Rivers State AC, Tonye Princewill's Impact

By Odimegwu Onwumere

His acceptance that the Rivers State Ministry of Urban Development led by Barrister Osima Ginah to demolish his residence-fence after being marked for such on 7th August, 2009, has proved the assertions of many wrong that the leader of Rivers State Action Congress (AC), Prince Tonye TJT Princewill wasn't a man who is bent to hoodwinking his followers and those he had always said he is their voice – the downtrodden. Without any doubt, Prince Princewill has become a brand in the politics of the state. The withdrawal of his petition (filed against the PDP in the 2007 guber election in Rivers State which he also participated) immediately Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi won the case he filed against the PDP on October 25, 2007, was the beginning of the peace in the state. But a lot of people don't know or understand this. If Princewill had been in the court against Amaechi, without doubt, a lot of other guber candidates in that election would follow suit, and the state would have been in a total mess. In his acceptance speech that the marked fence should be demolished through his media chief, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, Princewill reportedly said that Ginah was sent by the state's AC to Amaechi to demonstrate to the people of Rivers State what an AC Government could do when AC gets to the Bricks House (Government House Port Harcourt) and should set example in this regard”. Princewill resolved that he must state that Barr Ginah has done them proud in this administration as he has demonstrated that he is a great Ambassador of the party and has become a beckon of hope and future of the party in the State. “We are hoping that Amaechi, based on the outputs of Barr. Ginah will give us more slots in the Cabinet to assist in driving his vision for the State. The fact remains that the demolition exercise in the state is hard on the rich and opulent but through it the less-privileged, poor, downtrodden, mostly the artisans like the carpenters, masons, welders and the labourers, are empowered as they have being busy eking a living through the demolition exercise. Records available to me even suggest that they even want the exercise to continue infinitum. Apart from the fact that the poor are empowered and jobs created, the exercise brings out the beauty of the great buildings in Port Harcourt and by next few years we all shall be happy that we supported this vision of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi to build a new modern PH out of the debris that used to be PH. It will cost us our today's happiness but will give us the joy of tomorrow,” Princewill had said.

Princewill came to the Rivers State political stadium in 2007 and contested the gubernatorial election of the state under the said party during when the likes of Dr. Peter Odili and co. were holding forte the political arena of the state and were dreaded. The likes of the present Governor of the State, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi ran to Ghana for succour. Though, that election brought Princewill into becoming stronger even when he was rigged-out and the governorship was given to Barrister Celestine Omehia whom many Rivers people saw as Odili's stooge. Princewill didn't relent, and Omehia was hounded out of office and the mantle of leadership of the state given to Amaechi by the court of law on 25 October 2007, who was believed to have won the state's PDP primaries before corruption changed hands in the state.

As events about Princewill unfold, on July 7, 2008 the National Mirror, published the names of 40 Nigerians that, in its view, can 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. Princewill was the person that caught peoples interest in that list. Nigerians saw Princewill that he merits any nomination now or in the future, though being somebody who would not have agreed to be nominated for anything if he had prior information about the publication, because he has always said that he did not come into politics to enrich himself, he is already doing well in his choice of business. Rather, he says he is in politics to help right some wrongs in the system. And 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 sees the Niger Delta as an accident waiting to happen, if people do not stop enriching themselves through dubious means in the region. He sees the problem in the region as a fight for supremacy where one says he is superior to the other and advices 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 wants genuine peace in the Niger Delta and in Nigeria, and because of that, he has granted newsmen interviews on how to better the region. Without doubt, as a Crowned Prince of the Niger Delta, he may have solid solution on how the problems in the Niger Delta could be settled.

He does not see the Niger Delta as a war zone, Princewill repeals the statement, because this does not tally with the success stories that have been achieved in the region, especially, Port Harcourt that has had Silverbird investing 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 believes that more jobs need 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 believes that government alone cannot 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 AC national leadership. Today, the Unity Government in the state is a unique one.

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 two years ago can achieve these, then he will do more in uniting Nigeria if called upon to do so.

