The month was November 2006, the deadline for the collection of forms for all sides of the political divide in Rivers State. Two more political aspirants seeking to be governors of Rivers State in 2007 picked intent forms put on sale by their parties. Sunny Marshal Harry who was hoping to realize his ambition on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, paid the sum of N2, 000,000 and picked up the form, ready to combat all comers for the ticket of the ANPP. Chief Levi Braide, a one-time Commissioner of Agriculture in Second Republic, was among those of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Chief Paworiso Samuel-Horsfall, a one-time Commissioner of Environment under the Odili administration, Senator I.S. Martyns-Yellowe and a man whose name was given as Jumbo were so far those who picked forms within the PDP. Chief Levi Braide was thus the fourth. As Sunny and Braide were making news, Rivers people perhaps were aware of the rising profile of a new comer then whom many seem to agree had some vision: Prince Tonye Princewill. He was seen as the rave of the moment in the Action Congress (of Nigeria) as of then he was the party’s leader in Rivers State.
The date was again 8th September, 2008, when 40 persons were inaugurated to look for solution to end the crises that was bedriddening the oily rich Niger Delta region of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Prince Tonye Princewill was also among these humble men. “Princewill represents a different genre, a different age and a different way of thinking, according to his admirers and the word is that his brand of politicking is catching up with a large segment of party supporters,” an observer said. People reverence the young Princewill who is a crowned Prince of the Kalabari Kingdom, as the person likely to challenge Chief Sergeant Awuse to a governorship duel, given the way the Action Congress (of Nigeria) was at that moment.
But there were crisis in the Rivers State chapter of the Action Congress (AC) which finally resolved the impasse occasioned by the duo of Chief Sergeant Awuse and Tonye Princewill, two Guber aspirants who were claiming victory at its primaries in December 2006. The situation nearly polarized the party many called a fragile party. As the squabble was on, the party leadership met and decided to give the ticket to Princewill, at least, to assuage the feelings of the Riverines people of Rivers State.
At a point, there were backside reports that Senator Birabi who had been fighting all along with Awuse over the control of the party might have endorsed Tonye. But insiders said Tonye and Awuse were summoned to Benin by Chief Ikimi in a bid to broker an arrangement that would allow a smooth selection process. In that November, Tonye was yet to go for the intent form, but feelers were coming to be believed, that the young prince and son of the incumbent monarch of the Kalabari, King T.J.T Princewill was going to be up to something politically. The ambition of the crown prince of the Kalabari Kingdom, Prince Tonye Princewill, was endorsed by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS).
Under an emerged solemn set of youths under the auspices of Rivers Youth Consultative Assembly from the intricacies of the creeks , after a ventilation of ideas and having scanned the Niger Delta decided to attest the ecclesiastical mandate of Prince Princewill, as that individual who will rescue Rivers State from the quagmire of mediocrity and maladministration. This they did was their view that the bane of contemporary Nigeria is leadership.
“Leadership in the sense that most of our rulers are gerontocratic madmen who have driven our polity into the doldrums; the forthcoming general elections is thus an avenue for the youths of River State to elect a savant as its chief executive officer come 2007. Prince Tonye Princewill is a young dynamic intellect with sublime quintessential qualities who sympathizes with the aspiration of the youths, and who can bring out the aesthetic values of the peace cherishing people of Rivers State,” an observer said.
The Rivers people saw Princewill as that colossal achiever who will continue and strive to surpass the economic renaissance of the Odili’s administration. One of their sons said, “This Rivers son is a businessman of international repute who will bring to base the much needed foreign partnership and investment into Rivers State : this will bring succour to the beleaguered people of the garden city state”.
Their fear was that they were looking for solution and who would end the days of “battlefield leadership’ after Odili. People were tired of being pawns of destruction and anarchy in the hands of silhouette politicians. They needed to resist all those hideous politicians who win elections through the macabre rhythm of molten leads and the AK47. They asked their selves questions of profound ethical gravity: “Can a leader who murdered his way into position via the politics of Kalashnikov be puritan enough to give us credible leadership?” The answer to this vexing question is, No!
They now agreed that “If our solemn opinion that Prince Tonye Princewill is that elusive Messiah whom the terrorized people of Rivers State are awaiting to take them to the place of elixir. Tonye is a man whose time has come”. But saddening, the election of 2007 came and passed and Princewill was robbed of the mandate the Rivers people gave to him ‘through the macabre rhythm of molten leads and the AK47’. And Sir Celestine Ngozichim Omehia was imposed on the people as the governor of Rivers State.
Princewill did not relent upon the pressure that he should let go the broad-day robbery, he proved himself right. Being a man of integrity and a man of his word, during that election campaign, Princewill told the people that he didn’t come out to contest the position of a governor to enrich himself. But, he was too keen for the exalted seat to put a lot of what were going wrong in the state right. Princewill told the people that he was comfortable with the level God has helped him in life. But from the rumour mill, people were saying that Princewill came out to contest, not that he was going to win, but for him to be ‘settled’ by the PDP, knowing fully well that the PDP would rig the election. This assertion followed the mishap of the 1999 and 2003 elections which results were not transparent.
But Princewill assured his supporters that he was not going to sell his personality for any paltry sum. He told the masses that he was an engineer who had attained stardom, lived in overseas and was not doing badly. Not only is he the Prince of Kalabari kingdom, he said that he had his name to protect. He gave hope to the hopeless people who did not believe in him.
It was challenging when Sir Omehia emerged the ‘PDP’ governor of Rivers State in the April 2007 polls. Princewill put his foot and proceeded to the Tribunal. A lot of prominent Rivers indigenes hated that Omehia’s government. They believed that Omehia was just imposed on them, not that he won the election. It was Amaechi that the people of Rivers State wanted because of the leadership quality in him having served two terms as Speaker Rivers State House of Assembly under Odili-led administration. While the campaign was going on then, Princewill challenged all the State guber aspirants to schedule a date so that they could lock their horns in a contest of memorandum exposition. Princewill directly challenged Sir Celestine Omehia on this contest, but Sir Omehia did not dare Princewill in the contest owing to a fact only Sir Omehia knew.
Even, a lot of people suggested that if Nigeria was not practicing democracy that Amaechi is too good to be allowed a ‘life’ governor of the state when Amaechi won the case between him and Sir Omehai and became governor. Rivers AC saw no use of still being in the Tribunal squabbling the PDP victory in the state’s guber contest of 2007 because Amaechi has claimed
his mandate. In a statement credited to the media consultant of Tonye Princewill Campaign Organization (TPCO), Rivers State, then, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, said, although, 2007 had been a year of turmoil for the people of Rivers, the party would continue with the incumbent administration.
While urging the aggrieved parties to follow its step so that the present administration will work hitch-free, then AC scribe said it intended to build a more combat, compact, cohesive, revolutionary, futuristic and issue-oriented goal-driven Action Congress. It was a step too good taken by AC to support Amaechi – the people’s choice – so that Rivers State will move forward.
When Rivers AC joined the Unity Government of the State, there erupted squabbles between a faction that called itself the “authentic Rivers AC” led by one Mmuen Kpagane and the state AC-led by Princewill. When Nigerians saw the way Kpagane was going, they bemoaned. They began to call Kpagane to order, that Nigeria was welcoming a new democracy than what was experienced under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo government and, Nigerians of goodwill were happy with the development. In the corridors of power, mainly in the executive arms of all the tiers of government corruption was being fought putatively to a standstill. But yet, some people at the grassroots were bent on perpetrating mischief for their selfish interests. They tended to challenge the collective will and intelligence of Nigerians, perhaps asking, what would happen to them.
Mr. Kpagane, the leader of the factional group of Rivers AC then, was calling Princewill “anti-party member”. But opinion writers corrected him that if why he was calling Princewill name was Princewill’s stoical approach to seeing that Rivers State is for all irrespective of status, then Mr. Kpagane should go back to the classroom.
Being the then leader of Rivers AC that Princewill was, Mr. Kpagane was said to be disrespectful to the rules and policies governing the party and when the party stakeholders rebuked him, he ran out from the party and began this vitriolic attacks on Princewill. It was reported that what Mr. Kpagane kept on doing was to be misleading party members who were not informed that Mr. Princewill was a renegade who had caused incalculable problems to the party. Despite being sanctioned, Mr. Kpagane continued boasting as the Rivers AC Chairman whereas his name had been scrapped from the party list waiting when he would turn a new leaf.
However, it was noted that what kept swelling the head of Mr. Kpagane was that he could then find his name in the national membership list of the National body of AC which was later removed when the national body of the party came to understand the nefarious activities of this fugitive. His activities were said to be in the mode of insulting, bickering, tinkering of subversive activities toward party members especially the elders of the party.
Reportedly, Mr. Kpagane had no other job as at that time other than go about paying Nigerian newspapers heavy sums of money to make himself relevant as the Rivers AC leader which he was not. While he continued to answer Rivers AC leader on the pages of the newspapers yet, he was not prepared to promote the course of Rivers State.
Without doubt, from all that was heard about this party rebel, Mr. Kpagane was only interested in fomenting and promoting problems to run down the government of Governor Chibuike Amaechi, and the national peace of AC. Mr. Kpagane was not then ready to partner with the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RISIEC) on the commission’s policies to hold a credible election in the State in March 29 2008. He was interested on seeing that his rebellious members contested in the Rivers poll. Mr. Kpagane in his undemocratic way was lauding the credibility of his faction, which was only but a sham.
