By Odimegwu Onwumere
In Rumundele Community of Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, the residents threw open party recently in jubilation that over 200 youth from two bloody cult groups that had terrorised the area for months with property worth hundreds of thousands of naira destroyed and many lives lost, have openly denounced their membership in the Community. In some communities in the state, cult-related activities were rife which compelled the state governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike to initiate amnesty for the bigoted cultists of which, not only in Rumundele, many youths who were into gangsterism across the state, have embraced the initiative. Like the immediate past governor of the state, Chibuike Amaechi, Wike invariably inherited a volatile Rivers State in what have been as cult activities, militancy, piracy along waterways, political backbiting and hostage taking. Amaechi-led administration implored the services of security personnel with the code names, Joint Task Force (JTF) or Operation Flush Out, which moved in the streets heavily armed. But upon the presence of the security agents, the much sought peace was elusive till Prince Tonye Princewill waded in and took peace campaign personally to the creeks and hideouts where the boys took as their base for operation. So, with Amaechi recording half-baked peace with the presence of JTF, till Princewill came in and helped for the restoration of peace in Rivers State, Wike might not bring about absolute peace in the state with his amnesty initiative.
Prince Tonye Princewill, the Labour Party governorship candidate in the 2015 governorship election in Rivers state, may have diverted his attention from the politics of the state to other ventures out of principle but observers know that he was part of the foundation to the relative peace that the state is enjoying today and he should have a rethink or be appealed to help the present government of Governor Nyesom Wike to succeed because Princewill knows how best to go about peace.
In the event that Wike was declared the winner of the election, the voice of Princewill was up in advice that all political parties should be civil in any move for redress in the court of law and should not incite their followers into violence. This was given that the election in the state raised tension upon that the 3 major candidates that were contesting in the persons of Dakuku Peterside of the All Progressives Congress, Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party and Tonye Princewill of the Labour Party had signed an undertaken on January 22 2015 before a US Ambassador to Nigeria to ensure a violent free election.
Many political observers saw that move as the first in the political history of the state. Of a truth, Princewill has maintained that peace pact covertly and overtly by not citing comments capable of breaching public peace like some other person has been doing. Although, he has told truth to the people that the election was marred by irregularities. Since he’s not a lawyer, legal luminaries at the Supreme Court had said that Wike was duly elected and is the Governor of Rivers State; Princewill has since then, channeled his energy to his private business.
It is on record that by January 2014, which was regarded as the decisive year for the 2015 election, Princewill sued for peace and reconciliation among the many warring politicians in the state. Peace has always been Princewill’s insignia. His approach to a peaceful resolution may be connected to the fact that he is the son of King (Prof) Theophanous Jacob Tom Princewill, CFR, Amachree XI, Amayanabo Kalabari whom the junior Princewill shares the same birthday with. We cannot also say that he came about peace from the books he has read as he holds a Master of Sciences degree in Mineral Resources Engineering and distinguished Diploma from Imperial College, London, having had a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Port Harcourt. But in another look, majority of the sons of Kings and influential are known for arrogance. So, we may say that peace runs in Princewill’s blood and not because of his royal pedigree.
It’s observable that his strong political philosophy of equality and liberty might be his undoing political factor as he is an apostle of free and fair elections, when majority politicians think the obverse. He also believes in civil rights, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free trade, and a right to life, liberty, and property, as was captured by one of his former aides. He does not believe in politics of bitterness, with his popular mantra that “politics is too important to be left to politicians.” Hence, his venturing into politics in 2007 under Action Congress, after he returned from London in 2003, where he spent many years studying and doing business. That year was the pick of upsurge of militancy in Rivers State with his home town of Buguma boiling.
Princewill was chiefly the arrowhead that initiated peaceful movements that resolved the crises which saw to many people and companies packing, lives wasted and property worth billions of naira destroyed. For the love of Rivers State, Princewill refused to go to court against the Supreme Court judgment that favoured the immediate past Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi against Sir Celestine Omehia; the later being a very gentle man. As a master of peace, Princewill made sure that all the political parties in the state come under an umbrella known as and called Forum of the Organised Opposition Political Parties (FOOPP) in Rivers State. Over 43 political parties were in this forum and the state was calm from 2008 when the forum was formed to 2010 when Princewill moved to the Peoples Democratic Party, for personal reasons.
His peaceful dispositions and art in reconciling people saw him to becoming a member of the Rivers State Economic Advisory Committee in 2008, which Professor Nimi Briggs was Chairman. On July 7, 2008 the National Mirror, published the names of 40 Nigerians that, in its view, could fix Nigeria’s problems. It also published the pictures of the people in a publication titled, “Cabinet Reshuffle – 40 People who could Fix Nigeria” on page 6 of that edition. Princewill’s name was there.
By 2009, Princewill was on the Presidential Technical Committee on the Niger Delta and was Sub-Committee Chairman of the Niger Delta Subcommittee on Vision 2020 that was pioneered by the then President Umar Yar’Adua. For the love of humanity, Princewill tendered his resignation letter as a sign of protestation from the Vision2020 Committee when the military invaded Gbaramatu, in Delta State.
He continued with his peace move by founding the Princewill Political Associates (PPA); although as a political pressure group. He brought Ohaneze Ndi Igbo leadership into looking for ways to resolve the Niger Delta crises; a move he personally made to Enugu in 2009. On 29th June 2009, Princewill reconciled Alhaji Asari Dokubo with Amaechi. He proved the critics of the Eso-led reconciliatory panel wrong, by leading Asari to reconcile with Amaechi, although journalists as at the time said the reconciliation was “of an unproven issue”.
But spectators knew that Alhaji Asari was angry with Amaechi over statement by the later calling the then Niger Delta crusaders criminals. In a statement by Asari to Amaechi, he said, “I decided to follow him (Princewill) to visit you, the governor, today to demonstrate that apart from the issues highlighted above, I have no other grudge against you and to formally accept you as my governor and the undisputable Governor of Rivers State, as upheld by the Supreme Court.”
Amaechi explained his happiness and commended Princewill for this feat, saying, “My becoming the Governor of Rivers State, apart from being divine, was a calculated attempt to restore hope and actualization of the vision of the founders of our dear state in 1967. Today is one of my happiest days because no matter our differences, I admire Asari so much for his love for our region and his readiness to lay his life on behalf of our people; and I feel so bad that such a personality could not team up with me to contribute to develop our only state. But thanks to God who, in his infinite wisdom, decided to use Tonye to make this great reunion possible.”
Prince Tonye Princewill knows how to go about peace and he is tested and trusted in this area. Therefore, Governor Wike and Prince Princewill have to team up and see how they can lift Rivers State to the next level irrespective of party affiliation.
Odimegwu Onwumere is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV). Tel: 08057778358. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org