Posted by News Express | 5 January 2019 | 1,434 times
Prince Tonye Princewill, popularly known as “The Prince of Niger Delta Politics”, was a two-time gubernatorial candidate in Rivers State: first, on the platform of the defunct Action Congress (AC) that gave birth to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2007 and, later, on the platform of the Labour Party (LP) in 2015. He was one time leader of the Forum of Opposition Political Parties (FOPP) in Rivers State; founder/president of Princewill Political Associates (PPA), a political pressure group whose impact in the politics of Rivers State needs not be overemphasised; and, currently, the director of Strategy and Communications, Tonye Cole Campaign Organisation (TCCO), a position he intends to use to oust Governor Nyesom Wike, and install Pastor Tonye Cole, as the next governor of Rivers State come March 2019.
At 50 years of age, golden Prince Tonye Princewill has already done things that many of his mates (in the state) dread to attempt. From running successfully, Riverdrill, his oil and gas company employing hundreds of Nigerians and other business interests, to being the youngest gubernatorial candidate in Rivers State elections of 2007 as candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria and Labour Party governorship candidate in 2015.
Princewill is son and scion to the famous King (Prof) Theophilus Jacob Tom Princewill, CFR, Amachree XI, the Amayanabo of Kalabari Kingdom with whom he shares the same birthday. He celebrated his 50th birthday on Friday January 4, 2019. His father also celebrated his 89th birthday on the same date. This rare sharing of same birthday between father and son (though not peculiar), makes this family different from other families on earth.
Having followed this young man for over a decade, I must confess that the history of politics of Rivers State – no matter who the author may be – can’t be complete without the mention of this Kalabari prince: a top-notch technocrat, an accomplished businessman, a consummate politician and a philanthropist par excellence. His impact in the political engineering of the state can’t be over-emphasised. He stands out as a professional engineer and a business magnate, who did not take politics as a profession or lack of means of livelihood.
Tonye was a senior technical project manager and business analyst; a strategic thinker with excellent problem-solving ability; highly adaptable and experienced across diverse environments. From global, multi-party, multi-million naira projects to hands-on, low budget challenges, he has a proven track record of getting the job done. He is an excellent communicator, effective at all levels and confident in resolving business, technical and political issues. The motivation, enthusiasm, technical expertise and team-building skills Tonye brings to his projects have been pivotal to their successes.
A post-graduate of Imperial College, London, he is a certified PRINCE II practitioner with a sound working knowledge of both ITIL and change management, and has until quite recently been a regular presenter on project management issues. In addition to his information technology and oil and gas interests, Tonye has a business empire that spans across the aviation industry to the haulage of petroleum products for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and OANDO. His company is involved in strategic placement of resources with the targeted placement of investment from outside and within Rivers State.
The prince was credited for exhibiting wisdom when he withdrew unconditionally his tribunal case against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State for what he called strategic reasons in 2007. The AC-PDP partnership practised in the state was a study in selflessness and political engineering in Nigeria.
Princewill deliberately entered into politics because of his concern for his people and personal attempts to help them. He decided to bring his acumen and dynamism to bear on his effort to serve his people as governor in the 2007 and 2015 elections. Even as a private businessman, he has been a people-centred person who prefers to sacrifice to make others happy.
Birth and education
Tonye was born to Prof and Mrs TJT Princewill on January 4, 1969. He began his formal education in Nigeria at the famous Hillcrest High School, Jos, Plateau State, from 1976 to 1980. His post primary education saw the young prince at the Federal Government College, Port Harcourt (1980-1985) where he won many laurels, including award as the best English student in the school. With an outstanding performance at the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) and the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board exams, the young Tonye was admitted at the University of Port Harcourt the same year he left secondary school; naturally equipped to study, he bagged a Bachelor's degree in Petroleum Engineering (1985-1990). After his National Youth Service, Tonye left the shores of Nigeria for postgraduate studies, and eventually feathered his cap at the Imperial College, London, with an MSc in Mineral Resources Engineering and a Diploma of Imperial College (DIC) London. His interests are people, film, football, swimming, basketball and travel.
