‘The Opposition is Outspending and Outspeaking the Government’

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Tonye Princewill
Nseobong Okon-Ekong holds a conversation with Mr. Tonye Prince will, a businessman and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress who posits that 
what the people hear is hate speech, single side of several stories and very little if anything from government

Your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) appears to be losing the fight against corruption with some of its members or persons linked to the leadership of the party enmeshed in alleged corruption, what went wrong?

I’m not sure to whom you refer.  Recently we heard about Nasiru Danu being stopped at Heathrow Airport carrying a fake passport and 200,000 Pounds and many others.

That one is fake news. Thankfully, I know Nasiru myself and once I read the story I could see the holes in it. The mainstream media like yourselves didn’t touch the news until the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with their big mouths issued a statement around it. Then some of you felt the need to. It’s thoroughly fake news as I am aware of what actually happened and if anything it is Nasiru that was wronged. There was no 200,000 Pounds, Dollars or Euros involved and he was not delivering money anywhere. As to the many others, I cannot speak to general speculation but let me put the blame squarely on the doors of the government. You can’t run a 21st century government without effective engagement of the media. Unfortunately, that requires resources and planning. But it has to be done. The opposition is outspending and outspeaking the government with the help of state governments like Rivers and the like that have enough money to make some media houses jump while others somersault. What the people hear is hate speech, single side of several stories and very little if anything from government. Why? Because the budget for media is eaten up by the budget for development. Meanwhile the people you are developing are developing a deep hate for you. Why? Misinformation.

What went wrong is that the All Progressives Congress  in government has underestimated the power of the media. Why? Buhari doesn’t mind losing an election. He is not desperate. He cannot pay the media to say the truth just like he refused to pay Saraki and Dogara to pass laws. He believes it’s their job. Let me stop there.

 Recently, the anti-graft authorities appear ready to prosecute the controversial Abdulrasheed Maina who was mentioned in the pension scam, can this repair the government’s dented image in any way?
There are four categories that I place Nigerians. Too many Nigerians sway like the wind. Today, they are impressed, tomorrow they are not. What they hear determines their mood.

There are two hardcore groups of Nigerians. To one side, this government can do no wrong. To the other side, this government can do nothing right. In the middle are the objective ones. They are prepared to give the benefit of the doubt and will criticize where needed. The final group are the ones who don’t care what the government does or does not do. They have given up, hardly vote (unless maybe it’s Big Brother reality show) and have found solace in other pursuits.

The arrest of Maina can only sway the objective Nigerians. To really touch Nigerians and cause a shift in mood, you have to create jobs, reduce insecurity and continue along the path of restructuring. Any other policy is just tinkering around the edges. Having said that, that may be all APC needs to do to win. The status quo win us another election, unless there is a major disintegration in the APC. My father said don’t believe in your breakfast until you have eaten it.

 It was widely believed that given the circumstance in your home state, Rivers where the APC was barred from fielding candidates in the 2019 national elections, that the state would get, at least two ministerial slots, but Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi was said to have blocked it because he did not want another compatriot in the Federal Executive Council that could ignite rivalry. Is this true?

There they go again. Amaechi! Amaechi!! Amaechi!!  He would have been happy to have two ministers. We all would have been. We probably deserve it. Because like you rightly pointed out in Rivers state, thanks to the handiwork of some persons that are now known, we got nothing. Not even a single member of the house. Except in my constituency where we got the house of assembly seat under a different party. Otherwise nothing. Yet we halted PDP in Rivers state from delivering their usual 2 million votes and the traditional stroll into Government House. The devil saved them. So one would be right in saying, give Rivers state a chance to have an additional significance in this government. We don’t feel we have lost. The future is still bright.

So talk about Amaechi not wanting it is not true. He is not afraid to share power. When he was Speaker of the state house of assembly, he did it often. When he was Governor he did same. No deputy Governor in Nigeria was more powerful than Tele Ikuru. No Chief of Staff was more powerful than Wike and no SSG was more powerful than Magnus Abe. Where are they now? As Minister of Transportation he has literally handed over all but Railways to Gbemi Saraki, like  he did not get in the way of Hadi Sirika as Aviation Minister. Amaechi is easy to understand when you get close to him. Disregard those single narratives.

While other state chapters of the APC have reconciled and put the elections behind them, this is not the case in Rivers. Can the real or imagined injuries on leading personalities in the state chapter of the APC heal fast enough to allow unity of purpose?

I hope so. But sometimes I am not sure healing is the problem. When a wound heals it may often leaves the surface harder than before. I fear some leaders may have hardened their hearts further. The party recently said based on the judgement of the Supreme Court, we should go and do congresses. They gave us sufficient notice and made sure that nobody could be prevented from contesting by making sure the forms this time were widely available. The last time the chief complaint was the unavailability of forms. That is no longer an issue. Just before the congresses were about to commence Magnus Abe went to court to say we should not hold the congress because he was not consulted and went to a state high court which everyone knows has no jurisdiction over a national body. One can only conclude from this that he has no intention to compete in a congress, rather the plan may be to delay things until Wike arrives. We are watching. We have time. In the end, there will be a contest. It’s unavoidable.

As a businessman, what more excuses can the APC give for its apparent failure to turn the Nigerian economy around for the good of all?

It’s not about excuses. The government is turning the economy around. Inflation is down, banks are lending more, non performing loans are as low as 9%, modest growth has been sustained and the economy is being diversified. Growth is not what we want, but we are not an island. Growth the world over has slowed, Germany is heading to a recession and the US – China trade war isn’t helping. Whatever mistakes that were made, the recent appointment of an economic team lead by Prof Doyin Salami should be a signal of better things to come. I have no doubt that Mr. President means business.

Governor Nyesom Wike has been rumoured to harbour some grouse against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and may be considering switching to the APC. Is he welcome?

My subscription to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the rights of the individual to freedom of movement that rests therein supersedes my opinion. Let’s wait. Let’s see. Until political parties learn to develop ideologies, politicians will continue to direct political parties with their own. The deeper the pocket, the more that is likely. Fortunately, as Wike has seen in the PDP, it doesn’t work all of the time. Some days for the thief. Some days for the owner.

QUOTE:
There are two hardcore groups of Nigerians. To one side, this government can do no wrong. To the other side, this government can do nothing right. In the middle are the objective ones. They are prepared to give the benefit of the doubt and will criticize where needed. The final group are the ones who don’t care what the government does or does not do