Interview

Interview (full version): My focus has shifted from 76 to politics – Princewill

Posted on February 26, 2017. Filed under: Interview | Tags: |

My focus has shifted from 76 to politics  – Princewill

In this deep and revealing interview that takes you into the mind of Prince Tonye T.J.T Princewill, he finally speaks with a select team of journalists on the national politics, his current relationship with his “good friend” Rotimi Amaechi, his political mentor, Atiku Abubakar & his Governor, Nyesom Wike. He also airs his view on President Buhari’s administration, the road so far,  the way forward and why Nigerians are seen as, to put it in his words, “fantastically foolish”.

PRINCEWILL 5You have been quiet. No press interviews except for occasional press releases and even then, they were more about your new blockbuster film 76, instead of your usual insightful comments. Why? Are you no longer a member of the Labour Party?

I still am. For now. The Labour Party is not without sin. But their own sin can still be managed. Besides in Rivers state I take pride in not being part of the problem. I am glad you acknowledge that I have been talking. Life is not only about politics. But even then I have still talked about it. You see the biggest problem in Nigeria today is politics and the lack of internal party democracy. Moreso in the bigger parties. Good candidates hardly get party tickets. Rather confirmed thugs, touts, thieves and looters get to carry party tickets, leaving the poor voters with no real choice. Why? Because the party leaders and electoral bodies prefer their own personal interests to the interest of the people. So we await the day, when the people will fight back. That day will soon come. Let me be where I am until I have a compelling reason to find a new home. I am not desperate for power. I am desperate for results.

Those who lead the fight may not benefit from it. The truth is bitter. If it is my portion to fight, then it may not be my portion to also benefit from the successes of that very same fight. That is why I’ve removed myself from any future electoral contest. I’ll simply rededicate myself to helping good people hold public office. It does not have to be me. I find even intelligent people still struggle to understand that being in politics does not automatically equate to contesting in an election. I no longer want to be Governor, I am not looking for an appointment, but I still want to improve my state, my region and my country. So let ambition not get in my way.

So how is your relationship with Amaechi? Are you still communicating?

Yes. We parted ways before the election because of how my team were treated and his decision not to support Jonathan, but we have since gone past that. Amaechi is not a vindictive person and neither am I. He goes with his conviction and so do I. His message to me was PDP had no love for either me or my people and he was right. My message to him was that there is a consequence for fighting Jonathan. And I was right too. When we parted ways, he and his team said some very unsavory things about me and I about them, but that is fair in war. The war is long over. I extended my hand of friendship to both APC and PDP after the elections. Only Amaechi as Minister took my offer. He visited me in my house and we ended up flying that same day to Kano together. I went on instinct. He came to me in peace. I consider him a “good friend” and a fighter. Politics is not do or die for me. That was over a year ago. We still talk from time to time and when I needed the high military authorities to see my film 76, he did not hesitate to make some calls for me. Very helpful. Everything is not about money.

So what about your Governor, Nyesom Wike?

Like I said, in spite of the rigged election, I extended my hand of friendship to him too. I did not go to court. I left him to proceed as ordained by INEC. When the Supreme Court judgement was dropped on us, just like it was in 2007, we accepted it again. No fuss. I offered my congratulations and help to Wike in any way he wanted, but not a word, no response, no invitation. Except during a radio interview when I advised him to resist the need to respond to every APC comment and instead focus on developing the state. It was then he responded, pointing out that I had no idea what I was talking about because I was not even in the state. My counter advice is if you know so much about my whereabouts, divert some of the state resources used to tracking me to track down the kidnappers and armed robbers in the state. That would qualify as progress. You see Wike is the ruler type, not the consultative leader. He doesn’t need anyone. Let us see where we are by the end of May before we speak further. Even rulers can deliver. Look at Gadaafi and Mubarak. Or even Abacha. As long as they use the power well. I am a fan of allowing people to lead. No distraction. Until they fail. My own is to wish him well and offer advice, even if he refuses to take it. My agenda is not personal. It’s issue based. The problem with politicians with a warrior mentality comes when there is no war. Many Governors are hiding behind Buhari to explain their poor performance. It’s smart. But black soot, insecurity, a lack of investment and no jobs for the youths is not a transferable responsibility. I pray for him.

Hmmm!! What about Atiku? Is he still your political mentor?

Of course. What Turaki can do in his sleep politically, most top politicians cannot do it even if they tried in a lifetime. He knows too many people, is not arrogant and knows too much about how to move this great country forward. Like with Amaechi, he is not at all vindictive, but they are both very stubborn. Like Tinubu. That is what I admire in the 3 of them. Put them on the same page and you have a force of nature. PDP felt it in 2015. Also in 2007 in Rivers state. If not for Atiku and Tinubu, Amaechi’s first tenure would not have been as smooth. Divide the three and the cause is weakened. Seeing them all in APC makes the platform quite tempting if not for the recession mood and their seeming divisions. The two symptoms are indicative of a bigger problem I am yet to understand. That is why I have dusted off all my political robes. I see both the APC and the PDP as presently constituted unable to deliver Nigeria. They are both very similar. The real change has to start within them. No third force is ready to challenge them yet, instead it looks like the smaller parties are merging into even bigger ones. Since I cannot spectate on my children’s future, before May is over, I too will take my stand.

So what’s your take on the Buhari administration?

I didn’t vote for him. Neither did I vote for Wike. But unlike some people who actually  voted for either of them, I’m ready to give both of them their two years before I take a formal position. So far their records speak for themselves. But my position in society requires more from me than just my gut feeling. I am not the man in the street so even though I feel their pain, when I talk, it must be without sentiment and constructive, so even the government cannot deny. Good governance is not an emotional exercise. For now I pray for both of them, especially Mr. President, now that he is not feeling too well. Health is the priority. Running this country requires a lot of wisdom, strength and grace. From what is in play now, it is clear he’s not been operating at full strength. I am sure even he is reflecting on the journey so far. It is not too late to turn things around for either Buhari or Wike. But time is not on their side. Do they have a plan?

What about the Buhari anti-corruption drive?

