As the 2023 general election draws closer, APC Chieftain and a former Governorship aspirant of Rivers State Tonye Princewill speak on chances of APC in Rivers State to reclaim the Brick House, VAT issues, and State of the Nation.
In view of the recent gale of DEFECTION that has hit your party in Rivers State, what is the prospect for APC in 2023 in the state?
Unlike some people who are casually glossing over it, I am worried. Losing anyone is not something to disregard. You can’t please everyone and some people need to take care of children’s school fees, pay house rent and marry new wives. If the offer on the other side attracts them and allows them to achieve their objective, there is nothing that you can do about it. But some of these defections were not that way inclined and so I’m in the school of thought that felt there was a need to examine why. So we did.
What needs to be done is now being addressed and even though I am still worried, there is a solution. It remains an internal matter and the highest levels of the party have put measures in place. Both merit and patience will soon be rewarded.
Do you also believe that the crisis in the Rivers State APC is due to the insensitivity of the leadership of the party in the state?
APC Leadership in the state is not insensitive. But it depends on what crises you are referring to. Would that be the defections, the faction that is unhappy, or the recently held Congresses? If it’s the defections we’ve talked about them. Sad as they may be, to me, the defectors are now gone. So it’s no longer an internal crisis in the Rivers APC. If it’s the faction that is unhappy, we have a lot of sad people in Rivers state. That’s not breaking news. It’s not a crisis. At least not yet. But it’s politics and a crisis is coming. Not just at the state level, but at the national level too. In both parties. The difference is this time we are expecting it. That’s why we have been preserving the energy needed to take advantage of it. Conflict is a function of interaction. And if you love this state and this country, you would agree with me that politics needs a root and branch shake-up.
President Muhammadu BUHARI prior to 2015 promised Nigerians improved economy and security, how can you assess this government today?
It’s been tough. Even APC members are not smiling. The President did tell us that he was for everyone and he is for no one, so I’m not surprised that he has refused to play politics with the nation’s resources. Fellow politicians will not understand this, but patriots do. From a reduced oil price and the devastating impact of Covid, every country is reeling and Nigeria is not going to be an exception.
It’s no comfort pointing at another person’s pain to relieve your own, but Nigerians need to know that it could be worse and it would have been worse if we had stayed with business as usual. Rolling out figures on TV or in the newspapers will not give comfort to the man on the street, but all I can say is if you think that the challenges we face are thanks to Buhari, think again.
He leaves in 2023 and you would be living in a fool’s paradise if you think we will suddenly find peace, prosperity, and security, just because he’s gone. You won’t. What you will find is the beginning of the foundation that a visionary leader can build on. My choice is Amaechi. But even he will struggle to make a difference until we have states and local governments that are equally struggling to make a difference too. You can’t drive a fast car on bad roads too fast.
Nigeria has potholes. They will need to be fixed. No matter the vehicle you bring. My feeling is in 2023, the individual will matter more than the party.
• The federal government has been on a borrowing spree, can you justify this action based on the present economic indices?
Well, what are the indices? We are not borrowing to pay salaries. We are borrowing to build infrastructure and even then we have been doing more of intending to borrow instead of actually borrowing. Take a look at what actually has been borrowed.
Borrowing has been on since time immemorial and we struggled to find what it was for. The borrowing then was even when the oil price was high. Now it’s only just picking up, after years of bottoming out. So we have no other option than to borrow. That’s the only way we can grow the economy.
Secondly, you cannot borrow to build infrastructure everywhere else and then start speaking grammar when it comes to time to build infrastructure in the Niger Delta where the resources are generated. So unless the reason for borrowing is frivolous, borrowing is not a bad word. Even developed countries do it for good causes.
• Rivers and Lagos states governments are in court against the federal government over who is right to collect value-added tax, VAT, what is your take on this?
I support their action. That’s what I would do if I was in the Government house. It’s the primary responsibility of a state government to protect the interests of its people. Lagos state under Tinubu started this battle and it wasn’t popular then, but it was right. Let the law be tested. The matter will be settled in court as it should be and the law will be the winner in the end.
Everything should not be about politics. Hopefully, by the time Wike wins, he would have left that office. Because putting more money in his hands will be counterproductive. I may joke, but it’s not about him. It’s about what is fair. My only word of caution is that so far, the Federal Government has been way more transparent about its resources and their usage. Poring water into a basket can not be God’s will.
• If you have the opportunity to independently assess the administration of Gov Nyesom Wike, what do you think are his low and high points?
The premise of your question presupposes that I can be independent. An APC chieftain can never be truly independent in his assessment of a PDP Governor. But I suspect you know me for saying it like it is, so let me make an attempt.
Wike has done a very good job of playing politics, but a poor job of giving governance. In the Nigeria of today, it’s almost impossible to do both. Only Rotimi Amaechi, Bola Tinubu, and Donald Duke have done both. But even they have the scars as a price. Their transitions to the next level produced victims and in Wike’s case, unless he manages his transition, his story will not be any different. Even his kinsmen have all sharpened their knives. If he is wise, he will bow out and leave his fate to others. You can’t impose yourself and impose others without paying an imminent price.
It’s like power and money, you can’t have both. I prefer to let time be the judge.
• Just a few days ago, the national assembly caved in to pressure to allow INEC to transmit election results electronically. Moreover, NASS, instructed that primaries should be by a direct method, what r your views on all of these?
It’s democracy in motion. To paraphrase the President from earlier, the country needed leaders who are there for everyone and stooges to no one particular group. A direct primary allows for proper participation of individual members. All our voices can now finally count. If you say one person can not make a difference try direct primaries.
I saw the comments made by the PDP official spokesperson and I couldn’t help but smile at their mindset. They said it would financially bankrupt the political process. They said smaller parties can not afford it. Since when did they care about the smaller parties? The truth is they see elections as a time to buy votes by cash or by instructions and in a direct primary, there will be not only too many people to pay but too democratic to hand out instructions as they would in a delegate election.
The sooner they submit to the will of “the people” and not the will of “their people”, the better our politics will be. Win by convincing the majority and use superior arguments, not superior spending power. In 2007, I won an establishment candidate in the Action Congress primary, because in 23 local governments in the entire state, people came out and cast their votes at the same time in the full glare of local media. I did not have more money and my opponent has the entire party structure. That is democracy.