known him to be over the years and defend the country.
The corporate existence of the country is seriously being threatened and my advice is that Buhari must rise to the occasion as the commander-in-Chief and deal with the issue of security decisively, especially now that it is even being speculated that government’s hands, so to speak, is also in some of these things. At our level, it will not be good for us to orchestrate this, but if it is being insinuated in some quarters, it means that government needs to come out forcefully to deal with the issues of insecurity.
The people operating in our forests are not from the moon. If for example we know that Sambisa Forest is the base of terrorists, why not deploy military men to take over the place and send them away from the forest. I don’t believe that it is not surmountable; I believe that the President must rise to the occasion as commander-in-chief and deal with the issue.
I also believe that, we need to decentralise our police force. The current central police have failed woefully. The structure of the police that we have today was what was given to us by the colonial masters. We have retained that but Nigeria’s population has risen from one level to the other, we have also grown economically, we have grown technologically and crime has also grown. Therefore, we need a more advance system to be able to deal with the emerging situation of crime and criminality in Nigeria.
I believe very strongly that one centrally controlled police cannot deal with these issues. I, therefore, advocate that President Buhari should take the lead in decentralising the Nigeria Police to pave way for state police and even local government police. The constitution designated state governors as chief security officers of their states, but this is like giving somebody something with one hand and taking it with another hand because they cannot control Commissioners of Police in their states. They report to the Inspector General of Police but if we have state police, it will aid the current system that we have and deal with the issues of insecurity that we have in our country. Thirdly, we must deploy technology in dealing with the current security situation that we have found ourselves in the country. We must use infrastructure to deal with the issue of insecurity in the country.
For example, in some capital cities of some states, some streets are unknown, some streets are without street lights and so when there is a criminal activity somewhere, it becomes difficult to even track those involved. We don’t even have data; we don’t have biometrics of some people. There are a lot of measures that I think the government can put in place and it is not difficult to do.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as we speak, has registered over 80 million voters; if we can even start our biometrics from there, it will go a long way in fighting this issue of insecurity. Even the telecommunication companies; if we seek their support in terms of using technology to deal issues of crime and criminality that we have in the country, we will go a long way. I believe very strongly that our government is paying lip service to the issue of security.
My honest view is that the government, both at the federal and state levels, more particularly at the federal level because it has all the machinery at its disposal The Police, Department of State Services (DSS) and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) are all centralized, and therefore, bulk of the blame goes to the Federal Government. The problem with African leaders is that we like power; we want to hold on to power even though we have no idea of what to do with it. The Federal Government wants to hold on to security, hold on to police, hold to army, hold on to air force. How can one man administer security in a country of over 200 million people? He cannot and that is why we have the abysmal failure in the country. So, the early we start to decentralise our system, the better for us.
There is move by the Federal Government to revive grazing routes in some states. What is your stake on that?
The truth of the matter is that I believe that we should advance. I believe that we should grow beyond the level we are discussing. This is 21st century for God’s sake and there are modern methods of animal husbandry. Therefore, thinking of open grazing at this level of our development is backward. So, my advice is that the Federal Government should jettison that idea and come out with policies that will encourage ranching, whereby those who are in the business of rearing cattle should be able to acquire land and use modern methods to rear their cows. That is why I have said that our current government pays lip service to issues of development and security. At this level that we are in the 21st century, it is backwardness for us to be thinking of introducing open grazing, it is laughable and I think that we should grow beyond that level. We should be thinking of using more civilised methods of doing our businesses. So, that move is unnecessary, it is old, it is archaic and we should disregard it.