Some people think it is selective. Maybe. My question is did the people caught steal? If yes then let’s congratulate the EFCC and the ICPC first. They should continue to catch thieves. Even faster. Those enjoying APC immunity today should not be surprised if tomorrow they are victims too. Of even this very same Buhari government. I don’t see Buhari as someone who can not jail his party member or his friend. I suspect the stealing in Nigeria has been significantly reduced, but it has not been stopped. Nobody is fooled. My plea is catch thieves but grow the economy too. It is not one or the other.

So what is the way forward?

Beware of people who pose like they have all the answers. Leadership is teamwork. To solve a problem this big, you really have to understand it. Let me not prescribe for you a prescription to an ailment I’m yet to properly diagnose. However I can say this; based on feelers I’ve received and our recent history, Nigerians are still deceiving themselves. The same politicians they are fighting over call them fantastically foolish and here is why: They worship wealth and corruption more than they worship hard work and sacrifice. That which matters most – their children’s future is easily sacrificed at the altar of that which matters least – their stomach. The bad news is this is the Nigerian way. The good news is that every day, more and more Nigerians are becoming wise to the ways of politicians and are prepared to confront them. One day all this nonsense will stop. Because without electoral reform, a consequence for electoral violence, justice being seen to be done and proper patriots, a new breed of rebels will continue to multiply in Nigeria. When I see die hard APC and PDP apologists I laugh. Neither of them is without sin. Both good people and bad people exist in both or all parties. The answer is not in just one or the other. It’s in good people from all sides of the political spectrum working together, joined by good people from outside of the politics. Period. Politics is too important simply to be left to just the politicians, including me.

End.

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There is a fine line between determination and desperation…. – Princewill

Posted on April 19, 2016. Filed under: Interview | Tags: |

What was your perception of Nollywood before you became a film maker? ‎

Prince Tonye Princewill

Prince Tonye Princewill

I must admit, I thought it was just fun and games. But it is hard work. These Nollywood people are something else. The foundation they have built is with little or no support from government, yet they’ve put Nigeria on the world map and contributed to increasing our GDP. They are our cultural ambassadors, our escape, and our lives. Three industries – banking, religion and Nollywood – work in Nigeria, albeit with lots of room for improvement. You just simply have to hand it to them.


How much has this view changed?

In recent years, new kids on the block are knocking on the door. They are bringing in new money, fresh faces, wide international interest and very new techniques. They are asking the tough questions and challenging the status quo. Kunle Afolayan and Izu Ojukwu in film, Chioma Ude of AFRIFF and Wangi Mba Uzoukwu of Africa Magic in the aggregator platforms, Kene Mkparu and Nnaeto in new cinemas. Change is inevitable. Let me not forget Adonis Production, of course in production. Those of them who don’t try to think that they are better than Nollywood seem to be making it. I think the trick is to tweak, not to try to take over. Nollywood is Africa and Africa does not need to be re-invented. What is changing now is that Africa’s voice, courtesy of Nollywood, is getting a lot louder. A few years ago, we had four cinemas in Nigeria. Now, we have 24 and by the end of the year, we will have 30. Not to talk of new cinema investment that is on its way. In Rivers State, we have a well-known local saying, “I dey there better pass them say.” Something is happening in Nollywood. If you blink, you will miss it.

What’s the toughest part of putting a movie together?

Getting the money. Too many of us who can help don’t. Too many who can lift up the next African Steven Spielberg, the next Spike Lee or the future Oprah Winfrey, see them as irrelevant, because they don’t get it. This industry is the next best thing. As politicians become more and more unpopular, less and less news will be watched and more and more movies will give Nigerians the escape they need. Our entertainers are already becoming more influential than our leaders. The brands get this. Nigerians need to get it too. Very few industries afford our youth the freedom that this one does. It speaks to their souls. We all need to understand that.

Politics, business and film making, how do you marry all these? ‎

There is a link – youth empowerment. So, once you see it from that perspective, it shouldn’t surprise you. I love to create jobs, to get people working, watch them slowly building and feeding their families. Politics for me is what to do, the business has taught me how to do it because by virtue of listening to and telling the real Nigerian story, I understand why things need to be done. I am driven in all these areas. But at my core, the engagement of the younger generation encompasses all. It’s not work for me.

How do you balance them with family?

Good question. That is the hard part. But I have the most amazing family ever. They are my biggest fans, so my work is theirs. From my wife to my kids, to my siblings, to my parents, we are all in this together. They just loaned me out. It’s not a life choice, it’s just a project. And very soon, my work will be done.

‘Kajola’ is Nigeria’s first science fiction movie. What was the story behind it?

I came in as executive producer after the same team I worked with on ‘Nnenda’ brought this unique project to my attention. Adonis Production is synonymous with good stuff and so I naturally took a keen interest. But what appealed to me with ‘Kajola,’ was the tale of two cities, two classes, the rich and the poor. It resonated powerfully and I simply had to be part of telling that story. Trying new things is also one of the signatures of the Adonis team, so being a part of the crew that brought you the first full science fiction feature film was not an accolade I could reject.

What’s on your mind when you are making a movie?

It is, what message am I sending? To me, Nigeria’s, Africa’s biggest challenge is re-orientation. I want to use film to get you to have a rethink. I want you to use film to escape from the stress and I want to use film to keep people busy. ‘Nnenda’ was about orphans, ‘Kajola’ was about the poor while ‘76’ is about Nigeria. My hope is that as people watch these powerful films, they see what I saw, escape from the day to day hassles and then immerse them in how life should be. If we succeed, we will get more youths empowered and that is the ultimate goal. Over 200 cast and crew were used in ‘76.’ Apprenticeship programs that took place on set. Up and coming actors then, are now winning best actor awards now. Top directors today were associate directors then. We want to give to the industry. Not simply to take away from it.


Which has been the most challenging of your works to realize?

No doubt, ‘76’ by far. It’s the first movie we did on celluloid, first movie to be shot in an army barracks, first blockbuster in our pack, first movie to do a private screening within post production. First this, first that. But as it was challenging, it has also been very rewarding. To see the child grow into a man leaves a smile on the face. All in all it took us seven years to get here. I am my own worst constructive critic, but I can look back on ‘76’ and say, wow, we tried!


