By Hector Spiff
The fourth of January of every year is not only an important milestone but also a remarkable as well as a gala day in the life of the only scion of the King of Kalabari Kingdom, king (Prof) TJT Princewill, CFR, Amachree XI, of Buguma in Asari Toru local government area of Rivers State.
Prince Tonye Princewill, a blue blood, orator, business tycoon, philanthropist, engineer and consummate politician was born to the family of King Theophanous Jacob Tom Princewill on 4th January, 1969. Prince Tonye attended the Hillcrest High School in Jos. He gained admission to further his education at Federal Government College (FGC) Port Harcourt where he sat for his WAEC examination in 1985. He
graduated from Petroleum Engineering at the University of Port-Harcourt. Tonye Princewill who has Master’s degree in Mineral Resources Engineering at the Imperial College, London has relentlessly put smile on the faces of many through his philanthropic gestures which influence his key decision not minding opinions to the contrary. This many believe to have distinguished him from other politicians or businessmen from Rivers State.
He started off as a professional with Shell Petroleum Development Company where he worked as a reservoir engineer. He later on served at different times as a risk analyst with the United Kingdom’s Oil and Gas regulatory agency, a back office IT consultant to CityBank Global Asset Management and as a Chief Technologist to Panasonic UK. He has business concern which cut across entertainment, waste management, oil and gas, petroleum products marketing, construction, telecommunication and transportation.
As a believer and advocate of liberalism, which informs his choice of political philosophy, Princewill holds tenaciously to the spirit of equality and liberty. One Mr Eze who in the time past wrote on the liberalism disposition of Prince Tonye said: “The political philosophy of Prince Tonye Princewill is anchored on liberalism as he believes strongly in equality and liberty. Liberals are known to espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, they support ideas such as free and fair elections, civil rights, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free trade, and right to life, liberty and property”. He holds the opinion that politics is “too important to be left in the hands of politicians”.
TP as he is fondly called by his many admirers, prior to 2003 was prominent for his business perspicacity but his resolution to come back to his fatherland – Nigeria and particularly Rivers State to contribute in resolving the intractable crises in his community-Buguma was a momentous period when he decided to participate in partisan politics.
As a result of this, he became the governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress party in 2007, the leader of Forum of Organized Opposition Political Parties (FOOPP) from 2008 to 2010 when he rejoined the Peoples Democratic Party.
Prince Tonye has taken part in many advocacy works, philanthropic activities, and the entertainment industry among others that made him to become loved by many which are well captured by many online media portals, national dailies, regional/local newspapers. If one should base his election/contesting for the governorship position comes 2015 on his educational qualification, scholarship scheme, philanthropic works/humanitarian services, job creation, his sincere love for a peaceful, development drive-Rivers in all facets, the vim he can employ in serving his people, there is no doubt he is qualified to have a shot at Brick House.
Recently, Prince Tonye has been in the news over what he described to be Mr Amaechi’s mistake given the current perceived proxy political war orchestrated against Amaechi.
“The short answer is No. Moving to APC is a mistake for him which has become inevitable. So I call it the inevitable mistake. The Governor boxed himself into that position almost deliberately and so if it looks like beer, smells like beer and taste like beer, then let us all all acknowledge that it is what it is. He chose the path he is walking. Talk of him being forced to take it is for those who don’t know any better. Mr President loved Amaechi but Amaechi put that love aside to perform his first love which was Chairman of the Governor’s forum and his performance of it undoubtedly brought them into conflict. He naively thought that it wouldn’t. Many of us advised him against it but he said, “The President is the commander in Chief, I am just a Chairman, there will be no conflict.” Now we can see how wrong he was. The President may have made peace with Amaechi but the President’s men and women wouldn’t especially consider the media approach he (Amaechi) employed.
The insults were too much and it only made a bad situation worse. People who have tried to kill the President have made peace with him so why not Amaechi. The answer comes from the lack of a sufficient desire for peace.
“Very few people have the authority to talk on this matter like small me. I understood the internal working of Amaechi’s mind on this issue, I am very familiar with the President’s personal view on this matter, I have worked with the heads of the current APC family (Tinubu and Buhari) at close quarters and I understand the pulse of both teams very well. So when I, who understands this in and out, say Amaechi was wrong, I know what I am saying and when I who has been there before say, “don’t go”, I know also what I am saying. Asking me to go there is like asking me to return to secondary school after leaving University many years later.
