PRINCE TONYE PRINCEWILL THE PHENOMENON AND ENIGMA OF NIGER DELTA POLITICS
Microsoft Encarta 2007 Dictionary defines the word Phenomenon as “an extraordinary and marvellous person that excites people's interest and curiosity”. The same Dictionary defines enigma as “somebody or something that is not easily explained or understood”. It is under these two premises therefore, that I attempt to examine the Rivers State born Prince Tonye Princewill, who in recent times has taken the political landscape of the region by storm earning him the befitting title of Prince of Niger Delta Politics
Born on the 4th of January 1969, he is the son of a renowned academician and Amanyanabo of the Kalabari Kingdom- the largest clan (33 Communities) in the Ijaw land- King Prof TJT Princewill, Amachree xi. An Engineer by training, he holds a post-graduate degree from the Imperial College, London. A certified practitioner with a sound working knowledge of both ITIL and Change Management, he has until quite recently, been a regular presenter on project management issues. His knowledge of the Oil and Gas industry, his ICT experience and his relationships with both corporate and community players has led to his instituting and facilitation of several initiatives for training, capacity building and skills acquisition in the region.
Prince Tonye Princewill is an astute business owner with interests spanning the aviation industry to the haulage of petroleum products. His early antecedents include stints with blue Chip companies where he honed his professional skills which he uses to good advantage today as the youngest member of the Rivers State Economic Advisory Committee. He was appointed Investment Consultant to the Rivers State Government in December 2007 and has so far been able to attract over fifty Billion Naira (N50B) worth of investments to the state through the Public Private Partnership Initiative of the State Government. In the past three years, this Prince of Kalabari descent has gradually muzzled his way into prominence in the highly volatile political terrain of Rivers State. Confounding people with his brand of politics mixed with activism, He treads the political landscape of the State like a colossus.
Seeing that his ambition to govern the state was not realised, he joined forces with Governor Rotimi Amaechi in a strategic partnership that has been hailed as a model of constructive opposition. His dynamism was recognized by the Federal government when he was appointed into the Presidential Technical Committee on the Niger Delta, saddled with the responsibility of fashioning out a blue print for the future of the Niger Delta region. Only recently, he was appointed member of the FG vision 2020 subcommittee on the Niger Delta, where he held sway as chairman.. Major critics of his appointment saw him as unprincipled opportunist while others adopted a wait-and-see attitude. In an unpredictable manner, he shattered every preconceived notion with his unceremonious yet principled resignation from the committee in protest of the military insurgence in the Niger Delta that reduced communities to rubble turning Nigerians to refugees in their own domain.
The story of the Prince's foray into the political waters of Rivers State and Nigeria cannot be complete without a mention of his early informal interest and involvement in the affairs of his people. His entrance into politics was never for a lack means of livelihood. Enjoying relative success as a business professional, he deliberately entered into politics as a result of his concern for his people. He decided to bring his acumen and dynamism to bear on his efforts to serve his people as Governor through the 2007 governorship election under the banner of the Action Congress.
As a Peacemaker, he was instrumental in the cessation of several youth crisis in the Kalabari Kingdom in 2003. He brokered peace and resolved the internal conflict between Prince Ebitimi Amgbare and Chief Denzel Kentebe - two AC Leaders in Bayelsa laying claims to be the authentic AC Flag-bearers for Bayelsa gubernatorial election of 24th May, 2008- resulting in the Tag Team of both contenders that attempted to wrestle powers from PDP in Bayelsa State. His reconciliatory mien was brought to the fore in recent times with the widely acclaimed act of brokering peace between otherwise sworn adversaries- Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, Governor of Rivers State and Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, Alabo Edi Abali 1 of Kakabari Kingdom and leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF). Bringing these two sons of Rivers State together had seemed the most unlikely event to ever occur; it was therefore no easy feat for the Prince to tread the path of brokering peace between the two avowed antagonists, with the strong conviction of what peace between the two will portend for the state especially at this time of FG's commitment to peace in the region.
Today, he is the Poster child of Organised Political opposition in Rivers State with 43 political parties adopting him as consensus Leader of its coalition. It is worthy to note that two separate but defining moments heralded his adoption as Conesus Leader. The first took place on the 8th of April 2009, when Chairmen of 18 political parties under the auspices of Forum of Opposition political Parties in Rivers State convened a press conference in Port Harcourt announcing through the Forum Leader, Chief Harry Alaye its decision to adopt Prince Tonye Princewill as its Consensus Leader. The decision was borne out of a need to form a formidable alliance capable of moving the state forward. A fortnight later on the 23rd of April 2009, the Organised Opposition Political Parties (OOPP) in Rivers State also addressed a Press Conference toeing the line of FOPP in announcing Princewill as its Leader. On July 11th, 2009 he led the unified opposition Team in Rivers State; Forum of Organised Opposition Political Parties (FOOPP) to pay a courtesy call formally presenting the body to Governor Amaechi at the Government House.
As a Sports Philanthropist and enthusiast, on 26th July, 2008 he sponsored 20 youths and six Journalists to Abuja to watch a live encounter between two great English Premier clubs (Manchester U.FC and Portsmouth FCI). These fans assembled through a public draw from a list of over 5,000 fans comprised ten females and ten males of Niger Delta origin; three each from Cross River, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom States and eight from Rivers State.
