Dr. Ikanya’s Carriage For FOOPP: Governor Amaechi’s Example

Source: Dr. Brian Wilfred

This day, 29th June 2009, will ever remain indelible in the history of Port Harcourt, especially in the politics arena, as the Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, of the ruling People Democratic Party (PDP), inaugurated the Forum of Organised Opposition Political Parties (FOOPP) in the state headed by the State chapter of the Action Congress (AC).

We could still remember that while speaking at the occasion through Mr. Magnus Abe, Secretary to the State Government (SSG) Amaechi said that the formation of opposition parties was in line with his earlier promise of creating a level playing ground for the conduct of free and fair elections.

Amaechi commended Prince Tonye Princewill, the leader of Action Congress party (AC) in the state for being the rallying point of FOOPP, pointing out that his administration had received a lot of suggestions and even red alert from opposition, that helped to move the state forward. Princewill is also Chairman, Board of Trustees of FOOPP. He said that the occasion was a call for service and a movement away from money politics. Amaechi noted that the coming together of the opposition parties would usher in the right things his administration would want to do in building a virile and prosperous state. While recalling the major challenges they faced to bring the parties under one umbrella, he stated that "we will continue to criticize the administration as the need arises and support the government where necessary."

Dr. Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, Chairman of the Forum of Organised Opposition Political Parties (FOOPP) in Rivers State is a man of his word. As the immediate past Commissioner for Special Duties in the state he also expressed gratitude to Amaechi for delivering the state from "political bondage" and for his cross-party friendship.

Dr. Ikanya, in his acceptance speech, said that the forum was driven by patriotism and zeal to make the state peaceful and better developed. He highlighted that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) prides itself as the largest political party in Africa. Its strangle hold on political power in Nigeria by any means necessary is a reality of live in this part of the world. However, that has not translated into much progress for the country.

And that to some people is not acceptable! However, to be able to dislodge the lumbering juggernaut as the PDP seems to have become has proven a mission impossible for individual opposition parties in the country. For this reason, the idea of forming a mega party was greeted with excitement in various quarters across the country. This was so because it is perceived that it is only such a party that could be able to muster the kind of resources, both human and material, needed to shift the PDP's unbeneficial hold on political power in Nigeria. But while Nigerians are waiting with bated breath for things to begin to unfold at the national space, in Rivers state the opposition is setting the tone for constructive and fruitful opposition politicking in the country through the Forum of Organised Opposition Political Parties (FOOPP) platform comprising 43 political parties whose executive committee was inaugurated June 29 2009. According to Chief Davies Ikanya, chairman of the Forum, it is a platform to provide fresh, disciplined, purposeful, focused and improved opposition politics for Rivers state.

Dr. Ikanya thanked eight political parties, some of whom where challenging PDP's victory at the polls at a time, Amaechi was schemed out of participating in the general elections by his own party, the PDP and decided to sheath their sword and support Amaechi as helmsman of the state despite being in the opposition. The parties which took that decision, led by the AC, were ANPP, CPP, UNDP, ARP, RPN, ADC and UNPP.

However, because of the prevailing political climate at the time in the country, that decision was not wholehearted supported by the national bodies of some these parties.

But the state conveners stood firm, because they felt strongly that it was in the interest of their state.

According to Princewill, some of us encountered dire challenges and stiff sanctions from our National Leaders and party stakeholders at the time, the resultant stability and progress recorded by this administration so far, has made the pain of the aforementioned challenges nothing compared to the gains of our beloved state. There were two separate but defining moment leading up to the formalization of unified opposition politicking in Rivers as manifested in the FOOPP arrangement. The first took place on the 8th of April 2009, when Chairmen of 18 political parties under the auspices of Forum of Opposition political Parties in Rivers state convened a press conference in Port Harcourt announcing through the Forum Leader, Chief Harry Alaye, its decision to adopt me as its Consensus Leader. The decision to merge with the initial seven political parties under my purview was a well thought out idea, which he believed, would form a formidable alliance capable of moving the state forward. A fortnight later on the 23 of April 2009, the Organised Opposition Political Parties (OOPP) in Rivers State also addressed a press conference toeing the line of FOPP in adopting me as its leader. Opposition gang-up in the state has evolved beyond the AC versus PDP, but a stand for what is right against what is considered wrong.

Today we have in our fold 43 accepting to come together under one umbrella to support our cause and vision for the State. This unified body is here today because we chose not to look down on any political party as insignificant or less than relevant, decided that to reach the grassroots better we needed to expand rather than contract and agreed that opposition was not about AC versus PDP but about right versus wrong, differing opinions and a voice for the voiceless.

Dr. Ikanya noted that FOOPP envisions a Rivers state that will be fully developed in infrastructure, economy and character. Where future elections will reflect the actual wishes of the electorate who when encouraged by good will give their support to the elected government. To achieve its purpose, the FOOPP has outlined several programmes that will lead to its goal. He says these programmes are to carry out grass root mobilisation and enlightenment towards restoring the confidence of the electorate in the electoral process by suporting democratic principles and encouraging electoral bodies to organise true and proper elections in the state; inaugurate local government chapters of the forum and encourage member political parties to immediately settle all intra-party feuds.

The FOOPP will also participate in discussions on state issues and present well researched opinion on issues under consideration, prepare for and to participate actively in future electoral process, also engaging in education and enlightenment of the people through lectures, seminars, and publications so as to create awareness in the polity.

“The main advantage of this forum is that it will galvanise resources and ensure that our people participate in electoral processes freely and that the results reflect the decision of the electorate. We shall therefore be a stabilising political force in Rivers state.

Dr. Ikanya highlights the Amaechi factor in the emergence of a thriving and virile opposition in River state when he expressed appreciation to the governor engendering genuine cross party friendships; encouraging the opposition to participate in government and contributing to develop the state by forming a unity government; setting the pace for a peaceful Rivers state and introducing the spirit of teamwork that cut across political divides and for making efforts to ensure free conduct of elections in the state.

Speaking to newsmen few weeks after the inauguration on the allegation that the Forum was given some funds by the State Government to organize the opposition political parties in the State, Ibiamu regretted that Nigerians do not understand the constitutional provision that allows for the party in power to fund opposition political parties as a means of promoting democratic principles. This he said provides the people with alternative options and keeps the government on its toes in their 'race' to provide dividends of democracy to its people. Notwithstanding, he informed the News Correspondents that the Forum had not received any funding from the Rivers State Government and is financed from within the ranks of its constituted members.

On its activities so far, the Chairman indicated that a 3-man Committee with Barr. Echie Iyke as Chairman, Hon. Benson Garshon as the Secretary and Chris Finebone as a member has been set-up to study every lapse predictable or otherwise, whilst identifying areas of improvement in the State for immediate submission to the Governor.

Sounding very optimistic in his estimation of the expectations of the Forum he concurred thus, “I believe that this Committee will do a thorough job to show that we are not here to run down the government as being insinuated in some quarters but to make governance in the State better”.

Dr. Brian Wilfred writes from Port Harcourt.