Amaechi’s Political Activism: A History of Partisan Craftsmanship and the FOOPP Factor
By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze
Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi is a Nigerian politician, a humanist, administrator par excellence, visionary, egalitarian, radical, a respected, pragmatist and exemplary leader. He was born on May 27, 1965, in Ubima, Ikwere local government area of Rivers State and an alumnus of the University of Port Harcourt in Rivers State.
He was twice the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly (1999-2007); chairman, conference of speakers of State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria (1999 – 2000), Governor of Rivers State (2007 – 2015), and two-time chairman of the Governors’ Forum in Nigeria from 2011 to 2015. A winner of several awards including the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), he is currently the Minister of Transportation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, an office he is occupying for the second term.
Amaechi was the rallying force behind mobilising the governors under the then Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to support the presidential aspiration of Dr Goodluck Jonathan during the PDP Presidential Primaries that produced Jonathan as the flag-bearer. During the 2011 presidential election proper, he ensured that President Jonathan got over two million votes from Rivers State – the highest by any state in Nigeria then.
A misunderstood but amiable personality; his forthrightness and boldness to stand by the truth attracts so much enmity to him, particularly those who cannot withstand his manner of approach to result-oriented feats.
Amaechi, holder of the national honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), is a Christian of the Catholic faith where he is a Knight of St John. He was appointed the Director-General of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign in 2015 and successfully led the then opposition party to victory in the March 28, 2015 presidential election in which a sitting president was roundly defeated for the first time in the annals of politics in Nigeria.
In his capacity as the Minister of Transportation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he has redefined the transportation system in Nigeria with gigantic and unique feats uncommon in the rail system in the country. His plot to link up most key State capitals in Nigeria through rail system is a feat that has changed the thinking of many Nigerians towards the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari whose victory Rt Hon Amaechi played pivotal roles to actualize in both the 2015 and the 2019 general elections.
He successfully led the Presidential Campaign Organization of President Buhari to victory again in 2019’ a feat unobtainable in any party of Africa for an individual to lead a Presidential Campaign Organization to two victories back to back.
The Main Aim of This Treatise
After explaining in brief who Amaechi is and what he has achieved as a political icon and Iroko so far as the politics of Nigeria is concerned, I will like through this treatise expose and unravel another part of Amaechi unknown to most Nigerians.
This treatise therefore will focus on Amaechi and his relationship with opposition political parties and his ability to manage divergent views and aspirations and unite these forces into a force for the growth and betterment of humanity.
Before delving into the central aim of this treatise, let me highlight that for one to understand Amaechi’s radicalism and role in opposition politics in Nigeria, he or she can must reflects on the university days of this radical unionist. University of Port Harcourt (Uniport) in Rivers State was where Amaechi laid the foundation of his political life: participating actively in student union politics, especially in the National Union of Rivers State Students (NURSS), of which he was president, and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS)
He led other students to protest some of the policies of the then military junta and after his graduation; he cut his teeth in politics as Secretary of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, from 1992 to 1994. He was Secretary of the Caretaker Committee of the Rivers State Chapter of the disbanded Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) in 1996 during the transition programme of the late General Sani Abacha junta.
Reminisces Of Amaechi And History Of Working With Organised Opposition Political Parties; The Example Of FOOPP
With the assumption of office by Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as the duly elected Governor of Rivers State in 2007 and in pursuance of governing a united and secured Rivers State considering the volatile State he inherited where human lives counts little or nothing, he moved to unite all the political forces within the State which gave birth to the formation of opposition political parties.
It is on record that Rivers State under the watch of Rt. Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi stands out as the only State in Nigeria that made serious attempt in not only cooperating, collaborating with the opposition political parties in Nigeria but assigned cabinet offices to the members. Through the help of Prince Tonye Princewill, then the leader and gubernatorial candidate of Action Congress (AC), Amaechi was able to unite about 43 other political parties to form the Forum Of Opposition Political Parties (FOOPP).
According to Prince Tonye Princewill, the Leader and BOT Chairman of the FORUM, who threw some light in his keynote address at the inauguration of the Forum, the effort gave rise to the idea of formidable opposition in Rivers State, thus, ‘…on the 27th October, 2007, eight political parties (AC, RPN, ADC, CPP, UNDP, ARP, UNPP and ANPP) decided to withdraw their election petitions against PDP and support the Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi led administration. That decision has gradually evolved into what is hailed today as a study in political pragmatism, clearly setting Rivers State apart as a trail blazer in political innovation within this nation’s polity.”