Dr. (Mrs.) Edith Wele, the Rivers State women leader of Action Congress (AC) once led other State Exco members of the Women Wing – both past and present – with some of the Local Government Coordinators of the party, to pay a chronological good-manners-call on the leader of Princewill (who was later appointed a member of the President Yar'Adua's Niger-Delta Technical Committee, as the National Mirror predicted), on 6th December, 2008 at his house in Port Harcourt.

Dr. Wele said: “Our Leader, it may interest you to note that the present leadership of the Women Wing of AC has initiated a weekly prayer and fasting meeting every Monday at the State Secretariat of the party involving over 500 women to pray for you, Governor Amaechi and the peace of the State and this has continued to unite us and bring more godly women in our midst. We wish to say congratulations and a big “thank you” for your wisdom for accepting to run a Unity Government with our great Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi. We believe that you used the discretion and wisdom from God to make our party and the opposing political parties in Rivers State to come together to contribute to the unity, socio-economic development and emancipation of our people. What a great idea from a great mind! We are just proud of you and we know you still have more to do to move the State forward, the Lord is your strength in this regard.”

Nigerians can't forget in a hurry that on Sunday, December 28, 2008 when the JTF arrested Soboma Jackrich a.k.a Egbiripapa, leader of the People's Liberation Force, PLF, who is believed to have kidnapped the wife of Olu Lulu Briggs, a prominent politician in Rivers State in April, last year, by scores of soldiers, at the palace of Theophilus Princewill, Amanyanabo of Kalabari in Buguma, Asari-Toru Local Government of Rivers State, where Jackrich had gone to the palace in company of Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, leader of the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force, NDPVF, when the JTF trailed him following a tip-off, Prince Princewill said, “Though it isn't clear yet what transpired preceding the events of last Sunday, what is clear is that there was an ongoing attempt at peace by an assembly of security, government and community representatives at the local level. This was promoted and hosted at the council and the palace. What appears to have been sanctioned at the local level may not have been cleared at the state level but what is clear is that Egberipapa came to the palace to apologize to the king and the kingdom for his past deeds.”

In his article recently entitled, Amaechi and Princewill: Rebranding Rivers State To Another Level, the Rivers State AC Publicity Secretary, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze said, “Amaechi's administration inherited a volatile security situation in October 2007 due largely to an upsurge in crime that included cult activities, militancy, bank robberies, and piracy along waterways, gangland style abductions and hostage taking. The total breakdown in security structures at the time led to an enforced statewide curfew. The presence of heavily armed security forces coordinated by the Joint Task Force (JTF) Operation Flush Out patrolling the streets became common fixtures. Statistically proven figures put no fewer than 30,000 youth as fatalities resulting from hostilities in the Niger Delta since 2003 and about 130 kidnap victims.

Media Reports on the state prior to Amaechi's administration, served to negate any likelihood of attracting prospective investment to the state, thus threatening the development efforts of the administration as most multinational companies spanning the various industries operating in the state, were closing up shop because of militant activities. By early 2008, the State Government with Amaechi at the helms, handed over thirty-eight ready-for-action patrol vehicles fitted with communication gadgets to the state police command with the promise that one hundred additional vehicles will be donated within the year to make their job easier.

A similar gesture has since been extended to the JTF and other security agencies in the state. The Amaechi administration also equipped the nine police commands in the region with brand new patrol vehicles and a host of sophisticated communication equipment. The RSG is committed to assisting the police in its fight against crime and achieving optimum law and order.

The state set-up the Rivers State Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), headed by the renowned jurist, Justice Kayode Eso; its terms of reference, included the unraveling of the immediate and remote causes of the situation of insecurity and social crisis in the state, which had left communities and individuals devastated and also suggesting preventive measures and solutions. The commission's submitted reports and the white paper on its findings and recommendations 'gazetted' by the government are awaiting implementation. It also set up the Social Rehabilitation Committee (SRC), headed by a one time Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS), Chief Albert Horsfall to engage hitherto cultists. Amaechi's stance on militancy and hardline approach on the effects of crime without being hard on the causes of crime has a worthy opponent in Prince Tonye Princewill who is openly vocal on his criticism of Amaechi in this regard.

