Different Shades Of Labour And Dangote’s New Voice

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“Obi’s solidarity message to Sir Starmer about working together is embarrassing. Work together how? Where is the convergence? How did Obi help nurture the Labour Party? What is his relationship with workers when he merely hijacked the party as a special purpose vehicle?”

BY ZAINAB SULEIMAN OKINO

UK Labour vs. Nigerian LP

A day after the UK election, results were announced, and the Labour Party gained the majority. The government transition moved swiftly. Ex-Prime Minister Rishi Sunak took responsibility for the Conservative Party’s devastating blow, moved out of 10 Downing Street, and that same day, Keir Starmer, the new leader, moved in. Both visited King Charles for ceremonial blessings, as tradition demands. There was no drama, no committees, no dissenting voices, no daggers drawn, no open expressions of blame, and no threat of legal battles. Such an elegant and simple system based on understanding—Britain has no written constitution. With these kinds of transitions, democracy can be interesting.

My key takeaway from the UK election is their commitment to causes, what we call party loyalty here, and the emergence of Keir Starmer, a long-time Labour activist. In contrast, the Nigerian Labour Party has many colours and interpretations. It takes passion and commitment to nurture someone like the 61-year-old Starmer, whom former Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described as a “decent public-spirited man.” Compare that description to the animosity that characterizes the aftermath of elections here. The triumphant feeling of conquest by newly elected leaders in Nigeria smacks of mischief: They behave as if the country was not governed before them and use every opportunity to indict their predecessors, only to end up worse.

Talking about Starmer reminds me of Peter Obi, currently leading the Labour Party in Nigeria. Obi likened Nigeria’s LP to that of the UK and hoped they would work together now that UK Labour is in charge. However, Obi has been everywhere—in PDP and APGA before landing in the Labour Party—and remains non-aligned. I appreciate their disruptive nature, but their attachment to primordial and divisive sentiments of religion and ethnicity caused their “fall.” An LP lawmaker in the House of Representatives, Afam Victor Ogene, claimed that the victory of the Labour Party in the UK signposts its triumph in the 2027 election in Nigeria because the UK’s success gave hope to the opposition.

Let’s not get it wrong. Labour and Starmer’s emergence are a far cry from the Labour Party and Obi’s opportunistic leadership. Obi’s was platform shopping, which LP offered at the expense of the founding members. From all indications, Obi seems unsure of the party’s winning capability and may dump it as he did with APGA and PDP in the past. So, where are the similarities? Obi’s solidarity message to Sir Starmer about working together is embarrassing. Work together how? Where is the convergence? How did Obi help nurture the Labour Party? What is his relationship with workers when he merely hijacked the party as a special purpose vehicle?

Dangote’s New-Found Voice

There is a viral social media message that refers to Aliko Dangote as an activist. “Renewed hope has turned Dangote into an activist,” it says. At last week’s Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) summit, Dangote complained bitterly about the economic policy framework of the Tinubu administration. “Nobody can create jobs with an interest rate of 30%. No growth will happen. We are stifling growth.” The richest man in Africa argued that our dependence on importation conversely translates to the importation of poverty.

Those who label Dangote an activist do so tongue-in-cheek, seeing that as an investor supposedly close to power, no one expected him to castigate the government. But Dangote is a businessman, and operating in an unfriendly business environment could affect his multi-billion-dollar projects, especially his newest venture, the Dangote Refinery.

Recall that he spoke earlier about the mafia in the oil business denying him access to crude, such that he had to import. So, there is no smoke without fire. Dangote is feeling the heat and weight of Tinubunomics. He has always had a seat at the table, dined with leaders, and received all the waivers. So, what suddenly happened?

There are concerns that he must have fallen out of favour with the Tinubu administration. Some people say Tinubu is dealing with him because he supported Atiku. Whatever it is, it is within his fundamental human rights to air his views, especially when his business interests are involved. As commoners, we may never know what goes on in their inner circle, but I wish he had expressed these same concerns with previous governments. Perhaps that is why Tinubu made him a member of his Economic Team, so he can be part of implementing what he preaches and does to have remained Africa’s richest man for many years. Who wouldn’t be an activist in an era like this?

…Zainab Suleiman Okino, who is chairperson, Blueprint Editorial Board, is a syndicated columnist. She can be reached via: zainabokino@gmail.com

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