Dr. Mike Omotosho is an entrepreneur, social change crusader, a philanthropist and curator of the “My Dream Nigeria”, a Guinness Record for the World’s thickest book. The Harvard Business school graduate is the Chief Oversight Officer and Chairman, Board of Trustees of Sustainable Healthcare International. He was recently elected the National Chairman of the Labour Party. He spoke to Iyobosa Uwugiaren on some national issues and the new direction of the party. Excerpts:
Your emergence as the new National Chairman of the Labour Party has been generating some controversies. What happened during the recent national convention of your party?
I vehemently disagree. I do not share that opinion and neither do a majority of my party members. Yes, there is an aggrieved minority but like in any organisation that chooses to restructure and cut out mediocrity, there is the tendency to contend with opposition. My emergence is an intervention to restore peace and dignity to a party that hitherto has been consumed in disunity, mismanagement, mediocrity and that is the reason we followed due process, conducted a proper election that was monitored by INEC, where I emerged as chairman.
Has INEC has recognised your leadership?
Yes, totally. They monitored the process at the convention, and it was all captured on camera in the presence of the media. It was a transparent process, although some mischievous members have rumoured that we forcefully took over. It is completely untrue. I am a man of principle and that was why I followed the constitution of the party to the letter. I do not get myself entangled in sensationalism. I have a party to restructure, and bring back on its feet. I was invited to the National Working Committee meeting, where they wanted me to express my willingness to serve and discuss my vision for the party.
I did and also gave a condition that though I was ready to be part of the leadership but everybody must agree to work hand-in-hand with us and must be ready to uphold the constitution of the party always and they agreed. On that basis, I said I was ready to move ahead and that is it. Then we moved to the National Executive Council meeting, the same thing applied and then we had a National Convention, due process was followed, INEC was duly notified for 21-days, and INEC was present to monitor, security agencies were present and it was a very peaceful special convention.
Don’t you think the seeming division within the leadership of your party could affect the chances of the party in the forthcoming elections?
No, I don’t think so. Funny enough, I think people deserve to know the truth and exactly what has been happening. On the corruption and forgery charges against the past chairman, we shall follow due process. The National Working Committee has written to the police, and other law enforcement agencies to investigate the situation. We are already thinking towards 2019 and developing our strategy. I don’t think it’s going to affect the chances of the party at all. Labour Party has a new Chairman and for that to change, due process must be followed. We will not tolerate any form of lawlessness in the Labour Party anymore.
There is a new sheriff in town. We are already at work, building a strong party that can bring about a revolution in these hopeless times and we will not be deterred. I don’t want to dwell much on the past, but I want to focus more on the future, where I’m taking the party to, and the opportunities the party is going to afford Nigerians. I want to focus more on galvanizing Nigerians and showing that LP is a strong force and should be seen as such. We want Nigerians to know that this is their party – the party of the people and not just for the organised labour but for the unorganised labour as well.
That is why it takes just N50 to become a card-carrying member of the party. All over the world, Labour Party has been the force to reckon with. It’s been the populist’s party and Nigeria shouldn’t be an exception. We are ready to move the people forward, give them the opportunity and then, let them enjoy the dividends of democracy. We are very aware of the corruption toga on a party and the non-performance toga on another party, so this is a huge opportunity for LP to take its rightful position as the party of the people – the ordinary man and woman on the streets.
We offer equal opportunities and social justice for everybody; the opportunity to be the best you can be starting from the smallest unit of society – that is family. That is why our logo has the father, the mother and a child – evidence of the smallest economic unit. You cannot continue to talk of building roads, bridges and providing light when the family cannot even feed, when the parents cannot afford to take care of their sick child or even send their children to school. We need to revive our education sector, the health sector, the economy, the transportation system and in fact, the entire polity needs to be revived.
Going forward, what are you doing to reposition the party?
We intend to unveil our vision and work plan in the next few weeks. Of course, we hope the media will give the necessary support. But first, we must give people the opportunity to know that this is their party and become part of us. Gone are the days when moneybags can hijack the party and true owners are relegated. Sincerely, governance is for the people and they deserve to take ownership. So, you can say that Labour Party is back and the interest of the common man will reign supreme in all our steps.