A big mistake. It is the Governor’s Supporters I feel sorry for. He has been Speaker for eight years and will be leaving as Governor after eight years, so he can’t complain. But thanks to his decision, his “inevitable mistake”, many councillors, LGA chairmen and other political office holders will have their political prospects cut short. It is them I pity. They are the real victims, alongside Rivers people. Amaechi will be fine” Princewill responded during a recent interview.
Prince Tonye is a man who believes and places the interest of his people above any other consideration. This must have informed his resignation from Vision 2020 committee, to protest a military assault on Gbaramatu Kingdom, in Delta State.
Again, his decision to drop his ambition to occupy the Brick House in the face of water-tight evidence that he was rigged out of the 2007 election so as to allow peace reign in Rivers State was unheard of. Instead he decided to work with Mr Amaechi in what was called unity government. For Princewill at the time, the enemy of his enemy was his friend and this made Princewill and Governor Amaechi at the time to be very close friends but the situation today is different.
Hear him: “It is no longer what it used to be but that is also inevitable. I have supported him at my own expense and it was no longer wise to continue to do so. Each man to a box they say. Most of the negativity I get today was because I decided to support Amaechi’s government in 2007. Some accuse me of doing it for money, others accuse me of lacking the fighting spirit, and some go as far as calling me a sell-out. All that because I decided after fighting a good fight that I should allow what I saw as a divine decision to stand. I sold all I had to fight the 2007 election but after I supported Amaechi, I had to leave the state to survive because I was not a government ‘pickin’ who survived off government leading up to 2007 so why should I be lazy and become one now? Amaechi knows this. I did some work but it was not at all commensurate with my input and even though I finished it after one year, it took them over two years later to pay me. But I never complained. Amaechi was a good man and I know he appreciated me.
“Amaechi was like aradite anyway so empowering me was not his first, second or third interest. I noticed this and went about my business. Many say I was involved in Silverbird, the 1000 bed hospital, waste management and many other things but the truth is not what it seems and one day it will all come out. In 2011, I engineered over 1/2 a billion Naira of contribution to Amaechi’s campaign. Majority of the contributors came with money from outside Rivers state. Did Tonye Princewill see one contract worth that much? No. Yet I still stood by him. Because I was there for the state’s interest, not my pocket. That support I gave Amaechi cost me politically but I didn’t look back. I gave it. In the end God will judge us.
“My people supported him tooth and nail but yet they were not acknowledged. I asked and asked, they were promised and promised but even after he told them in public and on National TV that he likes to keep his word as an example to his children, he didn’t. Still I supported him. He removed our commissioners in his cabinet, still I supported him, he promised other appointments and failed, still I supported him, because I was not there for me. If I was interested in me, I would have done things differently, had a deal with Omehia and collected 1.5 billion from him. All this I did because I believed Amaechi came from God. I never knew him before October 2007, yet I was more useful to him than people who grew up with him in politics. Many of my supporters felt that my refusal to fall out with him signified I was eating fat and content. This was not the case.
“I saw my support as a stabilising force. The Riverine were agitating for a Governor after eight years of an Odili upland regime. People like me deciding to stand by Amaechi gave him credibility and soothed the Riverine / Upland divide that has dogged our state for so long. One day I sincerely hope that Amaechi looks at my role and realizes that he lost a friend given to him by God. It might be too late for us, but let him not do this to others. Eventually it catches up with us. The same man he called corrupt aka Mr Consumables and not wanting to do politics with is now the interim Chairman of APC in my state, the same man he called an irritant and refused his calls is now his spokesman and the list goes on. He deliberately poached members of my team without the courtesy of my consent and did it only when he needed them. But I am not bitter. They are good men and deserve recognition. I am glad for the role I played in their lives. Good luck to them. I only wish he had recognised them sooner”.
As you get set to mark your birthday, I enjoin you to reflect on issues in advance that will change the current atmosphere in Rivers State to what it used to be when you established an amiable relationship with Governor Amaechi in 2007 and to find a place in your heart to forgive him in any way he has treated you. This is a divine call. You may be in different parties but still relate well. This should be the joy of politics. As you do consider this, may God in his infinite mercy continue to give you wisdom on how to better the lot of your people through numerous acts of kindness. Happy birthday the Prince of philanthropy
Hector Spiff can be reached on [email protected]