Labour Party and the pursuit of populist policies


TIMOTHY AGBOR examines the efforts of the Labour Party in building on its performance during the 2023 presidential and National Assembly elections and its pursuit of populist policies ahead of the forthcoming off-season polls.

Uba Group

Despite the seeming internal crisis rocking it, the Labour Party has refused to be distracted in its desire to be a third-force political party that considers more the interests of the ordinary people rather than the elites.

Having recorded a milestone in the just-concluded general elections, a feat many have described as unprecedented considering that the party came from obscurity to gain popularity, the party was recently confronted with the temptation of either joining the two dominant parties – the Peoples Democratic Party and All Progressives Congress – in continuing with their exorbitant sales of nomination forms for those seeking to occupy political offices, or deviating from the status quo.

Ahead of the governorship elections coming up later this year in Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo States, Labour Party, believed by scores to be a revolutionary movement that captured the heart of the youths and many Nigerians yearning for a change from the present government, fixed the price of its expression of interest and nomination forms at N25 million.

This decision appeared unpopular among supporters of the party and the leadership of the party came under fire for attempting to toe the path of the APC and PDP in selling the forms at expensive prices. The Point gathered that many public office seekers are now cashing in on the recently acquired popularity and overwhelming acceptability of the LP by going for its forms. In Imo State alone, no fewer than 12 aspirants, excluding the late Humphrey Anumudu, have picked Labour Party’s forms to contest the Imo State off-cycle governorship election.

Following the N25 million price peg of governorship form, Nigerians, mostly supporters of the Labour Party, frowned at the party for emulating APC and PDP. It was gathered that APC and PDP are selling their governorship nomination forms between N20 million and N50 million, a situation for which Labour Party’s publicity secretary, Abayomi Ararambi, condemned the APC and PDP for using the exorbitant cost of nomination to exclude the youths.

Apparently contradicting its party’s earlier stance by fixing the gubernatorial form for N25 million, LP was recently condemned wildly on social media. Some of those who kicked against the development charged LP to make a difference and desist from aligning with the status quo.

One of them identified as FS Emeka Yusuf, a supporter of the party, said, “Pegging the gubernatorial nomination and expression of interest form at N25m is outrageous. Labour Party shouldn’t make defending them hard for us. We want a party that should make a difference and not align with the status quo. Equal opportunity should be the mantra.”

For another Nigerian, Abel Joshua Chinaza said, “N500,000 or even N1,000,000 is better. It will make the race more competitive. Exorbitant prices for ordinary expressions of interest have already excluded a set of willing young minds who are not moneybags but want to come on board to serve the people.” Official Chuks noted that “Picking an interest form shouldn’t be based on who can afford the form but on the candidate’s capability if in-house scrutiny has been properly done. That should be the best way to go.”

Reminding the Labour Party if its core values and populist mantra, Dr Ekpos Chinwe Weritimi said, “Can someone please remind me of the core values espoused by LP? I know Obi-Datti’s competence, capacity, credibility and character. And that was what resonated with those who became Obidients. Is LP an old wine sack struggling to contain the new wine called Obidients?”

Speaking in the same vein, another Nigerian identified as Igbudu opined, “I don’t know why people can’t simply reason. Did it not occur to them that they are riding on the goodwill of many young Nigerians? Ordinarily, one would expect that they would employ other criteria like past antecedents etc., to bait for a good and acceptable candidate.”

Warning the party against policies that would make it lose its fast-rising credibility, Kanu Levi said, “I don’t know if there are conditions for raising such money because I don’t see a reason for someone who wants to serve the public to pay N25 million just to purchase a form; how much is his salary in 4 years? Labour Party should be very careful because Peter Obi might be the last.”

Obviously struck by Nigerians’ reactions, the Labour Party reviewed downwards the cost of its nomination and expression of interest forms for governorship elections in Imo, Bayelsa and Kogi States from N25 million to N15 million.

The party said it became expedient and instructive for it to do so, in order to lead by example adding that its Presidential Candidate in the February 25th, 2023 presidential and National Assembly election, Peter Obi had also waded into the matter. The embattled Chairman of the party, Julius Abure, made the disclosure recently at a special meeting with the party’s National Assembly legislators-elect in Abuja.

According to him, “We have reviewed all the complaints about the high cost of the nomination fees charged by the party, in terms of nomination fees of the Governorship election in Imo state and Bayelsa and Kogi. We have reviewed downwards the nomination fees and I am pleased to announce to you that the nomination fees have been reduced from N25 million to N15 million for the governorship elections.

“We have always been a listening party and therefore, for us, as the leadership of this party the needs and aspirations of our people would always be listened to. We want to assure members of the party and all Nigerians that the Labor Party would live by example.”

The chairman also saluted the courage of all those who were injured and all those who were shot during the course of the recent elections and are still in the hospital recovering.

