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Tonye Princewill and his Political Metamorphosis

Tonye Princewill

By Kingsley George

Tonye Princewill

Tonye Princewill

Before writing this piece, I contacted a few of my friends back in Port Harcourt and they unanimously discouraged me. They opined that I should not waste my time on him and that Rivers people already know who he is. However I decided to go ahead. Let me therefore admit that I am writing for two sets of people. One set are those who still believe all sorts of things they read on the internet as true, especially those in the diaspora. The other are those who still mistake the package for the content. The subject of this article is a trained Engineer turned politician and has acquired some mixed fame for his philanthropic adventures. He comes across as debonair, smooth talking and well-bred but to the undiscerning. While he parades in the media as someone who has fairly well as a philanthropist, many people in Rivers State know his actions as political motivated and his politics as somewhat inconsistent. He is Mr. Tonye Princewill. Though he has supported many young people and clearly has a passion towards doing so, many of his achievements are often exaggerated for his political agenda. A commentator familiar with the politics of Rivers State described him as a pretender and someone who spends more money in publicity that he has ever spent any philanthropic activity and who is prone to overstatement.

For instance he claimed in one of his numerous interviews that he has employed thousands of youths in his investments in the oil  industry globally and he floated a 26 million dollar microfinance fund. It also believed that the number of less privileged people who he is supporting are far less that the projections in the media.  However what is known is that the Bayelsa born former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commissions kindly assisted him with a few jobs part of with which he set up a scholarship trust fund and a foundation. Recently he was also reported to have sponsored a group of young people to South Africa and Dubai to meet the Royal family and some visiting investors.

Though he introduces himself as a Prince of Kalabari kingdom to anyone who cares to listen, the status of Tonye Princewill’s father, Chief Prof. J.T. Princewill as the Amanyanabo of Kalabari Kingdom  has been a very contentious and a subject of series of litigation for the past eleven years and is currently before the Supreme Court.  In the political arena, the loquacious politician claims to have a vast network and unbeatable political acumen. Many of which is said to be a hoax. However it is on record that he has never held any political office so far. The peak of his political prominence came about in 2007 when he became the gubernatorial candidate for the Action Congress of Nigeria(CAN) in Rivers State. After he lost the elections to the Peoples’ Democratic Party(PDP) candidate at that time, he was said to have voluntarily withdrawn his petition from the tribunal. He agreed to work with Governor Rotimi Amaechi, a man whom he used to describe as his friend (till recently) and was later appointed into the 28 member advisory committee that fashioned out economic policies for Rivers State Government in 2007. He later resigned from the ACN and joined the PDP just like the man he describes as his political mentor, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Just like Atiku, Mr. Princewill maintains very strong ties with another political party, the Peoples’ Democratic Movement (PDM).

Many people who flowed the actions and commentary of the Kalabari born politician have always wondered what his political objectives are. In 2011, he openly supported Vice President Atiku Abubakar against his Ijaw kinsman President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. He confessed that he unsuccessfully tried to persuade the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi to stop his support to President Jonathan. However, Mr. Amaechi rallied support for the President and ensured that he got more than two million votes from Rivers people to Jonathan. Speaking to a Port Harcourt based newspaper recently, Mr. Princewill was quoted thus: “ I advised Amaechi not to support him (Jonathan) in 2011 but he ignored my advice. Now he wants me to help him clean up the mess? I will not do it.”  However recently, TP as he is known by his friends and admirers have made a tactical U-turn lately to start supporting Jonathan’s yet to be announced 2015 re-election bid. Mr.Tonye Princewill is believed to have announced that his interest in contesting gubernatorial elections in Rivers State under the platform of PDP and might have decided to make up with the President and his foot soldiers as a gamble to see if he can be given the ticket.

In an evidently desperate pursuit of his objectives, he is said to have fully turned against his erstwhile friend and benefactor, Governor Rotimi Amaechi. Mr. Princewill until recently was said to have enjoyed a lot of support from the Governor who reportedly gave him many contracts. He (Tonye) admitted to nominating two commissioners into Amaechi’s cabinet to buttress his level of influence and relationship with the Governor. Part of the contracts said to have been given to him are yet to be completed including the Silverbird project which was initially designed as a complete package with a five star hotel. Strangely only the first phase of the project has been completed even after all the commitments of the state government to the project have been fulfilled. It was also reported that he was the facilitator of proposed the 1000 bed hospital project which turned out to be a hoax after millions of naira had been committed into it. When the Rivers State Government discovered that the so called investor was not fulfilling his own side of the deal and arrested him, Mr. Princewill was reported as one of the people who went behind and secured his bail. A few months ago, the Kalabari son was spotted in many public events adorning shirts that paid encomiums on the  performance of Governor Rotimi Amaechi and so many observers of politics in Rivers State are shocked at how he has now transformed himself to one of his (Amaechi’s) severest critics.

As the permutations for 2015 continue, it will be very fascinating to watch how the issues will unfold and as the Kalabari son undergoes his political metamorphosis in order to govern Rivers State. Some say that his initial calculation that Governor Amaechi will endorse his gubernatorial ambition hit a brick wall might have triggered his vexatious mood while others see this as another rehearsed scene of a known deal maker and transactional politician. Mr. Princewill denied both possibilities but continues to describe his friend, Amaechi and his supporters in All Progressive Congress(APC) as  politically naïve while quickly offering to work with and help President Goodluck Jonathan in the PDP. Many versatile pundits insist that he (Tonye) is an untrustworthy noise maker that should be ignored and dismissed with a wave of hand. However TP has repeatedly boasted that he is on his way to occupy Brick House and that he remains unstoppable. How far his new found identity and fickle strategy can see him through remains a matter of conjecture. Only time will tell.

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