July 11th, 2012
Princewill explodes: I left AC in 2010 because I have no intention of challenging gov Amaechi in the 2011 general elections
Prince Tonye Princewill the crown Prince of the renowned Amachree dynasty in the Kalabari Kingdom in Rivers State of Nigeria and the scion of His Majesty King Prof T.J.T. Princewill, CFR, the Amayanabo of Kalabari Kingdom, a scholar, an aristocrat par excellence, endowed with remarkable wisdom comparable only to King Solomon of the Bible, A Petroleum Engineer and a consummate business magnate with diverse interest in Oil and Gas, Hospitality, Haulage, IT etc. A Gubernatorial candidate under Action Congress in the 2007 elections in Rivers State, a strategic thinker, a philanthropist and an outstanding senior technical project manager.
A distinguished and selfless politician whose hope and vision for Nigeria and Rivers State his home State is uncommon and unparallel. As a strategic thinker, he knew continuing with the challenge of the results 2007 Governorship elections in Rivers state at the tribunal would ultimately scuttle the newly installed government of Rotimi Amaechi courtesy of Supreme Court ruling, Tonye Princewill unconditionally withdrew his case at the tribunal to the consternation of many of supporters and even his political party then, the Action Congress.
At the National level, he has proved himself as a beacon of hope for our region and indeed the country when as a member of the Presidential Committee on Niger Delta; Federal Government Vision 2020 Committee, as the Chairman of the Subcommittee On the Niger Delta, he resigned his membership of the committee on 19th May, 2009 in protest of the bombardment by the JTF of Gbaramatu Kingdom because he feels that his people were about been annihilated from earth. This singular act of the Prince set the stage to the eventual declaration of amnesty by the Federal Government thus bringing the much needed peace to Niger Delta region. A sustained economic growth of the country through increased oil export has been recorded since then. Sacrificing personal and monetary gains for the advancement of the people’s cause is one of the hallmarks of a good leader; Tonye Princewill has clearly demonstrated this rare trait leadership. Princewill whose recent philanthropic activities at alleviating poverty through micro financing of rural women commerce in Rivers State, Scholarship to indigent students in Rivers State, talent hunts among the youths, hope to the orphans and the less privilege in Nigeria have been described in some quarters as the road map to a greater and better Rivers State. This great son of Nigeria took time to address various national issues and Rivers State politics. He spoke to Chief Eze C. Eze, his Media Consultant on his way out of the country to Europe on investment and business trip.
You have recently continued to state that both your party PDP and other political parties in Nigeria does not have ideology, are you not lacking in principle by jumping from PDP to AC and back to PDP?
Oh yes, I maintained that both my party PDP and other political parties in the country lacks ideology if one is to consider what are obtainable in advanced economies. In Britain for instance the principal political parties are noted for one ideology or the other. Conservative and Unionist Party are centrist to right-wing and traditionally centre-right and pragmatic while Labour Party on the other are centrist to Left-wing and traditionally socialist; and Liberal Democrats, radical-centrist heavily influenced by social liberalism. In America the two major political parties are Republican Party and Democratic Party. Republican party is conservative usually backs limited government and an unrestrained global free market while the Democratic party tends to favour greater government intervention in the economy and to oppose government intervention in the private, noneconomic affairs of citizens
In Nigeria, let me ask, what does PDP or ACN, APGA or any of the other political parties stands on Education, Security, Heath, Transportation, democracy are? Nothing so definite, to me the political parties in Nigeria are like Manchester FC in London or Chelsea or Liverpool all based in Britain where players changes club in order to achieve victory and not that any of the club stands for any ideology apart from achieving victory at end of any football season. The only scenario I can attest about lack of ideology in our parties are the regimes of our late President, Yar’Adua and our incumbent President, Dr Goodluck though from the same platform. Critically observe the approaches of these two leaders and you will see the different and remarkable differences and total lack of any common ideology or approach to governance by the two regimes though on the same platform.
