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In this interview with CHIMA AZUBUIKE, the Chairman of the Labour Party of Nigeria Chairman’s Forum and Gombe State LP Chairman, Sani Abdulsalam, discusses what distinguishes the party from others, the prospects of the party in winning the governorship poll in Gombe and the presidential election and other sundry issues
As chairman of a conference of Labour Party chairmen across the 36 states, what have been the challenges?
We have some challenges, one of which is the paucity of funds, and we are not yet in power, unlike the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party, using Nigeria’s money in their campaigns. We tell the people that our candidate is credible, and we know the electorate is not seeing money as a problem; they are looking at who will rescue Nigeria.
What are the chances of the Labour Party winning in Gombe State?
My party has over 75–80 per cent chances in Gombe State. This is following the level of mobilisation and efforts that members have invested to have a successful showing in the 2023 elections.
For instance, the chapter has been campaigning vigorously on the reasons why a vote for Peter Obi will not be a wasted vote.
Our people are very much aware that Northern politicians have disappointed them, especially the youths since the Sardauna (Ahmadu Bello); the others have been campaigning about the same thing about water, roads, and education, and we have yet to see that come to manifestation, which is why we are confident about the need to try another person. So, all these and more are reasons we have over 75 to 80 per cent support, which is key to winning.
That is the presidential aspect. Will you say the same about your gubernatorial candidate in Gombe State?
It is very easy for Keftin Amuga to win election in Gombe State because we have 11 LGAs, out of which we have Billiri, Kaltungo, Balanga, and Shongom representing Gombe South Tangale-Waja and the remaining seven in Gombe North and Central. Our candidate is coming from Tangale-Waja.
Amuga is popular and a good person before we even talk about his exploits as a knowledgeable politician. It will interest you to note that his people in Tangale-Waja like his politics because they are unblemished, without stains. It will also interest you to note that there are three other candidates in the PDP, APC, and New Nigeria Peoples Party representing Gombe North, and the Labour candidate will share the votes with them.
So, if we win in the four local governments constituting Gombe South, the seven LGAs, we have 100 per cent hope that we will make over 40 per cent of the total vote cast in the seven LGAs.
Politically, the candidate with the most votes cast in four local government areas and the most votes split in seven other LGAs wins the election.
How did Amuga emerge as the party’s governorship candidate?
The process was transparent. I sat down to calculate his chances as the flagbearer of the party under my chairmanship in Gombe. The Tangale-Waja people, we expect, will reciprocate the measure of support given to them because this is the first time Gombe South is being considered to be the governorship candidate of a viable party. They are always made to present the deputy governor but the Labour Party has changed that already by moving to see that they produce the next governor of the state.
The issue of structure can’t be ignored when discussing the Labour Party. How do you hope to defeat the incumbent APC and PDP after over 20 years of shared dominance?
The question of structure should no longer arise because our party is structured in a way that the father is the structure, the mother is the structure, and the children represent our structure.
In our party logo, it is visibly clear that we are people-oriented; we have structures around family and community ties.
Other parties claim to have structures that are merely brooms or umbrellas but because we believe in the structure of the family, workers represent the Labour Party structure.
We have ward chairmen and local government chairmen, and across polling units, the party accounts for about three persons, and during the election, they will advance the course of the party. A husband without a wife is not complete, as is a wife without a husband, as well as without children.
I can safely tell you that there is no house in Nigeria without the structure of the Labour Party, whether you are in the APC or the PDP. You have my party’s structure in your house. We are everywhere in Gombe and in Nigeria.
What do you tell your supporters, who are constantly reminded that voting for LP is a waste of their votes?
In the Labour Party, we believe in solving problems with strategies. If some people say you are wasting your vote, don’t mind them. If you waste your vote, I waste mine, my wife wastes hers, and my neighbours waste theirs, we will win the election. They are using the word ‘waste your vote’ because they want to discourage you from casting your ballot for your preferred candidate.
What’s the difference between the LP and the others? Many claim politicians are the same with the same interests; is this true?
It’s not true. The LP is different and the rest of the politicians don’t like our candidate Peter Obi because we are different. They also know the difference. As they pontificate on what they intend to do, our party is already issuing solutions to the issues. They (politicians) have come with the ambition to lift Nigeria’s money, but Peter Obi has come to work for Nigeria and Nigerians.
Can you say the same for your candidate in Gombe State?
Keftin Amuga is capable and ready to serve people day and night. Go and check who the man is. Across many homes in Tangale-Waja, Amuga has sponsored a lot of people and given a lot of children hope in Gombe State. He is not tribalistic or sentimental when it comes to religion. People from Tangale-Waja came to me and asked that we give Amuga the ticket, and immediately we went to investigate who Amuga is and discovered that the people indeed were correct, even though I didn’t know him.
Unemployment has soared due to an increasing population and an embargo on employment, what is the way forward?
The Labour Party from the national to state level has factored in the youth. We have also identified issues with electricity and security. Once they are tackled, industries will spring up, the ones that exist will perform optimally, and the economy will improve. We don’t believe Nigerian youths are lazy. We will empower the youths.
Nigeria is abundantly blessed with sufficient human and natural resources. I once talked with a Chinese man in Dubai about the poorest state in Nigeria, and I told him Zamfara. He told me that Zamfara’s resources can feed Nigeria for 60–70 years and no one will suffer.
Many political watchers in the state may not agree with you that Amuga has the political clout to dislodge the incumbent. Do you think otherwise?
That is not an accurate assessment of our candidate, our ward, and the local government chairmen who have worked tirelessly to increase Amuga’s political clout in Gombe North and Central.
We have seen the places where the Inuwa Yahaya government did well and the places where we felt they failed and that the Labour Party can improve upon. Past governors, from Hashidu to the current administration, have done some things very well and others not very well. Let me assure the people of Gombe that the Labour Party will do things better than previous governments.
How true is it that the LP is not a serious contender in Gombe politics and may sell out in due time?
It is impossible, it will never happen. We are very serious and deliberate. I boldly say that we will win the gubernatorial and presidential elections 100 per cent. We in the Labour Party have ambition.
What strategies do you hope to employ?
That’s our secret. We can’t tell people about our strategies aside from doing our underground campaigns now, but I assure you we have mapped out ways of appealing to electorates to get their votes.
Labour Party posters and billboards are nowhere in the metropolis, why is that?
Gombe is big; there are people that promised to give us posters and exercise books. Very soon, we will go to both primary and secondary schools to give them exercise books. We are also working on our banners. Very soon, you will see our posters and banners everywhere in Gombe State.
How will the Labour Party fight against vote-buying since it’s the new norm?
We will inform the Police, and the Independent National Electoral Commission about the shady activities of agents of those parties and we expect that they will be arrested. We will put an end to vote buying because it’s an injustice to self and state.
Ekiti and Osun states’ elections came and passed with the Labour Party winning none. Were you disappointed?
There was no need to be disappointed because our candidates tried. In elections, it’s either you win or you lose.
Also, INEC officials did their best; it’s a pity vote buying played a key role in candidates’ emergence.
What is your advice to Gombe electorate?
Don’t allow anyone who gives you money to win, because it’s a sign of things to come. Vote for him because he can perform, not because he has cartons of noodles or soap.
Don’t vote because of religion or ethnicity; vote because of credibility. I expect that our people will vote for Obi and Amuga because they are credible. I assure Gombe people and Nigerians that if they vote for Peter Obi and Keftin Amuga, they will not regret it.