By George Onah
Before now there was only one opposition political party in Rivers State and that was Accord Party. The governorship candidate of the party in the 2007 elections Chief Bekinbo Soberekon has been begging the courts since 2008 to remove Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi from the Brick House in Port Harcourt. Soberekon wants to be the tenant of that sprawling premises.
But so far Amaechi is still the landlord there. The matter has gone from the lowest to the highest court in the land. As at the last hearing on September 29th, 2009 the Supreme Court returned the case to the Appeal Court for the final settlement.
However, there is a certain group; which calls itself â€œNew Restoration Teamâ€. The group says it is opposed to the ruling party in the State and wants to make a difference. What is intriguing about this team is the fireworks of words, which its arrival has elicited. In fact there is even a comic relief to the entire thing.
Perhaps it will be worthwhile to mention that there were 33 known opposition political parties when Amaechi became governor. Out of this, the Action Congress led by Prince Tonye Princewill pulled out and offered to work with the ruling Peoplesâ€™ Democratic Party, PDP. The party however said it would continue to shoot at PDP with constructive criticisms but would not be judgemental. However, in April last year, 18 of the 32 remaining opposition parties considered it useless to remain in the rain when there was enough room under the umbrella to accommodate them. The assemblage was called â€œForum of Opposition Political Partiesâ€.
Statement of the 18 parties
Like war weary soldiers, the parties said they had enough bullets to fight on but would rather join forces with Governor Amaechi, â€œto help in building the state for a better tomorrow and make sure there is peace and tranquillity in the stateâ€.
But the chairman of the group Chief Harry Alaye of the Nigerian Advanced Party said their first step would be to align with the Action Congress and its leader Prince Princewill, because â€œit is an alliance that we are certain will strengthen the opposition and ultimately move the state forwardâ€.
The parties which also included JP, ALP, APGA, NRP, NAC and CPP, said the group had been encouraged by the efforts of the Amaechi administration and support of Princewill in aggressively addressing the problems of the state.
Rubbing it in, the group said, â€œwe do not want to continue to oppose for the sake of opposing the government of the day, we wish to criticize constructively, as well as applaud where necessary when the good of the state is being put in the front burner.
But we want to make it clear that we will not hesitate to raise our voices against government policies that are not in the best interest of the people of the state, so let it be known that we shall continue to be opposition parties but for the best interest of the peopleâ€.
Ten days after the forum of opposition parties joined Amaechi, another set of 13 opposition parties left the trenches, sheathing their swords in the process. Apparently, conscious of the futility of engaging in a battle with a political combatant who possesses superior fire power, the group decided to settle for a truce.
This time, operating under the aegis of â€˜Organised Opposition Political Partiesâ€™ in Rivers State, the men and women, led by the gubernatorial candidate of Fresh Democratic Party in the 2007 elections Dr. Minaibi Dagogo-Jack said they were â€œencouraged by the bold steps Governor Amaechi has taken thus far to curb insecurity and restiveness in the stateâ€.
New Restoration Team
In a press statement laced with anger and ethnic colouration, signed by its publicity secretary Mr. Jerry Needam, the group said the publicity secretary of the Action Congress Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze had no business talking politics in Rivers State. Rather, Needam wants Eze to take the next available 911 lorry and depart for his dusty home state, Ebonyi.
Reason for outburst
Needam recalled in the statement that â€œthe Action Congress in Rivers State which arrogates to itself the undeserved position of a watchman for the Rivers people is not comfortable with the formation of new restoration team in the state.
Rattled by the promo of the emerging political family under whose umbrella, Sir. Dr. Peter Odili and Celestine Omehia emerged as executive governors, the Action Congress said it has welcomed the new restoration team back to the state and challenged the new breed politicians to come and see what the ruling PDP administration under the leadership of Amaechi and the Action Congress are doing in the stateâ€.
To the new restoration team, â€œthis is an open admission of connivance and secret pact with the PDP to undermine the Rivers people while pretending to be playing the role of a defender of justice and good governance. The team is shocked that a purported opposition party that ought to be happy that at last the Rivers people are about to be salvaged from all manner of political intrigues, is already feeling rattled and planning to start another round of politics of mudslinging and calumnyâ€.
Origin of face-off
Vanguard gathered that the politics of name-calling between the AC and New Restoration Team has its origin from a recent brush between the publicity secretaries of both sides. The matter has resulted in litigation.
It was learnt that the newspaper of the latter attempted to tinker with the image of the leader of the former, which, understandably, was stoutly resisted. An attempt at resolving it on the table failed hence the need for it to be resolved by the bench. But until that is done, the question is who challenge Amaechi in 2011.