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January 03, 2015

Prince Tonye Princewill: "Denying Amaechi VP Slot Is Good For APC"

PRINCE Tonye Princewill is a Prince of Kalabari Kingdom of Rivers State. He was the Governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress, ACN , a member of the Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM, and until he emerged the Labour Party (LP) gubernatorial candidate in Rivers State, was a governorship Aspirant on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In this interview, he bares his mind on why he left the PDP for the LP, his vision for the people of Rivers State, his support for President Goodluck Jonathan ahead of next year’s election, the 2015 Rivers State governorship election, among others.Excerpts
Some have reservations about the ideological puritanism attributed to Labour Party as they see it as a dumping ground for other political parties. How do you react to this?
Well, ideological puritanism is not an objective I am trying to achieve. I’m not saying the Labour Party is a saint. If am leveling allegations against parties that have no ideology, that against Labour will be tempered because their ideology is somewhat more robust than others. Having said that I can’t vouch for why other people have moved. I have had the opportunity of moving to other parties, APGA is more grounded than the Labour Party. Even PDM is more grounded than the Labour Party in Rivers State. So, my choice of political party was a well thought out, a well measured one. If you have the opportunity of taking several panties’ ticket, why choose Labour? I must be very honest with you. The individuals behind it and the political ideology that exists are the reason I joined the Labour Party.
You are close to PDM. Why didn’t you go with it?
Well, if you go down to the answer I just gave, its mainly down to ideology. I think the PDM has a bunch of very good people. PDM people are not financially driven. These are people that will work for little or nothing, putting twice the effort that the average PDP person will put in. PDM has a lot of people like that. I’m grateful for that. But ultimately the leadership of the PDM and the position of the political party at the national level was unclear as far as the relations between APC and PDP is concerned.
I have said it before, I don’t support what PDP did to me but I will not withdraw from supporting Jonathan for president.

Are you suggesting that politicians moving from one party to another is good for the nation’s political system?
I think it’s down to the political parties. What is happening, I think Obama said it. We don’t need strong individuals. We need strong institutions. If a political party cannot define itself, then it’s a problem. If you have no business with free education, free health, you have no job creation as your number one priority, maybe you have no business moving to Labour Party. The media have not put the political parties under the spotlight. What do they stand for? Why is is that the political parties have no ideologies and then you wonder why the individuals can move from A to B. Because the individuals should be defining themselves. If the definition of themselves does not match with the definition of the political parties, then they have no business being there. So, as far as I am concerned, the responsibility lies with the institution.
If you are a democrat in the US, people know what you stand for. If it’s to do with immigration, there’s a position that the Democratic Party has taken on immigration. If you are in the UK, if you are a member of the Conservative Party, you have a position on the European Union and you belong to it. But in Nigeria, we seem to lack that position as far as that is concerned.
People are worried and are saying, ‘you have moved from party, you will not be taken seriously.’ and I ask them, ‘why would the move from one party affect an agenda I have for Rivers State? ‘ But it is because of my agenda for my Rivers people that I am moving parties. You cannot lock me up in a room, turn off the lights and tell me that I should not find my way out. It’s not going to happen. So, as far as I am concerned, freedom of association is what we are going to exhibit. It is important that we understand that.
I tell people that you may hate what PDP does but you are not a member and you are not a significant member. If you hate what they do and you are not a significant member, you have absolutely no say on what happens inside. So, if you want to vote for Tonye Princewill and the party does not produce Tonye Princewill, you are stranded. But if Tonye Princewill is somebody who has popularity and has people who will vote for him, Tonye Princewill will not be afraid to break away from the shackles of PDP and allow his people express themselves. So, I think politicians who have a support base and who have courage will be very happy to break away from something like that so that they can go to the field and let all the candidates line up and let us see who will win.
Let us look at the dynamics of Rivers politics. You have a suspicion that Governor Amaechi is working with Nyesom Wike for Ikwere agenda. Why do you think so?
Of course, I do. Am not going to tell you that it is conclusive but its definitely a suspicion. Am a politician but I tried to bring what I’ve learnt in my business into politics. And what I’ve learnt is to be able to read body language and see what other people don’t see. I don’t believe that there is a genuine fight between the two of them. For those of you think that there’s a genuine fight, I have my sympathies for you. I have strong feeling that there’s an agenda there.
Amaechi and I never knew ourselves before 2007 but the impression is that we are best friends. I’m not sure why people came to that conclusion.
When he decided to break away from the president and do what he’s doing, now I look back and ask myself, what really is the problem?
You have a problem with Wike, you are fighting the president. You have a problem with the First Lady, you are fighting the president. You have a problem with Stella Oduah, you are fighting the president. I think this thing was designed to go the way it was because frankly speaking, I don’t know what the president did to him.
Having said that, for me, I’m interested in my people and this constant battle over personalities in my opinion is a distraction. What needs to happen or the people need to ask themselves is what is Tonye Princewill offering for Rivers State? Amaechi is my friend. In my opinion he got six over 10 in his first term but now in his second term if I am going to rate him, I will give him two over 10.
How do you rate your chances?
I think my chances are high. I believe I can win that election from almost any party. Of all the people talking, I’m the only one that has actually contested for election before. I contested for governor under Action Congress as the candidate for Rivers State. I think am underestimated and I hope it continues to be that way.
I decided not to support Nyesom Wike because he just simply, in my opinion, cannot win. It’s just pointless to me that Nyesom Wike loses and APC wins and we are all sitting down there and watching it happen. You don’t alienate 20 plus governorship aspirants in a manner that would do nothing but offend them.
So much has been said about Rivers State, Amaechi and Jonathan. Where do you think Rivers people are likely to go as far as the presidential election is concerned?
You have to understand that I know these people so well. I know the PDP people, I know their DNA. I know APC people, I know their DNA. I was the youngest person in the room when Buhari, Tinubu, Atiku, Falae, Bafarawa were all organizing the APC, the beginnings of the APC. It failed in 2011 and so, it had to go into a merger. It has succeeded now and you now have a unified entity. I understand that and I also understand Jonathan’s dynamics. I was the go-between when the fight between Jonathan and Amaechi was at its peak. So, when I decided not to follow Amaechi to where he was going, I knew why he was doing it because I knew the DNA of that fight and I understand the way things were going.
I’m distracted by my own politics but am still keeping an eye on what’s going on. I’m not surprised that Amaechi did not emerge as the vice presidential candidate. If he had emerged as the vice presidential candidate, it would have been so much easier for Jonathan to win the election. I think APC has done a smart move there by bringing Osibanjo. He’s a good man, he’s a smart guy. People who look at him and say he doesn’t have electoral value don’t understand the way APC thinks.
Source: 247 Nigeria News

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