The governorship candidate of the then Action Congress (AC) in Rivers State in 2007 who also contested for same office in 2015, Prince Tonye Princewill, in this interview with select journalists speaks on the need to support President Muhammadu Buhari in the forthcoming Presidential election. MUYIWA OYINLOLA was there.
Nigerians were taken aback when you decided to leave Labour Party to join the APC. What actually informed that decision?
Common sense. For me, it was probably one of the easiest political decisions that I have ever made so I can’t imagine why anyone will be taken aback. I believe that all politics is local. And therefore, when you’re playing politics or doing politics or observing politics, you have to look first at your local environment. I don’t understand why so many people focus on national and international politics, and completely forget their local politics. To me, local politics is what matters the most, it isn’t that I am downplaying all other politics, but local politics matters most.
So, what is the situation in Rivers State? We have a governor who has gone wild and we have an opposition that was not giving him the kind of opposition he deserves. My opinion was that, the opposition was still disjointed. We have an APC formidable as it is, we have a Labour party and we have other parties, and I thought to myself, we are all opposed to PDP and Wike, but our inability to work together is working in his favour. With my passion, the organisational skills of many of the APC members and the commitment that we all have to free the state, then all we need as like minds is to have an arrangement to join forces because if we don’t join forces, it will make Wike stronger. I have said that we are not God, so, we cannot say we will definitely remove PDP. But by God, we are going to at least improve them. If in the process we are able to remove them, then may His name be praised. To sit back and do nothing, or leave the fight for APC alone, that is not an option.
The security challenge in the state has earned itself the name, Rivers of Blood. Why does it appear insurmountable?
I think it is already being tackled. Of course, in the past few weeks a lot of progress has been made when the federal government decided to take charge. Unfortunately for our state we have a governor who entered by violence and has continued to condone violence. Maybe he cannot address the matter effectively, because his hands are tied. We hope and we pray that Rivers people will learn from mistakes of the past and that all politicians will learn that this kind of violence, this kind of association will not do us any good. I want to think that the signal has been sent by the killing of leader of the gang… and the taming of his team. It will be a message to everybody else that there is only one law and that’s the law of Nigeria and we won’t tolerate any other alternative laws in the land. If that message is heeded, I think there will be peace. But don’t let us lose sight of the fact that the administration entered by violence and the boys that they used have been left largely unattended. Therefore, they will seek to keep their heads above water. As best as they can. It is natural.
You aren’t comfortable with the administration in Rivers but a lot of people are quick to applaud his developmental strides in the state. What really do you have against the governor?
You are right when you say I am uncomfortable about him. I think, to put it diplomatically, I think he is the worst governor . You must compare resources versus development. You have to compare what he has achieved, compared to what he has had. You will then understand that he is building nothing. He believes, and he maybe right, that everybody has a price, so he can pay for image, he can pay for perception and he can pay his way through anything. He has a lot of reasons to think it, having earned multiple awards for what I am not sure of. When you talk, people say you are bitter because you didn’t win the election. I am not talking about just my opinion but the opinions across the length and breadth of the state. Wike is a one-man show. This man hoarded the budget for 3 years and everybody was quiet as if it was right. Now that the opposition has come together and found its voice, he is sweating. Just last week, he signed the 2018 budget into law, the last of his peers to do so. We simply haven’t seen anything like this before. On the security angle and the economic angle, people are leaving the state.
Is that peculiar to Rivers?
They are going somewhere else, they aren’t leaving the country. They are leaving Rivers to go elsewhere and we are losing business. Losing jobs. To my utter surprise, people are leaving Rivers for Imo to do business. I don’t know of anybody in his right mind that will look at Wike and say he is developing Rivers. But he was not put there to develop the state. Finally, former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in his special letter gave a damning verdict on Buhari administration, the PDP and the APC. He said the two dominant parties lack the capacity to bring the desired change Nigerians are craving for. What is your reaction? You know while some people were battling as to their response to the letter, Lai Mohammed gave an eloquent reply which I want to stand by. I don’t want to believe that our generation should start exchanging words with people of Obasanjo’s generation. He has ventilated his views, the government has responded and I think we should leave it at that. What amazes me though is that as damning as the letter was to PDP, they were quick to clap, forgetting that they too were also indicted. It just tells you the ineptitude in the system that they preside over. That they were actually clapping for Obasanjo while he decimated them. They were so busy, happy that APC was being attacked that they didn’t even realize that they were being attacked as well.
Generality of Nigerians aren’t comfortable with the way President Buhari is responding to issues of urgent national importance. Aren’t you disturbed with that attitude, considering the enormity of the challenges facing the nation?
Look, I think people sometimes forget where we were coming from and more importantly they also forget that where we need to go also requires a lot of efforts. Nigeria has been on the wrong track for a long time. Like a tanker that is in the water, trapped trying to turn. It will take an amazing efforts to reverse the current trend. Now, did our government make promises that are unrealistic? Yes, we did. Either through enthusiasm or through their lack of understanding of the problems on ground. I think we should ask ourselves, do they really have the intention to move the country forward? I think the answer is yes. The capacity might have been right, but slowly it is being built.
For me, I am a business man and I ask myself, how can we continue like this. Things need to be done differently and then when somebody comes and starts to make a difference, do you think it is going to be easy at the beginning? No. if you have a bad tooth and somebody wants to pull it out the pain that you are going through is so that you can have less stress tomorrow. So, the pains that we are going through is so that we can place the country on a sound footing. If because of what the dentist will do to you, you will say you won’t go to a dentist. You will continue to wallow in that pain until it slowly and eventually kills you.
Let us go through that pain now so that we can have a brighter future tomorrow. If Buhari was concerned about the next election, he will avoid some of these things. There are things that have fast, quick solutions but they may not be lasting and sustainable. The man has decided that he is going to do what is lasting and sustainable as a result of that electorally he is taking a heat. But I am looking for statesmen, I am not looking for politicians to lead me. That’s my position and I believe that we should recognize that and join the dentist to join pull out that bad tooth. I think Nigerians have two choices: to go back to the old ways of doing business and the other one is to go through this pains which ultimately nobody is disagreeing is going to set us on a better platform. That to me is the message.
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