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TONYE HARRY: ICON AND EMBODIMENT OF LAWMAKING IN RIVERS STATE

By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze

Rt. Hon. Tonye Harry born about 45 years ago and schooled both in Rivers and Lagos States has become not only as a symbol but the embodiment of lawmaking in the Rivers State House of Assembly. Since he resigned as an Accountant from the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), Port Harcourt and joined politics and subsequently got elected as a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly representing the Degema Constituency in 1996 under the platform of the then GDM and later PDP in 1999 till date he has remain an enigma of a sort defining and redefining lawmaking not necessarily in Rivers State but has become a respected voice in the Commonwealth Parliaments a body comprising of all Speakers of Parliaments in the Commonwealth countries. To demonstrate his uncommon leadership traits and general acceptance as a world leader, he is today the Chairman of the Commonwealth Parliament of Speakers. Married to the beautiful Sotonye Harry with children is described by some of his colleagues as 'Mr. Lawmaker one' of Rivers State.

Rt. Hon. Tonye Willie Harry, an unassuming personality, humility symbolized, serious-minded, workaholic has become the symbol of lawmaking in the Rivers State House of Assembly and has since the proclamation and inauguration of the Assembly in 1999 unanimously elected by the 32-member parliament as its Deputy Speaker and by 2007 unanimously elected as the Rt. Hon. Speaker of the Assembly when the then Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi tenure came to an end and was elected and elevated to the office of the Governor of Rivers State.

For the interest of those that will be reading this attempt from outside Nigeria, Rivers State is one of the 36 states of Nigeria. Its capital is Port Harcourt. It is bounded on the South by the Atlantic Ocean, to the North by the Anambra, Imo and Abia States, to the East by Akwa Ibom State and to the West by the Bayelsa and Delta States. The inland part of Rivers state consists of tropical rainforest; towards the coast the typical river delta environment features many mangrove swamps. Rivers state was part of the Oil Rivers Protectorate from 1885 till 1893, when it became part of the Niger Coast Protectorate. In 1900 the region was merged with the chartered territories of the Royal Niger Company to form the colony of Southern Nigeria. The state was formed in 1967 with the split of the Eastern Region of Nigeria.

In the Rivers State House of Assembly there are 23 standing committees covering virtually all aspects of the society such as Women, Law, Economy, Human Rights, Education, Youths and Sports, Environment, Tourism, Agriculture, Public Accounts and Rural Development.

These standing committees of the Assembly oversee the activities and smooth running of the House. There are at present 32 Honourable Members of the House. Major political offices of the Assembly are zoned into the three senatorial districts of the State. In fact, law-makers who are not principal officers of the House are Chairmen of House Committees..

The Assembly though mindful of its constitutional responsibilities and obligations has a very cordial working relationship with the Executive and Judiciary arms of government as well as with other governmental and non-governmental organs and agencies.

The Rivers State House of Assembly under the watch of Rt. Hon. Tonye Willie Harry can be proud to beat its chest for the simple reason that it is perhaps the only legislature in the country today that is yet to impeach or remove any of its House Officers or change its standing committees till date this simply demonstrates the leadership acumen of Tonye Harry its leader and Speaker.

This rare attribute and leadership acumen of the man refers to as Mr. Lawmaker is primarily the result of the stability of the Rivers State House of Assembly. As a dogged fighter and one who has self confidence Norman Vincent Peale, a great Philosopher may have Rt. Hon. Tonye Harry in mind when he stipulated that “People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things, when they believe in themselves, they have the first secret of success”. In the same vein, another great thinker, Horace, in his own summation, said “it is courage, courage, courage, that raises the blood of life to crimson splendour. Live bravely and present a brave front to adversity”. While Bruce Barton, another renowned Philosopher, summarized it by saying “Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstances”. These assertions made by seasoned Philosophers simply mean that no person born of a woman will leave remarkable legacy without being bold, courageous and determined. On the other hand, all these postulations proved that survivalists in society are those that possessed these essential attributes.

Recently to live all these great thinking by these great Philosophers, Rt. Tonye Harry the Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly and PDP Flag bearer for Degema Constituency explained to the public in shocking details, dangerous and inciting moves of the ACN Leadership in the State. According to him during his speech at the Akuku Toru rally at Abonema on 23rd, March, 2011, “I wish to assure the Governor of the support of Akuku-Toru people come April, 2011 as their support for the Governor right from 2007 has never been in doubt. However, Mr. Governor, I regret the campaign of calumny by the ACN party in Rivers State which if not arrested may turn some ignorant youths against the government and its officials. It is regrettable that because of lack of vision and plan on how to move the State forward, the Rivers State ACN has adopted lies as its official policy so far as this election is concerned. I am irked by the party trying to instigate the Kalabari Youths against the Governor, government and her people during a rally by them in Degema where they alleged that the Governor is withholding 13% derivation of the subvention ranging from N30B to N40B per community in the Kalabari Kingdom which if released will turn Kalabari to a haven. “This is in order to instigate the youths against the State knowing very well that the Governor does not have such powers to withhold any fund belonging to any community. Besides, the Governor does not distribute fund to communities instead such funds are channelled through government organs for the development of every community in Rivers State. If not that our youths have matured, such false propaganda would have resulted in massive destruction and attack on public property", he had said.