Why don’t you commercialise your movies?

We will. Content, as one media executive here told me, is king. It always has value, just like time. Nobody is in possession of any of our rights – yet. We will choose very carefully before we decide, but very soon, our films will be available for your viewing pleasure. You can count on that. Having said this, it is not all about the money. Alliances need to be built and we are almost there.

How are you able to fund other projects without commercialising them?

By taking small bites and not biting more than we can chew. Also by taking our time to get it right, when we can. The search for cash is a skill by His grace. It is neither by sheer strength nor by might. You can easily run into bad debts whilst searching for good money, especially if you talk to the wrong people. We handle long term money. So we have minimum pressure. As we build the right teams, funding for other projects will emerge, while revenue from existing ones will come back. Film making is a business.

At what point did you decide to do ‘76’ and what motivated you?

‘76’ is a game changer. It’s a new chapter in storytelling and the fact that it is based around real events is even more fascinating. So as a story, we already knew we had something there. I had worked with Izu Ojukwu on ‘Nnenda’ before and so I knew his pedigree. He is meticulous, prudent and world class. So I knew that with Adonis production in the lead, nothing could go wrong. That was why I got involved. The movie went over budget but that was due to changing locations twice and the need to satisfy military protocols. Let’s just say, getting the permission to shoot in a barracks was not as easy as we thought.

What was your experience getting the cast to fit into the 1976 setting?

That was the job for others. Mine was to give it a final nod and wink. Seeing the movie now, they put round pegs in round holes. Rita Dominic performed out of her skin, in her role as the officer’s wife. Chidi Mokeme, I am sure will make many new fans with what was an excellent portrayal of the life of a soldier in 1976. Of course it is now no secret what Daniel K Daniel is made of. He and Ramsey Nouah struck a bond on set that showed up in the final product. Ramsey killed it. He was out of this world. And the list goes on. I couldn’t be happier than with the cast and crew of this film. I love them.

The actors changed physically and all that over the seven-year period. How did you manage that?

Don’t let the makeup fool you. The cast were only there for six months of filming. One month prior to that was military drill exercises for the male cast. They wanted them, not acting like soldiers but actually being soldiers. That put them in very, very sound physical shape. This was critical for the authenticity of the movie. I know six months is an eternity in Nollywood but we wanted to build a family. And I think we did that. We had weddings, birthdays, child dedications and funerals on set. We had it all.


Why did it take seven years to do it?

For a variety of reasons. First, it was an idea in Izu’s head that required support. Adonai, the CEO of Adonis Production provided it. They then began to build on that until they felt they knew something that Princewill’s trust could add, which is where I came in. That process took a few years. Then you had a green light from us for pre-production which required the crew to now recreate 1976. First location was Adamawa, then Ibadan, before the Mokola barracks became our home. Refurbishing the cars, repainting the houses, putting the props in place and shooting without viewing all meant that time and lighting was critical to outcome. Months were exhausted. We spent a relatively short time shooting compared to pre-production and post-production. Due to the fact that we shot on celluloid, post production is in Munich, Germany. Good soup, na money kill am. [sic] [Laughter]

When you are not making movies, doing politics, business or being a philanthropist, how do you occupy your time?

I watch movies, play video games and listen to music. Running away from the girls is also a full time job. So many very pretty women, but I only have eyes for one, Rosemary.

In all you have done, what is the biggest thrill for you?

Running for governor, politics. It has the biggest impact, the largest reach. They say it’s dangerous, but not for me. I want to make things happen. Not watch things not happen. And politics is what gives you the opportunity. If you can’t stand the real heat, stay out of the kitchen. Unfortunately, we have allowed the lunatics take over the asylum so principled performers like me who are not mad enough to loot and kill are at a disadvantage. I’d rather lose than kill and steal, and people with money don’t have the guts to fight the system because the system can and does break them. The people are helpless. Remove the lunacy from politics and Nigeria will explode into the next level. But that will require the resolve of civilized Nigerians, an uncompromising international community and institutions devoid of interests. A long shot yes, but a choice we must make sooner or later.


When you ran for governor, what were your chances?

If we had an electoral body that meant what it said, people with resources who cared enough about their country to keep their promises and politicians who realize that their actions have equal and opposite reactions, I would have won. Without a card reader, we don’t stand a chance. With a card reader, we do. The three major parties had a debate, the first of its kind in Rivers State and I practically wiped the floor with Wike and Dakuku, without breaking a sweat. As the Labour Party candidate, I was being called by PDP and APC members to say, it was a landslide. I would make the best governor amongst us. But that is not what wins – because the people don’t vote. So I guess, my portion is to be the best governor Rivers State never had. Life goes on.


Are you likely to contest again?

No. Even if the people want me, the system either does not want me, or refuses to put in place basic fundamentals for people like me to emerge. Twice now I have put everything on the line for my state with little or no support from people who will benefit most from my emergence. How many times will I run for the same position at such a high price? There is a very fine line between determination and desperation and I will not cross it. If youth empowerment is truly my passion, I will find other ways to execute it and other people to support to be governor of Rivers State. Let me make it clear though, I will not quit politics or my supporters, but I am not desperate to be governor. Let us all make the bed we will lie in.

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APC is now in control of Rivers State politics, PDP is dead

Posted on March 18, 2014. Filed under: Interview | Tags: , |

APC is now in control of Rivers State politics, PDP is dead

Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze

Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze

Former spokesman of the defunct New Peoples Democratic Party and the Senior Special Assistant on Media to the Rivers State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chukwuemeka Eze, in this interview with NF-Reports, speaks on the strength of APC in the state

The All Progressives Congress seeks to control Rivers State Government in 2015. How does it intend to achieve this?

