ATTEMPT ON FORMATION OF MEGA POLITICAL PARTIES IN NIGERIA – THE RIVERS STATE EXAMPLE
Attempts towards the formation of mega political parties in Nigeria can be traced to the first Republic and presently even at this stage of the political life of Nigeria it has still remained elusive. The essence of the formation of mega political parties in Nigeria apart from the purpose of winning election is not new in the country's political history. In most cases, the idea always looks bright at the outset, but compromised at the end.
The history of mergers and alliances in Nigeria reveals an idea that is always conceived with prospects, but devoid of strategic drive to achieve its objective. In the Second Republic for instance, despite several moves amongst the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP), Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP) and Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) to fuse into a political body with the view of wresting power from the then ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the mission proved to be an exercise in futility at the end. Although the parties succeeded in evolving into a platform, the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA), protagonists of the idea, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe of NPP and Chief Obafemi Awolowo of UPN, failed to reach a compromise on who should lead the alliance.
In the end, all plans fell through as all parties involved retreated to their respective parties to contest the August 1983 general election. Against this background of irreconcilable differences, the ruling NPN was returned as the winner of the presidential election.
In the same vein in recent times, the fusion of the All Peoples Party (APP) and the Alliance for Democracy (AD), which succeeded in fielding Chief Olu Falae as the presidential flag bearer of the APP/AD alliance, did not achieve its target. Hence, the 'marriage of convenience' collapsed immediately after the 1999 presidential election.
Similarly, alliance talks featuring factions of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and a dissident group in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which later resulted in the formation of the Action Congress (AC), did not achieve any remarkable result as neither of the two presidential flag bearers, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.), agreed to step down for the other. At the end of the exercise, the dream of opposition political parties fell through.
However, the opposition political parties are it again. They are currently re-strategising to float a mega political party that will pose a big challenge to the ruling PDP at the 2011 Polls. However, this is not the main thrust of this treatise, as the objective here, is to bring to the fore the unprecedented political revolution being hatched in Rivers State by Nigerian political parties with the recent formation of a mega political entity an activity devoid of any stress and rancour for the purpose of revolutionising and changing the face of politics in Rivers State.
At the last count, apart from Accord, Advanced Congress of Democrats, New Democrats, Progressive Peoples Alliance, NAP, the remaining 46 political parties out of the 51 political parties registered in Nigeria in Rivers State have joined the unity Government of PDP and AC under the governorship of Rt.. Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi. Key of the 46 political parties including ANPP, AC, DPP, UNPP, NDP, MRDD, JP, CPN, PRP, NPP, HDP, CPP, Labour, FDP and others have come together in a novel political manoeuvre unprecedented in any part of the Nigerian political terrain under one umbrella – FORUM OF ORGANISED OPPOSITION POLITICAL PARTIES (FOOPP) to form the largest grass-root political Movement ever in the annals of Nigeria politics.
This revolution started when on 8th April, 2009, Hon. Ibimie T. Odima the National President of Voice of Niger Delta influenced and mobilised 18 political parties to address a Press Conference in Port Harcourt under the auspices of Forum of Opposition political Parties in Rivers State adopting Prince Tonye Princewill the Rivers Sate AC Leader and the Prince of Niger Delta Politics as its Leader. According the statement read by the Forum Leader, Chief Harry Alaye, “...We have after series of stakeholders meetings reached a consensus to join forces with the Leader of Rivers State Action Congress (AC) and the undisputed Prince of Niger Delta Politics Prince Tonye Princewill, an alliance that we are certain will strengthen the opposition and ultimately move the State forward...”Chief Alaye's statement further justified the choice of Prince Tonye Princewill thus “..Factors in favour of the choice of the Prince as Opposition Consensus Leader include his political disposition, educational background and principally the sterling qualities of forthrightness and foresight. As a New Breed Politician, he has become the beacon of hope for most our people...Prince Tonye Princewill's antecedents; political sagacity and foresightedness demonstrate that we might just as well have found the 'Joshua' that has eluded us thus far in our collective search for a suitable Guide to the promise land.”
