By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze
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By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, [email protected], 08038199163

His Royal Majesty King Alfred Diete-Spiff, first Military Governor of the old Rivers State, from 1967 to 1975 can best described as the undisputable father of the old Rivers State . This is because most of the thriving infrastructural developments in the state today where initiated and executed during his regime and some bear his name in attestation to his great service and as a tribute to this “Officer and a Gentleman” At the time of his stewardship as youngest serving Governor, he was also the youngest member of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) in the General Yakubu Gowon's Government. Of Ijaw descent, he became an indigene of Bayelsa state when the Old Rivers State was divided. Due to his impeccable record from his time in office, he is still held in high regard in the present day Rivers State. His proven record of accomplishments as an elder statesman that stood him in good stead in his appointment to the royal office of Amayanabo of Twon Brass.

Ambassador Segun Olushola on the other hand, is an established traditionalist, a curator of high repute and one of the pioneers of the theatre industry in Nigeria. In addition to being a seasoned Diplomat; he served as Nigerian Ambassador to Ethiopia; he has become an extraordinary export of the rich culture of our country in the Diaspora. He is the Founder of African Refugees Foundation and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Universal Peace Foundation (UPF) in Nigeria aimed at fostering World peace

These two great Nigerians albeit from different backgrounds have not been known for prophetic prowess. However, on the 2nd of January 2009 at a Lecture in Port Harcourt commemorating the 40th birthday of Prince Tonye Princewill the “New Kid on the Block” they turned out to be Prophets of sorts. Prophecy according to Encarta, 2007 Dictionary is 'an inspired utterance of a prophet, viewed as a revelation of divine will or prediction of the future made under divine inspiration'. Ambassador Segun Olusola who spoke on behalf of the Yoruba during this epochal occasion, rued the failure of his generation in the project called Nigeria and urged the need for total surrender of the reins of leadership to the younger generation characterised by men like Prince Tonye Princewill. King Diete-Spiff whose antecedents speak for are not in contention, also stated that “... with my position in the Niger Delta, I hereby speak on behalf of the region in saying categorically, that the future of Niger Delta Politics lay in the hands of astute minds like Tonye Princewill and formally anoint him Prince of Niger Delta Politics.

With this setting, it becomes imperative to examine the unfolding events in the life of this young man in the wake of these prophetic utterances, and see if the well placed words are indeed playing out.

Prince Tonye TJT Princewill, is a scion of King Prof TJT Princewill the Amayanbo of Kalabari Kingdom, Amachree xi. A crown Prince of the Kalabari Kingdom, the largest clan (33 Communities) in Ijaw land and therefore a true son of the Niger Delta Region. In addition to being the Leader of Rivers State arm of the Action Congress (A political Party in Nigeria), he was a member of the erstwhile Presidential Technical Committee on the Niger Delta. He is currently a member of the Rivers State Advisory Committee in a PDP led government and just recently 18th April 2009 to be precise, he was appointed alongside other illustrious Nigerians, as member of the Federal Government Vision 2020 Committee, where he was subsequently elected Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Niger Delta. Membership of this most distinguished committee include the likes of Chief A. K Horsfall, Father Hassan Kuka, Senator Lekan Balogun, Alhaji Tijani Ramalan, Dr. S.M.O Amachree, to mention a few, with Ms. Wilma Aguele who will serve as the secretary. The FGVision 2020 as we know is aimed at making Nigeria one of the top 20 economies in the world by the year 2020.

In an unprecedented move to re-strategise political opposition to the PDP led government in Rivers State, 18 Political Parties on 8th April, 2009 at a Press briefing, under the auspices of Forum of Opposition Political Parties in River State, announced their decision to appoint Prince Tonye Princewill as consensus leader of its coalition. At the event, Chief Harry Alaye, State Chairman of Nigeria Advanced Party (NAP) and leader of the Forum, who spoke on behalf of the other 18 State Chairmen of Political Parties that include, ALP, JP, APGA, NRP, NAP, NAC, CPP, ND, MMN, NUP, MDJ,APN, PRP, NEPP, DPA, HDP, ACPN and PSP, stated thus “...We have after series of stakeholders meetings reached a consensus to join forces with the Leader of Rivers State Action Congress (AC) and the undisputed Prince of Niger Delta Politics Prince Tonye Princewill, an alliance that we are certain will strengthen the opposition and ultimately move the State forward...”Chief Alaye's statement further justified the choice of Prince Tonye Princewill thus “..Factors in favour of the choice of the Prince as Opposition Consensus Leader include his political disposition, educational background and principally the sterling qualities of forthrightness and foresight. As a New Breed Politician, he has become the beacon of hope for most our people...Prince Tonye Princewill's antecedents; political sagacity and foresightedness demonstrate that we might just as well have found the 'Joshua' that has eluded us thus far in our collective search for a suitable Guide to the promise land.”