Cole’s strategist and Wike’s nightmare
This one-man riot squad of a person most of the time instills fear and admiration in the minds of his followers, with the manner and speed he conducts the affairs of any task given to him. As a result, today, he is a terror of sorts to the incumbent Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, and his likes.
He shouts when the need arises, and when it becomes imperative to offer positive criticisms or suggestions on how to move the state forward, he does it with passion and at the risk to his life: For example, when he dared the dreaded Wike for the exalted office of the Rivers State number one seat during the 2015 gubernatorial election.
With all these feats and experiences and age on his side, it was the thinking of most of his admirers, particularly key watchers of Rivers State politics, that Princewill have matured for the exalted office of the governor of Rivers State. But, surprisingly, he was among the first to accept the coming of Tonye Cole as the standard-bearer of Rivers State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC). He gave up his ambition to another great son of Rivers State who has established himself as a leading light in our generation; somebody well-acknowledged as a an administrator and outstanding industrialist to lead Rivers out of its present sorrow and pitiable state.
Since his appointment as the director, Directorate of Strategic and Communications for the Tonye Cole Campaign Organisation, Wike has gone into hiding knowing that his miserable administration will come to an end in few months.
His type of politics
In the words of the prince: “My political career is intact. Good people are becoming more and more critical to move Nigeria forward. When Nigerians realise we cannot continue like this, they will look for people like us or younger versions, to exhibit excellence and toughness combined. I do not have to be the one running for office but, either way, I will be involved.
“The dream was never to rule, it was to lead. And lead by example. I do that every day in whatever capacity I find myself. It is not easy to engage with all kinds of politicians and come out clean. I believe I have done that. It is not easy to come from nowhere and make a name in state and national politics: I believe I have done that. It is not easy to join the Nollywood family and make an impact. I believe we have done that; and it is not easy to develop the business contacts we did without politics, yet we have also done that. If politics has not allowed me show my capacity today, one day I will in whatever capacity. Maybe, I am bigger than just Rivers State, or politics. Maybe, my dream is to be a statesman. The country is short of them.
“Fortunately, I am not prepared to kill, maim or sacrifice human life to achieve political goals. So, my ambition and my dreams are measured by the price I am prepared to pay for them. The dark actors in Rivers State know that if I decide to go down the path of violence, neither of them would rest easy. They know I am not the one who would be afraid. But, like the story of the two women and King Solomon, I am not prepared to kill my people in order to lead them. There has to be a line.
“Our leaders have let us down. History and God will not be too kind to us. Your only redemption is to show your track record. Corruption needs to be addressed head-on, but we must be able to talk, and walk at the same time. Fiscal discipline, creating the environment for growth, security in the Niger Delta – especially the promotion of a positive identity – are crucial if we want to crack the number one problem in Nigeria: JOBS.”
The liberal democrat has been involved in a lot of advocacy for his people. A few that may be mentioned here are:
1. He was at Enugu personally to liaise and collaborate with the Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo leadership, to enable them to submit suggestions on how to resolve the Niger Delta issue in 2009.
2. Believes in internal democracy, and that political parties in Nigeria must be ideology-driven; in that regard, he had appealed to Alhaji Bamangar Tukur, former PDP national chairman, to make the party an ideological-based political party.
3. Did the unusual, unlike most politicians in Nigeria, by his dramatic resignation from the Vision 2020 Committee, to protest against a military assault on Gbaramatu in Delta State. Such principled politics has made him a household name in the Niger Delta struggle and earned him legions of awards: attesting to his emergence as a leader.
4. He is the Founder/Leader of Princewill Political Associates, a political pressure group spearheading emancipation and uplifting the welfare of the people of Rivers State.
Rivers State unity government
One other area that Princewill remains a leader whose impact in the politics of the state can't be forgotten in a hurry was how he engineered the unity government in Rivers State with the regime of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, erstwhile governor of Rivers. Power-sharing, as we all know, whichever way it is operated in the country, especially in the current political dispensation has not really worked out the way it has impacted on the electorate in other climes.
This has been attributed to the nature of the country’s politics, which makes it extremely difficult for the party that loses election to be carried along by the party in power, and contribute in development initiatives. Many conclude that power-sharing, in our own experience, is a charade and, an awkward arrangement that would cause more division in the polity and derail the development agenda rather than speed it up.
