Princewill & 10 Years Of Opposition In Rivers State

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Written by Odimegwu Onwumere

Opposition in every democracy is to strengthen the ruling party of which, many a times, brew fracas among the contenders. The Rivers State strongest opposition party, the Action Congress (AC) led by the Prince of the Niger Delta politics, Prince Tonye TJT Princewill, decided not to indulge in any bloodletting because of this 'contending'. But the party decided to be a thorn in the neck of the ruling PDP under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, by venting criticisms, which have helped the state in no little ways in term of co-existence and development. This stemmed the rise in militancy that was rife. The rise in militancy was not to be confused by the rise in criminality (seen on the streets of Port Harcourt ) was alr eady checking itself. Oil production was at its highest in recent times and the disruption to facilities was less and less frequent. The initiatives were a combination of self inflicted initiatives and initiatives by the Federal Government under direct supervision of the Presidency. The truth was when Asari, Ateke and Tom Polo renounced active militancy to allow the government of Yar'Adua and Goodluck a chance to succeed, the rise in militancy abated. With time, the likes of MEND may also be convinced to join forces with their brothers in arms to chart a collective way forward.

When in 2007, it is worth talking without hesitance the circumstances in Rivers State at that time. Rivers State was into a deep crisis of both militancy and kidnapping and politicking. Princewill had thoughts and what to do to see the way forward. Princewill went on forever on these subjects and got straight to the point.

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During the election campaign of 2007, he talked about the need for change as opposed to the continuity that the Omehia administration offered. He asked the people of Rivers State if they wanted to see another eight years of 1.3 trillion Naira with nothing to show for it in Odili Part two which was (Omehia). And the people vehemently rejected and what is happening in Rivers State today is the evidence of that rejection.

People really wanted change so badly in Rivers State but were denied the chance. Now in reference to the famous George Orwell classic, "The animals have taken over the farm house." And we all know what happened in the end. This is the beginning of that end.

Princewill is glad today many people see the difference between the agitation of years gone by before Oct. 25 2007 and the criminality it exhibited. Not enough people saw it but several did. Many people say the rise in militancy was confusing. What they don't knowwas there was less militancy and more criminality. The question however was who the real criminals were? Princewill said, “The people who intimidated the citizens for eight days in the streets of Port Harcourt or the ones that intimidated them for eight years in every nook and cranny of the entire state?”

They paid these same boys as allies to keep them in government because they didn't want them on the opposing side not really because they wanted them to rig the elections for them, but because they had the money to do so. The real allies to the rigging and the shame of April 2007 were INEC, not the boys. That's how come they couldn't deliver a place like ASALGA, a hotbed of youth restiveness and home to the same boys we read about today. If the boys were truly so effective, how come they could not deliver their own hotbed?

When the deed was done, true democrats hunt for redress in accordance with democratic principles at the Tribunal. The boys on the other hand, no longer receiving the same pre-election attention, had other means at their disposal. And that was the summary of the insecurity situation in Rivers State then. They knew the government lacked the popularity to defend its mandate and were reminding them of how they stood beside them when the people wouldn't. There were consequences to that kind of loyalty. Only a government of the people can stand in Rivers State , which is (Governor Amaechi's government). “Thank God we represent that government of the people and you disregard this at your peril,” said Princewill.

Despite the flaws in Omehia's victory, he could have won over the people with people oriented policies and decisions that carried the people along. Instead he excluded the opposition which picked fights with his 'fathers' and disregarded not only his 'brothers' but also his friends. Stoop to conquer is the watchword, not stand up to step on. Princewill said, “That's why I've told him not to change the curtains in Government House. He won't be there for long”.

At a time under PAlthough I am yet to be convinced on the state of emergency, I can see perfectly why the call for it is being made. The constitution however unclear it is on this and a host of other subjects is clear enough to me to know that Yar'Adua cannot call for it.

At a point people began to call for a state of emergency in Rivers State and Princewill stood his ground by saying that first we already have a state of emergency in everything but name. Section 305 subsection (3) (c) specifies one of the conditions that warrants a state of emergency and the expected actions to follow. It says if there is actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the Federation or any part thereof to such extent as to require extraordinary measures to restore peace and security. Both parts of this subsection are already in place in Rivers State Secondly, the character of Yar'Adua suggests he will abide by the Constitution. If that is true, he can be predicted by reading it. A close look at the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Section 305 subsection (6) says A Proclamation issued by the President under this section shall cease to have effect if it affects the Federation or any part thereof and within two days when the National Assembly is in session, or within ten days when the National Assembly is not in session, after its publication, there is no resolution supported by two-thirds majority of all the members of each House of the National Assembly approving the Proclamation. You can see here that the subsection highlights the challenge. People mistake Yar'Adua for Obasanjo. Using a state of emergency in Obasanjo's time had a political slant to it. Under Yar'Adua, he'll struggle to get a two third majority in both Houses to endorse the declaration and he knows it. It will take a huge turn of events to build the political momentum to effect a state of emergency. We have to look beyond the state of emergency and ask some very fundamental questions. What do we do next?

Princewill's worry with the calls for a state of emergency layed with the depth of thought that went into the call. He believed that if all that we achieve is a military suppression of the violence to be manifested at a later date, then we have achieved nothing. If on the other hand we kill the so called leadership of the cult groups and leave space for the next more lost more hardened set to get their hands on authority (without offering them alternatives), God help us.

This didn't mean he was against a state of emergency. It just meant that he was yet to be convinced of its role in a wider solution. This was if it even survived the scrutiny of the current national assembly as was required by the Constitution. Princewill's prediction was that it will not. And it did not work!

He advised the callers of a state of emergency therefore, to desist from asking Yar'Adua to act like Obasanjo. Yar'Adua didn't have the inclination or the support base in the National Assembly to do it. Princewill said: “I would dearly love to see the back of Omehia, but I am not in the habit of taking on battles that are not winnable. The time for a state of emergency might yet finds its way to Rivers State , but that time is not today and it is definitely not now”.

The failures of Omehia and displaying his impotence and incompetence to deal with the problem highlighted in the battle to rid Rivers State of the Odili's factor and evil legacy. The Supreme Court judges and their Election Tribunal colleagues knew then that neither Odili nor Omehia was popular and residents of the state wanted nothing more than to see the back of them. “We hope the judges will oblige us. They have the evidence and the weight of the law is on our side,” Princewill said.

Condemning the selected response of the Rivers State government and its lawmakers to the Ijaw elders, Princewill said, “It was most unfortunate”. He continued, “There are ways to disagree agreeably. Joining issues with our elders as a response to calls that many others are making is unwise to put it politely. Rather they should listen and find out if there is a lesson or two to be learnt. Rather than print responses or words of advice in the pages of newspapers pick up the phone and discuss some of the issues over instead of creating the impression that we in Rivers State are not good Africans that value the wisdom of their elders. Any government or persons acting on its behalf that decides to exchange words with respected elders on the pages of newspapers, needs to take a very good and long look at itself. If they do not apologize, they will remember those words with deep regret to arrive at a later date”.

Princewill has done and will continue to do more to strengthen our democracy. He has done the unfeasible by resigning his federal appointment when JTF declared war on the Ijaw Community in Delta State He has influenced 46 political parties out of 50 to line up behind him the Unity Government his party started with the PDP-ruling Rivers State Government. What about the many investments his image has attracted to Rivers State ? He did the marvelous thing by nominating 3 henchmen from AC into the Cabinet of Rivers state government. This is a man who hates tribalism to the core, and this could be the reason he is succeeding in all his political strategies. He is combining activism into politics.

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Rivers State . Contact: +2348032552855. Email: [email protected]

“Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of most people will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Mathew 24: 12-13).