At a session with Nseobong Okon-Ekong, Director of Strategic Communications for the Tonye Cole Governorship Campaign, Mr. Tonye Princewill argues that the APC’s current travails in the state has unwittingly provided a rallying point to unite its members
With different judicial pronouncements against the participation of the APC in the elections in Rivers State, what course of action is open to the party?
The judicial course of action has to be followed humbly to its conclusion. We are almost there. It’s a process, not an event. We believe that the law is on our side and we are confident that in the final outcome, we will be proved right. Those who seek refuge in wickedness will be thoroughly disappointed. Of that, I have no doubt. In the meantime the politics is going on. At the grassroots level, we are not allowed to campaign, according to a court order Wike (Governor Nyesom) secured, but we’re allowed to gather. Necessity they say is the mother of invention.
Does the APC regret internal strife, which is making the Rivers election look like a walk-over for Gov. Nyesom Wike and the PDP?
Looking back, there may have been one or two things we could have done differently but I won’t go so far as to use the word regret. We were meant to go through this. Nothing good comes easy. Those of us who have been battling for years, look forward to interesting times, because we know that that is when you will know who you are and who your friends are. You mature a lot faster. What was our crime? Amaechi made enemies for supporting Buhari. Amaechi is DG for the Buhari campaign and is seen as one of the influential ministers in this government. This makes him a target. Amaechi said let us bury our ambitions to build the party. Tonye Cole decided to leave his business to contest elections. Tonye Cole was picked over and above seasoned politicians. We dared to confront the evil of Wike; none of this so-called crime is a cause for regret. I say to many people, ‘once you know the people involved on our side, you fall in love with them.’ They mean no harm. They are driven by principle and they are after the greater interest.
You make it sound like everything is all good
Yes. As sweet as that sounds, going after the greater interest will first offend people close to you. Politics in Nigeria is about your caucus. Not your people. Once a greater interest comes into the picture, the first to complain will be your inner family. They want everything for themselves. Ambition is a selfish driver. It can send even the best of friends in different directions.
What assurance is there that the APC will not disintegrate in Rivers State?
That will not happen. We will stand together. We need each other. Even though some have gone to great lengths to pursue their mandate, that has not affected our number. The support we have in Rivers state is unbelievable. For the first time, I can say APC will win a free and fair election in Rivers state. Make your findings. Wike is hated. Tonye Cole is loved. One preaches hate, lies for free and is unrepresentative of our people. The other is a man of peace, seeks prosperity and just wants to develop his people. Forget disintegration. Instead, we have had even more defectors, including sitting assembly members, commissioners and people who can think. You see nothing unites a team more than a good cause. I’m reminded of a quote by Nietzche where he says, “If you have a why for living, you can overcome anyhow.” We have our why. Everyone knows. We shall overcome.
Is the APC likely to direct its members to back another governorship candidate and party in the event that the apex court upholds previous rulings?
So you have no plan B?
This is our plan B. We expected that a free and fair congress, followed by a free and fair primary would be acceptable to decent minds. We expected that we will be campaigning at this time. That was our plan A. Instead, we have been temporarily excluded from the ballot and asked not to campaign. It’s not enough that we are competing against a man who is using our own money to fight us. We have to do it without campaigning and without any candidate. That is how afraid they are of us. But it’s okay. It’s an opportunity to see who our friends are. If the judiciary wants to prevent a contest and disenfranchise millions of people, we will have no choice but to sit and watch. Their word is final.
How will these happenings guide the activities of the APC going forward?
The biggest lesson for me is keep your friends closer and never underestimate three things – corruption, some people’s thirst for power and some judges.