Prince Tonye Princewill was the Rivers State governorship candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the 2015 general election. Recently, he defected to another opposition party in the state-the All Progressives Congress (APC). He spoke with select journalists on his switch of parties and other issues. ANAYO ONUKWUGHA was there.
Recently, the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, Chief Felix Obuah described you as a ‘political vendor’ following you appearance on two private radio stations in one day. What is your reaction to that?
I have been called worse names than the name ‘political vendor’ before now. I have been called ‘political prostitute’. May be because during the last flooding in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government area, I commiserated with the people who were affected by the flood. The PDP chairman, Chief Felix Obuah will never forget that gesture because the people of ONELGA felt like they were forgotten. So, may be, he toned down his abuse on me because of that gesture. I didn’t really want to respond to the Obua statement because I saw it as humour. I was only a bit disappointed that the PDP statement came two days after my appearance on two radio stations. I thought the chairman will react immediately.
I was discussing with some leaders of Action Congress, AC about 2007 and I eventually left AC in 2010. They said I should go and bring money from former Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and I said I will not. They said if I don’t get money from Amaechi, they will give the structure to Dr. Abiye Sekibo.
Now, as a young politician, I didn’t work with Amaechi by myself. I spoke to the leaders of the party. Yes, once I announced my decision that we are going to join forces and work with Amaechi. Remember I told people that I was offered N1.5 billion to drop my case against former Governor Celestine Omehia. This is not something I am saying for the first time. It is in public record. And when Amaechi won the case, the same people offered me N1.5 billion to keep my case against Amaechi.
So, the need to respond to our brother (Obuah); I don’t think he even wrote the statement. I believe after my goodwill gesture to the people of ONELGA, and my courtesy visit to his hotel when it was flooded, I don’t believe Felix Obuah would have written those things. I don’t believe that. I don’t also want to respond to that.
Why did you venture into the film industry?
Let me also tell people that this is not my first venture into film. ‘76’ is my fourth film. So, I have always been a man of many endeavours. I don’t rely on government. That is why nobody heard about me until 2007 when I came out to challenge the Dr. Peter Odili government. You don’t challenge the Odili government if you are somebody who relies on government. I never relied on government.
Let me say this, in 2007, I did my first film. ‘76’ was shot in 2012; it was shot in Ibadan, but I did not release it because all my money was focused on 2015. After the 2015, we went back to finish the productions. You know that there is pre-production; if you had watch the movie, you will know that everything about the film was in 1976. So to even get cars and to arrange all of that takes time. Then, there was actual production, after which we had the post-production.
I decided at this time that other movies did not make profit, ‘76’ must make profit. So, I dedicated my time and energy to ensure that ‘76’ was a success. It involved a lot of Lagos, a lot of Abuja for the final permission from the army. It involved traveling the world for festivals. I am not going to be doing that and sitting down in Port Harcourt.
Concluding ‘76’ involved a lot of travels and I am glad that the film was chosen as the African Movie of the Year, Best Director, Best Movie Actor and Best Movie Actress. ‘76’ is also the first Nigerian movie to have a Hollywood distribution deal.
Why do you keep dumping political parties?
When you see me come out, I don’t come out because of the sweet things. I come out when things are rough. You don’t defect to opposition party. Look at all these my moves, apart from 2010 and 2011, when I left due to threats. The truth of the matter was that at that time, I was under intense pressure to bring money from Amaechi. That was why when Amaechi and I fell out in 2014, I went out for him. They have nothing on me because I don’t compromise myself. That is why I am going all out on Governor Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike. They have nothing on me. The media centre you see at the PDP headquarters in Abuja, I donated it to the party.
So, you see constant history of me putting money into politics. I am not into to politics to make money, I come to politics to spend money. Go to the PDP headquarters in Abuja, you will see the media centre there, it is my contribution and I know how much that thing cost me. I have constantly had a record of speaking my mind and have great endeavours outside what we call the political space. So, when I read the press statement, some people thought that it was abusive, I saw it more as humour and in politics, if you criticise, expect that there will be a reaction. I expected their reaction but I didn’t expect it to come in two days. I am a bit disappointed. I had expected that PDP as a party would have reacted but I realized that Obuah did not write the statement.
What led to your final decision to defect to the APC?
I moved not because it is pleasant but because it is unpleasant. I had to swallow my pride because I was not happy with the APC. I believe that part of the reason why Wike became governor is because of Amaechi. I blame him for Wike because if not for Amaechi, we wouldn’t have had Wike as governor today. I was not happy with him. Initially, I even concluded that it was part of Amaechi’s plan and I issued statements to that effect. I thought how can Amaechi be making these moves when you know that the outcome is a Wike. So, to me, Amaechi was part of the emergence of Wike.
It took me several months to think again and say, well, even if Amaechi did that, it would not have been Wike that he wanted. Yes, we want to go after Amaechi, yes, we want to deal with Amaechi, but there are other people that can be elected as governor, not Wike. We as patriotic citizens of the state should be concerned about the number of people that have to be killed for somebody to emerge as governor. In 2007 when it was myself versus the PDP, if you recall, only one person died in Rivers State. I remember the person died in Andoni. Look at the number of people that were killed in 2015.
I am moving to the APC not because I am love with APC. I have told everybody who cares to listen that my love is for the state. That is my priority and that is the fact. The party does not define the individuals, rather, the individuals define the party. If you are fortunate enough, you find like minds within the party. Normally people go to a political party with their political ambitions.
For me, after what PDP did to us in 2015, governorship aspirants who stayed back within the party deserve awards because you don’t do that to individuals and expect them to remain loyal to the party. I am surprised that people still remained in the party after what the party did to them.
I am coming to the APC now not because I love the party but because the state needs a stronger opposition. I believe that joining the APC will strengthen the party; I believe that joining the APC will improve the party. So, if we have what I might call scattered opposition, that is good news for the PDP and as you can see, I am not interested in good news for the PDP.