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Jonathan Lacks The Will To Solve N’Delta Problems – Princewill

Prince Tonye Princewill  was a gubernatorial candidate of the ACN  in the 2007 general elections in Rivers State. In this interview with James Ume  he spoke with a burning passion about the Niger-Delta region and the amnesty programme. He also explains why he has chosen to support a Northern candidate in the person of Atiku Abubakar to his kinsman, President Goodluck Jonathan.  Excerpts
Let us start with the issue of amnesty and the insurgency, which seems to have returned to the Niger Delta region; what do you think is responsible for this?
The government and the amnesty programme have failed to provide the answers to the issue of insurgency in that region. Currently, the amnesty programme  is lacking in depth and I will argue that the amnesty needed to have been operated in a context as it doesn’t take a rocket science to know that Yar’Adua bombarded some actions.  I do not believe he was ready for the amnesty programme. The bombing of Gbaramatu kingdom and the loss of innocent lives led to some of us resigning from our federal appointments two weeks before he proposed the amnesty programme.

Amnesty was never the plan; it was a vast reaction to the situation. And anybody who thinks the action will provide a significant change on the situation of the region would be making a mistake. So to me, I was not surprised of the outcome of the amnesty package.

In Rivers state in particular, pockets of crime seems to be re-occurring, why is it like that?

I have always said it that the responsibility of taking care of lives and properties, rests with either the state or federal government and security agents. I see that as the primary responsibility of every government, especially the governors. A few days ago I was with the governor and we were talking about the same issue. He was mumbling his own frustration; but one thing is sure: he understands so well that the responsibility lies with the government to protect its people. If a government cannot protect the citizens then it’s a failure on the path of the government. So I think the government is in the best position to address this question.
Recently, Gov. Amaechi celebrated his three years in office.  How would you review the activities and the achievements of the government in the past three years?

I will score him six over ten. In as much as we are happy with the progress he has made so far, we would like him to improve on areas like; service provision, good hospitals and schools. May be it’s too soon to make the final judgment. In the area of infrastructure, a lot of progresses have been made in terms of road construction. However, there are some significant areas that require the governor’s urgent attention.  Granted he can’t be everywhere at the same time, but nobody wants to hear that. If somebody that is living in Agip has a problem in their area, naturally those people will feel that they are neglected. So he should try as much as possible to reach out to such people, which I think he will. Since the rains are subsiding now, I think it is a good opportunity for him to take this advantage and do more in terms of infrastructure. If he does not, people will be disappointed in him, but I know he will.

There were reports that you were supporting Atiku’s candidature instead of the South-South.

Am a digital politician and an analogue one;  I think I know what is good from what is bad and I refuse to support any aspirant based on where he/she comes from.  You can’t pull that wool over my eyes.  If I do that, I would have surprised even myself and my conscience will not seat well with me. I am not supporting Atiku because he is from the North, neither am I supporting Jonathan because he is from the South-South.  I am supporting them because I have asked myself: what is the best for Nigeria; what are the issues that needs urgent attention, and in each of these questions, Atiku comes out best. So, if I  ignore that and focus on my tribal or ethnic sentiments, then my name will not represent the type of thinking I portray. If it was all the whites that voted for McCain he would have become the president of America. We cannot be looking at people along  ethnic line; instead, we should be looking based on what they represent and what they can offer. Atiku is the consensus candidate, yes, but I supported him before he became the consensus candidate. My second best candidate is Goodluck Jonathan, but unfortunately for him, Atiku is there and the gap between them is wide. If Goodluck has bridged the gap then maybe, I would not have been talking about Atiku. The sooner our people begin to worry about Nigeria instead of their interests, then I think we would be a lot better off.
Why are you supporting Atiku?

Three reasons:  one is based on personal reason because he supported me even when he did not know me from Adam and he believed the young shall grow when he gave a level playing ground for a shot at the governorship of Rivers state. He supported me in my case against Amaechi. When I looked at that, it is not enough because they are just personal reasons, but let’s leave that to one side because it is not significant. I also look at issues and pause, Nigerian has a quack financial set-up which we need to work ourselves out of. We can’t do it on our own, we need foreign investors, and we need people who can in-still confidence, bring businesses because at the end of the day, my argument has always been that the larger employers of labor should not be the government but small investments. Therefore, it goes to say that we would want somebody that will bring in investments.; Atiku is ahead of Jonathan in that regard. I also would like to see somebody who can manage government, somebody who can take decisions with some experience and also have the knowledge in what not to do. Atiku again has all that. Surprisingly, all these factors are all secondary , the primary thing is: what is the position of the future president of Nigeria on the Niger-Delta? Some people said that Atiku has got a Niger-Delta friendly agenda and they are correct. If you look at the sum total of it, you will realize that the Niger-Delta technical report, the one report that I know have been in front of Goodluck for over two years, not even a white paper have been produced on it. When this committee was inaugurated, I was one of the members; we sacrificed over three and a half months of our lives to making sure we come out with something. Some of the members of this committee are now dead. The report was made – at the inauguration of this committee in September 2008, Goodluck made two very profound statements, one: that the government would not gather people of high caliber and not treat their report, that the report would not be treated with laxity. Secondly, he said that after the report, a committee would be set up to produce a white paper on it. This is 2010, we are now going into 2011 and Goodluck has not said anything concerning the Niger-Delta technical report, not a word. You marry that against the fact that communities are been destroyed, people are been killed, I don’t want to talk too much about the little issues like sea piracy, bombing of pipelines, October 1 bombing and all that, just tell me about the Niger-Delta technical report. How come we submitted our report first but the Uwais report on electoral reforms has gotten three white papers even had an amendment.

Atiku said that he will look into the Niger-Delta technical report a week into office if elected. I know him to be a man of his word;  he does not make promises he cannot keep; just like I am holding Jonathan to his promises that he never kept.  If I have an e-mail address, I would give you copy of the report so that you can see what Goodluck himself said in the report. So am supporting Atiku, because the Niger-Delta would be better off under him than under Goodluck Jonathan.  It is a very serious and profound statement but I am happy that I have clear evidence.
What you are saying in essence is that the  President lacks the will powers to address the Niger-Delta issues?

That is exactly what I am saying.

So it goes beyond having one of your own as the president? Look at Katsina, it  has produced two presidents; Buhari and Yar’Adua, at Niger they had Babangida and Abdulsalami, Ogun state as well had Obasanjo, and when you go to any of these places, they are not Mecca or Jerusalem. So, you have a Niger-Delta President and still have lots of crying and suffering.  We need to move beyond ethnic sentiments and move towards sentiments of substance, and once we get to that point, even your own people will not disrespect you, they will see you and ask questions based on what you have done and not where you are from and will expect you to make pronouncements

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