The Labour Party, LP, Chairman in Enugu State, Casmir Agbo, in this exclusive interview with DAILY POST reporter- FRANCIS UGWU, plays down the crisis in the national leadership of the party, speaks on the defection of LP House of Assembly members in Enugu State, among other issues. Excerpts:

How has Your party been performing the role of opposition in Enugu State?

Within the available resources, we are doing our best. We cannot give what we don’t have. What we don’t have is that we don’t have the available money to go out and, like the print media and electronic media, to do this…but we are trying. At times we go out of ways to do what we are supposed to do. Like now we are confronted with a bill, which they are about to introduce to the House of Assembly on ranching in Enugu State.

We have done our best in terms of letting people know through social media that this is what was rejected during Buhari at the federal level. But Governor Peter Mbah, I don’t see why he should go into RUGA or ranching in Enugu State. Even in his senatorial zone in Nara/Nkerefi and so on, you have rice fields uncared for. What of establishing a rice mill and giving our people employment and empowering them in their field of endeavour. Who is doing ranching here? Most of the cattle you see on the road are owned by ex-governors and ex-senators in Enugu State. They employed these Fulani people to carry their cattle into the bush. And you see most Fulani in the villages destroy people’s agricultural products, and you cannot ask them to build a ranch for themselves? Government has no business in that project.

If the government establishes a law to establish ranching, who is going to do the ranching in the State? Is it not the Fulanis? That was what happened in Benue and Plateau States when they were Benue/Plateau. They gave out their land to foreigners and today they are paying dearly for it.

Today, they are crying. They don’t even know the solution to it because these people have a lot of money. In a day they can make up to one billion naira through sales, and they buy arms and nobody controls them. If you report them to the police, their brothers are there at the police station; DPOs, Commissioner of Police, and the matter will just end that way. So, I don’t see the rationale behind the bill of establishing ranching in the State.

In terms of opposition in the state, the Labour Party is trying its best. What we need is a kind of commitment from the elected members of the National Assembly and our own State Assembly, who should reject that bill, because if you approve that bill and leave office, you might be affected by the consequences that follow. And by that time, it will be too late.

Just like today, Gowon is crying in Plateau and David Mark in Benue State. All the former Benue leaders are crying today that the Fulanis have taken over their place. They don’t have any power again to interfere because of their inactions while in government.

Any person, who is seeing one naira, two naira being given to him or a car of sixty million naira given to him, and goes ahead to approve a project that has death consequences for his people in future, is equally killing himself. All hands must be on deck, it is not only the Labour Party, both the PDP and APC must come out and say ‘what are going to benefit from this ranching’ in the first place. Is it going to bring job employment to our people? What effect will it have on us in future? That is the issue. So, opposition is not mainly meant for the Labour Party, it is also meant for APC, APGA, SDP, PDP and so on. All the parties should come out and say no to this ill fated project.

LP won 14 seats in the House of Assembly which would have given them control over the legislative house but it didn’t happen. What actually happened?

I have explained these things several times. I have talked about this several times saying it is about betrayal, sell-out by those elected by the Labour Party. It is no longer a hidden thing that six of them have departed the Labour Party, and very soon, our papers are ready; very soon we are going to court to contest whether the section of the law, which they breached, will be applied or not. Most of these guys are children of circumstance. You know many of them are inexperienced about legislation. Just because of the wave of Peter Obi and Chijioke Edoga they got elected. Right? And inexperience made them yield in to Peter Mbah, who now has gone back to renege in the promises he made to them. They are now shouting, and I told them, ‘I told you before that he will just use you and dump you’. And it is happening. So, we are going to recover our mandate. We are taking our time so that when we get to the court, we must have crossed all the ‘Ts’ and dots all ‘Is’.

Recently it was announced that six members of the house moved to the PDP, how did your party receive that news?

We saw it coming. We were not taken by surprise. Immediately after the election, we saw it coming and braced up. If they had concealed it and continued working with us and all of sudden jumped ship, it would have been a shock to us. We knew they were leaving. It was not a shock to us, we were prepared.

But you once issued a statement saying they will lose their seats, how come you didn’t go to court?

The matter is being handled by the national body. The Party’s National Legal Adviser is on it.

Is your party ready to welcome them back if they make a u-turn?

I don’t think that is possible. They cannot even try it. Ordinarily one would have said ‘a prodigal son’, but politically it is wrong. They have declared their seats vacants by law. Just like what happened in Rivers State, you cannot leave the party that elected you. The votes are for the party and not for the individual. We are pushing that their seats be declared vacants, even if it takes two years to do that, that will be done.