“I must say that our desire to take back the country and free it from the shackles of poverty, unemployment and misery remains undaunted. We shall continue to pursue this cause on behalf of Nigerians and we believe very strongly that a new Nigeria is very possible,” he noted.


He indicated that the mandate and responsibility given to the party by the Nigerian People and those which were stolen, like all other mandates either at the level of State Governorship or the level of the State Houses of Assembly or the National Assembly will be retrieved through legal means.

“We have always been a listening party and therefore, for us, as the leadership of this party, the needs and aspirations of our people would always be listened to. We want to assure members of the party and all Nigerians that the Labor Party would live by example”

“We want to assure all our supporters that we are going to pursue the mandate, retrieve them and take them back on behalf of the Nigerian people. We shall do this lawfully and legally, Abure averred, indicating that during the meeting which lasted for about three hours, they had a robust engagement with distinguished Senators-elect and House of Representatives members-elect.

According to him, “We appreciate the fact that we must continue to work together as a family. We also appreciate the fact that the Labour Party brought us in through the strength of the Nigerian people.”

The Chairman also announced the decision of the party to refund the sum of N25m paid for nomination form by the late aspirant Humphrey Anumudu for the Imo State governorship. Recall that Anumudu was reported dead in his Lagos home after returning from a meeting at the LP secretariat in Abuja. The deceased was a native of Mbieri Ancient Kingdom in Mbaitoli Local Government Area of Imo State.

The Chairman said, “One of our aspirants in Imo state lost his life, I am pleased to announce to you and the members of the public and members of the Labour party family and his immediate family, that the party would return to the family, the nomination fee of N25 million. We feel that we need to do this to support the family and to show leadership of compassion and leadership of empathy and that is what you get in Labour Party.”

In a difficult and competitive political terrain, the party, which had existed for over 20 years as a pro-workers political organisation, drastically made inroads into mainstream politics within eight months, on the fame and acceptance of Peter Obi, by an overwhelming youth majority known as ‘Obidients’ has been basing and subjecting its policies and plans to the wishes and criticism of the Nigerian masses.

For the past 23 years, the political space has largely been dominated by the PDP and some of the constituent parties that formed the APC, while others like Labour Party were seen merely as fringe participants. Prior to the 2023 election, the Labour Party’s victory in major elections was when Dr Olusegun Mimiko became the governor of Ondo State. He served two terms on the party’s platform.

Since the party was established in 2002, the LP had struggled like all others to break the dominance of both the APC and PDP, as they consistently shared the seats in the National Assembly, State Houses of Assembly and governorship seats in the 36 states. And the party never had a close shot at the presidency. But since the former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, joined the party in May, 2022 after dumping the PDP and withdrawing as a presidential aspirant, the party suddenly sprang to life, with burgeoning supporters, especially the youths.


Meanwhile, stakeholders have advised the new third force in Nigeria’s political sphere to stick to its people-oriented styles and policies.

They said the outcome of the presidential election has been an interesting one, especially with the surprises that accompanied the exercise, noting that Nigerians are watching LP National Assembly members-elect and those elected into State Houses of Assembly in order to see what they would do differently.

A civil rights activist, Bright Oniovokukor, said Nigerians voted for LP without receiving any financial rewards for it because the party is seen as a third force that is different and accepted. For him, if a party like LP is being brought to the limelight by Nigerians, it’s expected that the leadership of the party should always listen to the masses and allow their wishes to prevail in their policies.

“It’s no longer news that the Labour Party came as a virile alternative for the people of Nigeria in the midst of their predicaments in the hands of the PDP and APC. Therefore, the masses should be given a voice in the decisions of the party for it to retain its relevance and acceptability. When the issue of the N25 million governorship came to the fore, I was one of those who felt it was on the high side. I am happy that the party leadership allowed the criticism of the masses to matter by slashing the price.

“While I agree that every political party’s utmost goal is to win elections, I also know that the party needs money to finance its activities and pay its staff in the Secretariat. But, Labour Party should watch it so as not to align with the dominant ones. As its name implies, Labour, has to do with the masses, is populism focused and that’s what I feel will set Labour Party aside and make it go far. I could recall the condemnations that greeted the N100 million presidential forms of the APC, but the party wasn’t moved by whatever Nigerians said then, Labour Party shouldn’t be like that,” he said.

Also speaking, a lawyer, J. P. Jones, commended LP for hearkening to the wishes of its supporters and reducing the price for the governorship nomination. He said the party, having provided platforms for common persons to get to public offices judging by the just concluded general elections, should not think that winning an election is primarily based on how much aspirants are paying to the party.

“What the Labour Party needs to understand is that winning an election may not require so many financial commitments. When Peter Obi was campaigning, his mantra was “we no dey give shi-shi and he performed so well even in places where his party wasn’t popular. Therefore, I don’t think the party should abandon such focus so soon. They are enjoying the majority of Nigerians’ support now even without giving them anything, and the best they could do to show gratitude is to listen to the people and be populist centered,” he emphasized.