A chieftain of the Labour Party, Sir Basil Maduka, in this interview with Adedayo Akinwale, explains why he took the party to court and his decision to support LP’s candidate, Senator Athan Achonu, for the November 11, 2023 gubernatorial poll in Imo State.
Three primaries were held in Imo state for the governorship election, which of the factions conducted your primary?
There was an exco in Imo state. Because of the situation and what happened in the presidential election, the party by its wisdom, led by Barrister (Julius) Abure dissolved the state exco because of the confusion that came on board during the presidential election, where they saw that the existing exco then had overstayed their tenure.
So, they needed to conduct the primaries. So the leadership of Abure dissolved the current exco as at that time and set up another Interim State Working Committee. So the last exco did handover of the party, they took off. But two weeks after that, there was a court injunction. The party office was sealed. Behold, we were told that some four Hilux cars came from the Government House to seal off the party office. The court injunction says the status quo should remain. But there is exco sworn in already, their names are in INEC. That was part of the genesis of the problem. It was Abure who signed the appointment letter for them.
So, because of that court injunction, the party by its wisdom called stakeholders meeting in Abuja, what is the way forward? So, along the line, the party by its wisdom set up a committee to come and handle the primary election. Their mandate was to revalidate the party’s register, conduct primaries and do Congress within that three months.
So these people that are already existing said they have to conduct the primaries since their tenure has not expired.
The committee set up by Abure was also there, that was how we had two parallel primaries. These people who were already existing had to now produce me as the authentic candidate because the matter was still in court. The committee set up by Abure produced another candidate. So let the court interpret who is the authentic candidate.
It was much later we began to hear there is someone called Lamidi Apapa. It was in the process of court we had there was another person who claimed that he did primaries, we then asked him how come? On which structure, who did the primary?
That was how we started hearing about Apapa. So, since the matter is in court, let the court interpret. These people are the State Working Committee set up by Abure.
This other one, there is a committee set up by him also to supervise this as a result of that court injunction because the party is always supreme.
Any primary of that nature, the national leadership of the party must come to supervise, it was in this process we now heard there was somebody else who came and did his own on Sunday, being 16th, which we all know that INEC does not work on Sunday. That was how we began to hear about Apapa, it was on social media I first heard about him.
You took the party to court and the Supreme Court has already decided. And the party is saying that you are no longer a member of the party. What is your position now in the Labour Party?
People who are saying that I’m not known in the party, nobody can say that in Imo.
You know when some people want to be relevant through social media or wherever… Somebody who formed a party, financed a party till after the presidential election.
Now, somebody is telling you that you’re not known in the party, that is to tell you that something is happening somewhere.
And as a result of that two primaries, these people now produced me as a candidate.
The committee also had a candidate — Senator Achonu. That’s the two known candidates. This one was committee, this one was the people already in court.
So we had to go to court so that the court could interpret who the authentic candidate was. At the end of the day, the Supreme Court in its wisdom decided that this is the candidate. You can’t challenge the law and when a matter has gone to the Supreme Court, you have to accept it because that’s the law.
And today, we will make sure that our party wins. Because I’ve invested a lot. I’m the highest investor, so my party in Imo has to win. Nobody from Imo can tell you that Basil Maduka is not known.
Let me show you the structure I set up in Imo as regards Labour party. I set up and also the major financier of what we called The Big Tent. The Big Tent has structure in 305 wards funded by me.
Obi/Datti movement — there are so many support groups, as I said today, 55 support groups (Obi/Datti). I merged them together, I funded them. Each of them has structure in 305 wards. There is Basil Maduka Movement, there is Restoration Agenda. All these people have structures in 305 wards. So you can imagine who owns the party in Imo. Yes! Supreme Court has taken its decision. It is these crowds which will determine who wins the governorship of Imo state.
What was the role Peter Obi played in this crisis and categorically tell us, are you working for Labour Party in Imo in the coming gubernatorial election?
As we speak, the Supreme Court matter just ended and I have addressed all my supporters on Saturday. I called all the unit heads, the 55 support groups, Basil Maduka Movements and the State Exco. I addressed them on Saturday. That was my first outing because election is some days ahead. Again as you said, our principal, Mr. Peter Obi, our presidential candidate, I followed him during his campaign and in his own wisdom, when the matter was in court, he said anyhow the party goes, he’s going to support whoever. But as at that time, Senator Achonu’s name was already with INEC, not yet removed.
So he came and flagged off the campaign because a party must produce a candidate. Since the Supreme Court has ended it, we have a candidate, definitely our candidate will fly.
Will you support the candidate?
Yes. As at Friday and Saturday, we had our meetings, when I called everybody that the Supreme Court was over and I had to tell them this is the way everything played out. That everyone should remain steadfast and our party is the party to beat in Imo. That I’m going to call you again to give all of you direction. I will now ask our candidate, how far are you doing, what kind of support?
Is it financial support or the entire crowd because our party must win, our party in Imo must win because I have invested a lot. Where will I go? which other party? Our party, Labour Party, must win.
Going by the legal battle that has threatened to rattle your party in Imo state, what are the chances of your party winning this election?
I think I had the major followers because when I left PDP, I collapsed almost 60% of PDP to the Labour Party. They are trying to hear from me. I’ve shown you the number of followers I have. The party doesn’t have any matter again. We are no more in court, the party is no more in court. So we have a candidate today, Senator Athan Achonu.
Are you not threatened by the leadership of Governor Hope Uzodinma?
Imo state is not APC state and they know the person they followed, Sir Basil Maduka. Gentleman, all the entire structure, this party must win. That’s the only thing they need from me. The first outing I had was that Saturday telling them how everything went. Yes, the incumbent is there, but what has the incumbent done? Moreover, his (Uzodimma) zone has been in power for over 20 years. Orlu zone has been in power for 20 years. Owerri zone and Okigwe are being marginalised. Okigwe did only a tenure, during the time of Ohakim. That is where Senator Achonu comes from. They had only one chance. Owerri zone did only seven months when Hon. Emeka Ihedioha had only seven months. So the Imolites today are asking for power from the Owerri Zone or Okigwe. And our candidate who is from Okigwe stands a better chance. Giving the incumbent another opportunity — 24 years, that’s the biggest cheat.
So, what is your party doing to mobilise voters to come out to cast their votes?
Well, at least we are back to base now and we will do everything possible to make sure that our party wins this election because all this while we were in court. But the court has settled the dissatisfaction between us. The Supreme Court has taken a decision, therefore we have to reclaim our mandate and that’s what we are going to do in this election. So I will advise our people to make sure that they come out en masse and vote for the Labour Party.