It is to Prince Tonye Princewill's credit as leader, that the AC had two slots membership on the immediate past State Executive Council of Rivers State – Bar. Osimah Ginah, Commissioner for Ministry of Urban Development and a renowned politician in Rivers State, Chief Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, Commissioner for Special Duties. Barr Osima Ginah has since been reappointed to the newly reconstituted cabinet.
Today, Prince Tonye Princewill through his antecedents has become a brand name in the emancipation and struggle of the people of Niger Delta and a voice for his people that his opinion and views on any Nation discourse and issue is always highly sought and respected.
To throw more light on the Prince as a detribalised staunch believer in a united, stronger and viable Rivers State and Nigeria as a whole, it is no less important for me to capture the perception of Tonye by some great minds and statesmen in the Nigerian Polity.
The father of modern day opposition politics in Nigeria and former Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar describes Prince Tonye Princewill as “..a promising young man and I believe that the future is there for him as long as he shows the right qualities of leadership, which he has been showing all along in the party”.
Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, former Executive Governor of old Enugu State describes him thus “Now, Prince Tonye Princewill has not only become the Prince of Niger Delta Politics, but actually the bride of Niger Delta Politics. His vision for his people in the region is now receiving a reasonable boost through his various appointments into key and crucial sectors, particularly the recent one as a member of the Presidential Niger Delta Technical Committee, which has done a great work in reshaping the future of the region. Nigerian politics can never be completed without a space solely dedicated to the miracle, ingenuity and initiative of Princewill and Amaechi in Rivers State.".
Alh. Umaru Shinkafi, notable politician and one time security chief of the nation, paid glowing tribute to the ingenuity of Prince Tonye Princewill for “fashioning out and sustaining the Unity Government in Rivers State that has become a study in pragmatism, resilience, idealism and essence in the Nigerian politics'', and the various roles he has played in shaping the present day politics in Niger Delta region.
Ambassador Segun Olusola's poignant endorsement at the 40th birthday lecture of the Prince cannot be forgotten, “..my generation has failed in the project called Nigeria and we need to surrender the leadership of Nigeria to the likes of
Prince Tonye Princewill if the nation must progress”.
HRM King Alfred Diete-Spiff known for his outstanding tenure as Governor of the old Rivers State stated “it has become imperative to formally anoint Prince Tonye Princewill on behalf of Niger Delta region as the Prince of Niger Delta Politics”.
Alabo Graham-Douglas aptly describes Tonye as his political son and that “the implementation of the agenda to establish him firmly in the politics of the region has just began”.
The General Overseer of Abundant Life Evangel Mission, Port Harcourt, Apostle Eugene Ogu who foretold the Governorship of Rt. Hon. Amaechi and Senator Adolphous Wabara as the Senate President in the last Republic stated, “If Tonye follows the Lord diligently the future of Niger Delta Politics lays in his hand”.
To Governor Amaechi of Rivers State “Tonye is my good friend and no matter his being the best critic of my administration, he means well for the State and no amount of prejudice or manipulation from outsiders will come in between us. To me, Tonye is a great gift to the people of the region as he brings in his intelligence and highly principled life to bear on the governance of the State. I wish him the best as he makes himself available for the service of our State and region”
To Ledium Mittee the President of MOSOP and Chairman of the defunct Niger Delta Technical Committee “The part so far played by my friend Tonye is not in doubt to any positive mind and key watcher of the unfolding political events in the region.”
In recognition to this enigma, the Management and Editorial Board of the National Mirror on 7th July, 2008 page 6 of its publication titled “Cabinet Reshuffle – 40 People Who Can Fix Nigeria” nominated him among the 39 other great Nigerians that can fix up the multifaceted problems of Nigeria. The National Mirror placed Prince Tonye Princewill 7th among these other great 39 Nigerians that can truly fix the multifaceted problems of Nigeria with this observation “The unassuming youthful governorship candidate of the AC in Rivers State displays maturity in managing inter-party matters. The exemplary manner he continues to manage the unity government his party is into with Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State in spite of the hiccups in the relationship is commendable. Beyond that, the unshakable belief of his numerous followers and his character stands him up…”
In summary, one can make bold to state that the tacit endorsement by politicians, traditional Council Leaders and the Church makes it highly unlikely that this expose on him as an enigma is gratuitious.
The National Association of Ijaw Female Students through its National President, Ms Florence Kalio in presenting an award to him recently, applauded him for his commitment to “achieving sustainable peace and development in the Niger Delta region”, and summed him up thus “Though of Royal blood, you have chosen to see events unfold with the eyes of a leader and not as a ruler. Your actions have proven you to be indeed not just the Prince of Kalabari Kingdom but also the Prince of Niger Delta”.
In summary, one can make bold to state that the tacit endorsement by politicians, traditional Council Leaders, youth representatives, the media and the Church makes it highly unlikely that this expose on him as an enigma is not a fluke.
It becomes obvious that Franklin D Roosevelt had the likes of Tonye Princewill in mind when he wrote: "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little." Holding tenaciously to this eternal verity, TP as he is called by admirers, believes that a leader should be a public servant, who strives relentlessly to put smiles on the faces of his followers without placing undue emphasis on their social status or dashing the hopes of the poor masses. As one with leadership acumen, Princewill never subscribes to leadership stratum as an end. Rather, he views it to be a means to an end, the end being the socio-economic and political emancipation of the entire people of Rivers State.
At just 40 years of age Prince Tonye TJT Princewill, is the “New kid on the block” in Nigerian politics –the Phenomenon and enigma of Niger Delta Politics, he is “THE NEW BREED”.
Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant and Public Analyst based in Port Harcourt.