In the past couple of months, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi succeeded in turning the upcoming presidential race into a three-horse race.
The former Anambra State Governor took the relatively small party into the national limelight, as politicians that lost the ticket of their parties have turned the Labour Party into a realistic refuge and seek to benefit from the popularity of Mr Obi.
However, despite the popularity of Mr Obi, the party failed to get candidates for a number of Senatorial and House of Representatives seats, particularly in areas that are not his stronghold.
According to the list released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Labour Party has 78 candidates out of the 109 seats available.
What makes these National Assembly elections important is that the elections are held on the same day as the presidential elections. This means that all candidates of the same political parties may be able to put resources together.
Mr Obi remains popular in the South and some places in the North-central; however, in the Northeast and Northwest, his popularity remains in doubt.
A quick review of the data shows that it is not that the party doesn’t just have candidates for some seats, but that most of the vacant slots are in the stronghold of the opponents of Mr Obi.
Every party is expected to have a minimum of one agent per polling unit and there are 176.846 polling units across the country.
Having candidates in all senatorial and federal constituencies can help guarantee having agents at all polling units.
In Borno State, where the running mate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Kashim Shettima is from, the Labour Party has no single senatorial candidate. In Kebbi, Katsina, Lagos and Ekiti States, the Labour party has no senatorial candidate.
In Ondo, Yobe, Jigawa, Delta, Balyesa Labour party has one senatorial candidate each in all these States.
Hassan Nurudeen, a development expert, said the lack of candidates in those senatorial districts is worrisome because having candidates in all posts have a significant role during election days.
“On election day, there are certain stakeholders that you cannot do without. They are the ones who understand the political scenery of that area. It could be a community, a local government or a senatorial district. They understand these places. Yes, the Labour Party will get votes in these areas, however, it may not change the balance of votes against the PDP and APC, who already have senatorial candidates in these places.
“A senatorial candidate fights for two things, first, his victory and showing a good standing with his party, which the Labour Party may lack in those constituencies because of the lack of such candidates. The popularity of the Labour Party may not matter because if on the day of the election, there is no one to defend the interest of the party, this may be a huge problem.
“Nigeria is still a young democracy, compared to other countries. Yes, things are evolving, but there are still things we still have to put in perspective. We have not gotten to that stage where the will of the people is done. Party has a huge role to play. The party may be popular among the youth, but would the young people come out to vote? Would young people face the powers that be on that day? Would they be able to defend their votes? And finally, there is a huge difference between registration for PVC and actual voting. Although, in this election, there is a bit of optimism.
Eni-Out, a legal practitioner told DAILY POST that the data from INEC shows that politicians in the region where Obi is popular are seeking to ride on his popularity.
“Obi is quite popular in the southeast and south-south, so, except for Delta and Bayelsa, his party has candidates in almost all of the States in those two regions. Having candidates is part of what is called structure. In some constituencies, local politics will have an impact on the national election, an electorate may vote Labour Party in Taraba North, not necessarily because of Obi, but perhaps because of a senatorial or Reps candidate.
“Here is how it works, as they are mobilizing for themselves, they are mobilizing for you. Often, voters—particularly the elderly vote straight down. if they are voting Labour for president, they will probably vote for the senatorial and House of Representatives candidates.
Also, it helps with the cost of elections. The Labour party is not going into the election with a strong war chest like the PDP or APC. If the party has to finance party agents in all the polling units and pay them feeding money of N10,000 per day, it will cost N1.76 billion for agents alone.”
It would be recalled that Pat Utomi, a chieftain of the Labour party had suggested that they will deploy 15 agents per polling unit. Using the estimate by Mr Eniotu, it would cost N26 billion, unless they can get volunteers, who are familiar with their locality and loyal to the party and the candidate.
It is worth noting that the Labour Party is yet to set up a campaign council, nor even appoint a spokesperson for the campaign. As it stands, it appears the structure still revolves around the popularity of the candidate.