British parliamentarian visits APC national leadership

Aanya Igomu, Abuja

Nigeria’s governing party, the All Progressives Congress, APC says its government is working assiduously to eliminate salary arrears.

The Deputy National Chairman (South) of the APC, Mr. Segun Oni stated this when he received the United Kingdom Member of Parliament for Edmonton, Kate Osamor at the APC National Secretariat.

Mr. Oni said that a bulk of salary arrears owed workers in some states have been paid through bailout funds provided by the federal government.

“We are doing something which people have not recognised as a cardinal signature of the progressives. We are trying to eradicate salary arrears. Past governments, particularly at the state levels owed salaries. This government has been trying to help them (states) pay the arrears and very soon we are going to have a check on how much is left everywhere to be paid. But substantially, a bulk of salary arrears is paid now.

“The people who are owed salaries are mostly the downtrodden and when they are owed, you compound the poverty equation. We are working towards ensuring that in no distant future, arrears will be eliminated. The only way we can do it is through the bailout funds to states. Because we cannot control what the governor would do because he is chief executive, but when there are bailout funds, we believe that they will apply it to settle salary arrears” Oni said.

The APC Deputy National Chairman (South) explained to the visiting UK MP the programmes that the government had put in place to reduce poverty and grow the economy.

“The President Buhari APC-led administration has initiated several pro-people initiatives including the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme and N-Power scheme to alleviate poverty and provide gainful economic opportunities for the masses.

“Our population is growing at a very fast rate but opportunities are not growing. Therefore we need help in terms of exchange of ideas and opportunities that will actively and productively engage our young population.

“As politicians, we want to bring the youth in to become politicians early. When we encourage the young ones to be politicians early, in a few years, they will compete with anybody. They will equally boast of how long they have been in politics also and the men will know that they have to give way to them. That is one of the programmes that we believe we can benefit from your experience,” he said.

Challenges

Speaking during the visit, the UK MP for Edmonton, Kate Osamor narrated the challenges faced by her political party, Labour Party in the lead up to the June 8 Snap General Election in the United Kingdom.

“One of the things which the Labour Party had to do to be successful in our last snap general election was to reach out to the people who are downtrodden, the people who are working for minimum wage or on contracts when they don’t know how often they will be paid.

We had to look at all the issues and put a manifesto together which spoke to them. Because when we when into the snap general elections, as far as the commentators were saying, as far as people in our own party were saying, we were going to be in the dustbin of history, we would have to start again.

“But what the manifesto did was open up the eyes and ears of young people, of people who had access to vote but never voted and for those people who voted for the first time. If we had not done that, we wouldn’t have got to a point where we were able to have a hung parliament,” Osamor said.

Osamor said that the UK’s Labour Party was ready to share its experiences, good practices and work with the APC.

“We are very happy to share our experiences with you. Because it shows that no party is standstill. At points the party may feel that it is going through a difficult phase, how do we get out of it? But we are going through that and we assist the party so we will obviously work together and share good practice,” she said.

She thanked the APC leadership for its support and promised to extend the party’s well-wishes to the current seven UK MPs of Nigerian descent. The MPs are: Chi Onwurah, Fiona Onasanya, Chuka Umunna, Helen Grant, Abimbola Afolami, Kemi Badenoch and Kate Osamor.

Chief Executive Officer, Westminister Foundation for Democracy, Mr. Anthony Smith who accompanied the visiting UK MP called on political parties to be responsive to voters concerns before and after elections. He stated that the UK and Nigerian political party system were similar as major parties are required to have a national spread and reach.

“Our foundation works with all the major parties in the UK and I think that there are some things that we have in common with Nigeria, which is that for the two major parties in each of our countries to win the elections, they need to reach out across the whole country.

That makes us a bit different from, for example, many of the parties in other European countries which tend to have big coalitions with many parties that have a narrower support base. Our two countries, I think, have reached out a bit further to appeal to the whole country,” Mr. Smith said.