But with that defection, including other members who have left, don’t you think the LP has not been able to manage its success well in Enugu and other states?

What of the PDP that is losing members here and there in Nigeria today? Most of the things that our politicians are doing are based on a selfish end – stomach infrastructure, that is the only thing we are facing, not a question of management.

There is no perfect management anywhere in the whole world. It is the ability to maintain ground and manage what you have. Any person who is leaving the Labour Party because of management is not telling the truth. The person just wants to use that to get back in the ruling party. Some of them are telling Nigerians to leave the Labour Party, they don’t even know what they are doing to themselves. At the end of the day, they will be disappointed. There is no crisis in the Labour Party in Enugu State. Or in Nigeria today, the court has settled the matter that Abure is the National Chairman of the Party. We don’t have two national chairmen, other ones are just making noise by the side because they are collecting money from the APC and PDP as the case may be. We don’t have parallel executives anywhere in Nigeria.

Your party at the national level has been engulfed in crisis, what’s your position on the matter?

Any person can allege anything against anybody. If someone can get up to say I have embezzled hundred million naira in Enugu State, why can’t they go to court to prove it? It is a simple thing. If someone has mismanaged the fund of a party, you can go to court and demand for justice. You cannot just allege anything. No. it is not done that way.

At our last convention, Abure gave out his account through an external auditor who appeared in our national convention and read out the account of the party and how money came in and how it was used, and the remaining balance in the account. So, that is how it is done. He has done that through an external auditor. Any person who wants to do anything can go on and get that copy and challenge anything in that copy in the court. Let the court prove that money is missing. But for us in the Labour Party, we don’t see any money missing in our party.

Don’t you think the crisis is weakening the base of your party being that it preaches against corruption?

It depends on the angle you are seeing it. If it is a truthful allegation, that will weaken the party. That is why I said that even you, someone can accuse you of collecting a brown envelope of ten million naira from the governor. If it is true, it will weaken your base. If it is not true, you move on and do your job. So, any person can lay an allegation. Anybody can come up and say the party fund of ten billion naira is missing. But it depends on the person who is saying it and the extent he has gone to prove it. You must prove that allegation; mere allegation does not suffice corruption at all.

Do you think your national chairman, Abure shoving aside the Organised Labour is the best thing for your party?

Abure is working within the law, within the constitution of the party. Organised Labour is a separate entity from the Labour Party and they are being managed by separate individuals: the president and chairman. They are all recognised by the CAC. They are corporate bodies registered with the CAC that can be sued and sue too. Abure has no control over NLC, likewise Ajero has no control over the Labour Party.

If there is an agreement, the agreement has not been subverted. In the first place, NLC has a representative at the Labour Party, TUC, has their own in the Labour Party. And you cannot come and take over the Labour Party when the law says otherwise.

For instance, during the time of Ayuba, they wrote to INEC, the letter is there in the public domain, they wrote to INEC and say we need to be clarified on our position in the Labour Party. INEC told them that there is nothing to be clarified; the Labour Party is recognised as a political party in Nigeria and NLC has no control over the Labour Party in law. That is in 2015, the letter is in public domain; if you search on the internet you will see it because we have posted it online. That was during the time of Ayuba, when we agreed that they will have a representative at the Labour Party. And they brought in a woman, TUC brought somebody.

Their problem is because they are being induced financially by outsiders, either APC or otherwise, they want to cause a crisis in the party. Labour is not managed by fools or dullards. Abure is a lawyer. Most of us are lawyers, engineers, accountants in our various fields. So, it is not just a party you will come in and just impose yourself.

As far as I am concerned, the Labour Party has no board of trustees now because the board of trustees are former leaders of the party that will be nominated by various groups. But Ajero went and brought one former chairman of the Labour Party who is even an APC member and said he is chairman of the board of trustees. He brought another guy who was a member of the APC campaign committee and made him secretary. You can see where the whole thing is coming from. We are not perturbed by what they are doing anyway. The Labour Party is moving on and INEC recognises Abure-led NWC.

For instance, in Edo we organised primaries, it is the name of Olumide Akpata that is there as a candidate of the Labour Party. Initially they forwarded the name of one person through the Lamidi Apapa’s group and said he is the candidate of the Labour Party. But today, people have seen that it is Olumide Akpata. So, all these things are just to cause distractions to the party, but we are not moved because we are aware of the antics. It is only when you start giving them attention that we start being divided.

Can you assess the performance of federal lawmakers elected under your party, especially those from your state, considering the SUV saga and others?

In terms of SUV cars, the national body called them in a meeting and said: reject the cars, but because they have their rights, they have their own discretion to make, they collected the cars. And you cannot force them, you cannot punish or beat them. When you are going to punish them, the time is coming for you to now say, ‘party advised on this and you did not do this’. The party is silent on that. At the appropriate time, the party will react. If that money was given to them for their constituencies or half of the money was used to buy an Innoson vehicle, that is to improve local content, number one. The other money would now be used to give out scholarships to indigent students in their constituencies.

In fact, they collected that money in cash. The car was not given to them. The money was given to them in cash, some of them went and bought cars of hundred million, some ninety million, which is at variance with what the party stands for. They did it based on their discretion but the party will react at the appropriate time.

In terms of performance, I think I may not be in a position to talk about all of them, but I will score them low in terms of party decisions. The party had asked them ‘whatever you are doing you should let the party know that you are doing this’. You cannot be doing it just because you want to do it, the party will take records of what you are doing. What they are doing, the people are complaining. I am aware, we have social media platforms, people are complaining of highhandedness of those we elected. And I said this is just ten months of their stay in the National Assembly. Give them another one year, then we can now assess them. We are just following them gradually.

Can you assess governance in Enugu State under the PDP?

Well you don’t give what you don’t have in the first place. The government does not know anything about leadership. And they are doing what is best known to them.

My view is that the government cannot give what they don’t have. They don’t have it. They have done nothing. The first promise they made is that they are going to give water to Enugu State in 180 days, which is six months. Uptill now you cannot get water anywhere, except you drive to New Market, where they have the borehole. At times it works, at times it will not run. So there is no water in Enugu state. They are still laying pipes, which is what they have been doing for 24 years.

We saw that during the time of Sullivan Chime, from Oji River to the 9th Mile it stopped. We saw it during the Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi administration, in certain areas he was laying pipes. Now the government has come to lay pipes. These pipes they are laying, will it take eternity for them to complete the laying of pipes?

In terms of road construction, what they are doing is a shabby job, it is an eye sore. Once there is rain it will wash it out. It won’t last up to two years; even if it lasts up to one year, we are lucky. Unfortunately, the masses are not helping the issues. Some of them are drumming support for them because of crumbs that fall from the governor’s table. The governance in Enugu State has gone to hairwires.

One, you cannot access the governor. The governor sees you on what they call Zoom. We call him Zoom governor in Enugu State. Nobody has access to the governor.

In terms of security, you have seen the killings in Ezeagu, Eha Amufu, Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani and so on. And everywhere, kidnapping along Opi-Enugu road, Opi-Nsukka-Ugwogo Nike-Enugu road. Kidnapping along Ebe-Ukana-Okpatu road. Kidnapping of medical officers at UNTH, and many of them are unaccounted for. What are we talking about? We are just living by the grace of the Creator. You don’t go out unless you are sure of your coming in. We are all living in fear in the State. So nothing is working.

They told us they are building SMART schools. SMART schools for what? Is it for the dead people? Of course there are certain programmes you will do and people will applaud you but before you begin anything like SMART schools, what of the teachers that are teaching there, are they well paid? If they are not well paid, the schools will remain just like a glorified converging centre, where people come, debate, make noise and go. All these things combined have shown that the government of the day is just a coordination of what we had had before.

The Tinubu government will soon clock one year in office, what’s your assessment of his policies and programmes?

Tinubu’s government has been a failure for the past months he has been in office. People are yawning for Buhari to come back. It is like when the president leaves, the next one will be worse than the former. Tinubu’s policies are anti-people. I don’t know what he stands to gain by all the things he is doing.

Look at the Lagos-Calabar coastal line and how they were demolishing properties worth billions of naira. Even if you want to demolish, why not give the person time and compensate him and let him move to another place. But because of his anti-Igbo policy they went and demolished property where many people are feeding from. People have worked there for years. These people are now kept redundant and some will go into crime. That is the policy of a government that does not know what it is doing.

In terms of floating of naira, that is childish; you float naira on what basis? Why cannot he ban the use of dollars in Nigeria? He should ban the use of dollars in this country, unless someone who is travelling outside uses dollars to pay at the embassy. Imagine a governor paying the school fees of his children in dollars and the government today has not closed that school, which means all of them are guilty of that. Why are we deceiving ourselves? The policies they are churning out are anti-peoples policies. He should understand that people are suffering.

INTERVIEW: LP lawmakers disobeying party directives will regret actions – Enugu chair, Agbo

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