Take the administrations of Sir Peter Odili and Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi from the same PDP but different approaches to governance. Is the ideology of PDP in CRS the same with the PDP in Akwa Ibom? Are the administrations of ACN in Edo and Lagos the same? Of course the answer is capital NO these administrations are all driven by the thinking and drive of those at the helm of affairs in these states and not necessarily because of their different political parties. I have pleaded with the leadership of my party under the able leadership of Alh. Bamanga Tukur to ensure that the party is ideologically driven and I have offered myself to assist in this regard if my services are required accordingly.
I was in a plane the other day with Ibru and I asked him, ‘is this the Nigeria that you wanted?’ Recently, a new political movement has started to resurface, the Peoples’ Democratic Movement, the foundation structure of the PDP. Now, if the PDM will ultimately meet to think on how to address the question: PDM, the foundation structure of PDP, what ideology did they promote?
I remember in the days of NRC and SDP in the aborted third republic, there was an ideology; the ideology was this party represented this set of ideology, this other party represented this set of ideology; which one did you want to belong to? So, in the choice of political party, we had a message, we had an idea, what do they want? Is it free education? If it is free education, what exactly does it mean? Is it free education as per tuition, or free education, as per free uniform, free sandals as what are doing in Rivers State? Is it free education at primary level, secondary level or university level? What does it mean?
So, political parties would need to identify an ideology. Now, what am I saying? I am saying is that we have to ask ourselves in the country, where are we going and start to define what our ideals are for us to adopt.
If you remember Martin Luther dream speech, he was talking about dreams of their founding father in America. If you look at our pledge, ‘the labour of our heroes past’.
What were these people labouring for? What were the dreams of our founding fathers? I am afraid that the generation coming behind me, who would recite the pledge and sing the national anthem sometimes wonder, what they are talking about.
So asking me if I am principled or rather I lack principles in moving out from AC to PDP is not a fair question but with what all that I have stated above both ACN, PDP etc are all the same in implementation of policies. I moved out from ACN back to PDP because I wanted a platform that is more nationalistic in outlook than a regional political party which ACN is at the moment coupled with other factors.
Sir, in that case what are the other factors that caused you to leave ACN that was capable of making you the Governor of Rivers State?
I have much respect for the leadership of ACN at the national level but when I was left alone to sustain and sponsor the activities of the party in the State and the region at large it becomes a load, I could not continue to carry besides when it becomes the acts of most of my followers then to capitalise on my relationship with Gov Chibuike Amaechi to demand that I must ask Amaechi to empty the Rivers State treasury for them, I could not hesitate to leave such a crop of people back to PDP.
Most importantly, I was being threatened and harassed left and right that if I fail to ask Amaechi to release much money to them they will turn over the party to Dr Abiye Sekibo and Sir Celestine Omehia to use the platform to fight Amaechi and I have no interest or intention of contesting the 2011 general elections to fight against Amaechi seeing that he needed the second term to consolidate on the good jobs he is doing in the State so I have to leave the party as I cannot continue to hold on a party that I have no use of using to contest any election.
You are involved with a lot of Philanthropic activities recently, are all these geared towards contesting the 2015 general election?
It is sad that my involvement recently to assist the orphans through Melody Shelters by organising the first TV Reality Show for orphanages in Nigeria which Godswill Orphanage in Kogi State came top and carted away the sum N10M with the runners up and the third placed Homes carting home N5M and N3M respectively, releasing funds to Micro-Finance Agency to intervene in emancipating our rural women, offer scholarships to our indigent students in Higher Institutions from Rivers State, talents Hunts and creating and offering jobs to some of youths in dare need of jobs and other interventions that I have put on to assist the less privileged are being interpreted that I want to contest the guber election of 2015!
Those saying all these forgot the role God played in the elections of Ada George, Peter Odili and Chibuike Amaechi in Rivers State. Those manipulating and strategising for the 2015 elections which is about three years ago should please go ahead but why should I be embarking on projects that are geared at 2015 in 2012? Why don’t I have to wait till 2014 in order to use all these funds if I have actually wanted to invest them because of 2015 elections? In one of my billboards in Port Harcourt, I stated that “If you are blessed, try and bless others” so what stops me from praticising what I am preaching seeing that God has blessed me by affecting the lives of the less privileged. I am only interested in what is happening in 2012 while if God gives me life till 2015 and if the people of Rivers State want to me to play any role in the 2015 elections, I will make myself available but now, people should leave me alone to assist our people in their desire for a purposeful leadership and assistance.