He went further to say that: "One other disturbing angle of the ACN latest ploy of falsehood is that Rivers State House of Assembly passed a law empowering Gov Amaechi to spend N150B out of the 2011 annual budget of the State without recourse to any check or due process which he will use to share among politicians."

This, he said was total falsehood because as the State Assembly under his watch has not ever passed such a bill empowering the Governor to exercise such powers. It is sad that ACN instead of facing the election with issues and facts have decided to engaging 419ers and criminals like Chief Precious Elekima that have plundered his community and ran to Abonnema as a refugee.

Speaking further, Rt. Hon Tonye Harry said: "We must state it categorically that as much as we are not interested in engaging these people without any defined agenda to develop the State in the art of falsehood, let me reiterate that Amaechi's pedigree and zero tolerance for corruption is legendary. Most of us may not have known the pedigree and prudence of the Governor when it comes to deployment of public funds, Amaechi from what most went through in the hands of EFCC and ICPC can attest to the fact that in Governor Amaechi Rivers State can go to sleep so far their funds are concerned. I just pray and urge our people not only to ignore the idle minds in ACN but keep them at bay and ensure that the Governor is re-elected."

As Rivers people we know what we have gone through to achieve the prevalent peace we are currently enjoying in the State. I therefore wish to urge the Rivers State Government in collaboration with the Security Agencies to seat up and put this ugly trend in check in order to avert an attempt to revert the to the path of insecurity that Governor Amaechi has courageously tackled. The fact remains therefore that it is only the bold as postulated by these great Philosophers like Tonye Harry can be bold enough to make this type of disclosure and revelation without minding the repercussion and consequences on him.

In furtherance of this it still seems that a seasoned philosopher; Charlotte Perkins Gilman had Rt. Hon Tonye Harry and his above postulation in mind when he says “It is the duty of youth to bring its fresh power to bear on social progress. Each generation of young people should be to the world like a vast reserve force to a tried army. They should lift the world forward. That is what they are for” In compliance with this postulation, many people in this generation have made numerous sacrifices towards the enhancement of the society. Some of the people indulged in the provision of social amenities while other engaged themselves in empowerment programmes and peacemaking which is one of the essential tools for development in any given society. It is however no doubt that Rt Hon Harry falls in this category of people, as he has through his developmental agenda, touched many lives in his Community and the society at large and knowing the importance of empowerment programme in a Community, chose not to do away with it. He has established Scholarship Scheme through which a lot of Degema Youths have been sent to school and apart from this he indulges in Human Capacity Building (HCB) which is one of the numerous ways of empowerment, and has through this, helped many people, especially the youths who are not privileged to engage in any meaningful activity for the sake of surviving the current economic harsh weather. He aims at making a number of the youths in his Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State, contribute positively to productive economic activities, which will in turn, enhance their living standard.

Helper 1967 stipulated that capacity building is like an industrial processing, which converts basic ores and raw materials into useful tools through moulding, tempering, shaping and sharpening them for some ultimate purpose”. This belief however shows that the character and potentials of human beings will remain inactive like other factors of production if not trained. They will only become agents of production and economic activities when they are developed through education and training.

To buttress the empowerment program of this great son of Degema, Chief Yellowe the Publisher of the popular TopNews Newspapers based in Port Harcourt described Rt. Tonye Harry as a popular and compassionate leader. He has core supporters whose belief in him is unshaken and his liked by a large section of Degema population for his humility, generosity and generally kind disposition. He has empowered a lot of people across the Degema Local Government Area by providing employment for them and also has a large number of people in his payroll. His detractors say he has stayed too long in the House of Assembly and should not be voted for again. But this is neither here or there as in the legislative task, experience counts and Tonye Harry as of now is an asset both to the people of Degema and the State as a whole and should be supported to enable the State to continue to harness the experience and the talents in this man that is a gift to the people of Rivers State.

One basic thing that distinguishes a man from others in his immediate Community and society at large remains his ability to lead a life worthy of emulation. The person will ensure that the principle of honesty, determination and love reflect in all his activities, including political, social and economic activities. These attributes, if put into practice, bring peace, cordial relationship and development which will in turn strength the relationship between the person and his people, and as well effect positive changes in the society. In this regard, Prince Tonye Princewill the crowned Prince of the Kalabari Kingdom and the Leader of the famous Princewill Political Associates (PPA), Rt. Hon. Harry is not only an asset to the State but a true Ambassador of the Kalabari Kingdom. He is by today the Leader of the political wing of the Kalabari Kingdom and represents the resilience the Kalabari people are not for. We are not talking about getting him re-elected but what are the programs he is expected to carry out in his new tenure as all things being equal he is already re-elected. On 26th April, 2011 we are just reaffirming what the gods and the people have already agreed upon.