While the then Rivers AC which was recognized nationwide and headed by, Princewill was seriously working for the emancipation of AC in the State, Mr. Kpagane was running to and fro between Rivers State and Abuja to make sure that RISIEC grant his equivocal faction the N5m meant for political parties in the state just to enhance his faction’s illegal preparation towards the Rivers council election. As that raged on, Princewill was serious and busy promoting the course of Rivers State through the Unity Government. The Rivers State Action Congress (AC) joined the Unity Government of Rivers State after October 25 the now Governor Chibuike Amaechi won his mandate in the court. Even, this writer was among the many political observers in the state who raised eyebrow and were watching where Princewill was heading with the romance of a PDP controlled state. But after moments of observations of Princewill with the view that he was going to betray his party, rather his union with the PDP-led government was making the AC in the state stronger and fame than it was. Today, the Unity approach to government in the state was quite a unique one in the brand of politics we practice today in Nigeria. There are commissioners from the then opposition AC serving in the government of Rivers State .
“Although, my version of fair would have seen a much greater level of participation from the opposition, we have to start with what we have and reach out for more,” Princewill had said. In his belief, Princewill affirmed that the two commissioners and a special adviser in the government were a start.
“None of these commissioners or Special adviser will leave opposition nor will they stop fighting for their party whether it is in terms of empowerment, elections or employment. Proper dispensation of justice sees these opposition numbers increases with the influence eventually spreading into other areas of public and private investment,” Princewill had said.
Princewill who saw the governor’s job as once an easy one had confessed once in a press briefing in Port Harcourt that the time he had spent with Governor Amaechi has shown that the job is a lot harder than he had ruminated. This is to say that Amaechi is really doing his best to lift the state up from the political gulag it was.
With the presence of AC in the state then, Silverbird invested over 20 billion in a 10 screen cinema, shopping mall, five star hotel with an aquarium lobby, international conference center and children’s theme park in the heart of Port Harcourt with some services starting as early as December 2007. In another angle, Clinotech built a state of the art 21 storey mega hospital with over 30 billion in a mother and children’s hospital and another 18 billion into the construction of a state of the art international market strictly for world-class goods and services. Princewill is a partner in the state government. Many other smaller investors poured into the state. As the AC leader in the state then, Princewill with his acceptance of the unity government after consultation with the AC national level brought in Americans, the French, Canadians, Turks, Brits and Trinidadians in Rivers State.
But these achievements were not enough. On July 7, 2008 the National Mirror, published the names of 40 Nigerians that, in its view, could fix Nigeria’s problems. It also published the pictures of the people in a publication titled, “Cabinet Reshuffle – 40 People who can Fix Nigeria” on page 6 of that edition. One of the nominees that caught a lot of Nigerians attention was Princewill.
Princewill merits any nomination now or in the future. Being someone of integrity, he would not have agreed to be nominated for anything if he had prior information about the publication. He has not hidden his voice in condemning many heinous activities being perpetrated by some people in the region. As a result of this, he has also been cooperating with many stakeholders in the area to put in place some activities to right the anomalies in the region. For example, he saw the Niger Delta as an accident waiting t
o happen, if people did not stop enriching themselves through dubious means in the region. He saw the problem in the region as a fight for supremacy where one said he was superior to the other and adviced that no one should be seeing the other as being relevant more than, or saying that nothing will work in the Niger Delta if he was not in the fore to lead any consultations.
Princewill wanted genuine peace in the Niger Delta and in Nigeria, and because of that, he had granted newsmen interviews on how to better the region. Without doubt, as a Crowned Prince of the Niger Delta, he might have solid solution on how the problems in the Niger Delta could be settled. He did not see the Niger Delta as a war zone, Princewill repealed the statement, because this did not tally with the success stories that had been achieved in the region, especially, Port Harcourt that has had Silverbird invested over 20 billion naira in building a 10 screen cinema, shopping mall, five-star hotel with an aquarium lobby, international conference centre and children’s theme park in the heart of Port Harcourt. And these were achieved by Princewill’s investment approach overseas.
Princewill believed that more jobs needed to be created for the youths to be off the streets and out of the creeks so that they could be responsible people. He also believed that government alone could not do this because, as they say, “heaven helps those who help themselves”. Because of his love for the unity of his home state and indeed Nigeria, he joined the Unity Government in the state after consultations with the then AC national leadership.
Without over-beating issues, Eng. Princewill is a beacon of hope, peace and love in the politics of Rivers State in particular and Nigeria as a whole. His presence in the Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led Rivers State Government has given the state a new face in the Niger Delta. If such a man who merely joined politics less than three years ago can achieve these, then he will do more in uniting Nigeria if called upon to do so.