Opara...the need for a new platform is imperative

Chief Perry Opara, the first chairman of the Inter-party Advisory Council and a founding member of the National Unity Party, who later served on the campaign team of former President Goodluck Jonathan, is the founder of a new political organisation called the Peoples Mega Party, which he describes as the alternative party in the future. He spoke to Onyebuchi Ezigbo. Excerpts:

Some aggrieved politicians are said to be contemplating a new party, the Peoples Mega Party (PMP). Is this a coincidence or it has anything to do with the expectations from Nigerians?
Yes, it has a lot to do with such expectations from Nigerians. As a matter of fact, I am one of the people that came under the umbrella of Senator Ken Nnamani and under that umbrella we had governors, ministers, former advisers, all manners of people, who felt they were credible. We saw Ken Nnamani as the only man standing that can be an umbrella over every other person. Be you former vice-president, be your former senate president, be you senator, governor – everybody felt that Nnamani has the capacity, the image and the credibility to be a leader.

So, when all of us came under him, we thought that we could assist and rebrand PDP; we could assist and fix a BoT chairmanship that has expired; we could assist fix National chairman’s position that was zoned to the North-east and a South-south person took over and was eating into their time.

All of us were there, the aggrieved members of PDP under the leadership of Ken Nnamani but something happened on the 12th of November when Nnamani assembled the green of PDP made up of former governors, former senators, former advisers and many people to visit Wadata plaza. I was number 17 on that list.

We went to Wadata Plaza and then acting National Chairman of the PDP and others addressed us but unfortunately, we couldn’t extract firm commitment from the Wadata plaza visit and we discovered that it was a journey to nowhere. Some of us who are younger, who felt our future was dim in PDP started thinking of a way to move and the forum of ministers met and was thinking in that direction although it was suicidal for former functionaries of government for 16 years or more to gather to form a political party, it doesn’t work like that.
What you see in PMP is a reaction to the impunity, the high handedness and the level of corruption that has afflicted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It took us three months to go round Nigeria to set up structures because we wanted to build a party from the bottom to the top. We want to give power back to the people and not a few people coming to Abuja to give money to members of the National Working Committee (NWC) and they give them registration materials, forms and they go to their states and begin to re-appropriate it.
We wanted to end this impunity, a situation where forms are sold N10 million for governorship, N1million for expression of interest and you now have to carry bags of ‘Ghana must go’ in billions to begin to bride members of the NWC to give you ticket.

PMP is a response to the expectations of Nigerians that there should be an alternative platform. Not necessarily an opposition party, an alternative platform for those of them who are aggrieved in PDP, those who are aggrieved in APC, those who are aggrieved in other political parties like APGA, Labour Party and other parties.

You did say something about your association with Senator Nnamani and that you had sought for an opportunity to fix things in PDP, especially the BoT, was that part of the frustration all of you had?
No! Nnamani is a credible Nigerian. He is one man that money and position doesn’t mean anything to. I am one of his boys that begged him to accept to lead the group (PDP). It took us days of persuasion before he agreed to lead and I am also one of the people that took time to try to convince Nnamani to make himself available for BoT position. He declined several times, there was pressure on Nnamani.

Mind you, Senator Nnamani is not from the North-east. The North-east people were the people that came to Nnamani to beg him to accept to lead them so that this matter wouldn’t be a regional fight or a zonal fight for the North-east. Let it be a national fight and Nnamani is one man who has the credibility to lead.

So, Nnamani didn’t leave PDP because he was frustrated or because he wasn’t made BoT chairman, no! Nnamani felt that the house stinks. He felt that the place was no longer good enough for him to be and as a decent man, he felt that he can’t be in a place where people who are not serious and are corrupt, so he quickly resigned and Nigerians respect him for maintaining his integrity.

You said very soon you are going to launch the party and even the BoT of the party. Who and who can you say are other partners in this new journey?
We want to capture the youths, the unemployed men and women. Our party is giving up to 40 per cent position to Nigerian women. So they wanted a new face, they wanted a younger person to be their national chairman and that is what brought me on board. They also wanted a man who has experience in managing the party.
Having said this, there are people from various states, who are former members of the National Assembly, some of them two times, some three times members, who have decided to take positions at the state level as state chairmen. There are former secretaries to government, former ambassadors, former commissioners many of them that have decided to take part in this.

Why it is difficult to mention one or two people at the national level is that this is a party that is built with the philosophy of building from the bottom to the top. That is why as I speak to you, we are not talking about National Working Committee; we are talking about state executives that are ready. That is why within a short three months we were able to assemble structures in all the states and we are able to come to Abuja on March 1.
The state chairmen are the most important people in this party, they are more important than my own position. These state executives are going round the whole federation selecting three persons as BoT members. Not the one you come to Abuja and give money and they make you a BoT member. The state are taking one person per senatorial zone in their state and forwarding them to national as possible members of BoT. We are going to invite all of them for a meeting very soon and I assure you that those BoT members will be made up of big names. Nigerians will be able to see them, know them and asked them penetrating questions about why they joined Peoples Mega Party.

With your experience and relationship with former Senate President Nnamani, can you say you can come to stand where he stands now?
I am not the biological son of Senator Ken Nnamani but he has shown me more love than my late father in politics. My dad wasn’t involved in politics, so if I assume that I am a political son to Senator Nnamani, he has treated me so well.

What can you say about your credentials that qualified you to launch a new political party?
I formed a party, National Unity Party (NUP) in 2006. The same day Bola Ahmed Tinubu registered AC was the same day Chief Perry Okpara registered NUP. They were the only two parties registered that same day and I was National Chairman of that party for four years and I was also the man that exhumed the Inter Party Advisory Council from the Electoral Act. I am the first Nigerian to become the National Chairman of Inter Party Advisory Council. I was also elected president of West African Association of Political Party and I was also president of Nigerian Union of Political Parties of which we used to meet at PDP office then.
I had a stable party for four years and my tenure was over. We could only win some pockets of small elections in Rivers State – councillorship elections and my tenure finished. When my tenure finished was about the time Goodluck Jonathan wanted to run for president in 2011 and I liked Jonathan; a very humane, very humble man that believes in rule of law and I wanted to support him. By that time I had finished running the campaign of Barrack Obama in Nigeria, I joined Jonathan and tried all I could to make sure that he wins. I was made Director Contact and Mobilisation of Goodluck Support Group and I was able to deliver and Goodluck won the 2011 election.

I have experience on how to form a party and how to get it registered. I also have experience on how to have cohesion in a party and how to move it forward and I think also they feel that my age is comfortable to be able to attract the Nigerian youths that is why they made me National Chairman and I assure you that PMP, when registered will be the alternative platform.

How many states do you have structures as a political organisation at the moment and do you think you will be able to meet the INEC conditions for registration?
As I speak now, we have structures everywhere and INEC doesn’t require structures everywhere but because we are into serious business that we have been planning, we have structures everywhere and our structures are not just hiring of people and writing names for them, we have human beings who are domicile in those states.

Have you got a national office?
It is going to be unveiled in 2 weeks. We are working on that.

Quote
PMP is a response to the expectations of Nigerians that there should be an alternative platform. Not necessarily an opposition party, an alternative platform for those of them who are aggrieved in PDP, those who are aggrieved in APC, those who are aggrieved in other political parties like APGA, Labour Party and other parties