Your Politics is woven around Atiku, Amaechi, Alaibe Asiawaju, what do you find in these great men that fascinates or rather influences your style of politics?
I cannot deny the fact the roles these great men played in shaping my politics. Atiku stood by me when the entire AC Leadership by 2008 wanted me disgraced because I resolved to withdraw my guber case against Gov Amaechi and from this misunderstood leader, I have learnt much on how politics should be played and praticised and learning from such a political Institution is an honour only lucky ones like me are entitled to.
To many people Amaechi is not only a friend but a true brother that no matter what ever maybe our differences this great political wizard and strategist has taught me a lot of political lessons that have sharpen and prepared me for greater task ahead of me. For Asiawju Bola Tinubu, many people do not know my relationship with this great man. Apart from Atiku, Asiwaju was the next person I contacted when I decided to remove my guber case from the court to support Amaechi government seeing that he was the one that solely sponsored all the SANs that handled my guber case. This great politician and fearless mobiliser and strategist of the highest repute is one of my political mentors that I will continue to admire and respect. For my own brother Alaibe, many people do not know that if not this man there would not have being Prince Tonye Princewill the business man. It was this man who decided to influence me to come back to Nigeria after he visited my home in 2001 and literally moved me to Nigeria and that is how I started the journey that have taking me this far. Ironically, all these great men names starts with A and truly they are the ‘As’ in the politics of Nigeria and I am happy to be their disciple.
You are the crown Prince of Kalabari Kingdom, we do wonder at times what have you actually contributed towards the development and emancipation of this area that have suffered untold hardship in present and previous administrations of Rivers State?
I am happy about this question as many people have asked me the same. It may interest you to note that that it was the Buguma crisis of 2003 that turned the Buguma town into a war zone amongst the militant groups pervading in my area at that time that actually brought me into politics. After I did the much I could do to bring sanity and peace to my people I started to ask what actually the essence of governance is all about while my people are been encouraged to slaughter themselves. My first achievement to my people was restoring peace to them by 2003. Apart from offering job opportunity to them, I initiated a scholarship scheme that I started in the Kalabari Kingdom which has now being extended to all the other Local Government Areas in Rivers State. I am only an individual and can only do the much that I am doing.
In this regard, can you kindly educate us accept being a close associate of Gov Amaechi what your relationship with him has brought to the Kalabari Kingdom seeing that most of the key projects are not attended to?
To Governor Amaechi, I am a riverine politician because of the way I have continued to plead with him to assist in fulfilling most of his promises to our people in the riverine areas. I have said earlier, Gov Amaechi is a friend and brother but there is a limit of what I can do or influence him about but I am mostly saddened that most of the keep projects like the Trans-Kalabari Road that would have assisted in linking the Local Governments in the kingdom is not implemented. It is only unfortunate that my relationship with the Governor have not resulted to much development to my area but we should exercise patience and pray that God will touch him to ensure that this particular road is attended to and other development brought to bear in the entire riverine area as obtainable in other areas of the State. To drive home the plight of my people, let us imagine an area like Onlega that is the highest oil producing area in the country without any visible development to show for what all the resources being exploited from this area that shows you how the towns in the riverine areas where I came from are treated.
You are the Consultant to the Government of Rivers State on PPP and a member of the Rivers State Advisory Economic Committee, sir, why are the PPP programs not working in Rivers State and were you adequately consulted in implementing the Monorail and other such unprofitable projects in the State?
Yes, I am a Consultant to the Rivers State Government on Public Private Partnership (PPP) and I have in that capacity attracted over N50B investments to the State and was a member of the Advisory Economic Team but have stopped attending most of their meetings recently as the idea behind setting up such a Committee are no longer attainable as those surrounding the Governor have usurped most of our activities and they would not have being any need attending a meeting just to answer present while most of the recommendations are not implemented.