Following the example of the Coalition of Opposition Parties in Rivers State, Rev. Dr M.B. Dagogo Jack; the gubernatorial Candidate of Fresh Democratic Party in the 2007 gubernatorial election in Rivers State and Vice Chairman of CNPP in Rivers State on behalf of 15 other Political Parties under the auspices of Organised Opposition Political Parties (OOPP) in Rivers State also adopted Prince Tonye Princewill as their Leader. According to them, “Prince Tonye Princewill is today our Leader as he stands out as a unique study and rallying point in positive and constructive political opposition in the Nigerian political system. He further stated, “We are taking this step under the premise that Rivers State belongs to us all, regardless of our differences in political opinions, ideology or school. Another proven point is that Prince Tonye Princewill the Rivers State AC Leader and the Prince of Niger Delta politics has by his antecedents and sagacity proved that he is the undisputable Leader of the opposition in Rivers State and this fact is not in contention. This assumption is based on his various contributions and for influencing both foreign and local investments to the State and most importantly has by his constructive opposition and inputs strengthened the opposition in the State which has ultimately has enhanced good governance in Rivers State. Based on all these, we the Leaders and members of these great political parties today the 23rd of April 2009 have resolved to identify with the aspirations of Gov Amaechi whilst working under the helmsmanship of Prince Tonye Princewill, the Rivers State AC Leader in our concerted efforts to strengthen the opposition and ultimately governance in Rivers State”. This ov erwhelming support has hopefully put to rest any doubt about the popularity and acceptance of the “Prince of Niger Delta Politics” as the rallying point of opposition in Rivers State.

The following excerpts from Prince Tonye's address to the Chairmen, articulate the Prince's thoughts on the honour bestowed upon him. “..This move is not about Prince Tonye Princewill or Governor Amaechi, but about salvaging our people from the shackles of slavery and underdevelopment unleashed on us by the Odili dynasty. The fact remains that neither Amaechi nor I can fight this battle to move the State forward alone. So the need for every one of us coming together to assist Gov Amaechi now, need not be overemphasised. To me, Rivers State comes first before any other consideration, including that of my party, AC. Our State and our people have suffered enough and without unity amongst the political class, any hope for a new dawn will remain a pipe dream. I urge all the other remaining political parties to emulate this great Forum and come on board so that together we can rebuild our State and make it the type of State we all desire.”

During the day of the “prophecies” of HRM King Diete-Spiff and Ambassador Olusola, Alh. Umaru Shinkaffi, a renowned Northerner and one time Security Chief of the Nation, paid glowing tribute to the ingenuity of Prince Tonye Princewill for fashioning out and sustaining the tempo of the Unity Government in Rivers State that has gradually become a study in pragmatism, resilience, idealism and essence in Nigerian politics and the various roles he has played in shaping the present day politics in Niger Delta region.

Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo speaking on behalf of the National Leader of the Action Congress, Alh. Atiku Abubakar and himself a politician of great repute stated that the chronicles of Nigerian politics can never be complete without a space solely dedicated to the trail blazing initiative of Amaechi and Princewill in Rivers State.

Chief Horsfall when his formal Presentation of the book on Prince Tonye Princewill stated, “Tonye without any doubt or exaggeration is the Prince of Niger Delta Politics being the only visible Prince in politics in the region. He has proven himself and can lay claim to that title. “I Chief Horsfall on behalf of the Leaders and Elders of Niger Delta region hereby present to Nigerians the undisputable Prince of Niger Delta Politics, Prince Tonye TJT Princewill”.

His friend and Senior partner in the reengineering and development of Rivers State, Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State later in his own remarks stated “Tonye is my good friend and no matter his being the greatest 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 service to our State and region”

If these great statements by these extraordinary Nigerians were not enough then on 4th January at Abundant Life Evangel Mission, Port Harcourt, the General Overseer of the Church. 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 hands.

In summary, Political Leaders, traditional Council Leaders and the Church have formally accepted this icon and great Prince of the Kalabari Kingdom as the true Prince of Niger Delta Politics.

The chronicling of Prine Tonye Princewill's involvement in Rivers State and Nigeria politics will lack merit, if adequate note of his informal interest in the affairs of his people is not mentioned. As a professional Engineer and an astute business manager, he did not take to politics as a means of livelihood. But rather as a result of his concern for his people and a personal resolve to come to their aid. He decided to bring his acumen and dynamism to bear on his efforts to serve by contesting for Governor in the 2007 General elections.

The father of modern day opposition politics in Nigeria and former Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar stated during one of his visits to Rivers State; “Prince Tonye Princewill is 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”.

One of the finest politicians in Rivers State and the Hon. Commissioner of Works in the present dispensation, Hon. Dakuku Peterside described the Prince “Tonye is among a new generation of patriotic politicians desirous of rendering quality service to the people. This eminent group of youthful politicians have begun to re-engineer the political landscape, re-introducing pragmatic approach to resolving deep political challenges. He has further shown like others in this group that there is no relationship between age and wisdom. One thing that stands him out among his peers is his ability to distinguish politics of opposition and collective interest of Rivers State as demonstrate by his open an unrepentant support for Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who interestingly is the arrow head of this emerging generation of pragmatic politicians. Committed to the rebirth of Rivers State .”

Prince Tonye TJT Princewill, a disciple of the school of John Stuart Mill, who pioneered the conception of liberal politics, believes in the stronger protection for individual rights against government and the truism that "We can never be sure that the opinion we are attempting to stifle is a false opinion, and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil". TP as he is fondly called by friends and associates, is also a great admirer of the works of the Chinese philosopher, Confucius, whose philosophy was "rooted in his belief that a ruler should learn self-discipline and govern his subjects by his own example and treat them with love and concern".

With all these, 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, Prince Tonye Princewill 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, he 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.

As we continue to monitor this enigma of our time, we wait with bated breathe, watching to see how the various “prophecies” about Prince Tonye Princewill would unravel.

Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt