By Olayinka Ajayi
Prince Tonye Princewill, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Rivers State was the spokesman of the Tony Cole Campaign before the courts axed APC candidates from the elections. The former governorship candidate, in this interview, speaks on the outcome of the governorship election and how it will affect Rivers among others.
On the re-election of Governor Nyesom Wike
What has happened so far teaches me a lot of things. One, some Nigerians do not care enough about our corruption; at least not enough to call a spade a spade when they see it. We all know what transpired even if we don’t know the details. Yet, we put it down to how things are in Nigeria and in Rivers State. Two, many Nigerians do not care how you win, as long as you win. You can kill and maim your way to power and it won’t matter to them, they will gladly shake the bloodstained hands of the winner and bow down in loyalty. Our moral compasses have so ossified to the point where winning is more important than how you win. The outrage of what led to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s declaration is shared by many, but not enough. Some of us have elected to do something about it.
Your party, the APC did not participate but it adopted the African Action Congress, AAC candidate. Wike defeated the AAC with over 700,000 votes. What does that say about the people making a choice?
There is no correlation between that result and Rivers people. Unless it is in the minds of the ignorant or the complicit. If like some, you believe that the end justifies the means, it is convenient to disregard how that result was arrived at. But those who know better aren’t fooled. You say 700,000 votes, yet you ignore that one LGA, Wike’s own, accounts for over 300,000 votes unchallenged after he stormed its collation centre where a soldier was shot, yet another was injured critically with a machete and AAC agents taken hostage while electoral materials were carted away. An LGA where such occurred really had no business being accepted by INEC. The list of high crimes by INEC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, continued across the other LGAs, but the APC Federal Government let it be. If we had taken matters into our own hands, people would have died and the neutral observer would have said we in Rivers State are savages. I don’t blame Wike, I blame his accomplices. They too must answer to this show of shame. They cannot escape it.
This election was held on March 9, it took 24 days to fully collate and announce the result. Is that normal, what happened?
It isn’t normal. And yet some expect a normal result to emerge from such an abnormal process. Our moral compasses have been so redacted to the point where we cannot call a spade what it is. INEC suspended a whole election in an entire state against the provisions of an electoral act and it stood. Our cries were dismissed and our voices ignored. Nobody listened. Rotimi Amaechi is one man. If PDP and internal saboteurs cannot forgive him, should the entire state be made to suffer? Do our elders and youths have to be subjected to a Wike administration for another four years because of your hate for Amaechi? What did he do to you? What did we do to you? Every life in Rivers State is valuable and we will not rest until they are given the opportunity to realize their full potential. Some of the people lining up to stab Amaechi today were the beneficiaries of his good heart yesterday. In some cases, he even saved their lives.
You once raised objections that the result should have been announced within 21 days, that INEC kept result sheets in its custody rather than with the CBN. What difference does this make?
Our objections made no difference because they interrupted the agenda that was in play. There is a reason election are covered by guidelines and transparency is the currency which INEC has to protect. In the Rivers State matter, they exhibited an arrogance of the highest order and made no concessions in our favour. None. The blatant disregard they showed is why we cannot let this matter rest. In a very short statement I issued after they declared Wike, I said they have murdered sleep and asked us to go to hell. We have heard them. They too will hear us soon.
You issued a statement after the return of Wike by INEC saying the election will not stand the test of time, why?
We have several options before us and each option will be scrutinized to the full. If this isn’t countered, it will become the norm. By our traditionally low standards, 2019 in Rivers State was a very new low. Therefore there must be consequences. You can ignore a small party and maybe get away with it, but not the APC. My saying after the selection and declaration was “Fiat Justitia ruat caelum” and I stand by it. Rivers state deserves better than such organized oppression. We are way too big for that.
You have severally accused Senator Magnus Abe, who is of your party and who was factional governorship candidate of APC of fraternizing with Wike. How did he do that?
Let me quickly correct you. Abe was an aspirant, not a candidate. And the APC only recognized Tonye Cole as its candidate. So the use of the term factional candidate is like calling someone a factional parent. It won’t fly. I’m not going to discuss Abe at length except to say that when the baby is not your own, its death does not affect you. We saw it in the Bible when Solomon confronted the two women over the ownership of the child. We know those who are happy about this hollow victory and we know those who avoided bloodshed to allow it pass. The real owners of Rivers State are in tears. The real friends of Rivers State are sad. The real lovers of Rivers state are in mourning, while those without a stake or conscience are either indifferent or at peace. Let every man take his position. The time to be held accountable will definitely come.
Any message for Rivers people?
Yes. To all of you at home and away, I say that the night is darkest just before the dawn. Be hopeful. Wike is a cancer that has to be removed. We know how he got there, we know what has become of our state since he did. Rather than touch our people and develop our state, he has touched the media, developed propaganda and bribed our institutions just to remain as Governor. Far fewer people died in 2019 than in 2015 by a ratio of 50 to 1, but looking at media reports, you won’t see this. Just hold on to your faith. God is not sleeping. Tonye Cole means well. He is not here to settle scores or take sides. He is here to make peace. I am ready to fight for that. And I know I am not alone.