Some have argued that LP has not really defended the rights of the organised labour in the country. What do you intend doing to make the organised labour find their voice in the party?
Before now, the party has been operating like every other political party. But, it is about time we showed Nigeria why we are above par, stay tuned for the New LP, watch how we’ll evolve now and see how each organ, including the organised labour fits into the puzzle. We have ideologies, which translate into equal opportunity for everybody. The welfare of the masses is part of our prerogative as we strive for social justice, so we can continue to shout ‘Forward Ever, Backward Never.’
We seek avenues to give everyone a voice and opportunities they need to be the best they can be and that equal opportunity is what we are promising our people. We have created the Nigerian dream. We are going to roll out strategies that will allow ordinary people contest without the huge financial bottlenecks. We are going to give priority to women and youths. We are not just going to talk; we are going to walk the talk and we intend to take the political space in Nigeria by storm come 2019.
As a labour party, you seem to be silent over the socio-economic condition of the country. Why is that?
That is the point. All these are going to change; it is part of what we are going to unveil. Please, wait for it.
What are you going to do to appease the aggrieved members?
Incidentally, our members are happy across the country. See, people have been yearning for this change. Messages of support have been coming in from individuals, groups, unions and affiliates. In any case, we are having consultative meetings to bring all aggrieved members back to the team, but we are also working on attitudinal change. Politics is a game of number. But then, for us, it is not an all comers’ affair and for us as a party, you must have the ideology of equal opportunity and social justice.
Yes, we want everybody to be part of us but if your ideology does not tally with what we stand for in the LP, of course, you will not be welcomed. We are reaching out to those who ran or wanted to run under the platform but were treated unfairly or unsatisfactorily. We are reaching out to people whom we know are interested in the Nigerian project but cannot fit into any of the existing political parties and look away from LP, because they are not able to align with the previous leadership. It is time to come back home to join hands with us to forge a way forward for our country this great party.
Tell us some of the factors that could be working against LP?
That is exactly the narrative that we need to change. We must avoid people coming to borrow the LP as platform to run. We need people who are sincerely interested in the welfare of the people. In the past, people come in and use the platform of the LP. However, we are already putting in place parameters to seek out people that are genuinely interested in toeing the line of the ideals of the party. We want people who will work with us, build the party and not just use the platform then dump it. That has been the problem and all that is going to change moving forward.
We are not just going to sit down and wait for people that are unable to get tickets in some other political parties to come in and borrow the platform, no. We are going to work with people who are genuinely interested and believe in the ideology of the party so that we can all work together to build and entrench the structures especially in the hearts and minds of the people. That way, when they eventually win, which I believe, they will have no choice than to stay back and defend the mandate that they have been given.
What are your plans for 2019?
We are optimistic that the LP will be repositioned to produce the next president of Nigeria and in a situation, where we see a presidential candidate whose ideology is in sync with the ideology of LP, then, we will work with the person. It’s not about forcefully taking over; it’s not about agitation; it is a movement and one that will be a revolution. We want to revamp Nigeria and the nation called Nigeria shall rise again.
Does your position as the chairman of the party preclude you from contesting an elective position?
No, ironically it does not. I can always resign to go and contest. However, and more importantly, we have a task at hand and for me, that is what I’m facing now.
What is your forecast for 2019?
In 2019, Nigerians are in for a pleasant surprise because they will get what they want. It has happened in the US, France and Austria. We are going to have an underdog coming to shock everybody because the people are now socially aware and more politically conscious and they know that it is time for them to demand for what they truly deserve which is the dividends of democracy and the LP offers that platform for equal opportunity and social justice.
How would you assess the government of the APC?
It’s obvious that a lot of people are not happy with non-performance in critical sectors. People want things to happen faster than its happening. We cannot continue to hear good intentions because good intentions do not amount to much without efforts and real impact. People now want to see the dividends of all of those good intentions. People want more. They may be putting in their best, but people are saying their best is not good enough. Additionally, people need truth, Justice and accountability. We are listening and we are working to deliver these needs.