By Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze

8th of April, 2009, marked the birth of an unprecedented move in the chequered history of Nigerian politics. That day saw the beginning of a new dawn for political opposition in Rivers State, with 18 political parties chairmen convening to address a Press Conference in Port Harcourt under the auspices of Forum of Opposition political Parties in Rivers State for the purpose of adopting Prince Tonye Princewill, the Rivers Sate AC Leader and the Prince of Niger Delta Politics as its Consensus Leader. In announcing this landmark decision, the Forum Leader, Chief Harry Alaye, said that the decision to merge was a well thought out one, which he believed, would form an alliance that is certain to move the state forward. The choice of Princewill was unanimous.

A fortnight later on the 23rd of April, 2009, another Group this time under the auspices of Organised Opposition Political Parties (OOPP) in Rivers State also addressed a Press Conference toeing the line of FOPP in adopting Prince Tonye Princewill as its Leader. According to 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 on behalf of the 15 Political Parties that joined the train opined that the choice of Prince Tonye Princewill was informed by his antecedents. These he said could be seen in his various contributions in influencing and ultimately attracting foreign and local investments to the State and most importantly his constructive opposition and inputs which have served to strengthen the opposition in the State which has ultimately resulted in good governance in Rivers State”.

Subsequently on the 26th and 27th April, 2009, a major step was taken to further consolidate the parties when the two Groups agreed to submit five men each to form a 10 Man Harmonisation Committee. The committee was given two weeks in which to recommend strategies and methods for the 46 political parties to collaborate, working 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 (DPP) as Chairman, Oboma E. Amachree (MRDD) as secretary with Honest Chukundah (NDUP), Terry Goddfrey (APGA), Fubara Jaja (MDJ), Prince Williams Eze ( CPP), Sam Dukubo (ALP), Isuku Benjamin (DPA), Chief Kelly whyte (UNDP) and Solomon Ali Omah (NSDP) as members.

A six Man constitution drafting committee was then set up on the 5th of June with members that included; Barr Iyke Echie(AC) Chairman; Oboma Amachree(MRDD) Secretary. Other members were Garshon Benson (DP), Barr Jeff Ogbondah( RPN), Isuku Benjamin(DPA) and Hon. Fubara Jaja(MDJ). Barr Osima Ginah the Honourable Commissioner for Urban Development served as Supervisory Officer.

Leaders and members of the 46 political parties involved in the alliance assembled yet again in Port Harcourt on the 16th of June for the formal ratification of the draft Constitution. On that 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'.

Key among the aims and objectives of the Movement are - (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 people. (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 protect member political parties before, during and after elections. (9) To support Government to encourage active participation of Rivers State indigenes in strategic sectors of the State Economy.

The Bodies of the Movement shall be - 1. Board of Trustees. 2. The State Executive Committee. 3. Local Government Executive Committee. 4. Ward Executive Committee. 5. Chapter Executive Committee. 6. Standing Committees..

The 19 Man Executive drawn from the three Senatorial Zones of the State shall be inaugurated on the 26th of June with the Leader of the Forum, Prince Tonye Princewill presenting the keynote Address whilst Gov. Amaechi is to be represented by one of the principal players in Government. Barr Iykie Echie of Echie Chambers will perform the swearing-in-ceremony. While Elder Ken Wopara the Chairman of Hope Democratic Party, his officials and members will formally declare for Rivers State AC en-masse.

With this development, it is imperative to state here, that of the 51 political parties registered in Nigeria in Rivers State, 46 political parties with the exception of others like Accord, New Democrats and Progressive Peoples Alliance, have joined the unity Government of Rivers State.

With the aforementioned, little wonder that 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.

Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze,
Rivers State Action Congress, Publicity Secretary