Taking a cue from the above Forum, another political Group this time with about 15 political parties met on 23rd April, 2009 at Golf Prince Hotel in old GRA, PH and addressed their own Press Conference adopting the same Rivers State AC Leader, Prince Tonye Princewill as its Leader. According to this new Group, Dr M.B. Dagogo Jack ; gubernatorial Candidate of Fresh Democratic Party in the 2007 gubernatorial election in Rivers State and Vice Chairman of CNPP in Rivers State who read the statement for the 15 Political Parties under the auspices of Organised Opposition Political Parties (OOPP) in Rivers State that joined the train stated, “Prince Tonye Princewill is today our Leader as he stands out as a unique study and rallying point in positive and constructive political opposition in the Nigerian political system. He further stated, “We are taking this step under the premise that Rivers State belongs to us all, regardless of our differences in political opinions, ideology or school. Another proven point is that Prince Tonye Princewill the Rivers State AC Leader and the Prince of Niger Delta politics has by his antecedents and sagacity proved that he is the undisputable Leader of the opposition in Rivers State and this fact is not in contention. This assumption is based on his various contributions and for influencing both foreign and local investments to the State and most importantly has by his constructive opposition and inputs strengthened the opposition in the State which has ultimately has enhanced good governance in Rivers State. Based on all these, we the Leaders and members of these great political parties today the 23rd of April 2009 have resolved to identify with the aspirations of Gov Amaechi whi lst working under the helmsmanship of Prince Tonye Princewill, the Rivers State AC Leader in our concerted efforts to strengthen the opposition and ultimately governance in Rivers State.
On 30th and 31st April, 2008, a further step was taken to consolidate the parties when Dr Ibiamu Davies an opposition Commissioner in the State Cabinet, Chief Williams Igweh the SA to Gov Amaechi on intra-party Affairs met with the two Groups with the intention to fuse them into one platform. The two Groups were mandated to submit five men each to form the 10 Man Harmonisation Committee that met for two weeks to recommend ways and methods the 46 political parties can collaborate and work together as a united, vibrant and virile opposition political platform in Rivers State. Members of these ten Man Committee and their political parties are - Garshon Benson of DPP as Chairman, Oboma E. Amachree of MRDD as secretary with Honest Chukundah of NDUP, Terry Goddfrey of APGA, Fubara Jaja of MDJ,Prince Williams Eze of CPP, Sam Dukubo of ALP, Isuku Benjamin of DPA, Chief Kelly whyte of UNDP, Solomon Ali Omah of NSDP.
With the great work by this Committee, the next stride to achieve the harmonization was the setting-up of a six Man Constitution Drafting Committee with Barr Iyke Echie of AC as Chairman and Oboma Amachree of MRDD as Secretary. Other members include Garshon Benson of DPP, Barr Jeff Ogbondah of RPN, Isuku Benjamin of DPA and Hon. Fubara Jaja of MDJ as members while Barr Osima Ginah the Hon. Commissioner for Urban Development is to serve as Supervisory Officer for the Committee.
On 13th June, a great milestone was laid in political structure of Nigerian politics when the leaders and members of these 46 political parties assembled in Port Harcourt for the formal ratification of the draft Constitution of the Forum of the Organized Opposition Political Parties in Nigeria. On this very day the following declaration was made; “We, the members of the Forum Of Organised Opposition Political Parties in Rivers State do hereby solemnly resolve to make and give to ourselves the following Constitution. The name of the Organization shall be Forum of Organized Opposition Political Parties in Rivers State (hereinafter in this Constitution referred to as the 'Forum', and with the abbreviation,”FOOPP”. Other highlights of this unique Constitution includes the slogan of the Forum, 'Organised Opposition for better Rivers State' with the Motto to be 'Unity in Strength'; the Logo ' Rivers State map, two (2) men embracing themselves and the name of the Organisation in –all within the map' .
THE AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE MOVEMENT SHALL BE:
(1) To support and strengthen the Unity government in Rivers State
(2) To foster unity and progress amongst member political
parties for the betterment of the good people of Rivers
(3) To criticize the government of the day constructively as
and when necessary.
(4) To support democratic principles and encourage electoral bodies to organize true and proper elections that will reflect the actual wishes of the electorates during and after elections.
(5) To encourage more women into politics and governance.
(6) To promote virtues of good governance.
(7) To protect member political parties before, during and
(8) Engage in the education and enlightenment of our people
through lectures, seminars, publications etc so as to create
awareness on the polity.
(9) To support Government to encourage active participation
of Rivers State indigenes in strategic sectors of the State
(10) To organize the Forum throughout the State, sponsor
candidates and canvass for votes for their elections into
positions in all the ties of government.
(11) The Forum shall operate within the laws of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria.
