Prince Tonye Princewill Speaking on Radio Nigeria’s Politics Nationwide Program, read the full interview below.
Host: More than two decades ago, a new cloud of a political climate covered this land Nigeria, when the sitting military junta voluntarily transferred power to a civilian president-elect. Since then, the democracy has grown from onset to fledgling. And one is asking after 20 years, where are we? On Politics Nationwide, today we will look at embracing developmental politics. We will tie it to what has happened so far in the present-day governance, which is headed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Some people think it’s slow. Others think it’s static. But it is on record that the second Niger bridge is ongoing, the Kaduna Abuja Expressway which has received attention. Other projects include the dredging of the one port in Rivers state, dredging of the Calabar ports, reconstruction of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, reconstruction of the Aminu Kanu Airport, Kano, and the discoveries and collection of looted funds, not forgetting the transfer of over 500 billion from the EFCC to the federal government purse.
These and more have been achieved by the present government. That is not a 100 percent score, but as we inch towards May 29, another day of stocktaking, let us use this platform to examine our lives in the political turf. It was Socrates who said an unexamined life is not worth living. Today on the program we have a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress APC in Rivers state, Mr. Tonye Princewill. Sir, you are welcome to Politics Nationwide this morning.
Prince Tonye Princewill: Thank you. It’s good to be here.
Host: Ok, Mr. Princewill, as you attend to my questions, my producer says, to keep in view that politics has been variously defined as the art of the art and science of alternative allocation of values, who gets what, how and why? Now, some people still refer to politics as a dirty game, and whoever indulges in intrigue or mischief is said to be playing politics. How would you react to this?
Prince Tonye Princewill: My reaction is that politics is too important to be left to politicians, unfortunately, for…
Host: Too important to be left to politicians?
Prince Tonye Princewill: Yes, too important to be left to politicians. Unfortunately for us as a society, we rely heavily on politics, whether it be for development. And I’m glad you’re talking about developmental politics or whether it be for sustenance. So politics is too, too important. And maybe your opener, I think, set the stage for this conversation because you talked about the military junta leaving power to the civilians and it was somewhat unexpected. So those people who are busy, who were working, who had something to do with their lives, never took them seriously. And it was the semi jobless to the jobless who jumped into this space. So politically speaking, now we’re now suffering from that. Let me use the word, uh, uh, inactivity of what you might call intelligentsia class people who should know better, who know better, who should have gotten involved in politics, who felt that politics wasn’t that important. And it is that the two are still trying to recover from. So for me, in my own definition of politics is simply that it’s too important to be left to politicians.
Host: Ok, so the view of people that politics is a dirty game. How would you respond to that assertion?
Prince Tonye Princewill: Well, look. There’s a famous saying that spectators are either cowards or ignorant. When you have politics as a dirty game, if you have a responsibility to your children, if you have a responsibility to your community, if you have a responsibility to your family, then you have a responsibility to affect the politics. Sitting back and saying that it’s a dirty game is not good enough. I’m a football fan and my team is Manchester United. I do not expect the team to play any differently if the players are the same. I expect that the players and the coach affect the play. So ultimately, if you want to change politics, then you need to be in there playing. You cannot improve politics by standing at a distance and watching.
You don’t affect a game by watching it on TV. If you really, truly want to affect the game, you have to be there on the field. So for those of us that are complaining, I want you to ask yourself, what are you doing about the politics? Whether it be from the media, whether it be from supporting a candidate, whether it be being a candidate yourself, you must convince yourself that you’re playing some role, no matter how small, to affect the politics of the day. Complaining is not good enough. I’ve said it before that if complaining was an Olympic sport, Nigerians would probably be winning gold all the time. We cannot sit down and keep complaining, complaining from a distance. We have to be asking ourselves, what are we doing about it?
Host: Why do you call it complaining? If you are, for example, if you are elected to a position or a political position in the country and you are doing something and I feel OK, you should do it this way or the opposition who is to check you says, OK, no, you should do this. Why do you call it complaining?
Prince Tonye Princewill: What you have just described is perfect, it’s fantastic. That is not complaining. That’s constructive criticism. That is saying you should do it this way. OK, but just saying that these people are terrible should be bad. They should resign. They should be sacked. They should jump out of this. That is complaining. I would like people to be offering or preferring alternatives. What do you suggest? And I also look at the political… When I say politics is too important to be left to politicians. The political class should be challenged. The political class should be held to account. There is no doubt that transparency and accountability are part and parcel of leadership. I have no doubt about that. But what I’m saying is that you can participate even if your participation is constructive criticism it’s still participation. And so we expect criticism. We expect it to be constructive, but sitting down and throwing your toys at the television screen is not good enough. We expect people to act.