We should understand that Rivers State used to be controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party, but due to the turn of events – the defection of Governor Rotimi Amaechi to All Progressives Congress and the resulting takeover of all the structures by the APC – Rivers State ceased to be a PDP state. The truth of the matter is that if the governor could switch over to APC with all the structure that used to belong to PDP, any human being thinking of changing the situation of things now is a dreamer. Nothing will change the situation because in 2015, an APC government will be installed in Rivers State. The PDP at the centre under President Goodluck Jonathan has declared itself an enemy of Rivers State and no discerning indigene of Rivers State will vote for President Jonathan and the PDP. The ceding of Rivers oil wells to neighbouring states, including Soku oil wells ceded to Bayelsa State, is fresh in our minds. We are also aware of the ceding of some oil wells to Abia State; and there is no federal presence in the state in terms of projects. So, why would a Rivers man associate himself with anything that is Jonathan? As I speak with you, the APC is fully on ground in Rivers State.

Are you underrating the influence of the Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike, a staunch PDP member, who hails from the Rivers State?

The minister of education is even helping us in Rivers State. The presence of Wike in the government of President Jonathan is helping our course. He (Wike) is a tool for our campaign because he has worsened President Jonathan’s case as far as Rivers State is concerned. When some visiting governors came to Rivers, we believe it was Wike who ensured that those people were humiliated at the airport. Wike also ensured that the former police commissioner of the state was an instrument, not only of intimidation, but of insecurity in the state. And we saw the negative report all over the world that followed the actions of the former state police commissioner. Considering all these, under what premise would Rivers people vote for PDP?

But the President is optimistic that the PDP will win in some States, including Rivers.

With due respect to President Jonathan, I’m not satisfied with his (President) understanding of politics. This is a man, who God placed where he is today. Instead of appreciating God, he is going contrary to what is expected of him. Instead of identifying with the people, where is he? Are those who supported Jonathan to become President still with him? He (President Jonathan) cannot say former President Olusegun Obasanjo did not play a part in his emergence as the President of this country. Of all the states in the country, Rivers State gave him the highest number of votes, and Governor Amaechi made it possible. Is Governor Amaechi with him now? Some governors in the North ensured that their own brother failed for him (Jonathan) to emerge. The question now is: Are these governors still with him? Who then would make him President in 2015? We are praying that PDP should give him the presidential ticket and that will mean we do not need to do much campaign anymore. Remember that polytechnic students and those in colleges of education are not in school. They have parents. Which parent would consider PDP in 2015? In Rivers State, the APC is everywhere and the political calculation does not favour the PDP in the forthcoming election.

The state APC at a point raised the alarm that PDP-sponsored thugs attacked its members at its membership registration centres. What actually happened?

The facts are there. Journalists were there. They were all filmed and pictured. Due to the fear that the people have rejected the PDP, they decided to disrupt the registration of our members. Our people were attacked; some were killed. We are aware of what happened in Degema and Asari-Toru, where our people were attacked. What happened in Obio/Akpor during the registration of our members is still fresh in our minds. The Rivers people are asking for change and most of them want to be counted among those that would be part of the liberation that is going on in Rivers State. Not minding the intimidation and attacks from the PDP during this period, we still have a reasonable number of people who want to be members of the APC.

Rivers PDP dismissed the claim that the APC registered 100,000 non-indigenes during the exercise.

What did you expect them to say? A drowning man will always look for something to hold onto. The truth is that the PDP no longer exists in Rivers State. One may not be surprised by their statement because they (PDP) have been thinking of how possible it is for the APC in Rivers State to register 100,000 non-indigenes. But the question there is: What factors made these non-indigenes to register with the APC? Let me remind the PDP that the figure we gave is only a preliminary report, not the main report.

Are you expecting higher figures?

Yes. This is because the preliminary report is based on the few local government areas that submitted their reports. Before that release was issued, we got further reports. Actually, the number of non-indigenes that registered based on the record we have today is about 303,000. This is possible because the people of Rivers State are accommodating. Due to the kind nature of the people of Rivers, we have about 1.6 million non-indigenes in the state.

Why would non-indigenes support the APC and not the PDP?

Take a look at the nature and character of Governor Rotimi Amaechi. This is a man who is married to one of us (non-indigenes). If he is married to one of us, then we have a stake in his (Amaechi) administration and if we have a stake in his administration, we should do everything possible in order to make sure that the administration succeeds. When you look at the characters that parade themselves now as PDP leaders in the state, you would find out that they are not popular, especially among the non-indigenes. Most importantly, let us not forget that we are in Amaechi’s administration. Our son, Chuma Chinda, is the commissioner for Commerce and Industry. He is the leader of the non-indigenes in Rivers State.

Where is he from?

He is from Delta State. Our son, Ade Adeogun is the Sole Administrator of the State Environmental Sanitation Authority. Our son, David Iyofor is the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor. Tell me why we should not identify with the movement or aspiration of this man (Amaechi). What does the PDP have that would warrant any non-indigene in Rivers to identify with it? We pity them (PDP leaders) because of the situation they have found themselves in; because they currently have no rallying point that any person can identify with.

Considering the anxiety and expectations from the PDP and the APC, don’t you foresee that the 2015 election would be marred by violence?

Is it possible for any election involving the PDP to be violent-free? It is not possible because this is a party that has been violent since the present leadership took over. Most of them are not founding fathers of the PDP and that is why they are ignorant of the principles of the party.

Are you saying the PDP is finished in the state?

That is what I have been saying. Apart from few people who parade themselves at the grass roots, all the former PDP ward leaders are now in APC; all the former local government PDP chieftains are now in APC; all the former PDP leaders at the state level are now in APC. So, where then is the PDP in the state? PDP no longer exists in Rivers State. They are deceiving President Jonathan, because he wishes to be deceived, that they (PDP) are doing something in Rivers State.

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Prince Tonye Princewill Breaks his Silence on Amaechi and Jonathan’s Political Entanglement

Posted on September 27, 2013. Filed under: Interview | Tags: |

Prince Tonye Princewill Breaks his Silence on Amaechi and Jonathan’s Political Entanglement

TP 4Prince Tonye T.J.T Princewill is a member of the PDP and a key player in the politics of Rivers State. After a long period of silence, the young man who quite easily has one of the most respected voices in not only Rivers state but the Niger Delta Spoke on his relationship with president Jonathan and Amaechi, his view on the battle between them, the 2015 governorship race and a plethora of other issues that affect our region. Excerpts

You’ve been silent for a while. Why?

Sometimes in life we need to listen more than we talk. As you rightly observed, I have been doing a lot more listening lately. My political career is just beginning and so I have a lot to learn. I have seen a lot of mistakes that I Tonye Princewill cannot afford to make. And it is only by watching the people dancing in the town square that I have been able to see their backs. I have resisted the temptation to join them because neither side are short of sycophants. There are no vacancies in that department. And since I am not a sycophant, I want to continue look either of them in the eye and tell them the truth.
And what is this truth? None of them are saints. All of us are sinners. So we all need peace. I am an advocate for peace, but in the meantime I am taking a lesson in how not to play politics.

What is your position on the Amaechi /Jonathan saga? Whose side are you on?

I am not taking sides. If all of us take sides, who will work for peace? There is still plenty of time to make peace between now and 2015 so allow me to preach my peace and avoid trying to make me a warrior. When the time to fight comes, if it does, we will see who the true warriors are. 2007 is still fresh in our memories. I laugh at those people who are looking for Amaechi or Mr President to make them Governor or Minister or LGA chairmen and whatever. Their hope is that their side will win and that since in PDP politics it is the winner who takes all, they will decide who gets what, where and when. This time they will be in for a big shock. Neither of them alone will produce the next Governor. God will do that and he will use people who do not have big names, so blind loyalty which hides the truth is a recipe for disaster. Count me out of that. They must work together.

They have both made mistakes and are still making them. My responsibility as a son of the soil is to tell them the truth and find
a way out of the mess. Since I am fortunate enough to have their ear, I tell them what they don’t want to hear. I blame my friend and brother Amaechi for this mess but where Amaechi erred, the President should have called him aside and told him so and as an older brother he should have forgiven him. Do you know what Amaechi has done for this President when nobody gave him any notice? And on the other side, do we know what Wike has done for this Governor? They have all at one time or the other conspired against me and many others. Now they want me to fight their war? I won’t. They should go and settle or else, God will settle them.

In 2008, Amaechi and Wike conspired against me for the Local government elections, the LGA structure we see today was “engineered” into place by these same people fighting each other today. In 2011, Amaechi refused to work with Atiku but went to work for Goodluck against my friendly advice. When he won and Jonathan won, did they look in my direction? Please let me have peace. Amaechi won the Governor’s forum election, intimidating him is unnecessary and counter productive even if he is not totally innocent. The sacking of the Obio Akpor council was wrong as was the refusal to recognise the Felix Obuah led PDP in the state. What goes around comes around. I have told Amaechi this. What happened when a parallel PDP was formed in Rivers state?

To be fair, both Amaechi and Atiku have listened to me when I have given advice. They were both ready to work with Jonathan even when it appeared that he was not willing to work with them. At first when I sat with the President, he acknowledged the need to build bridges with them. I can only think that there are people around him who saw advice like mine through a jaundiced lense and proceeded to act counter to it. Go to the streets of Port Harcourt and ask people. They will say Amaechi and Tonye are twins. How? Why? Go today and ask people they will say Atiku is my father. I will follow him to the grave. How? Why?
My loyalty is to the people. The poorer they are, the more loyal I am. What will benefit them is what I will advocate for.

In 2011, I advocated Atiku. For now, we watch but I refuse to fight Jonathan so Sule Lamido can be my President. Is Lamido a better option for my people? Currently peace between these children of God (Amaechi and Mr President) is what will benefit my people. I will work for peace. Not take sides and call one side a saint and the other side a sinner. People don’t like to look well before they talk. I do. Man no be God is what I will say. 2015 is not by power, it is by faith. The child that does not want his mother to sleep will not sleep either. We abused Obasanjo, God gave us Yaradua, we cried and lamented, he died on us and along came Jonathan. Some of us including those who voted for him only two years ago are abusing him too. Ask yourselves, who next? Sule Lamido? No way.

Our leaders should quickly move away from the current politics towards the politics of persuasion before they make enemies out of potential friends. Re 2015, Amaechi is not Mr President’s problem or vice versa.
Fighting each other will not work. Nobody should underestimate anybody. Even Atiku. If you can’t even attempt to win my vote by simple persuasion, how can you lead me?

Are you going to run in 2015?

Yes. It appears I will. Things have to be done right but it appears that all I need, to do what has to be done, is either in place or will be. Initially I was concerned about the moral and financial support but that is no longer a concern for me. The next step is to consult more widely, identify real leaders old and new and engage our youth even more. Unless they are central to what I am doing, I will not succeed. People who know me know that I have a passion for youths and women, especially rural women. Orphans and disabled people will also enjoy my government too but my focus will be JOBS, JOBS, JOBS. That affects every household.

If Ikwerre and Ogonis have the population, how will you win?

That is the same question my Governor asked me on January 6th, 2012.
“By the hand of God” is my answer. It will take a miracle for me to win and that is why I have to contest. Rivers state needs a miracle. I expect Ogonis and Ikwerres will not look at me just as a Kalabari man but more as a people’s man just the same way I look at all of us as Rivers people. We need people who can bring us together not pull us apart. Just the other day, I heard someone say that I will make history as the first Kalabari Governor. I said to the person while that may be true, I prefer to make history because of where I will take Rivers state and not because of where I come from within it.

To win we must reach out to all, majorities and minorities. In the end we must bring out our best. Many people will agree that they have had sons and daughters representing them before now and yet crises and poverty have not gone away, it has even increased. So Rivers people know who cares about them even when there is no election and who opens their door when there is nothing to gain. They will not forget. They know who has the ideas and who represents change you can trust because they know the Prince will and that the Prince means well. I don’t have the political baggage of the others, I have no cult affiliations and have never had I have done all I have done from my own pocket without even a political office. They know what I will do if I do attain more.

My message to my Kalabari brothers and sisters is that they should talk to their neighbours and make them see what they see. Politics should be about persuasion not power. Numbers are irrelevant in the eyes of God, otherwise Odili would never have been Governor. Our upland brothers know fairness when they see it but if you try to dictate fairness its name changes to intimidation and nobody will be intimidated in 2015. The state belongs to all of us.

You have been outside PH quite a lot, is that how you will rule Rivers state?

No. Like I said it is deliberate. Since you have asked so bluntly let me open up to you. 95% of my income does not come from Rivers state.
Amaechi my friend knows that I do not disturb him for money and that I go about my business irrespective of what is going on. Schools and hospitals were given to political friends and enemies to execute all over the state, he didn’t  give me any, refused to give my political allies and in the end all I had to boast of was the single contract I did in 2007 finished in 2008 and didn’t get paid for till 2011. This contract was given to all governorship candidates in 2007 that decided to work with Amaechi at the time even though I probably spent more on the 2007 election than all of them put together. I am a net looser so far in this government and I doubt anyone in my position has brought more into this state and taken less out. That comes with its
consequences. But I am not bitter. My time will come. To keep afloat I have to keep my businesses afloat and since many of them are outside the state, I have to be outside the state.

Also and more importantly, I wanted to improve my relationship with God and so I took time out to fellowship with him and get to know him one on one. This has involved a rigorous fasting and prayer routine which sometimes made me think I was going to die but now I am stronger than I have ever been and physically much more fit. So my reason for my absence is not as a habit but for a purpose. It has also shown me who can survive without me and yet still stay focused. So all in all it has been a revelation.

What of the political structure needed to win elections?

Only a greedy man wants to rely on himself alone for victory maybe because he wants to chop alone. I cannot do this alone. Government is big. I can only occupy one position so we need a team. My job is to find that team. The structure that will win the election will respect local interests, community interests and state dynamics. Let us not sit down in one place and write a new story for each community where one already exists.  My job is not to build a structure from scratch but to bring together other structures into one big one. Political structures, religious bodies, youth groups, women groups, the disabled, market women, unemployed graduates, community organisations, etc. I will lead but I cannot do it alone. A leader needs generals and
that is what I am busy looking for now. Politics is too important to be left to politicians alone. Our structure will make politicians of non politicians. It is never too late to learn something new. I entered politics in 2006 and ran for Governor in 2007. What structure did I use to defeat Sgt Awuse and shake PDP? What structure did Fashola use to win Lagos and what structure did Goodluck Jonathan use to win the Presidency? God gives structures.

Has Jonathan done well?

Yes. In certain areas he has, but in certain areas he needs a lot more work. I think as far as recent Presidents go, he is better than both Yar Adua and Obasanjo and IBB and Abacha but for this time, this is not good enough. He can do better. Especially in the politics. Where we are today could have been avoided. I wouldn’t want to say more than that for now. The President knows my views on this. Judgement will come at the end of the tenure so he still has his destiny in his hands.

Has Amaechi done well?

Same difference. He is the best since Diete Spiff without a doubt in my mind but he has not done well in some areas. Especially in the politics. Before the political space became heated I felt he was drifting a little but now it is clear to me that governance has been sacrificed at the altar of politics. This is typical politics and so I predicted it. It could have been avoided but the Governor was the Chairman of the forum and that tied his hands. If he hadn’t been, maybe we wouldn’t be here today. But he is so here we are. Let us see what happens before full time. This is only the beginning of the second half and just like the President, Amaechi is a child of God so anything can happen.

What do you think of Wike?

I think he is the best politician amongst them. He is less interested in what you think about him and more interested in getting results. He is an asset to any team and right now the President is using it to his advantage just as Amaechi has used it to his benefit in the past. He has served others in the past and may harbour ambitions for others to serve him in the future. You can’t deny him that. My job is to make
sure that when the dust settles, we are not fighting each other. Wike is somebody I will not fight unless I have to. I begged the Governor to settle with him when this first started but I do not believe that he exhausted the options for peace. Maybe he felt that there was no point. I disagree.

Tell us about PDM

PDM is the mother of PDP and to cut a long story short because I know where you are going, it decided recently at a meeting of its national executive management committee to move away from remaining a movement to becoming a party. For two main reasons. 1. PDP was drifting and needed to be reminded that people had options and 2. We heard that some unscrupulous elements were planning to do likewise and register the party so we the custodians decided to beat them to it.

Even though we have given PDM life, some of us have remained inside the PDP because becoming a political party in Nigeria is not going to be business as usual just because you have a certificate. it needs to have a clearly defined position on major issues, tell Nigerians how it will be different and show the youths how much better it is than PDP or APC. Also I believe that it should concentrate on grassroots politics for now and remove its eyes from a Presidential election till 2019. It can fight for elections at state and local levels but support any of the other two at Presidential level if they set a people’s agenda PDM can subscribe to. These are the tasks and considerations before the new leadership of the PDM.

We await their final position but I remain inclined to a PDM/PDP alliance than a PDM/APC one. But you never know. Registration has commenced online at www.pdm.ng . The first political party in Nigeria to do so exactly one month after INEC registered it. Amazing. Manual registration commences shortly. No more hoarding of party cards as is currently the case. PDP and others need to take note.

If you become Governor, what will you do different?

I will never underestimate anybody, I will find peace wherever it hides for the sake of my people’s development and I will learn from others who came before me. Odili, Omehia and Amaechi have a lot to teach me about what not to do and I will be willing to learn a lot from their examples

 

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Interview: History Will Vindicate Amaechi – Hon. Dakuku Peterside

Posted on August 10, 2013. Filed under: Interview | Tags: |

Dakuku 1Hon Dakuku Peterside represents Andoni/Opobo-Nkoro Federal Constituency. He is also the Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), in this interview with journalists in Abuja, he opined that History Will Vindicate Amaechi” given the current crisis rocking the oil-rich Rivers State. Sylvester Asoya reports. Excerpts.

Q:
Hon as a key stakeholder in Rivers State, do you see peace returning to the State?

Dakuku:
I see peace returning to Rivers State. All those who destabilised the peace of the state for their personal and parochial interest would have seen the futility of their action. I have always known that evil will not triumph over good just as darkness cannot resist light. Governor Amaechi represents light in many ways.