The Forum shall be organised and administered under the following Organisational Structures :-
1. Board of Trustees. 2. The State Executive Committee
3. Local Government Executive 4. Ward Executive Committee
5. Chapter Executive Committee. 6. Standing Committees.
Other far reaching decisions taken were that –
1. All the elected officers of this organization shall be through
2. The tenure of elected officers shall be for a period of four years.
3. The organization after consolidating at the state level shall equally extend down to all the local government areas and to the ward levels
4. The process of electing all the members to the various offices should be through transparent electoral process.
Dr. Ibiamu Davies the erstwhile Commissioner of Special Duties and the gubernatorial Candidate of RPN and the Coordinator of the drive to establishing the Forum on the ratification of the Constitution stated, “I thank Prince Tonye Princewill whose vision led to the idea of the formation of this great and mass movement. Thanks also go to my other members of the Coordinating Force of this Movement, Chief Williams Igweh, Chief Eze C Eze, Chief Harry Alaeye and Chief T. Roberts the Chairman of CNPP in Rivers State and other political parties Chairmen for their enviable contributions and great ideas in achieving this great vision. To me to have driven this vision to this stage, I am now a fulfilled man and ready to do more to place Rivers State among the best democratic State in Nigeria. The fact remains that the politics of Rivers State can never being the same again”. To Chief Williams Igweh the Senior Assistant to Governor Amaechi on intra-parties Affairs, Today is a milestone in the political calculation in Rivers State. This is a watershed and all those who made this possible will always be revered in the politics of Rivers State. Barr Osima Ginah the Urban Development Commissioner who supervised the Constitution Drafting Committee, Gov Amaechi and Prince Tonye Princewill are great gifts to the people of Rivers State and through them this pacesetting Movement has berthed and we their supporters will ensure that their vision and goals are achieved.
Reacting to this development, Prince Tonye Princewill who is the main character in all these evolutions responded thus; “. “…This move is not about Prince Tonye Princewill or Governor Amaechi, but about salvaging our people from the shackles of slavery and underdevelopment unleashed on us by the Odili dynasty. The fact remains that neither Amaechi nor I can fight this battle to move the State forward alone. So the need for every one of us coming together to assist Gov Amaechi at the moment need not be overemphasised. To me, Rivers State comes first before any other consideration including that of my party, AC. Our State and our people have suffered enough and without unity amongst the political class, any hope for a new dawn will remain a pipe dream. I urge all the other remaining political parties to emulate this great Forum and come on board so that together we can rebuild our State and make it the type of State we all desire. I sincerely appreciate the overwhelming support for and endorsement of my brand of politics by such great and seasoned Politicians. Whilst humbled by this development, I will like to reiterate the need for total involvement by all involved, since this honour comes with the added responsibility on my part to ensure that I justify the confidence reposed in me by this singular honour. I will like to assure all and sundry that I would continue to avail myself for service in the bid to lead a team through their parley with the present administration to move the state to the next level”.
Emmanuel Masha of the Daily Correspondent in article titled 'Princewill as opposition Leader and the Amaechi accord described this political engineering in Rivers State as a “scenario in Nollywood that can not be played out in life, hence something that should be dismissed because it is unreal. Nevertheless, the political order in the Treasure base of the nation is a reality that political watchers are still struggling to come to terms with. First, it is unprecedented in the history of the State and across the federation”. To a seasoned analyst in the State, Prince Odimegwe Onwumere, Rivers politicians have fashioned out a unique formula that “promotes political harmony, while opposition parties speak truth to power while winning and dinning with them”. According to him, “politicians in the State are thinking creatively and want to be part of ongoing phase instead or remaining as observers in the name of opposition” “We are hoping and praying for development. The point is that despite the projects that have been executed and the ones that are still on, Rivers is playing catch-up. When two or more heads come together round a table to address an issue the outcome is usually positive. Of course, there are fears that all these political parties want to ultimately wine and dine with this government. However, what is wrong with that if they are not at each other's throat to the detriment of the people who want government to deliver service, and make life better? He added.
But the question any onlooker of these unfolding events in Rivers State will ask is, what is all these political engineering is to achieve in Rivers State, The Commissioner for Works in the Rivers State Government, Dakuku Peterside seems to proffer an answer “Tonye is among a new generation of patriotic politicians desirous of rendering quality service to the people. This eminent group of youthful politicians have begun to re-engineer the political landscape, re-introducing pragmatic approach to resolving deep political challenges. He has further shown like others in this group that there is no relationship between age and wisdom. One thing that stands him out among his peers is his ability to distinguish politics of opposition and the collective interest of Rivers State as demonstrate by his open an unrepentant support for Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who interestingly is the arrow head of this emerging generation of pragmatic politicians committed to the rebirth of Rivers State”. The statement that Gov Rotimi Amaechi is the arrowhead of this new mass movment should be the key word to watch as this drama in Rivers State unfolds
Finally, the main lesson therein is that “hopefully” any doubt about the popularity and acceptance of the Prince of Niger Delta Politics as the rallying point of opposition in Rivers State is hereby laid to rest.
Whilst talk of a mega party is on at the national level here in Rivers state the opposition has exceeded all expectations and gone further to define both the direction and the style of proactive opposition in Nigeria.
Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt