Who is the Labour Party governorship candidate in Lagos State between Ifagbemi Awamaridi and Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour?
Both candidates are currently laying claim to the ticket, thereby fuelling confusion, anxiety and tension among chieftains and members of the party, overshadowing the massive following that the Labour Party currently enjoys across the country largely propelled by its presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi.
The months of discussions by various political leaders under the auspices of the Third Force movement culminated in the adoption of the Labour Party and subsequently Obi, who enjoys the support of the youth population, as the face of the movement.
This has made the LP one of the most sought-after platforms ahead of the 2023 election unlike in the past when LP political platform did not gain much traction.
But the national movement propelled by Obi’s revolution has changed the political equation ahead of the 2023 election as Nigerians await what may likely be a three-horse race among APC, PDP and Labour Party.
It was the newly found strength of the LP that has triggered the wide interest in the ticket of the party at all levels.
In Lagos, the governorship ticket is a serious subject of discord as two chieftains of the party are parading themselves as the candidate to fly the party’s flag in the March 2023 election.
Going by the seeming obscurity of the LP, there appear to be deficient structures of the party across the 36 states of the federation as there are no substantive party executives across the states and Lagos is not an exemption.
While the national leaders of the party were neck-deep in talks about its proposed adoption as the Third Force Political party, it failed to resolve leadership crises across the states and so at the time of primaries, there was little or no interest in who becomes the party’s flag bearer in all the states of the federation.
In the case of Lagos State, Chief Ifagbemi Awamaridi, who is the Chairman of the party, also contested as the governorship candidate and won the first primary conducted in June with his name submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that in the first publication of names made by INEC, Awamaridi’s name appeared as the LP governorship candidate.
And while this was going on, the national leaders of the party were also in talks with a chieftain of the APC, Hon. Moshood Salvador, who was planning to dump the ruling party and pick the governorship ticket of the party.
Salvador, whose Conscience Forum with membership spread across the 20 local government areas of the state, had protested ill-treatment from the APC and has concluded plans to dump the APC for the Labour Party.
In fact, he joined with an assurance of picking the party’s governorship ticket but this was not going to be as another PDP defector, Rhodes-Vivour, who has his eyes fixed on the governorship seat, was also warming up to join the Labour Party after failing to secure his nomination as the running mate to the PDP candidate, Alhaji Abdulazeez Olajide Adediran popularly known as Jandor.
After joining the Labour Party, it was learnt that there are some forces within the party who were more disposed to a much younger candidate which they felt Rhodes-Vivour represents and therefore Salvador’s expectation to emerge as the sole governorship candidate was thwarted.
Then, the party put in place machinery to organise a substitution primary for the duo of Salvador and Rhodes-Vivour. The party first fixed the primary for Monday August 8 but it was stalled following an allegation of compromise of the delegates’ list raised by Salvador. He said this was done to favour his opponent, Rhodes-Vivour.
It was therefore shifted to the following day and another venue where Rhodes-Vivour eventually emerged the winner polling 111 votes to beat Salvador who scored 102 votes.
Salvador rejected the results, saying it was conducted without compliance with the due process, wondering how an early comer would hijack the ticket from him.
He said, “You can remember that I paid for the form on the 5th of July 2022 and I was given the INEC nomination form as a candidate.
“They came, raised my hand and declared me a candidate and all of you were there. Now, we planned an affirmation for Monday and they said somebody paid on Friday and asked us to bring 100 delegates each, not even going through the constitutional process of delegates’ formation.
“A day before, we heard a lot of rumour and it showed on Monday when they doctored the list and increased his own number of delegates by 26 and removed 26 from my own to have 74. They now perfected it today, used only the state executive, those that were not even here, somebody represented him to vote. Is that democratic? Therefore, I reject it in totality.”
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that the leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, later settled the grievances between the duo.
But while the whole drama about substitution was ongoing, Awamaridi who was initially thought to be a governorship placeholder came out to dismiss the notion and said he remains the governorship candidate of the party, thereby fuelling suspicion that the whole governorship substitution primary might turn out to be a futile exercise going by the provision of the amended Electoral Act.
Section 33 of the Electoral Act provides that no candidate in an election who is already nominated shall be substituted except in the case of the death of that candidate or withdrawal by that candidate.
Therefore, Awamaridi cried out that he is not dead but very much alive and has not withdrawn from the race as the LP governorship candidate in Lagos.
He disclosed that he has already instituted a case against the Labour Party to challenge the decision to conduct a fresh primary, noting that status quo remains.
“Even a baby lawyer knows that if that situation is on ground, the status quo remains. What is the status quo? The status quo is me. It is a simple thing that you don’t even need to go to a lawyer to ask.
“The last name INEC published was mine. INEC has not changed the publication. So, if I am in court and I am the status quo, what then are we talking about?
“Let them come to court and argue their case. The status quo will remain until the case finishes. That is the normal thing. It is a pre-election matter. As far as the law is concerned now, I am the one to campaign,” he said.
It was learnt that Awamaridi filed a suit at the High Court in Lagos challenging the legality of the fresh primary and praying the court to stop Rhodes-Vivour from parading himself as LP governorship candidate.
But the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Comrade Arabambi Abayomi, still presented the certificate to Rhodes-Vivour as the party’s governorship candidate and he has continued to parade himself as such notwithstanding the insistence of Awamaridi that he remains the governorship candidate of the party.
Abayomi, who spoke with our correspondent, threatened that the party would arrest Awamaridi if he continues to parade himself as the governorship candidate and at the same time the chairman of the party. The party had earlier appointed Mr. Olukayode Salako as the new acting chairman of the party, insisting Awamaridi’s tenure has elapsed and the party has the power to appoint a new chairman.
But the threat by the Publicity Secretary did not sway Awamaridi who dismissed with a wave of hand the comment by Abayomi even as he warned against forging documents to be presented to the INEC in order to replace him.
He said he would not sit back and allow some newcomers in the party to lord over him who has been financing the party over the years.
With the situation on ground, only the court can determine who is the actual candidate of the party as they (Awamaridi and Gbolahan Rhodes-Vivour) are both laying claims to the position.
Speaking with Daily Trust, the Deputy National Chairman of the Labour Party, Alhaji Lamidi Apanpa, said the final list to be released by INEC would clear the air on who is the governorship candidate of the Labour Party in the state.
He said, “We should wait for the final list. The party is supreme,” adding that irrespective of what the court might decide on pending cases, the supremacy of the party remains and that would be deployed at the right time.