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December 02, 2014

Prince Tonye Princewill And Charles Novia: A Meeting Of Two Great Minds

Prince Tonye Princewill And Charles Novia


I spent a couple of hours last week Thursday with Tonye Princewill, a PDP Gubernatorial aspirant from Rivers State. It was quite an impromptu meeting preceded by a personal phone conversation he had with me at the instance of Egor Efiok, his media consultant and listening to him speak over the phone, my curiousity got the better of me and I requested to see him that night in Maitama, Abuja.

I drove to his house in Maitama and was ushered in to his living room, where he stood up to shake my hands. He was casually dressed in a Manchester United T-shirt and near knee-length shorts and his grip was warm backed with a warm smile.


Now, to put things in perspective, I have met lots of celebrities and political figures in the course of my career as a filmmaker and social commentator and I try my utmost best to be apolitical when it comes to meeting politicians. That is primarily because I always do not want my decisions influenced by a linear fear that meeting a politician would mean that I was seeking for favors of any kind. So, I meet with those I chose to meet and more-often-than-not, I study them and draw my silent conclusions through their body language and conversations. And I have met quite a number of obtuse politicians too who have no idea of what they would do when they are elected or selected into public office but just wish to get there at all costs. That is a sad reality we face in Nigeria today.

And so, with Tonye Princewill, I wanted to find out more about the person, primarily because I had read more about him through his financial interventions in my constituency, the entertainment industry. Let me be candid and a bit selfish. I tend to applaud any one , irrespective of political leanings and financial background, who takes his or her hard-earned money to invest in the entertainment business. Knowing how entertainers get the rough end of the deal where talent begs for material support all the time, I am always pleased when someone from outside the sector puts his time and money into the business. That gesture does a lot to prop up the lives of many within that sector and most importantly builds on people’s self-beliefs and will to achieve.

I knew Tonye Princewill had invested in two huge movies in the recent past. The first I knew of was the sci-fi ‘Kajola’which had an arrested run in the cinemas in 2009. And the other is the yet-to-be-released ‘Lions of  ’76’ by the talented Izu Ojukwu.

‘Why has that Izu’s film not been released three years after it was shot?’I asked him as we settled down to some pieces of the popular Yahuza chicken suya which indeed is the best in Abuja and was Tonye’s first time of tasting it at my recommendation, with an endorsement too by Egor.

‘Now, is not the time’ Tonye replied. He speaks in a soft-spoken manner which belies his royal roots as a Prince of the Kalabari kingdom. You would have noticed that I have shied away from adding his royal titles to his name as I write because from the moment we met, he impressed me as the prototype ‘Boy Next Door’ and I want to keep it that way in the tone of my review.

He continued ‘ The ’76’ movie, I daresay, will be a classic whenever it is released and everyone would be completely blown away when it hits the screen. Charles, I invest in talent. I don’t mind where that talent lies, be it in movies, music, information technology, artisans, education or medicine. I believe talent is a hidden gift which privileged people who have the funds should aid in exposing such to the world. I believe in the entertainment industry. I don’t like to talk much about what I have done as an individual for the industry in my own little way but a few of your colleagues can attest to how I have been a pillar for their dreams to stand on’

Tonye told me that he has so far sponsored four Nollywood movies and that he never really cares whether they make money or not. ‘To me, I have helped nurture a dream and that is that. I understand the pains of the practitioners and I can promise that when I reach the Government House in Rivers State, I will unfold a huge plan for larger Nollywood within a few days after my swearing-in. I do not boast. I don’t even talk much. My actions speak louder’

‘You sound very sure of winning the Primaries’ I said as I weighed his quiet self-assuredness.

Tonye smiled. ‘I have won the Gubernatorial ticket before but forces truncated my winning the General election that year. I still stand by the belief that I won that election but that is in the past. The truth is that my antecedents and my being a Homeboy in Rivers State  have positive spiral effects in my state. Everyone knows me. I interact with everyone irrespective of who that person is. I don’t have airs around me. I will not change who I am because of political office. My aim is to be the servant always because it is all about service as far as I am concerned’

‘So, what will be your agenda then for the people if you are voted in?’

His reply to that question really impressed me.

He looked me in the eye and said ‘I intend to implement only ONE agenda. My agenda is JOBS. Creating millions of jobs is my agenda and I will do it. When jobs are created, it spills over to all other sectors which are usually itemized  as agenda by other politicians. Education, Health, Youth Empowerment and even Transformation will be appendages of my ONE agenda through JOBS! That is how it works. My people need jobs; gainful employment. They will get it’

We talked a bit more about his plans and programmes, his family and his background. By the time I stood up to leave, he walked me to my car and shook my hands.

‘I just came for a visit to satisfy my curiosity about you, ‘ I said ‘And I must let you know that I intend to blog about this meeting and also to warn you a bit that I write from my heart, the way I feel, the way it is. I am not a political writer or journalist. I am just a social commentator and what impresses me or doesn’t get mentioned’

He smiled. ‘I respect that. I have read about you and heard about you. I read your articles at times and before today wondered about how different you are among other writers I read in Nigeria’

I waved goodbye and drove off that night pondering a lot of things about our political system in Nigeria. There is no doubt that I was quite impressed by Tonye. Apart from being down-to-earth, he is intelligent. He came across as one who is ready to change lives if given the larger platform. He did say he is rich enough and does not seek wealth when he gets into office. His only obsession is to change lives.

I do not know much about politics in Rivers State  and I expressed my opinion that I thought it would be a battle for him to win the ticket but I remembered his answer. ‘I will win if THEY allow a level-playing field. And all candidates have pushed for a level playing field in the primaries. I am not scared. I have what it takes’

Indeed, my gut instincts tells me Tonye has what it takes. But my guts are already in a fight with my nagging feelings about that level playing field he asks for. Will he get his wish in a few days?

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