Prince Tonye Princewill, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a former governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, (ACN), in the 2007 election in Rivers State in this interview reveals why he is still eyeing the number one post in Rivers State, his views on Amaechi and President Goodluck Jonathan, his call on President Obama of USA, the proposed amnesty package for Boko Haram members and other topical issues in the country.
There is this news filtering around that you are eyeing the governorship position in Rivers State, how true is this?
Unlike most people I like to talk straight. I have been eyeing this position of governor of Rivers State since 2006, so to me your question is not news what is news is that I have been heavily involved in consultations to the point that I have conducted researches across the state to find out what the people want, what they need, their perspective on governance coupled with many other issues that are dear to them, so I have gone very far and very wide. A commitment like this is not a commitment you make overnight and there are a whole lot of people that are part and parcel of that decision. I am still in the process of my consultations and have just received a report from my field consultants who have helped me conduct this study. I am currently digesting it with other members of my team. I have shared it with the Governor and other stakeholders including the President and Atiku and as time goes by, my decision will be made public. If you take a decision like this, it is not a decision you take alone. Because once you are in, you cannot come out. You take it all the way to the end. If my experience in 2007 is anything to go by, many people will expect me never to turn back. That is the assurance that I will be giving everybody. Otherwise, my political career will be over before it even starts. Hence, once I have decided to start, there will be no turning back. Till today, there are people who walk up to me today and chastise me for withdrawing my case from the tribunal and supporting Amaechi. Even though I have no regrets, that will not be repeating itself. So the rumour or the news as you call it is not news because I have been on it since 2006 and if in 2015, God’s grace remains upon me and I do decide to run, people will see something they have never seen before. Where there is a will, there is a way and since my name is Princewill – with God, he will make me a way.
What informed that decision, is it the desire for gain or the desire to serve the people of Rivers state?
I think to me politics is a duty not a privilege, I don’t think you should be going into politics because of what you can get or what you can gain, my purpose of joining politics is based on what I want to give. But like I have consistently said in previous interviews, I am tired of taking all this responsibility to myself; I want government to live up to its own responsibilities too. As a private individual we provide our own light, water, education, health and security. That might be okay for me and you but what about the less-privileged? Those who are better of and in a better position should start to ask themselves what can they give back so that the less- privileged can also have those benefits? Until we can do that then there should be no peace for any of us. So, I want peace and I want peace of mind that is why I am going into politics. I have come to the conclusion that unless you have equality, justice and fairness there won’t be peace for any of us, that to me is a non-negotiable position.
Can we achieve perfection?
No. But we can do far far better than we are doing now. Politics is too important to be left to politicians. I want the less-privileged to have more of a voice.
What new things are you going to introduce in Rivers State that the incumbent has not done?
Well, everybody comes into politics with his/her different perspectives, so don’t let us start talking about my manifesto before I make a declaration. There is no doubt that Ameachi has done very well in a variety of areas. Though even he would admit that knowing what he knows now, there are many things he would have done differently. So. if he has learnt, so have I But I always remind everybody when they complain about Amaechi or they complain about Jonathan or whoever they complain about, that leadership is not an easy task. Even the best of us can make a mistake, that is why pencils have erasers, so what we need to do is to encourage the leadership through constructive criticisms and that is what I am trying to do, I am trying to encourage Amaechi so he can do better. The same applies even to Jonathan, in spite of the fact that I did not support him by the time he was contesting in the primaries. I supported Atiku. But I came to the conclusion that he won the primaries against all odds and Nigerians voted for him en masse. So, whatever we can do to encourage them and give them healthy advice that is what we will do, that is why my report on my survey that I conducted across the state was made available to my Governor so that he can see what his people are craving for. I am tired of this taxi driver approach where somebody will say I arrived at the airport and I jumped into a taxi and I asked the driver what he thought and the person told me that Fashola is doing well, Amaechi is doing well, Jonathan is doing well. To me that is not a good way to run a government, if you want to know whether you are doing well, then a proper survey should be carried out to know what the people think. Feedback is important. What use is there in running a government of the people by the people for the people if the people’s true thoughts are not a key part of it? Same applies to you the media. Can we not have more facts and less opinion? Sycophancy is a problem when telling the system the truth can prevent people from paying your children’s school fees. Surveys can help address that. Facts don’t lie. Opinion polls can help. Where are they?
