Femi Pedro and the Labour Party Alternative

By Lekan Sanni

 

Is Nigeria ready for an alternative political platform? That is the question on everybody's lips in Lagos, with Femi Pedro's recent surge in the race to Alausa under the platform of Labour Party. Among the other LP candidates across the nation are Rahman Mimiko (Ondo), Sen. Gbenga Aluko (Ekiti), Okey Ezea (Enugu), Jimmy Cheto (Plataeu), to name a few. This may prove to be a crucial turn in the landscape of politics in Nigeria. If Femi Pedro wins this April, it will be the first time in Nigeria's political history that a labour-oriented government will hold such a high position of governance. Of all the other prominent Lagos candidates, he is the only candidate running a campaign void of godfathers, ludacris spending, demigods, thuggery or coercion. Instead, his campaign message has in abudance humility, vision, integrity and above all, a  genuine followership. Many have called him the ideal candidate under the ideal platform, but people closely following the race to Alausa have begun to refer to him as "A Man of Destiny".

As far as the rules go, Pedro was described as a rookie in the political scene. He was never seen as a threat to anybody, least, Babatunde Fashola, who is the heir apparent to Tinubu and Musiliu Obanikoro, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Indeed, he was never in the contention of the leaders of his former party, the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and later the Action Congress (AC) as an aspirant for the April election, not to talk of being a candidate. In addition, his platform, the LP, which grew out of the struggles of the organised labour in 2001, was seen as a weak structure that cannot stand a chance of winning any election in the state.

"First of all, the deputy governor is an individual. Don't forget that he is not a politician. We took him from the bank. And when we took him, I was one of the people that interviewed him when he was to become the deputy. And he assured us that he would not be a politician. That he only wanted to acquire inner knowledge of the workings of government. That he would remain apolitical.

"I was shocked when I heard that he had gone to the LP for his governorship quest. But democracy permits everybody to pursue his own individual goal, interest and passion. So to that extent I wish him the best of luck in his new found political association.

"He does not in any way constitute any threat to the AC. And I doubt very much if he would in anyway see himself as a threat to the party. He might just want to be his own person, which is allowed. Our experience in Lagos is so rich that we have had worst challenges that never amounted to anything. It just disappeared with time", this was the submission of Rauf Aregbesola, a strong member of the AC in Lagos, who is also the governorship candidate of the party in Osun State, when his views was sought on Pedro's entry into the race.

But no doubt, since this comment was made, Pedro has broken new grounds and rules in the history of Nigerian and Lagos politics. For a rookie, his deft moves to ditch the AC and pitch tent with the LP without any fuse when he realised that the party has no place for him is unparallel. While other aspirants were battling with Tinubu over the imposition agenda, Pedro quietly eased himself out and looked for another platform to realise his ambition.

Going to the LP, Pedro said his programme and that of his newfound love are similar. This encompasses the concern for free and qualitative education, health, adequate security, housing, stable electricity supply, integrated mass transit system, sustained welfare for pensioners, full employment for youths and credit facilities for market women.

Pedro sees himself as a child of destiny. Being the only deputy governor out of 36 in the country running for the highest post in the state, he indeed has something going for him. But on the LP platform hitherto unknown in the state, the deputy governor has succeeded in bringing the party to the consciousness of Lagosians. Now, Lagos residents talked about Fashola, Obanikoro, Pedro and Agbaje in the race for the coveted seat.

"Pedro is a living testimony to the saying that everybody makes way for a man who knows where he is going. Yet, he was penciled down as an 'also-ran' at best. He was the quintessential outsider; a brainy, straight-as-an-arrow corporate player ill-suited for the witty, rough-and-tumble world of politics and contemptuous of its often-silly propensity.

"Even with a record of loyalty and a remarkable record of performance, his boss ditched him. This was seen as something of a kiss of death in a country where godfathers make the political world. Well, maybe not everybody, as naysayers are still trying to stop his march, even if they can no longer deny his relevance.

"When he left what was seen as a big party, the AC, for the LP, many politicians sniggered because the party was not known and, in this part, nobody wants to do the backbreaking work of building a party from the scratch when you can wriggle a ticket of a big party with the assurance of victory by hook or crook"a party's patriarch, who was particularly piqued that Pedro refused to worship at his feet quipped derisively about Pedro's LP move.

"He wants to labour in vain".

It is difficult to find any of Pedro's opponents sniggering today. The moment of truth for them was the massive 200 thousand-strong rally to herald his campaign.

"Tagged Rally of Change", the January 30, mammoth gathering made Pedro's detractors realise that his sheer gut and message resonated with those of Lagosians. It marked the turning point in the evolution of a reformist politician. Devoid of violence and thuggery normally characteristic of such rallies, it was also a unique gathering because of the groups that pitched in with support for the candidate", said Abayomi Ogundeji, director of communications, Femi Pedro campaign organisation.

Few weeks ago, leaflets were printed to the effect that the deputy governor was never the candidate of the labour movement. In the leaflets, he was described as an impostor who came to hijack the party, with a promise that he would soon be disgraced out. According to the leaflet, the deputy governor was looking for a credible platform through which he could realise his ambition. He was accused of never being on the side of labour, even as his accusers said he would never be allowed the opportunity to use the party's platform.

But such positions have been contradicted by recent happenings when the Trade Union Congress (TUC) adopted his candidacy. Earlier, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), had opened the floodgate of endorsement when it adopted him as its candidate in Lagos State. Affiliate unions such as the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) as well as textile workers have also decided to pitch their tent with the labour candidate.

TUC's adoption of Pedro, according to John Kolawole, its secretary general was as a result of his; "credible antecedents and labour friendly posture". According to Kolawole, while other candidates in the state ignored the organised labour, Pedro was the only person who presented himself to the leadership of the TUC for support. Already, TUC is seeking its integration into the campaign team of the candidate.

Catching the sympathy of the labour movement no doubt is a ground breaking move for Pedro as the bulk of the voting public are workers both in the private and public sector,and the informal and the formal sectors.

In recent times however, there seems to be concerted efforts to distract the candidate. First was the removal of his posters and billboards from strategic locations in the state. It was learnt that the billboards are being removed because he did not pay the required fees for signage.

"In the past two weeks, Pedro's billboards in strategic locations at Alausa, the seat of government of Lagos State were removed on the orders of the Lagos State government. Daily, his outdoors campaign materials are vandalised,he is the only governorship candidate at the receiving end of such intolerance", Ogundeji said.

But the most damning accusation against the deputy governor has been his alleged move to align with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to rope his boss in a phantom coup plot to which he stands to benefit as the candidate of the party. More worrisome about the accusation was that it came from the Lagos State government, his current employer.

While political pundits said the move was to distract the deputy governor, since government is realising the in-road he is already making, National chairman of LP, Dan Nwanyanwu said Pedro's opponents reached for what he described as the "dubious weapon" after the failure of the previous attempt to discredit him through leaflets.

"Otunba Pedro is not known for frivolities. He is not known for pettiness. He is not known for lack of focus. He is a very successful banker, dependable politician, a leader who truly believes in God and in the people as the only source of power and a man who knows that service to the people is the only yardstick for the measurement of success for political leaders", he said.

The LP, Nwanyanwu said, believes in the politics of issues. "Our party is not just another political party. It is the only party that was formed with the consensus and the amalgamation of those who have been known by the people as fighters for and defenders of the right of our people to decent jobs, decent living, good and accessible health delivery, functional education system accessible to all our people, and indeed make poverty history", he added.

According to him, the removal of Pedro's billboards and the vandalism of his campaign materials is a "demonstration of political immaturity, lack of programmes and vision on the part of our opponents".

While Tinubu's foot soldiers had been at the forefront of the war, the governor himself has taken up the gauntlet, revealing the deep animosity between the two. At the AC campaign rally at Festac, the governor said his deputy cannot be trusted with the state treasury, an accusation that the opposing camp has refused to respond to.

"We don't want to join issues with the man, but the fact remains that Pedro was never in control of the treasury. If anything, that is the responsibility of the governor as the helmsman. For him to be in the banking sector for 20 years without any blemish means he is a man you can trust, forget about that political statement", said a member of Pedro's campaign team.

It was learnt that but for the feud between President Olusegun Obasanjo and his vice, Atiku Abubakar, Pedro would have gone the way of Senator Kofo Bucknor-Akerele immediately he took the step to dump the AC.

Already, the candidate and his running mate, Alhaja Oluranti Adebule, who teaches Islamic studies at the Lagos State University (LASU), have held whistle- stop campaigns in areas such as Oshodi – Isolo, Badagry, Ikorodu, Apapa, Lagos Mainland, Ifako Ijaiye and Eti Osa local governments.

Pedro himself has admitted that since he became the candidate of the LP about two months ago,Lagos residents had embraced the party judging by their show of support during his campaigns in many of the council areas. Pledging to implement the party's masses-oriented programme if voted-in as governor, the question remains whether the candidate and his platform have the required visibility to win the April polls going by the determination of the PDP to "capture" the state at all costs and the resilience of the AC to maintain its stranglehold on the state. In the face of Adams Oshiomhole joining forces with the AC in Edo, can the LP go it alone and confound historians by winning the Lagos race? Time would tell.

Source: http://www.labourpartyng.org (the only functioning website of all the political parties in Nigeria today)



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