Funny enough, the other Governors of the Niger-Delta Region have vindicated Prince Tonye Princewill's stand on security in the state by adopting a more liberal approach through dialogue in dealing with the issue of militancy as recorded during the region's last Economic Summit held at Calabar. Today, peace has not only been restored to the state, night life, cinema halls and social.

On the 29th of June 2009 the Brick House Port Harcourt saw the face of Alhaji Asari Dokubo. Prince Tonye Princewill, proved the critics of the Eso-led reconciliatory panel wrong, by leading sari to reconcile with Amaechi, (of an unproven issue), because Alhaji Asari felt that he was included among Governor Chibuike Amaechi's list of criminals. Asari reiterated that he had no such problem with Governor Amaechi, apart from how he was imposed on the people of Rivers State by the Supreme Court on Oct. 25th 2007 and his variance on the governor's approach to certain issues, particularly his statement that all militants and freedom fighters were criminals, as well as the lopsidedness of projects by his administration in favour of the upland to detriment of the riverine are.

According to Asari, after much persuasion by his cousin, Prince Tonye Princewill and as a law-abiding citizen and a believer in law and justice, “I decided to follow him to visit you, the governor, today to demonstrate that apart from the issues highlighted above, I have no other grudge against you and to formally accept you as my governor and the undisputable Governor of Rivers State, as upheld by the Supreme Court." Amaechi explained his happiness and commended Princewill for this feat. "My becoming the Governor of Rivers State, apart from being divine, was a calculated attempt to restore hope and actualization of the vision of the founders of our dear state in 1967. Today is one of my happiest days because no matter our differences, I admire Asari so much for his love for our region and his readiness to lay his life on behalf of our people; and I feel so bad that such a personality could not team up with me to contribute to develop our only state. But thanks to God who, in his infinite wisdom, decided to use Tonye to make this great reunion possible."

As a political soldier, in this writer's recent article entitled, The Political Imbroglio in 2011 Rivers Election, he said: In a latest development, the coming together of 43 opposition political parties in Rivers State was said by many observers to be an eye-opener for the PDP-led government of the state come 2011. Albeit, there are speculations that the state leader of the Action Congress (AC) and the BoT chair of the 43 political parties which parades with the name as Forum of Organised Opposition Political Parties (FOOPP), Prince Tonye Princewill, who is the panacea for political stability in the state by accepting to run a Unity Government in the state, was allegedly given the sum of Two hundred million naira (N200, 000, 000) by the Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led government of the state to achieve that single act of al the political parties in the sate to come under one cathedral called FOOPP, an act people from the Princewill camp have denied as the imagination of the accuser. Dr. Ikanya, a faithful to Princewill was said to have reiterated that this claim was a plot hatched by detractors to discredit the FOOPP. “Although government is bound constitutionally to fund the opposition within reasonable limits, Amaechi unlike his predecessor Odili, is a prudent manager of state government funds. It is this absence of exchange of lucre that further maintains the integrity of the FOOPP coupled with its leader Prince Tonye Princewill's avowed refusal to accept any assistance in this regard from the Governor”.

An observer, Lennox Amadi from Port Harcourt, said of the same article refers. Amadi said, FOOPP was set up to distract the people of Rivers State as I know. Can Chief Ikanya actually say that he is not a member of PDP? These are men that are benefiting from PDP immensely with regards to contracts (although using others to front) and therefore can never be apostle's of free and fair election in River State. Many members of the opposition are there for their pockets and not in the interest of the overwhelming masses in Rivers State.

Amadi talking about Princewill in his comment said, for Prince Tonye Princewill, we commend you so far on your strides but want to add that you avoid distractions and watch the company you keep. Many of your men have political thugs, kidnappers and death squads in their localities but still turn around to accuse the PDP. 2011 IS JUST BY THE CORNER AND ALL HANDS MUST BE ON DECK TO WREST POWER FROM THOSE STEALING OUR STATE FUNDS. Watch your back FOOPP as many of your members will decamp to PDP in the heat of the 2011 election or thereafter, during which time, they must have aided PDP back to power (and enough money in Ghana-must-go bags must have exchanged hands).

Odimegwu Onwumere, is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), and also a Media Consultant based in Rivers State. Mobile: +2348032552855. Email: [email protected]