The Prince generally accepted as the Prince of Niger Delta Politics further highlighted what the people of Rivers State stood to gain from the formation of the Forum. To him the Forum marked the dawn of hope for a people whose psyche had been marred by fractious politics. He promised that with him at the helm of affairs of the Forum, a worthy partnership with Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi’s PDP administration would result hopefully in a gradual recovery from the sordid legacy of the past. The Forum’s motto ‘Unity in Strength’ was a strong indicator of its founding objectives.
Before the formal take-off this historical Forum, the legality of the Forum, its practicality, and the implications for the state were placed under a number of legal, political and strategic microscopes culminating in a resounding thrust to go forward. The initial formation of a 10-man Harmonization Committee led by the DPP Chairman, Garshon Benson, and a 6-man constitution drafting committee led by Barr Iyke Echie from Emohua, under the supervision of Hon Barr Osima Ginah, were critical steps taken to make the birth of this Forum resounding and outstanding.
Chief (Dr) Davies Ibiamu Ikanya JP, the Chairman of the Forum, in his presentation gave an insight of the vision, mission and other issues involving the Forum. “Our vision is that Rivers State will be fully developed in infrastructure, economy and character, and that future elections will reflect the actual wishes of the electorate who when encouraged by good governance will give their support to the elected Government”.
The lead paper titled; ‘Power and Credible Partisan Opposition in Our Democratic Culture’ was Presented by Barr Ledum Mittee, Guest Speaker at the June 26th, 2009 inauguration and public presentation of the Forum of Organised Opposition Political Parties in Rivers State, comprising 43 political parties uniting under one platform. The erstwhile Chairman of the defunct Presidential Technical Committee on the Niger Delta reiterated before his audience thus, “The very idea of opposition political party presupposes that there are political parties, one or a couple of which is/are in power whilst the others are in opposition. In my view, what should distinguish one political party from the other is not whether one is in power and the other is not, but some core principles and values. I insist that these differences in values are what should even distinguish between the policies which the parties generate and out of which the electorate are expected to make preferences”. He lamented the current trend of antagonism perpetrated by incumbent governments towards all perceived or real opposition. He prayed all present to seek the best practice in the balance of power between the two sides to make for a sustainable democratic experiment.
Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze the Media Consultant to the Forum in his own submission highlighted, “It is a widely held belief that Coalitions and cooperation’s amongst political parties are usually motivated by electoral loss, dwindling electoral fortunes, increased unpopularity and major changes in the political landscape that must have increased the stakes, but ours was driven by Patriotism and Zeal to answer the clarion call for all hands to be on deck to make Rivers State a better developed and peaceful state.
“All parties in the Forum have surmounted party differences, embracing adaptation to negotiated and harmonized programmes of the Forum that will to a large extent satisfy diverse values whilst creating an enabling environment for all.
“As a stabilizing force in the State’s polity, the Forum will serve to galvanize resources and ensure that Rivers people participate in the electoral process freely with ensuing results that reflect the decision of the electorate.”
First Foopp Formal Meeting With Gov. Amaechi On 11th July, 2009
A delegation from the Forum of Organized Opposition Political Parties in Rivers State, led by its Leader and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Prince Tonye Princewill, paid a courtesy visit on Rt Hon.Rotimi Amaechi at the Government House in Port Harcourt on 11th July, 2009, at the State Exco Chambers. This visit marked the first formal meeting of the Governor with the Exco Members of the Forum since its inauguration on the 25th of June 2009. The Forum of the Organised Opposition Political Parties (FOOPP) comprising of 43 political parties in Rivers State, resolved to join Amaechi’s Unity Government in order to foster peace among the political class in Rivers State in the hope of enshrining a vibrant, egalitarian and progressive Political culture in the State.
Prince Tonye Princewill who was accompanied by the Chairman of the Forum, Chief Dr. Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, Barr Osima Ginah, the Urban Development Commissioner, Chief Williams Igweh the SA to the Governor on inter-party Affairs, Chief Eric Aso the ANPP Guber Candidate, Rev. Odota Ndubisi the Guber Candidate of ARP in the 2007 general election, Chief Tamuno Roberts the Chairman of RS CNPP and Secretary of BOT, Chief Harry Alaye the Vice Chairman, Comrade Garshon Benson of DPP, Secretary; the 43 Chairmen of participating political parties and Officials of the Forum commended the Governor for his giant strides in governance since assuming office on the 26th October, 2007. The Forum reassured the Governor of its commitment to providing sound, objective and result-oriented political opposition in the state. They informed the governor that the formation of the Forum had become expedient in the light of the Governor’s passionate commitment in tackling the difficulties of the Rivers people whilst contending with the challenges bedeviling development in the state and oppositions acknowledgement in this regard. They also asserted that the government would stand to benefit from most of the Forum’s activities which will revolve majorily around goal-driven collaboration between the government and the organized opposition.
Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi was further commended for instituting a truly unity government which in itself has created an enabling environment for the Opposition to thrive. He appreciated Amaechi’s purposeful commitment to the unity government evident in the appointments of Chief (Dr.) Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, erstwhile commissioner for Special Duties , Barrister Osima Ginah, commissioner for Urban Development, Chief Williams Igweh, Special Adviser on Inter Party Matters and Mr Suage Badey, Member Governing Council, Rivers State University of Science and Technology respectively.
“Your Excellency, beyond the walls of excellent inter-party relations under your amiable leadership, Rivers State has recorded great strides of progress with landmarks in urban development and renewal, infrastructural development, health, education, peace and security, human capital development, and the conscious effort to enlarge the political space and citizen participation through elimination of the so-called upland/riverine dichotomy in Rivers politics. We salute your courage and conviction and hope that posterity will number your term in office with an unambiguous verdict of success.”
In his response, the Governor Conveyed his sincere appreciation for the hand of support and Partnership extended to him by Prince Tonye Princewill and his Team since assuming office in 2007. He commended Prince Tonye for this initiative that would hopefully promote a formidable political partnership and joint collaboration between the government and the organized opposition in Rivers State. The governor expressed satisfaction for the valuable assistance by way of the suggestions extended to his government by the FOOPP. Regarding most of the issues raised, he reaffirmed government’s continued commitment to resolving every conceivable challenge in all areas listed.
Governor Amaechi reiterated governments zero tolerance for all forms of criminality and his administration’s commitment to reinstating sanity. Promising to work with the opposition, he rounded up his response thus, “I will give the opposition every support to monitor the Government’s projects as it is truly tiring for me to monitor most of the projects in the State. On funding of opposition parties, I will in the next stakeholders meeting of PDP move the motion for adequate funding of the opposition if we are to move forward democratically, socially and developmentally.”
The icing on the cake followed shortly; “Finally, if your request is for me to reappoint Dr. Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, your wish is my command”. At this, the hall erupted with the sound of thunderous applause. The meeting ended on this great note of the recalling of Dr. Ikanya back to the State Executive Council.
Today, I am happy to report that most of the key actors of FOOPP, Prince Tonye Princewill, Dr. Davies Ikanya Ibiamu, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze and many others are not only standing by Amaechi they are still playing key roles in his political family not minding the arts and acts of betrayal, backstabbing and challenges facing the political family.
What the Opposition Political Parties Gained From the Amaechi’s Administration
Apart from empowering members through awards and execution of contracts, the following members of the Forum were appointed into the Cabinet of Amaechi’s Administration, Chief (Dr.)Davies Ibiamu Ikanya the Chairman of the Forum was appointed the commissioner for Special Duties, Barrister Osima Ginah the Legal Adviser of the Forum was appointed the Commissioner for Urban Development while Chief Williams Igweh the Deputy Gubernatorial of Action Congress was appointee the Special Adviser on Inter Party Matters and Mr Suage Badey the Action Congress State Chairman was appointed as a Member Governing Council, Rivers State University of Science and Technology respectively. The BOT Chairman of the Forum, Prince Tonye Princewill was appointed as a member of the glorious and prestigious Advisory Committee of the State Government populated by the eggheads from within and outside the State where policies of the government are cooked and implemented by the State Executive Council.
Amaechi’s exploits and unique feats in assisting to midwife the first successful union and formation of APC that was able to ouster a powerful political party like PDP that prouds herself as the largest political party in Africa from power is not an easy feat. This feat unarguably was achieved based on the knowledge he acquired above through the formation of FOOPP and I can authoritatively state that this unique feat of Amaechi in the history of opposition political parties in Rivers State and Nigeria stands him out as the most pragmatic, ingenious, egalitarian and visionary leader of this generation.
And if Nigeria is to move forward then we must look at the direction of this God’s Gift to us as a nation for the 2023 general elections.
Let me formally conclude this treatise by quoting my good old friend, Douglas MacArthur who in attempt to asses Amaechi and his type of politics stated, “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his action and the integrity of his intent”, while Henry Kissinger captured Amaechi aptly when he stated, “The task of the leader is to get their people from where they are to where they have not been”
From these quotes and the records above, Amaechi has proved that he is a leader we all can rally around and support to take our nation to its rightful place among the comity of nations.
Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt and can be reached either through firstname.lastname@example.org