Like most politician’s it is when an election is approaching that is when you see them doing one empowerment programme or the other, you are a politician even though you are not occupying a political seat, what have you been able to do for your people in terms of empowerment?
I don’t think there is any need to blow my trumpet, so many people in Nigeria not just Rivers know some of the kind of projects I have been involved in, in fact, I have been accused variously that I am doing some projects because of political reasons and I am glad that you said that it is when election is coming that politicians start doing things in their constituencies, but I have been doing them for a very long time and I will continue to do them. I have been doing them because if you want to touch people’s lives you don’t need to contest or win an election to do so. To me, I have always said that in Nigeria the kind of politics we play doesn’t care enough about people, it only cares about godfathers because it is the godfathers that put people in office so that ultimately those in office come back to repay them the favour of putting them there in the first place. So the style of politics that I have been playing out is not the style that wins elections. When you go and take care of the godfathers so that they can put you in office, then you win elections. Look at Princewill vs Omehia in 2007. I have been interested in the people and sometimes it is at the expense of the godfathers. So, it is not the kind of politics you play if you want to win an election or if you want to contest for governor, but like I, said I am not doing it for political reasons, I am doing it because I feel the people genuinely need help, they need help now not in 2014 or 2015. I tried to spread what I am doing not just in my community, not just my state but across the whole country. When my Princewills Trust came out for flood relief did we stop in Rivers state? No. We went to Bayelsa state as well to help our brothers and sisters there. My reality show with orphans was conducted round the whole country. The winning prize of 10 million Naira went to an orphanage in Kogi state. Another orphanage from Imo state took the third prize of 3m Naira. A total of 8 orphanages from all over the country contested, only one from Rivers state. Will they vote for me? Do orphaned children vote? No. I am not trying to blow any trumpet and like you said I am not holding any political office but I am trying my best just to touch the lives of the average Nigerian with particular interest in children and rural women. It makes me sleep better at night.
The bickering between Jonathan and Amaechi as regards the 2015 Presidential election calls for concern, what is your own view about this?
Coming back to your question, the bickering is not necessarily because of 2015 Presidential election. I think as much as 2015 may have a role to play in it, I think it is deeper than that. Some of us have been privileged to spend time with the parties involved and we know better. I know Jonathan’s thinking on the matter and I also know Amaechi’s thinking on the matter and I believe that at the fundamental root of it is a gross misunderstanding between the two. Who supported Jonathan most when he was Vice President? And who gave Amaechi free rope in 2011 when many asked him to clip his wings based on the perceived leanings in Rivers state? Jonathan does not hate Amaechi and Amaechi does not hate Jonathan. In fact, secretly, if they are honest, they both like each other but I think they have been surrounded by events that have led to this gross misunderstanding and in the end the same Amaechi and Jonathan will surprise us all and settle. Some of us had checked the cause of this misunderstanding, when Amaechi became the Chairman of the Governors Forum, he was already suspected of harbouring an anti-Ijaw sentiment at the back of his mind. Remember he was part of the old Rivers State where the Ijaws dominated, so anybody who saw the arrogance we exhibited back then knows we created our own enemies. Combine that with the suspicion that Rivers state was leaning towards Atiku during the 2011 primaries and you will know that an Amaechi Governor’s forum gave the Jonathan camp goose bumps. Some of us advised him that this is going to bring issues between him and the President; he refused to listen to us because he genuinely believed that there is no reason why he was going to bring about conflict between him and the President, his boss and the leader of his party. Now we can see who was wrong.
You see Jonathan is presiding over a system and that system was a system he inherited. The negativity in that system is what Amaechi is protesting against, not Jonathan. But there is no way Amaechi will not have conflict with Jonathan because Jonathan is the current custodian of that system and that system is there for a reason, to keep the enemies out. If our leaders like me had all decided to work together for the good of the people, there would be no need to keep this system. If they had decided to work with Jonathan to move the country forward and he in turn was ready to trust them with no reservations, the system would be more open, more transparent and more productive for Nigerians. Eventually Amaechi will find out that many people that are behind him are supporting him against the President, just because of 2015 and not because they want a change in the system. I believe at the end of the day those that matter will realise the answer to the real question. Is the issue 2015 or is the issue change? If the issue is not change then many people will find out that the devil you know is better than the angel you don’t. Then I think both of them will settle and move on.