31.10.2008 Feature Article

Grassroots Politics, Precious Oforji's Example

Grassroots Politics, Precious Oforji's Example
31.10.2008 LISTEN

Many Nigerians are yet to feel the dividends of democracy based on the neglect of the grassroots politics by the Nigerian government. Elections at the Local level are totally debased, as the states still control the activities of the different Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Nigeria, which in earnest is to the detriment of the locals. Imagine that some Nigerian states are yet to conduct elections in their councils, while some have conducted. As a result, the local people are sidelined to fully attest to how the funds meant for the councils are being utilized. The funds can't be accounted for by the so caretaker chairmen. They were made caretakers as a means of compensating them. And it could be as a result of accountability that the Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led government of Rivers State had to conduct its polls in its 23 LGAs on the 29th March 2008, and later there was re-run in just few LAGs where RISIEC had some electoral lapses. Following that re-ran elections in Rivers State; Sir Precious Oforji became the Execute Chairman of Oyigbo LGA, having served a two term of (8yrs) in the State House of Assembly under the ex-Governor Peter Odili administration.

Early this year, Oforji chosed to bow to the wishes of his supporters across Oyigbo and indeed Rivers State to contest the gone March 29 2008 council polls in the state on the platform of the ruling and self-acclaimed Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). When his intention was made known, there were rancours in many quarters. Oyigbo experienced political skirmishes, and Rivers State entirely was in deep waters, seeking for direction. The skirmishes brewed up on Monday November 25 2006 when Odili made his interest open to contest in the 2007 presidential elections. On the Odili's declaration day, the occasion graced the faces of the then Speaker of the Federal House of representatives, Bello Masari and his deputy, Austin Opara, alongside about 130 members of the House. 23 Speakers of the state Houses of Assembly led by the Chairman, Conference of Speakers, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, who was then the Speaker of the Rivers House of Assembly, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur – Chairman of the occasion , Amb. Mathew Mbu, Chief Arthur Nzeribe cheered the occasion, among other dignitaries.

There was fear of who was to succeed Odili. A lot of Rivers indigenes vowed to make the state ungovernable should Odili dared anoint Amaechi as his successor. There were jubilations on Friday night in the camp of Opara who it was alleged has been endorsed by Odili to fly the flag of PDP in the state. It was also gathered that the warning to make the state ungovernable should Amaechi be endorsed to succeed Odili came from Opara himself.

There were instructions given to some council chairmen to ensure that Opara's candidates who were vying for elective positions were returned. There was recall on how Odili ordered in Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency, the chairman and Nations Chairman of ALGON, Chief Nyesom Wike on Friday midnight preceding the congress to return Hon. Ike Chinwo to the National Assembly. Chinwo was in the Abuja camp canvassing election for Opara, and he couldn't find it easy in the political battle with Wike, who was absolutely in control of the delegates, having outrun the Opara's group in the LGA.

But many of the plans then didn't go down well with the supporters of Amaechi. Amaechi was believed would win a free and fair election, even that there were perceived manipulations of the Chairman and Secretary of the PDP in the state. The state chapter of the PDP and other members of the exco-led by the Vice Chariman, Ohochukwu pitched their tent with Amaechi.

Oyigbo LGA experienced sharp divide based on zoning arrangement. There were forces in Oyigbo controlled by Hon. Precious Oforji before the LGAs polls this year. And he was an unrepentant believer in Amaechi. The indomitable Desmond Akawor was godfather to the ousted Chairman of the LGA, Sunny Kanu. But Akawor was not totally against Amaechi candidature, but he was afraid of his arch rival, Oforji, knocking him out of the political ring in Oyigbo because Oforji was a supporter of Amaechi. However, Akawor couldn't eschew the accusing fingers pointed at him that he was then not happy with Amaechi, as Speaker, because Amaechi didn't support the grant to impeach the former Council Chairman, Sunny Kanu. This was because Kanu fell out of favour with Akawor. Hon. Obenachi Ekeke who was a strong supporter of Akawor, like Opara, warned in an interview the direful situation the Rivers State would experience if Amaechi succeeds Odili. When Kanu was removed, a Caretaker Chairman was installed. That was in the person of Nancy Nwankwo. While the pendulum drifted, Rt. Hon. Amaechi became governor through the court ruling against his blood cousin Sir Celestine Omehia, who was holding forte as governor, on 25th Oct. 2007.

When Amaechi became governor, all the PDP primaries of the councils were dissolved and a fresh election held. This nullification saw Oforji having hoped to contest election in Oyigbo. He was initially sidelined, though he didn't show any interest to contest for the chairmanship in Omehia's administration as that would have amounted to betrayal to Amaechi. And when he finally indicated interest to contest after Amaechi had won at the court, the forces against him came en masse, but he wasn't deterred. He promised the people of Oyigbo that he was going to tackle headlong the problem of poverty and unemployment in Oyigbo, which he said didn't receive the attention it really required in other administrations. Oforji described his being in the race as not only the peoples wish but the Lord's doing. He told the people that he was on a mission to salvage the people of Oyigbo who have suffered untold hardship since the LGA was crated. He maintained then that if voted into power by March 29th 2008, he would break all the shackles of impediments besetting Oyigbo.

In his speech, the secretary to the State Government SSG, Hon. Magnus Abbey, giving reasons for the choice of Oforji said, "Hon Oforji is a steadfast politician who will implement party's manifestoes". As if that was not enough, the Ward 8 Chairman of the PDP in Oyigbo, Mr. Johnson Onyeso Eke, said: "I want to make it clear that no individual is bigger than a party; it is party that I know that runs election. So, I urge the people of Oyigbo to open their eyes to see the blessing God is about to give us in the person of Sir Precious Oforji, as Chairman of our Council".

Today, all the perspectives and aspirations of the people are not a waste; Sir Precious Oforji having won the Chairmanship position in Oyigbo, is fulfilling his promises. Oyigbo is experiencing another look that one can easily describe as The New Face of Oyigbo. Roads are tarred and are being seen tarred. Drainages are constructed. All the projects, whether State's or the Council's are being monitored by Oforji in person to see that the projects are completed. There is a peaceful resolution of the disagreement in the PDP in the LGA, as he has brought to an end a big crack in the party. The provoking aspect of him is that he is accessible 24hrs, unlike many in his shoe who would pose as demigod. Oforji, so far, is a blessing to Oyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers State.

Odimegwu Onwumere, is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Oyigbo, Rivers State. +2348032552855. [email protected]