I know a Nigerian star. His name is Tonye Princewill. We first came in
contact in 2008, at his residence in Port Harcourt. We became friends. He
was 39 years old then. His name resonates in and outside Rivers State, like
a clapping thunderstorm in autumn. He has touched many lives through his
humanitarian projects. But he frowns at exposing himself to the public,
whenever he renders help to individuals or group.
Barely a toddler in the Nigerian politics in 2007, Princewill was nominated
as the gubernatorial candidate of the then Action Congress, AC, for the
governorship of Rivers State. This came in the midst of known contenders
for that position.
Being a newcomer in politics, how Princewill got the contact of the former
Vice-President of Nigeria and the AC Presidential candidate in the 2007
elections, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is still a subject to ponder till date.
Atiku gave him and still gives him every support. The former Governor of
Lagos State and National Leader of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria,
ACN, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, also gave him and still gives him every support.
The overwhelming support Princewill enjoys gave him the sobriquet – “de
Eagle”, “de Rock” and “de Prince of Niger Delta Politics”.
Princewill frowns at extremism and any theory that supports violence and
its instigators. He loathes ‘a do or die’ brand of politics that most
politicians play in Nigeria. Greed for political positions, which has
become the migraine in our democracy, is not associated with Princewill. He
loves humanity and Nigeria, more than any positions or the individual.
He would tell anybody that he was rigged-out in that election, but he went
to the tribunal. The person who was declared the winner of the election
latter lobbied him with the sum of 1.5 billion naira, to withdraw his
petition at the tribunal, but he declined the offer. Against this backdrop,
if we must take seriousness by its classical interpretation, we will agree
that Princewill is a very serious Nigerian and star, who is accentuated by
the love for humanity, than the love for money.
As a Nigerian star I know, one of Princewill’s philosophies is: “In
temporal politics, deliverance is gradual and, as I have said, often
painful; and deliverers don’t arrive on white horses with thundering hooves
or swoop down from the heavens on silver clouds. The growth of nations
occurs, not as radical leaps and bounds, but as gradually diminishing
imperfections averaged out in political time.”
At the age of 39, Princewill was the youngest out of the 28 persons that
was mandated with the duty of carving out innovations that would better the
economic policy of Rivers State, under the leadership of Governor Chibuike
Amaechi. He was not even an appointee of the government.
But on behalf of the state government, he brought the Silver Bird Group, a
private entertainment outfit in Nigeria, to partner with the Rivers State
Government. This saw to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU),
for the construction of a Multi-Purpose Entertainment Park in Port
Harcourt, worth about N20 billion. This was on 4th December, 2007.
Inter alia! In 2012, Princewill, who is the leader of Princewill Political
Associates (PPA) and chieftain of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), set up
Rivers Music and Arts Project (RIVMAP) to explore, nurture and groom young
people with raw talents in the state.
He said that it would be an annual event designed to take youths residing
in the state that may not have the opportunity to be promoted, to rub
shoulders with the best in the entertainment world. He sets to promote the
champions in each segment – Music, Comedy and Dancing – to USA and Europe,
to have the best exposure in their respective industry, with the hope that
they will become some of the best performing in the world.
The alluring attraction about this Nigerian star I know is that hardly do
people believe that he is from a royal family, owing to his unequivocal
humility and humane social dispositions. But Tonye Princewill is a prince
of the Kalabari Kingdom of Rivers State, born on 4th of January 1969.
His father is King T. J. T. Princewill, the Amayanabo of Kalabari Kingdom
of the Amachree Dynasty, a former Professor of Medical Microbiology.
Conversely, because of Tonye’s kind-heartedness and refined mentality in
the business of Nigeria, people do believe that he is of the United Kingdom
He started his early education in that country, before returning with his
parents to Nigeria. According to him, he was enrolled at Hillcrest High
School in Jos from 1976-1980; then attended Federal Government College
(Port Harcourt). He took BSc in Petroleum engineering at the University of
Port Harcourt; a Master’s degree in Mineral Resources Engineering at the
Imperial College London. Tonye Princewill also holds a PRINCE 2 Project
Management Practitioner Certificate from the United Kingdom.
He has worked at Shell, as a Reservoir and Well-site Petroleum Engineer and
also, worked with the UK’s Oil and Gas Regulatory Agency, the Department of
Trade and Industry (United Kingdom), as Risk Analyst.
In the United Kingdom, he was also the Chief Technology Officer of
Panasonic and served, at the Global Asset Management desk of Citibank. When
he moved into private business and established the Riverdrill Group of
Companies (Nigeria), where he is Chairman, with business interests
including oil and gas, information technology, aviation services and
consulting, he has been doing great.
As a Nigerian star I know, Prince Tonye Princewill is a leading advocate of
youth empowerment in Nigeria, bringing about numerous initiatives that seek
to inspire the youth population in the country. His willpower is different
from a movement in Nigeria that uses youth, predominantly during elections,
for violence and thuggery. He makes sure that he addresses Nigerian issues
with the public such as infrastructural development, behavioural change,
safety, health, academic advancement, through his weekly column in the
Happy Birthday, De Rock!