Q:
But opponents of the Governor have placed advertorials on pages of newspapers and in the electronic media that Gov Amaechi is averse to reconciliation

Dakuku:
Governor Amaechi desires and is committed to reconciliation but not at the expense of Rivers State interest. He has taken steps to show that he is not averse to reconciliation. The Governor has gone to brief the President and I believe that the President is committed to the peace, progress and stability of the nation. The implication of that for me is that the President will take steps to advance peace in all parts of the territory of Nigeria including Rivers State. I am optimistic that the President will not allow political considerations including his own perceived ambition prevail over the overall interest of the country.
I know the President is conscious of his place in history. Even at the risk of repetition, Gov Amaechi is not averse to reconciliation and peace.

Q:
The Governor’s opponents say his stubbornness is part of the problem of Rivers State

Dakuku:
It is possible that Governor Amaechi is stubborn in upholding the truth. It is possible Gov Amaechi is stubborn in defending Rivers resources and Rivers interest. But they should know that we are running a Federal system and Gov Amaechi is accountable first to God and to Rivers people who elected him. Nobody has said Gov Amaechi is dishonest.
It is unfortunate that Gov Amaechi has tremendous courage in a society where courage is lacking, courage to stand up for the truth. In other climes courage and success attract respect but in this society it attracts envy and attack and vilification. I do not think Rt. Hon Amaechi has any regret. He might be misunderstood today but history will be kind to him.

Q:
Is it true that Gov Amaechi has lost focus in Governance since this crisis started?Hon. Dakuku 1

Dakuku:
Absolutely not. Governor Amaechi has rather stayed focused on the main task at hand – Serve the people of Rivers State and help them take the revolutionary development he started to the next level. In fact he has accomplished more in six years to deserve optimal respect. You may have noticed his television appearances in recent times and will agree with me that each time he appears cool and confident. Nobody can deny the fact that under his administration, Rivers State has made and is still making tremendous progress.

Q:
There is this talk of EFCC investigating Rivers State officials and ESI, the Governor’s wife’s NGO. What is your take on this?

Dakuku: Hon. Dakuku Peterside
The Governor is not averse to investigation. I stand to be challenged; he is one of the most transparent Governors today in Nigeria. He is equally vocal thus cannot afford the risk of corruption. But any investigation by EFCC which is a creation of the law or legislation must be in the context of law. There is a subsisting court order barring the EFCC from investigating Rivers State. Governor Rotimi Amaechi did not secure that injunction so EFCC must vacate it first before proceeding to investigate Rivers State and her officials. When we act outside the framework of the law, it is an invitation to anarchy. We are a society governed by law and not brawn. On the threat to investigate ESI, the NGO founded by the wife of the Governor for which I am Chairman of the Board of Trustees, it is nonsensical as it is unlawful. ESI is not a government agency nor is it a statutory body. No trustee of ESI has complained that there is fraud or that the non-profit has acted against the spirit of the foundation on which it was established or acted against public interest. It is only when a trustee of ESI complains to law enforcement agencies that you can call for investigation of its finances. Whereas ESI is open to scrutiny by foundations that sponsor its activities, the invitation by political jobbers is outside the contemplation of the law thus futile and of no effect. We have too many ignorant busybodies posing as party officials in Rivers State. I sympathize with them. I sincerely thought we have gotten to a stage where the interest of Rivers State and Rivers people should be uppermost in our minds.

Q:
Recently the Police stopped a rally organized by Niger Delta Civil Society Coalition in defence of democracy. Do you believe that their action is in the best interest of democracy?

Dakuku:
I thought you knew where I stand on this. I join other well-meaning Nigerians to condemn in strong terms the illegalities being perpetuated in Rivers State by the Mbu-led Police Command. As you are aware the constitution of the country guarantees freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly. Not even Mbu can deny us this constitutionally- backed right. Peaceful rally is an essential ingredient of sustainable democracy. Mbu, without any doubt, is on a mission in Rivers State but he will fail. This same Mbu who is stopping civil society from protesting has actively supported anti-Gov Amaechi protests thus cannot conceal his bias against Rivers people and Governor Amaechi in particular. I am still optimistic that the police authorities will do what is right by immediately re-deploying Mbu to allow peace reign, unless they are saying the Police High Command does not want peace in Rivers State.

Q:
There is this story that CP Mbu was transferred out of Rivers State but the IGP was prevailed upon by some persons to bring him back to the State against the resolution of both Chambers of the National Assembly calling for transfer of Mbu. What is the truth in this?

Dakuku:
I cannot say whether it is true or not that CP Mbu was transferred from Rivers State but knowledgeable police sources can confirm that indeed Mbu was transferred and made CP in charge of NPA. The same source named the person posted to Rivers State as Mohammed Katsina. If this is true I don’t know what other evidence we need to realize that some persons in high authority do not want peace in Rivers State. On the resolution of both Chambers of National Assembly, Police high Command cannot afford to confront the people of Nigeria through the institution of National Assembly.
This call for immediate transfer of CP Mbu out of Rivers State is a resolution of both chambers of the National Assembly where all parts of Nigeria have Representatives. Mind you there is no way the National Assembly will fold its hands and look helpless lest impunity triumphs over the will of Nigerian people. Neither the Presidency not Nigerian Police is bigger or stronger than Nigerians as collective. There is sufficient justification to transfer Mbu out of Rivers State so peace can reign. Time will tell. My prayer is let reason prevail.

Q:
There is a threat by the current Executive of PDP in Rivers State to suspend you and other National Assembly members from PDP?

Dakuku:
You mean the persons parading themselves as party Executives in Rivers State? This threat shows two things; the first is that they are the ones who do not want reconciliation in the party because they are afraid of what fate will befall them. Anything established on wrong foundation will certainly fail. The second is that it shows the degree of their desperation and ignorance of the constitutional provisions of PDP constitution. Those who genuinely desire the good of the country are calling the attention of those who are presently in charge of PDP to matters likely to affect the chances of the party in future elections whereas political jobbers are busy protecting non-existent territory and their political interest. It is most regrettable.