Today, most people, particularly the political leaders lose their popularity because of their inability to see reasons to embark on programmes that will impact on the people. They appropriate good things to themselves, family members and relations to the detriment of the larger society. This negative attitude results to hatred and retrogression, and the Community will know no peace, as the possibility of speaking in one voice will be defeated. However, it is worthy of note that there are some leaders who have shown that they know the essence of serving the people. These are the class of people we can say believe in J.E Aliogu's postulation that “the main task of a leader is to define and set goals with subordinates, helping them to identify enterprises goals, at the same time achieving their own personal goals without subordinating the leaders of the organization”. These set of leaders are always celebrated by the people in appreciation of their useful contributions to the growth of humility and society and that is where Tonye Harry falls in.

Apart from personal inputs and development of manpower, Rt. Hon. Tonye Harry has through political sagacity and manoeuvre brought a lot of development to his constituency that includes model primary and secondary schools scattered all over the communities, health centres, Jetty to Iboroma. 500kva generator to some of the communities, electrification of the communities, Youth Development centres in most of the communities. He has just influenced the award and signing of 17billion Naira road contract to link Port Harcourt to Bakana a prominent community within the Degema Local Government.

Pastor Mrs. Manuela S. George Izunwa a distinguished and renowned daughter of Degema people and the current Commissioner of Women Affairs in the Rivers State Government described Rt. Hon. Tonye Harry as an enigma, seasoned bureaucrat, level headed fellow, unassuming but very strict to details when it comes to work. His commitment to the new Rivers State of which we all are trying to build under the Leadership of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi the Governor of our dear State is unrivalled. According to this woman of God, “I will take my brother and friend, Rt. Hon Harry on two salient areas -1. The office of the Speaker is a sensitive one. I want to state that he has been very supportive to the present administration under the able-leadership of Gov Amaechi. The many success recorded by the Amaechi Administration has been achieved by the cooperation of the State House of Assembly under the leadership of Tonye Harry as its Speaker. 2. The Kalabari Kingdom as a whole needs the Speaker to continue as our Ambassador as well as to maintain the prestigious position of the Speaker of the House of Assembly that would balance the political equilibrium for us. We in Degema, support him and hope for a very improved impact during his next tenure”.

Probably what the amiable and adorable Pastor Manuela Izunwa is trying to postulate is that through the matured leadership of the House of Assembly by Tonye Harry they have being very cordial relationship between the Legislative and Executive Arms of Government in Rivers State that has made the State Administration to be the envy of other States in the Federation. During the four year tenure of the Hon Harry as the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and in consideration that governance should not be about individuals or strong men, but about building of institutions through good laws, the House was able to pass the following revolutionary and landmark legislations - 1. Rivers State Bureau of Public Procurement Law No. 4 of 2008. 2. Rivers State Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority Law No. 2 of 2009. 3. Rivers State Public Private Partnership in Infrastructural Development Law No. 5 of 2009. 4. Land Use Prohibition of Extortion Law No. 5 of 2010. 5. Rivers State Micro Finance Agency Law No. 6 of 2008. 6. Rivers State Traffic Law No. 6 of 2009. 7. Rivers State Contributory Pension Law in the Public Service No. 7 of 2009 and the Rivers State University of Education Law No. 8 of 200 all these laws were cardinal to the growth and maintenance of law and order in the State. These legislations among others under the watch of Rt. Hon. Tonye Harry have created better governance in the State.

To Hon Dr. Dawari George the newly elected Member of the Federal House of Representatives representing Asari-Toru. Degema and Akuku-Toru Federal Constituency, Rt. Hon. Tonye Harry apart from being my elder brother has redefined what service is all about in his uncommon acts of leadership. Those of us from the Kalabari extract Hon harry has a lot to teach us and for those agitating that he has stayed so long in the House, to me it is now that he is starting his career in the House and with what he has achieved so far in the House, he is our hero and we will continue to support him as he continue to represent us in his chosen career.

To Rt. Hon. Tonye Willie Harry, nothing is insurmountable, In this regard, a renowned Philosopher, Anthony Robbins, said “The truth of the matter is that there's nothing you can't accomplish if you clearly decide what it is that you've absolutely committed to achieving, you're willing to take massive action, you notice what's working or not, and you continue to change your approach until you achieve what you want, using whatever life gives you along the way and Tonye Harry truly lives this truism. To this great mind who by virtue of hard work achieved the much he has achieved both for the State and his people he is ready to continue to improve on our legislature and will continue to act as the stability force he has become in our polity once re-elected.

It becomes obvious that Franklin D Roosevelt had the likes of Rt. Hon. Tonye Willie Harry 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, Hon. Harry 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, Harry 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 Degema and Rivers State that warranted that his people have once again called on him out to serve them again as their Representative in the Rivers State House of Assembly and through to type he has accepted the challenge and ready to be re-elected come 26th April, 2011 when the people of Nigeria are accepted to elect new members of the various State House of Assemblies in the country.

Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt


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