By Mohammed Babagana
If there is a man, politician, business mogul of Niger/Delta extraction who has attracted my uncommon respect over the past few years, that person is no other one but the man some have come to associate with a few nomenclature to wit; Prince of Niger/Delta ,the New Breed and lately Prince of Philanthropy. I prefer to call him Prince Tonye. My love, respect , adoration for this young, friendly, amiable, rare philanthropist, and only son of the Kalabari King, Professor Theophilus Princewill is not only connected to his brand of politics but also his view and disposition to humanity. In the course of this essay an attempt will be made to buttress the assertion herein.
A man concerned about the interest of his home state, Rivers State, Prince Tonye joined the murky waters of Nigerian politics in mid-2000. This was after the time his community Buguma was immersed in political crises, when rival militant groups allegedly sponsored by Buguma politicians in the corridor of power, swore that peace will elude the ancient kingdom. Sources confirmed that it was in the midst of the crises that King Professor TJT Princewill lost his first secretary to the gunshots of unknown gunmen. Sources had it that Prince Tonye played commendable part to ensure that peace returned to the ancient kingdom. No wonder some call him “Prince of Peace”.
It is therefore, worthy of note that Prince Tonye did not take to Nigeria politics because of not having anything else to do but according to him “politics is too important to be left to politicians”, thus serving as an additional impetus and reason for identifying with the politics of Nigeria. Investigation by this writer revealed that Prince Tonye was once a passive member of the Peoples Democratic Party, though this may be unknown to many before he defected to Action Congress, now Action Congress of Nigeria, under whose platform he contested for the gubernatorial seat in 2007 In Rivers State.
Soon after the winner of the poll was made known to the public, the issue of alleged stolen mandate as claimed by Prince Tonye, peopled most pages of Port Harcourt, regional and national newspapers. This was when Sir Celestine Omehia was declared the winner of the guber poll in 2007. At the time, Prince Tonye put appropriate legal plans in place to reclaim his mandate at the Election Petition Tribunal. His plans led to the release of legal luminaries under the payroll of former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu and others under the service of former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku to prosecute Princewill’s stolen mandate at the tribunal. October 2007 saw the upturn of Omehia’s tenancy at Brick House; thus leading to the removal of Omehia from the government house and the installation of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi occasioned by the Supreme Court ruling in Abuja on 25 October, 2007.
It was at this stage when those who wanted to maintain the status quo (Omehia’s tenancy) before it was upturned by the landmark ruling of the Supreme Court in Abuja approach Prince Tonye with breath-taking monetary gratification and concrete evidence to prove that he, Tonye was the actual winner of the poll but was rigged out. The money was to enable him to continue his case with PDP and Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi. Surprisingly (unlike most politicians of our time) he refused the offer by withdrawing his case, and instead identified with the Supreme Court made-Governor, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi in his National Unity Government which was in vogue at the time. Investigation showed that the marriage led to the appointment of key executive members of the party (Action Congress at the time) which include Osimah Gina as the Commissioner of Urban Development, Williams Igwe, Special Adviser to the governor, Suage Badey, member Governing Board RUST etc.
His embracement of the unity government and refusal to continue his case in the court made one time national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo averred, “his ability to suppress his ambition to be the governor of Rivers State and to identify with a governor he sees genuine leadership in, in order to walk Rivers State to the promise land is not easy. It is rare in politics and it is a lesion to all young politicians and future politicians in Nigeria”.
As a detribalized person, Princewill have under his employ Yorubas, Igbos, Housas and other aides who are not related to him by Geo-political zone or tribe. For instance his Chief aide who goes by the name Mustapha as gathered by this writer is from the north. This somewhat a departure from what is obtainable from our present crop of politicians who prefer to populate their guesthouses, homes or business outfits with persons or aides closely related to them. In a related development some years back, he kissed good bye to a Federal Government appointment that many believed would have ushered him into both NDDC MD and other lucrative offices when he resigned his Chairmanship of Vision 2020 Sub Committee on Niger Delta.
According to him, “It wasn’t courage but was something of eh; I was angry by government reaction and pulling off the Niger Delta Technical Committee – Vision 2020 committee as a chairman. It was a first step; it was the least I could do. I am not going to be sitting down and formulating policies on Niger Delta, and proffering solutions to the same people who are causing the problem. It does seemed to be ridiculous, if someone call you into his house and said, please I want you to advise me on sanitation and you go and spend time and energy and do a,b,c,d,e and start to proffer the way forward, and meanwhile, you are watching this person that you are going to propose to, as you are talking they are dumping things. It is clear they are not there to come and listen. To me it is even nothing, to even wonder about. It is obvious moves that you don’t order or go on with that person. Unfortunately, some persons, because the client is the federal government believe that they should not tell them truth or should not confront them with the reality. I of course on the other hand, by my antecedence, my happiness is to be opposing what is not working and my willingness to put everything on the line as at when necessary, will tell you that you should not be surprise that by my very self will not allow silence in the midst of that kind of thing. I am glad that we did it as a very first step. We also said that apart from it been a first step, if they did not stop, we will take it further and I am glad that less than ten days after that, we went from bombing Gbaramatu Kingdom to amnesty which was almost systematic in its nature. Why do you offer amnesty and then bomb? Sorry just after bombing, you have already offer amnesty. Is there any remote sense in it? But amnesty was the right way to go, bombing was eh wrong way to go. I am glad that they turned at the corner and pulled back from the creeks”. Without sounding too favourable to Mr Princewill on this, how many of our present politicians could abdicate such position?
According to Dr. Nwodo, this act of suppressing his ambition to be the governor of Rivers State and to identify with (Chibuike Amaechi – my words), a governor he sees genuine leadership in in order to walk Rivers State to the promise land is not easy, plus his humanitarian efforts, empowerment of the youths and rural women through various means, provision aid to some orphanage homes in Nigeria, aid to the NUJ Rivers State Chapter, provision of relief materials to flood victims in Bayelsa and Rivers State among others too many to mention has indeed made me to hold you in high esteem.
Continue the good work you are doing and may God in his infinite love protect you.
Mohammed Babagana wrote from Federal Poly technic Mubi, Adamawa State.