My stand on the Monorail no matter the challenges and criticisms is that the project was well conceived as it was to be a PPP driven project initiated by a onetime Governor of the State but along the line after the Government has invested a lot of money in it and sadly the private partners could not meet up with their own side of the bargaining and in order not to lose out totally the government resolved to go it alone. Instead of passing judgement now let us wait until the Governor leaves office before we can pass any judgement on this crucial project but to describe it as unprofitable is not a fair assessment as it will be a legacy that Amaechi will for long be remembered with.
Other PPP driven projects working in the State include the Silver Bird Cinema and the Call Centre etc.
Sir, would you have done some of these PPP projects a bit different from what the present administration are doing if you were elected the Governor in 2007?
Of course yes, there are certain areas I would have adopted a different approach but as Sir Celestine Omehia once told me when we met some time ago, “TP, bear in mind that if this administration succeeds it will rub on you and if it fails, you should be ready to bear your cross because you cannot exonerate yourself from most of the ills or otherwise of the administration” and I agree totally with Sir Omehia and that is why I am doing my best to guide and assist the Governor to succeed if those around him will permit it.
Is the Rivers State Government doing enough to create employment among our uncountable graduates roaming the streets jobless?
The problem of governance both in Rivers State and the country at large is the inability of the various governments in the country to understand the language of business until that is done; the ability of government to create jobs for our teeming youths will be sceptical and slim. I don’t believe and support the stand that government should be disturbing itself to employ people, to me the government should create the enabling environment for the private sector to thrive to create jobs for our people, the government should thereafter ensure that these private driven initiatives employ our people instead of engaging others from outside the country. I learnt that the government is about employing over ten thousand Teachers to teach in most of our schools, this is commendable but the fact remains that we need to do more to save our your youths from falling into criminalities.
Recently the residents of Abonemna wharf were sacked and their houses demolished, is this right if we are actually praticising democracy of government by the people and for the people?
I don’t support people to be treated as if they are not sons and daughters of the State. The essence of governance is the people so any policy and project of the government that does not know bring happiness and joy to the governed cannot be said to be people driven. Though I have being outside the State for some time and I have not been properly briefed on what actually transpired to warrant the demolition of the Abonemna wharf that housed the down trodden and less privileged ones. But if the little I heard that instead of the commercial rate under which Njamanze wharf was demolished a devalued rate was used in the case of Abonmna wharf then it is sad and unfortunate. I wish to counsel that next time the government should handle such an issue with human face but consult extensively to carry the people along.
On the other hand, the government may have good intentions to arrest insecurity in the area but we cannot because of the acts of few miscreants punish the majority from the area in the manner the community was sacked without much consultation.
Sir, the new National Security Adviser, Dasuki recently told Nigerians that he has the gsm numbers of the leaders of Boko Haram and will soon engage them in discussion to find a way of this imbroglio of insecurity in the country.
Many approaches have adopted to arrest this perennial insecurity challenge threatening to disintegrate this country so whatever the new NSA may decide to use to arrest the menace of the Boko Harams is a acceptable to me though telling us on the pages of newspaper of whatever strategy they are adopting does not make any meaning to us, what matters is result and action even as I wish him the best of luck.
Some people have advanced the logic that the scary security situation in the country was as a result of loss of power by a certain zone; they are also of the opinion that if power returns to that section of the country, we are likely to witness a reduction, or total stoppage in the spate of bombings. What’s your take on this?
I have to be honest with you, there is merit in these statements you have made, but I will like us to dig a little deeper. Why do I say that? It is human nature to want to simplify, but I want us to desist from taking that path. I want us to look at the problems and be a little bit more detailed.
I think the issue of bombings and so on seem to be multi-faceted, I believe that there is political element to it, I believe there is a religious element to it. I also believe that there is ethnic element to it, but I don’t want to rule out the fact that there is a global element to it.
Now, if I look at each of these elements, independently, and exclude the others, I simplify it. In fact, just put it down to politics, just put it down to religion, just put it down to people having a grouse based on ethnic divide, I forget that there are other issues associated with it.
