Tonye Princewill, Labour Party governorship candidate for Rivers State at the 2015 general election, in this interview, among others, shares his views on the Election Petitions Tribunal judgment nullifying the election of Nyesom Wike as governor of the state.
By Ayo Onikoyi
What is your reaction to the judgment of the tribunal on the Rivers State governorship election?
Any lover of true democracy and justice, who witnessed what happened will not be surprised with the judgment. I belong to that group. The elections were neither free nor fair nor credible, so they can’t stand honest scrutiny. The APC won the case for all of Rivers State, kudos to them. In 2007, I fought PDP to a standstill and the same people in the APC today were the beneficiaries of my fight. It is not about persons or political parties. It is about the state. I did not say I am celebrating the judgment. I said I am not surprised by it. But in Rivers politics, the analog politicians cannot understand the difference.
But you confused people by not contesting the results that declared Wike as winner, so won’t your support of the judgment raise questions?
Why? In my post-election statement in April, I clearly highlighted my displeasure in the outcome of the elections. I said, it is no longer in doubt that the election in Rivers State was neither free nor fair nor credible. I added that rather than the jubilation of a victory or the recriminations of a defeat, I and my team prefer to keep searching for peace. I lamented on the bloodshed and just wanted it to stop. No matter how much we find justice, if so many people in Rivers State are killed, who will be left to lead? This did not only show my disappointment in the conduct of the election but also my concern over peace in my state. It is not about taking sides with PDP or APC, it is about the truth.
But the Labour Party in the State has disassociated itself from your statement praising the tribunal’s judgment, on the premise that you are on suspension?
To the best of my knowledge we have freedom of speech and right of opinion in Nigeria. My statements have always been my opinion and until recently, my party has always fallen in line with my thinking.
Do you see yourself doing better than you did earlier should you partake in the anticipated re-run as LP candidate?
I am yet to take a position on the role to play in the rerun; but even if I do partake, it’s really not about me. It’s about the decision of the people. They all know the political players in the state. They all know the possible after effect of a PDP or an APC victory.
Peaceful Rivers State
Politics is not war. There must be a winner and a loser. I am comfortable with either, because I am not desperate to be Governor; PDP and APC are. How that will produce a peaceful Rivers State, I am yet to find out. If Rivers People want unity, peace, a Government they can reach and believe that their votes will count, I believe my style of politics will have a better chance.
What can you say about the controversy surrounding the Senate screening and confirmation Hon Rotimi Amaechi for ministerial appointment?
We’ve waited so long for this, and are eager to see the difference it will make. And like I always say, President Buhari is the president, whether his administration is moving the nation fast or slow, we should focus more on helping him, than pulling him down. I know Amaechi; and I know his abilities. He worked seriously for the APC and if he missed the VP slot and the SGF slot, why should PDP lose sleep if he becomes a minister?
I was praying we don’t disgrace ourselves before the world. I am glad we did not totally disgrace ourselves. I am not sure his inclusion did the President any huge favours in perception ratings, but perception is subject to the individual and so we will leave each to their own. PDP gave us Wike.
APC has given us Amaechi. Rivers people are watching. I believe though that with the right motivation, cross party support and a little prayer, he can be a useful tool in Buhari’s cabinet.
Do you regret not defecting to the APC way before the 2015 elections?
Why should I? The ideology of the APC at that time was, “Bring down Jonathan”, and I was on a totally different wavelength. So, regretting is not a possibility. I am also happy I left the PDP.
You can’t mistreat a man with a mandate and expect him to stay silent and clap for you. Not me. I have supporters. I have a caucus and I do not act alone. We listen and we learn. Of course we make mistakes. That’s why pencils have erasers.
What is your take on the ongoing anti-corruption campaign?
The anti-corruption campaign was the foundation of the Buhari campaign, so it is expected that a lot would be happening in that area. So far, so good, but it is yet to enjoy the confidence of all sides. The reason for this is obvious. Not a lot of APC people are in the dock. I suggest we stay tuned, there is still plenty time for that.
No man who is just settling in will fight on too many fronts. Besides it is for the agencies charged with these responsibilities to do their work, unless there is evidence to show, the Presidency is interfering, let us await the results.