All is not well in the Labour Party, the supposed ‘third force’ in the 2023 presidential election, following the widening of cracks over control of donation funds between the two warring camps of the presidential candidate Mr Peter Obi and Prof. Pat Utomi.
Well-placed sources have told Podium Reporters of an escalating conflict over access to the party’s financial accounts, after previous allegations of misappropriation of funds, undisclosed diversions, and the emergence of a deliberate ‘cash-out’ ploy in which party officials, including those who followed Obi into the party, perceive the moment as an opportunity to fatten their bank accounts.
Both camps traded allegations over the weekend, with Obi reportedly intent on ensuring the complete sidelining of Prof. Utomi whose decision to step down informed Obi’s emergence, alongside the National Chairman of the Labour Party, Barr. Abure.
Reports say he suspects both men of overseeing the mishandling of donation funds which they had access to as signatories to the party’s bank accounts and which have since tripled since his emergence as the presidential candidate. Sources say Obi insists on being the primary beneficiary of the growing influx of donations given that they were motivated by his candidacy.
The first sign of the crack came when Prof. Utomi’s announcement of Dr Charles Odibo as the party’s spokesperson was immediately challenged and reversed by other forces within the party. The decision prompted questions over control of the party’s organs with the camp of Peter Obi accusing the professor of overreaching and pursuing an agenda to make personal gain from the party’s recent relevance.
Peter Obi is reportedly seeking the ‘exile’ of Prof. Utomi and Chairman Abure through a proxy war in which members acting under his instruction mount serious challenges to the two parties’ leadership and are executing a total hijack of the existing party structure. Already, one Benji Uba, a staunch ally of Peter Obi, has wrestled the control of finances in a new position as the sole signatory to the party’s bank accounts.
Benji Uba’s new role has reportedly angered Prof. Utomi. The latter, together with his remaining allies in the party, has created and launched an alternative account and fund-raising platform ‘FUND40MB’ which Obi’s camp promptly disavowed.
According to sources, Prof. Utomi was preempting the party’s planned tour of the United States of America during which members of the diaspora would be encouraged to make large donations to the party to increase its chances of victory at the polls.
However, Peter Obi and his APGA cum PDP friends also have eyes fixed firmly on the donations, with many viewing the turn of events in the Labour Party as an opportunity to improve their financial standing before the inevitable return to their former parties where they maintain active networks and involvement.
Recall that Obi’s arrival at the party resulted in the immediate hiking of party tickets and nomination fees for different elective positions, with the increment reaching over 500% in some cases. The funds were paid into multiple accounts, marking the beginning of the struggle for control and dominance between forces loyal to Obi and Prof. Utomi.
The internal squabble over funds has added credence to the insinuation that Peter Obi recognizes the futility of his challenge on an obscure party platform months before the main event, but has chosen to run to raise funds for his friends and cronies who are now helping his takeover of the Labour Party from longtime members and leaders.
Things will soon reach a boiling point with Prof. Utomi, not taking the overthrow laying down, vowing to expose the corrupt tendencies of Peter Obi and his APGA/PDP decampees. He is said to be fuming that the former Anambra governor has shown no appreciation for his decision to step down and its contribution to his emergence.
Instead of facilitating a ‘chop-make-I-chop’ arrangement, Obi plans a clean sweep of donations and funds, leaving the enablers of his run with nothing but anger, disappointment and regret.