But the political arrangement in Rivers State, where the then Peoples Democratic Party and the then Action Congress worked together, according to observers, has clearly demonstrated that irrespective of political divide, politicians can join forces to drive objectives forward.
While achieving this objective, it reduced political tension and recourse to violence. Indeed, for a state that had witnessed serious politically-motivated crisis, and trying to break away from the past, experts argue that the state government would have created another battle for itself, while fighting outside forces if it had decided to govern alone.
The alliance between Amaechi and Princewill still stands as a study in political sagacity, engineering and is the best solution to a tense environment.
Princewill’s politics is based on his oft-quoted phrase: “You are blessed to bless others.” He is also motivated by Proverbs 28:27 – “He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack; but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse” - in his drive to better the lots of the less privileged in our society. His philanthropic gestures include the following:
*On July 26, 2008, he sponsored 20 youths from Niger Delta and four members of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) to watch live the Manchester United and Portsmouth Football Clubs during their visit to Abuja, Nigeria.
*He started 2012 when he visited and donated N25 million to Port Harcourt Polo club, N26 million towards Microfinance for rural women, several million towards setting up a 3D studio for film academy scholars.
*In June, 2012, he sponsored 10 bright Nigerians under the aegis of Change Nigeria Group (CNG) on a tour of Dubai and South Africa where they met with members of the UAE royal family, institutional investors and leaders from far and wide so that they could discover for themselves the secrets of their success.
*Through the Princewill Trust Fund, he sponsors the yearly Amachree Scholarship Fund for indigent students from the 23 local government areas of the state, and for 2012 about 150 Rivers indigenes in higher institutions in the country at the cost of N20 million was concluded successfully.
*Donation of N25 million to the Polo Club recently, for the construction of a standard pavilion in honour of his father.
*Donation of N23 million skill acquisition scheme to our LGAs and training of rural women in Rivers State by empowering them through skill acquisition schemes; as a believer in the Chinese aphorism: give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you feed him for life.
*Scholarship to indigent students of Rivers State to enable them pursue their educational careers in higher institutions.
*Donation of a bus to the National Association of Ijaw Female Students.
*Identified and donated N2.5 million to the Rivers State Council of Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) during its Fifth Delegates Conference, of which he was the chairman.
*Donation of computer equipment to media organizations, such as the Tide Newspapers, furnished and equipped the cyber cafe of the Federated Correspondents Chapel
*On May 2, 2012 he donated an equipped classical Media Centre to his then political party, PDP, at Abuja for the use of journalists.
*During one of the Women’s Day in Rivers State, he instituted a N26 million Microfinance Fund for Rivers State Rural Women.
*Sponsorship of Nnenda, a Nigerian home video that highlighted the plight of abandoned children; sponsorship of Melody Shelters Singing Talent Show that cost him N120 million where the final events saw the Godswill Orphanage of Kogi State clinching the coveted trophy and the championship prize of N10 million; the runners-up, Lifetime Orphanage of Rivers State got N5 million; Rachael Homes, Abuja, came third, carting home the N3 million prize, while N500, 000 each was given to the other remaining five orphanages as co-champions.
*Assisted his alma-mater, UNIPORT Alumni, with the sum of N5 million, to the leadership of Engr Sampson N Adumu-led EXECO to aid them during the launching of the association in Port Harcourt on July, 2012.
*Has touched hundreds of lives through his “New Life For Widows in Rivers State.”
Princewill and the film industry
1. Premiered the first movie in Port Harcourt in September 12th, 2009, when Nnenda, a movie about the ills of orphanhood, was staged at the famous Silver Bird Cinemas in Port Harcourt.
2. He followed up with the premiering of the international award-winning The Figurine anchored by the famous Kunle Afolayan on October 11, 2009, at the Silver Bird Cinemas, Port Harcourt. This movie was the second Nigerian movie to hit box office status after Stephanie Okereke’s Through the Glass.
3. The prince premiered Kajola, the most expensive film ever produced in Nigeria at the Silver Bird Cinema, Abuja on July 30, 2010, with a production cost of N130 million. The plot of the movie set in Nigeria 2059, which is expected to appeal to most Nigerians in the sense that it explores the implications of the continuous neglect of the poor and the widening gulf between the rich and poor, and the ensuing catastrophic outcomes stemming from such neglect.
