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The Labours of Healing a Nation — By Pat Utomi


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Each call from a journalist to discuss the ‘crisis’ in the Labour Party makes me feel the crisis of elite in Nigeria is so advanced that people are unable to recognize the difference between storms in teacups and hurricanes.

These days in Nigeria, crisis seems native to political parties. Big trouble is resident in almost every transaction or meeting of our traditional parties. Wahala blooms, as champions of state capture jockey for advantage in a system long divorced from rules.

But the Labour Party we seek is not a regular Nigerian political party. So to move to the typical narrative on party crisis which has seen PDP and APC humiliate and change Chairmen like napkins is not just to fish in the waters of danger of a single story but to do disservice to the hope we can mend one thing until it is right for the good of all.

There sure is mending to do in the Labour Party but it nowhere begins to approach the APC/PDP level, whose agents are hard at work making the point ‘they are as bad as us’ We must make recompense to those who have suffered the APC way in some errors of judgement by Party operatives and be more inclusive. Getting Labour right is beyond politics or business as usual.

I often borrow a joke from a colleague who describes a University faculty as a collection of anarchists united by a common car park. Typical Nigerian political party meeting is a gathering of confusionists, the amoral and immoral who make back biting, fake news mongering and treachery such a staple that a car park is unable to unite them.

Sadly we have made light of this continuous exhibition of lack of character by calling it ‘ politics’.
This is a major reason the country is currently prostrate because this ‘politics’ has triumphed over reason as self love has blinded many to the damage of today’s ‘wins’ from gaming the system inflict on their families’ own future interests. We desperately need a party rooted in the people and a culture of ideas and service.

The nature of how culture has firmed up in extant parties makes the Labour Party, perhaps in concert with some others through mergers, our best bet to set this new course for Nigeria. But the same agents of confusion are again at work trying to establish that the lowest common denominator in public life is Naira sharing by scoundrels with no flow of patriotism in their veins. Before you can say haba they are flying press statements accusing everyone of something. Why do people not try to talk or investigate things before they go wide and wild in social media?

The first thing we must do to organize a path to truth and future progress towards enabling the role the Labour Party has to play in the Nigerian resurgence is to cause a cessation of the media wars by those who hold contending perspectives on the way forward.

Most of the parties in the contentions have played noble roles that led to the unprecedented crystallization of purpose for political direction in citizens in Nigeria since the 1966 military intervention in the country, in the run up to the 2023 elections.

The Ayuba Waba NLC was patient and proactive in the conversations I chaired, which created room for the Labour Party and Obedients surge. Joe Ajaero was the point man that Waba handed negotiating charge to. He worked faithfully with my own pointman, Wale Okunniyi, in clearing the bushes. Julius Abure impressed me with his tenacity, hard work and humble commitment to a better deal even in the face of temptations of many kinds. There were distractions but he managed to stay focused. None is perfect and he may not be perfect but I saw the patriot in him and come convinced he has capacity to see the greater good should the need arise.

The Obedients were a creative amalgam of professionals and fed-up citizens who were boiling to exhale and yell ‘enough is enough”. In the normal challenge of managing greater than expected accomplishment, people can get carried away and take their eye off the ball. Here the goal is the liberation of a country of promise and a people of great possibilities held down by bad politics and selfish entrepreneurs of power.

The way to go with refocusing Labour Party is for all to remember that whether they came to the table as thoughtful visioners, people accidentally swept along in a tidal wave or just good citizens searching for a way out and forward for their beloved country for which they cried and sorrowed, when the Obedient bandwagon suddenly pulled up, all are now stakeholders in the Nigeria rescue mission.

That privileged place of being stakeholders in a revolutionary putsch requires of all a sacrificial discipline of contemplating the common good and inclining all to sober discussion.
In this process, the Labour Unions have to act respecting the view from the regulators that their place at the table is not a matter of who owns but as people with a duty to working people, articulates of their claim in the authoritative allocation of values which they hold up with massive mobilization of voting workers.

That exercise of influence by the Unions, largely through political commissions like the Labour Party of the UK, which came out of intellectual effort of fathers of Fabian socialism, our Labour Unions should focus on impacting the policy planks of the party to reflect the needs of working people and small business owners.

Labour should be given to seeing the value of others at the table learning from Britain where third way Laborites in the Tony Blair mode rescued Labour suffocating from the Bear hug of Union bosses. It needs to learn from Labour in Germany how to be at the Corporate decision table.

The Obedients and the youth constitute a very fascinating stakeholder group in this rescue Nigeria coalition in the Labour Party. They carry the torch of hope for the recapture of a dream deferred for their country. They need to be more patient with party apparatchiks.
The initiatives for reconciliation we have put underway will begin with this base.

All must open their minds here with sense for how history will judge them and how their children will remember them. From the Big Tent and it’s Think Tank the place at the table has to be in the issues that help determine policy choice and mobilizing the population in support of those ideas on how to solve the problems of society.

As we launch on May 1 the portal for the new tribe of Nigerians who commit to living integrity, a strong work ethic, regard for the dignity of the human person no matter the tongue or faith, we should be looking at a handshake and embrace between values highlighted by the New Tribe and policy choices espoused by the Labour Party.

It is from this nexus and it’s pit of ashes that the Phoenix can take flight bearing the promise of the new Nigeria, there is no time available for playing games. With Senegal, which was playing growth and development game better than us now, capturing the citizen democracy high ground offering us tutorials and taking leadership in West Africa, the urgency of seriousness is the imperative of now If we can oil our wings and take flight cooperating with the Lions of Senegal, a flying Geese phenomenon could take shape and be the rescue of our continent.

This big picture should subdue the micro narcissism that get in the way of doing things right. I am therefore looking forward to a meeting of all desiring to be Chairman of the Party at a gathering for common purpose conclave, which I hope will relieve many Nigerians anxious that things go well in the House of Labour. We should be Laboring to give health to the nation not give hypertension to those who believe that Obedience is greater than sacrifice.

Patrick Okedinachi Utomi, is convener of the Big Tent and Founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

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