Q:
There is an allegation in the social media that there is a significant arms buildup in Rivers State in preparation against Governor Amaechi. Is this true? rWho is responsible for this arms buildup?Dakuku 3

Dakuku:
I read it like you did. I do not know the truth. There have been allegations in the past of meetings between immortal CP Mbu and ex-militants. The public did not take the alarm seriously at that time but we saw what played out, how these same ex-militants enjoyed police protection to stage several protests on the streets of Port Harcourt. This time I don’t think this allegation should be taken lightly. Whether it is true or not one thing I am sure is that those behind this arms build-up will fail. Rivers people will rise up to defend themselves against every act of aggression. God is solidly with Rivers State and I have never had cause to doubt God. All those planning evil against Rivers State should be mindful of the fact that there is a God that reigns in the affairs of men. The greatest weapon we have had as a people is truth even in the face of intimidation and harassment for no justifiable reason.

 

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I just want to add value, says, AVM Femi Gbadebo

Posted on February 25, 2013. Filed under: Interview | Tags: , , |

I just want to add value, says, AVM Femi Gbadebo

Air Vice Marshall Femi Gbadebo (Rtd) is the founder of Benola, a Cerebral Palsy initiative. In an interview with selected journalists in Lagos, the former Air Force Instructor pilot and facilitator  at various Military Training Institutions says he is committed to raising awareness about cerebral palsy and also providing succour to those living with the condition.

Excerpt:

Question: Why are you not in politics or business?

Answer:   I am not interested in partisan politics. I just want to add value to the society. For those that entered the military at a very young age and the country invested on them for thirty five years, the least they can do is to give back. I know a lot of people who complain that too many military officers were retired at the peak of their career, but I have never agreed with that.  At a certain stage, one should move on and do other things, and part of that is to give back to the society that trained and exposed you to so much. That way, the knowledge you have and the experience you have gathered can be brought to bear in other facets of life. My career all along had to do with training. I was first a pilot on military jet fighter aircraft and later an instructor pilot on military jet aircraft. I trained a number of the senior pilots in the Nigerian Air Force today. I later had tours of duty as Directing Staff/Moderator at both Armed Forces Command and Staff College Jaji and National Defense College Abuja. So you can see that having always been a teacher, I have a passion to impart knowledge, to touch lives positively and to continuously engage others in mental interaction. So I thought the best thing to do after retiring was to find ways in which I could get to be a part of the intellectual community. I made myself accessible to people but found a disturbing ignorance of what the military has to offer the business community.  So I set out to make myself more acceptable by attending a programme at the Lagos business School. I also tried to liaise with institutions involved in organising seminars, workshop and conferences but I was not fulfilled because they mostly wanted to deal with what I regard as safe issues. But then, I have a 16-year son who has been living with cerebral palsy since birth. My family and I have lived with this unique condition all this time and my job which has afforded me the opportunity to travel to several countries made it possible for me and my wife to assess and explore other opportunities of caring and seeing first-hand,  how the issue of disability is handled in the western world. While in service, my wife did most of the management of our son and since my retirement, I have spent all my time with him because I made a commitment that whatever I do after retirement must afford me enough flexibility to spend as much time with him as possible. That is why I have never considered taking up a full time appointment. All along the way, I started to think of how I could use my experience with my son to educate and encourage others through the use of the social media like Facebook, twitter etc. Unfortunately, time and the expertise to set and keep those options running proved to be a problem. I was also mindful of the fact that I did not want to appear as if I was commercializing my son’s condition, so it took a lot of encouragement and guidance for me to get to the stage where I realized that the only way that I can help families that are less fortunate than ours to manage a condition, that is prevalent in our society but which most people prefer not to talk about, is to start this initiative.

If you go outside Nigeria especially to countries in Europe , America , Canada and Australia, you will not find any physically challenged person on the street begging for alms  because those societies have accepted and taken full responsibility of their disabled citizens  . In some of these countries, they take things to a level where families are recommended or appointed as care-givers to the disabled persons with social workers assigned to monitor these children. But in Nigeria and most African countries, the reverse is the case. It is the incapacitated who feeds their parents through proceeds from street begging. The incapacitated people are also stigmatized and treated as though they are the architects of their misfortune. In my interaction with people, I found lot of those who want to identity with the course of the disabled but the problem has always been who to trust because of the activities of fraudsters parading as directors and trustees in some Non-Governmental Organizations. So people are sceptical as to who to support to get things done, who has the credibility and managerial prowess to do things right. That is why we decided to step to make a difference and we are not alone because I believe that with the large pool of retired Chief Executive Officers and top management staff both in private and public sectors that we have in this country, not to mention the bulk of retired officers and civil servant, Nigeria has the human and material resources to change the face of NGO’s in Africa. And for our budding entrepreneurs, I have this quote by Rick Warren which says, “It is not a sin to be rich but it is a sin to die rich.” So let us reduce the big society events and borrow a leaf from Bill and Belinda Gates, and seriously begin to give back to society. I hope that such people will either come out with their initiative or choose to identify with us because government alone cannot make the difference.

QUESTION: How are you going to source funds?

ANSWER: If you start thinking about funds, you will not achieve anything but if you believe in what you are doing, all you need to show people is sincerity of purpose and commitment along with a well-articulated plan and a clearly defined structure. God will do the rest. Certainly, it may be rough at the beginning but when people see what you are doing, they will surely buy into it and begin to support you.

QUESTION: How are you going to sustain the Initiative?

ANSWER:  Some people like to personalize things but we intend to create a structure that will outlive the founder. What I mean is that as the founder, i am only making sure things get off the ground, Thereafter; a full time chief executive officer will be engaged to run the affairs under the direct supervision of the Board of Trustees. We also have an Advisory Board who will help direct the affairs of Benola. So you can see that we are creating a structure that is will be self-sustaining.

QUESTION: Are you going to synergize with other health related NGOs?

ANSWER:  Issues of disability cut across many groups. We see advocacy for the handicapped as one issue which no individual or organization can handle alone. So we intend to work with other groups and from interactions with people in the industry, the impression is that we are on the right track. When you have this kind of project at your hand, you must reach out to others who share similar views and already know the terrain.

QUESTION: What is your message to physically challenged Nigerians?

ANSWER: My message to families or anybody living with a disabled person is that a disabled person is no different from you and me. He or she is just a unique individual who is unable to do some of the things that we can do unassisted and so what they need is love, not pity . If I am to talk from my own experience, I will say that once you show love and understanding to a disabled person, what you get in return is a whole lot of love.

 

 

 

 

 

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