Dr. Austin Uganwa celebrates Rt. Hon. Austin Adiele Opara, former Deputy Speaker of the Fifth House of Representatives, as he clocks sixty,
Rivers-born Politician, Rt. Hon. Austin Opara, has been described as a source of inspiration, leading light and pillar of strength to his people, who has made his mark in the nation’s shadowy political landscape.
Public Affairs Consultant and academic, Dr Austin Uganwa described this in a tribute titled ‘Opara’s Sixty Worthy Ornaments,’ which he penned in honour of the former lawmaker representing Port Harcourt II Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.
In cataloguing his achievements as a legislator and illustrious son of Rivers State, he noted that Opara’s inimitably unassuming nature, openness and cordiality earn him the rallying point of his peers, friends and political associates at age sixty. According to him, these remarkable realities account for the large army of supporters, friends and admirers that still mill around him, years after leaving political office.
Describing Opara as a unifier, stabiliser and consensus builder in the Fifth National Assembly, he hailed the two-time federal lawmaker for pursuing rare legislative governance that impacted positively on the overall nation-building and the development of the Niger-Delta region during his four-year stint as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Read the full tribute below:
Today, Tuesday, August 29, 2023, Rt. Hon. Austin Adiele Opara, former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, turns sixty.
At sixty, this likeable and humble illustrious son of Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, has stridden into the proverbial and sagacious age correlated with insight and wisdom. It is, more so, fascinating that Opara has worthy ornaments to showcase, underlining the significance of his sixty-year milestone.
Not only that he has, over the years, manifested himself as a source of inspiration, leading light and pillar of strength to his people, he has made his mark in the nation’s shadowy political landscape. As a congressional presiding officer for four years, he aided considerably in articulating and driving national trajectories through legislative instruments.
The above affirmation is indeed incontrovertible. For instance, during his four-year stint as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, 2003 and 2007, Opara pursued rare legislative governance that impacted positively on the overall nation-building and the development of the Niger Delta region. He functioned conscientiously as a unifier, stabiliser and consensus builder of the House.
As Chairman of the House Committee of the Whole with the mandate of presiding over clause-by-clause considerations of all bills when he was Deputy Speaker, he injected life and robustness into the debates on the bills with wit, candour and harmonious approach in moderating the proceedings. This evidenced leadership dexterity enthroned cohesiveness, legislative eminence and colossal parliamentary performance. While presiding over the considerations of the third term bill in June 2006, he provided a rallying point to the House torn apart by the intense and acrimonious nature of the bill debate.
He was at the forefront of the horse-trading and intensification of the legislative process that led to the enactment of the Niger-Delta Development Commission Act 2000. Prior to his election as Deputy Speaker in 2003, Opara was the Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on NDDC, and it was during the Commission’s formative stage in 2001 and 2002. He was accordingly deeply involved in designing and overseeing, through legislative oversight, the implementation of the institution’s foundational framework. Today, NDDC constitutes a critical pillar of development for the Niger Delta states and, by extension, the nation.
At the International Parliamentary Union Conference in Manila, Philippines, in 2005, Opara, who led the Nigerian House of Representatives delegates to the event, lobbied parliamentarians from advanced nations for debt reprieve for Nigeria. He consolidated this action with a moving debt moratorium speech at the event, which, in no small way, helped to secure the obligations of the Paris Club to write off Nigeria’s $18b debt during Olusegun Obasanjo‘s administration.
As a result, a vast number of his Rivers people, admirers, friends, and political associates across the country believe that Opara’s 60 years on earth is inherently worthy and, in view of that, deserves to be celebrated in a momentous and colourful manner.
Besides, at 60, Opara has been able to manifest intriguing academic sophistication. He bagged a Doctorate Degree in Political Marketing from the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, in 2021. Unlike most politicians, Opara dedicated his time after leaving his political position in 2007 to intensive study.
“The determination to pursue higher knowledge even after holding high political office was undertaken to prepare me for greater challenges in politics and business,” he stated. According to him, the driving force is the understanding that the world is increasingly knowledge-based and, therefore, adding vast value to public and private sectors is a function of knowledge acquisition and deployment.
However, as a political icon and chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), he has not relented in embarking on far-reaching pursuits needed to promote democracy and the stability of the PDP. He was the Director of Training for the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation during the 2023 general elections. He undertook various hands-on training programmes to enhance the proficiency of a wide range of party functionaries who carried out various tasks in aid of the party’s presidential flag bearer, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and other candidates of the party across the nation.
Opara and other top leaders of the party in Rivers State, including Celestine Omehia, former governor of the state, Abiye Sekibo, a former Transport Minister, Uche Secondus, a former national chairman of the party, Senator Lee Maeba and a host of others, worked largely for the party and its presidential candidate during the last general elections against state-sponsored storms that raged brazenly.
Opara’s political associates paid dearly for this as Hon Chinyere Igwe, a former member of the House of Representatives; Hon Jones Ogbonda, a former member of the Rivers State House of Assembly; and Ikechi Chinda, a former PDP Chairman in Port Harcourt Local Government Area had their hotel and filling station businesses clamped down by the agents of the state.
In 2020, Opara supervised the party’s congress held in the 18 local councils of Edo State, which helped to provide a veritable ground for PDP’s eventual takeover of the state from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). He has unmistakably shown a great degree of commitment, consistency and diligence to the party since 1998. He played a major role with other leaders in establishing PDP in the state
At sixty, Opara’s inimitably unassuming nature, openness and cordiality earn him the rallying point of his peers, friends and political associates. These remarkable realities account for the large army of supporters, friends and admirers that still mill around him years after leaving political office.
Dr Austin Uganwa wrote from Abuja.