4. He sponsored the production of the first movie in Nigeria on celluloid camera entitled “76”, anchored on the military coup of 1976 in Nigeria aimed at recreating history for the incoming generation and preserving a remarkable part of the history of our nation. The post production is ongoing in Germany. The second is Valor, a movie that deals with the Niger Delta and Boko Haram issues, and is also at post-production.
At the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016, Tonye and crew stood out as the movie ’76, which he proudly produced, was singled out for honour.
On his next movie about Boko Haram, the Kalabari prince stated: “We will go to Sambissa. We are also doing a documentary as we speak which is bound to open doors Nigeria has kept closed for over 40 years. But in everything we do, we do it with wisdom and care. The unity of Nigeria is paramount. I see our differences as worthy of celebration and not a cause for conflict. Fear should not rule us, love needs to start winning. I am glad to be in the midst of an industry that can make and is making a difference.”
5. The RIVMAP – which is the brainchild of Tonye Princewill to serve as a platform for the emancipation of our youths from poverty and hopelessness by discovering, nurturing and grooming talent in the arts to stardom – had during its inaugural outing that cost N20 million, had Mr Timi Julius carting away the N5 million record deal in music with the dancing group of the Thrillers winning the N2 million prize in the dancing group and Mr Jacob John – a welder/fabricator based in Port Harcourt, from Akwa Ibom – winning the N1 million meant for the comedy group.
6. Sponsored Mr Valentine Ohu in broadcast journalism, Miss Crystabel Goddy in acting, Mr Telema Senibo in 3D graphics, Miss Mercy Akudo also in acting, and Mr Stanley Kotey in 3D graphics to the Del-York Film Academy
On his mission, the prince stated: “I have seen wealth, but, I have not found it interesting accumulating it. What is of interest to me now is how to touch those lives that are not yet privileged to have the basic things they need for survival. I want justice to be done to all and to be able to speak for the voiceless majority who do not have access to the corridors of power. Those are the people I feel most concerned for, and as I said earlier, my desire to make their voices heard by those who lead, made me to join politics.”
His vision: “Rivers State should be one big development unit. I don't think that what we have now in the state is enough. Certain parts of the state are not yet feeling the impact of government and amenities are not evenly spread. While some areas are begging for the state government’s attention, others are having more than their fair share of the state's resources. This lopsidedness in the distribution of social amenities needs to be checked so that every part of the state would be adequately taken care of.”
Perhaps, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a former president of the United States of America, an orator and philosopher, had the likes of the 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, TP – as he is called by admirers – 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.”
To many Rivers State people, he is the Prince of the less privileged, while to his political associates, he is the Prince of the Niger Delta Politics, and to most of his friends from other parts of the country, he is the latest bridge-builder.
On his new task as the strategist and director of communication of Tonye Cole Campaign Organisation, I am convinced that he will bring his wealth of experience to bear by ensuring the ouster of Governor Wike, whose administration in Rivers State is the apt definition of disaster, come March, 2019.
Finally, I must confess that in my interaction with human beings within my 61 years of sojourn on earth, I have come across very few strong-willed personalities comparable to Tonye Princewill. But of them all, none can be described as an unassuming but very dogged in the pursuit of any course he believes to a fault. An accomplished academician, an orator and a patriot, a charismatic politician, an outstanding philanthropist, a voice for the voiceless, a study in humility, a great manager of human resources, a fearless warrior and unassuming humanist, foresighted and a believer in a united, stronger and viable Rivers State. This special gift to the people of Rivers State and Nigeria is the only child of his father, HM King Princewil, Amachree XI, the famous Amanayanabo of Kalabari kingdom, a renowned scholar and first-class royal father in Rivers State.
It will do you a lot of good if you will find time to watch the documentary – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfxbUJYEIX – and you will be convinced that, truly, we are blessed by this special gift to mankind.
On behalf of his associates, friends and family, I wish to present 50 precious garlands to this man of honour who has proven beyond any reasonable doubt that it is better to serve than to be served, on this special period of his golden jubilee birthday. God will surely bless and multiply you!
•Eze is a media consultant based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
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