The frenzy over the Labour Party is not yet over; thanks to a new admirable bride, Peter Obi. But the Labour Party must now arise and respond to the challenges of professionalising, institutionalising and building enduring political structure for the new generation of Nigerian politicians.
By Victor Emeruwa
A critical look at the Labour Party constitution leaves one with little enthusiasm, it was written like the parchment of the old politics of the All Progressive Congress ( APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), nothing propelling, nothing futuristic, no envisioning and inclusion of youths in an engaging manner; the scroll also lacks an expansive gender mainstreaming. These are the new words, the necessary narratives that should form the ideologies of a political party which has become a rallying point to many Nigerians who have lost hope in the mainstream political parties. It is a chance the labour party must not lose to levity.
While people mock Peter Obi for lacking a political base, a structure, which would form the base of his nationwide reach, the real reference, is the party on which he will be running as president. Obi’s dismissal of apolitical structure base, preferring instead to refer to it as mere mass of human is both right and wrong.
It is right because no structures can be enabled without the inputs of humans, so like Obi said, “people are the structure”. It is wrong because the Labour Party is not making any seen efforts to set up working systems. Even though its rallying point is technology enabled; Facebook and Twitter, the party does not have solid technology footprints; it does not yet have a functional website. Mr. Obi has become the face of the party, he has become the structure of the party, but Obi cannot play the essential role of system enabling; that must be the job of a responsible political party.
The Labour Party has the burden to lead from the front; it must become the example for other political parties to emulate. It must be different, youth-centric in style, approach, recruitment, fundraising and constitution. The labour party should reflect the energy of the young people and make it a party for the now and next generation.
People worry that should Obi win the 2023 presidential election, there will be an in-flock of same old politicians into the Labour Party; this is an inevitable scenario which the constitution of the Labour Party can and should address in order to give confidence to the burgeoning influx of new political enthusiasts. In article 10 (1) of the constitution of the party it reads: “the membership of the party shall be open to all Nigerians who accept its ideology..” this is an open ended invitation for all comers; how do you measure the acceptance of certain ideologies? It must raise the bar, it must show that this is not a party for all by introducing essential clauses that will block corrupt politicians from accessing the party to corrupt it and continue their wayward control of the Nigerian project. Labour Party’s attraction should be its protectionist policy of ensuring clauses in areas such as persons of criminal record; cross carpeting policy, its clauses must be deliberate in cleansing the politics from the old guard career politicians.
What is referred to as structure is not only human but systems that is enabling and functional. Labour party appears unready to strategically cash in on the ‘OBIdient’ movement other than the social media frenzy and its enormous goodwill thanks to the entrance of Peter Obi.
The challenge for the party is to utilise the moment to build its internal workings; structures and systems; for instance, the party does not have simple things like a functional and engaging website and other social media footprints. It needs to set up a database for new membership, give members the sense of ownership by making the party a fee membership party. Its fee should be clear; is it monthly or annually. Article 10 (2) states that: “Every member shall fill prescribed membership application form and pay membership fee of 50.00…” a fifty naira membership fee cannot fund the party even if millions of people donate.
It should stagger the payment by grades; some memberships can afford to pay far more than fifty naira. This way it will raise funds to professionally run its secretariat and conduct essential party activities. The Labour Party must now wake up! It must sit up and show Nigerians that it is the face of the new generation of politicians who want to serve and not be served.