I will give you a typical example. In the United Kingdom, we had bombings under the banner or guise of Irish Republican Army. It had a political dimension; what people saw as the political wing of the IRA, Sinn Fein, was denied what you can call political right. Was that the cause of the bombings? May be, but again, you simplify it.
There was a religious component to it as well, the Catholic versus the Protestants. But is that the cause of the bombings? Again, you simplify it. There was an ethnic problem of the Irish versus the English. Is that the cause of the problem? Again, yes, but you simplify it. So, we must refrain from the temptation to box our problem. It is human nature. Oh, he his doing it, because he is an Ibo man; oh, he is like this, because he is a Yoruba man, or people from Niger Delta, they are all militants.
We always, by human nature, simplify and I want us to avoid that. The reason I want us to avoid that is, because the leadership has such problem and, if you are saddled with the responsibility of solving a problem, it is important that you understand the problem. It is only when you truly understand the problem that you can resolve it and that’s why I said that the solution to Boko Haram isn’t bravado, it is intelligence.
You need to gather intelligence; it isn’t ‘we are going to crush’. I remember somebody, somewhere, issued a statement that Boko Haram will be crushed by June. It isn’t about crushing Boko Haram; as much as a menace as they are, it isn’t about crushing Boko Haram, just as it wasn’t about crushing the IRA. There are ways and means and I believe, strongly that these ways and these means need to be looked into.
So what needs to be done?
I believe there is a holistic problem that our security agencies, our government and our leaders need to begin to address.
Now, you asked a second question: is it not likely, therefore, that if Jonathan doesn’t acquire the office of the presidency in 2015 and the North, for instance, does, that isn’t there a likelihood that we would see the return to normalcy? Well, I cannot predict, but I do know that, if we want to avoid it, we can.
There is a common phrase that, if you want to keep getting what you are getting, keep doing what you are doing. And so, if we want to keep getting this tit—for-tat ethno-religious violence, then we should recognize that where we have come from has produced the current circumstance.
Why must you continue advocating for National Conference?
We need to sit down and ask ourselves, some basic fundamental questions, some core truths. I believe that this sovereign national conference discussion is one that we need to have. I don’t know if the word, sovereign, applies, because I don’t expect anybody to give up its sovereignty, but there is a need for a national discourse, where we can sit down and talk about our ideals: where are we going? What do we want to achieve as a country? Where do we stand on the issue of zoning or no zoning?
Aren’t we advanced enough to start to worry about what somebody’s merits are, as opposed to where the person comes from? Where does the person want to take off? I think that what we should do, but to cut the long story short, your question about what would happen, in a couple of years if power rotates, is a question that many people are asking. I think that the only answer to that question will come from the leaders sitting round the table and having a discussion.
If that doesn’t happen, I am afraid that we will continue to rely on trial and errors, reluctant presidents, people who didn’t want to lead but are being forced to lead, for whatever reason or the other.
We wouldn’t have a proactive, well thought out Nigeria, but instead we will have a reactive Nigeria that reacts to circumstances and give reactions like we saw in Kaduna, spontaneously and negatively.
You are in support of sovereign national conference; should there be no-go areas?
No, I am not saying there should be no-go areas, but, unfortunately, in the past three months, I have been hearing my northern brothers say, if we should separate, let us separate. I have heard a lot of my northern brothers echo that sentiment and I believe strongly that unless we can provide all these sentiments good reason to do otherwise, this sentiment will continue and maybe even strengthened. I believe, with my experience, that people who are next door to you aren’t necessarily people who love you. So, if you have disagreement with people who live across, that doesn’t mean that we should separate.
I believe that the country as Nigeria can work, but I believe that people need to sit around the table and have a discussion. So, if you have a referendum in Nigeria, I believe that the majority will opt for one Nigeria that is based on equity, fairness and justice; one Nigeria where the leadership is transparent and accountable. If we can provide that kind of a Nigeria, then we will stay as Nigerians and continue to thrive as Nigerians. So, I don’t think there should be no-go areas; I believe what we should be discussing is how we come together and how to move forward as a nation. Our generation cannot promote that discussion, the people who have put us in this mess need to get us out of it and I think it is their responsibility.