Host: Ok now at the intro of this conversation, we said politics is authoritative allocation of values. Now if politics is that. According to late political scientist David Easten. What is your assessment of the nature of politics being played in our country?
Prince Tonye Princewill: Well, I think our politics is in need of a lot of, um, surgery. Why do I say that? It’s divisive. It’s counterproductive. Um, if you look at a lot of the major problems that we face in society today, it’s clear that it’s out and because of our politics. Rather than our politics building us, our politics is breaking us down. Rather than our politics bringing us together, our politics is dividing us. And you can point the finger in many different directions, but I want to say that if you take a close look at it, you’ll see that in Nigeria we have probably three main groups of people, forget party delineations. The party delegations are really superficial. I’ve said it many times before that there’s no major difference between APC and PDP. What really differs between the two is just who is leading at any one time. That is why you can find somebody in APC who is a governor in one state running a completely different set of policies from somebody who is APC, who is governor in another state. In other words, there’s no ideology in party politics. But if you look at the groupings of Nigerians, you have the traditionalists. These are the old school, if you like. They are really from the era of where you have love for country sense of duty and a bit authoritative. They didn’t fully grasp democracy a bit politically naive. And this old school, um, they have their positives. There’s no doubt that when you look at some of our leaders that have come, past and that are still here today, you have that old school thread running through them.
They’re not particularly bothered about media. Media speaks, but they know where they’re going. Um, then you have the modern class, the people who are progressive in their thinking, but they are more interested in economic prosperity. They’re more interested in human rights, rule of law, that group of people. Um, of course, the problem with that group is that with their drive for economic success, they worry less about equality, they worry less about economic diversity. They’re more interested in just putting and filling their pockets, their immediate family is their concern. Um, and then you have the new age, the younger, more mobile, generation. They are almost reverse patriotic as far as they’re concerned. What has Nigeria done for them? Uh, they point at their parents and their grandparents who had scholarships and they had everything paid for, uh, they came out for jobs, but there are no jobs. They finished, they graduate. And the word graduates is now translated into gradu-actually-wait, they graduate and wait nothing is happening in their lives. Their parents have paid their school fees or they have struggled to find their way through school and there are no jobs. Now, these various groups see Nigeria from their own different perspectives. And if you look carefully, you will find out that politics has not done anything to address the various negatives that each of these groups carry along with them. That, unfortunately, is why I say politics in Nigeria requires major surgery.
Host: Apart from saying it requires some major surgery. You also said that our politics is counterproductive.
Prince Tonye Princewill: Yes
Host: that’s a strong word. Now, what do you mean by that?
Prince Tonye Princewill: What I am saying really is that if you’ve had political parties for this long, then how come none of them has a policy on youth unemployment? And when I say that, I’m not saying that individuals or individual leaders have not developed policies, but I’m saying that from a party perspective, if i’m a party and I believe in something as a party, I will expect my candidates to also imbibe that belief, that is not expected of us. I have been a member of PDP, I’ve been a member of APC, and I know deep down inside the party do not have ideologies. That they expect their political candidates to carry into the field, so we talk about developmental politics, in other words, what we are asking is asking ourselves, can we get our politics to actually help us develop? And, of course, for you to develop, you must have a policy. For you to have a policy, you must have an ideology. In the absence of an ideology, what policy are we talking about? Why would a government come today and run a completely different set of policies from the government of yesterday simply because there is no ideology that runs through the political party which will ensure continuity? I don’t want to get academic. The point I’m trying to make is that if we look at our politics today, are we really genuinely happy with where the politics has brought us? And to me, I think the general answer is no.
Host: So what is the way out of that?
Prince Tonye Princewill: The way out of it is pretty simple. Um, it takes in business. They say it takes 20 percent of the people to do 80 percent of the work. What you simply need is a core group of people to define an ideology And imprint it, it’s like having a vision. You come into a place and you say, what is the vision for this place? Whether you look at Joe Biden in the US or you look at Boris Johnson they all come as men of vision, they imprint a footprint on the party. President Buhari is not, to be fair to him, a politician. He saw the decay and decided to come and play his own role and his own part in it. But go back to the core politicians and look deeply. You will see that they lack ideology. There’s no ideology. They’ve not pushed for an ideology to be imprinted on the party. If I’m joining APC today, or I’m joining PDP today. Nobody asks me what my values are. Nobody asks me to ascribe to values. They just clap for me and they say, come in. You’re welcome.