A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) and businessman, Prince Tonye Princewill in this interview reviews the state of the nation, affirming the successes of the Muhammadu Buhari administration and its seeming unwillingness not to blow its own trumpet.
We read your recent comments on the achievements of the President in Sochi, in summary, why should Nigerians be excited about what the President came back with?
I always prefer to be cautious with my praise. But even in my constructive skepticism, I know that the seeds sown are beginning to germinate. I see a few reasonsNigerians should celebrate. The first reason is the number of jobs that the 13 takeaways will bring.
I don’t have the numbers of direct or indirect jobs that will be created, but even the blind can see that the total number of jobs created will be significant. To me, the issue of jobs is the most important takeaway.
Our country is heading to No 3 in the world in population rankings. We already have a major problem in terms of unemployment and under employment as at today. It’s going to get a lot more worse. Listen, in the North, the average house has 7 children. In the South it’s three. A study shows that of the 7 children in the North, if one gets to University, they are lucky. In the South that number is 2 out of 3. I don’t want to talk about the standard of learning, that’s a whole different matter. What the statistics tell us is we are breeding a crisis. The next leaders will soon be chosen by very angry youths. So, any news that addresses this should be given support by those who think beyond the nose.
The second reason is the symbolism of it. For Russia to make this investment, it means we are now quite clearly a preferred destination for investment. I can go on and on about the infrastructure the Russia-Africa summit will bring to Nigeria. I can talk about the fact that every part of Nigeria will be affected by this. I can even go on to discuss the benefits to our security infrastructure, but they’re all a result of the investment. The symbolism itself will bring similar stories which will in turn bring more of the above, so to me the symbolism is the father of all the infrastructure, all the even development and all the improved security it will bring.
Speaking about preferred destination, the recent announcement about Nigeria’s climb up the ease of doing business world ranking has caused a few stirs among the population. People say it isn’t felt in their pockets and Nigeria is a lot harder for people today than it was in previous years. What is your view on that position?
Nigerians will always complain. It’s one of our national pastimes. If there was an event in the Olympics for complaining, we will win the gold back to back. But beyond that, they will not do anything. In fact, watch the same person later and they are somewhere laughing at a meme, a Nigerian skit or a homemade joke. This isn’t to downplay our reality, but not all complaints are skin deep. Yes things are tough, but most reasonable Nigerians know that there is a fair price to pay for progress.
The days of getting something for nothing are gone and rightly we have to be creative to survive. You cannot be where we were in 2015 at 171 in the rankings and take Nigeria to the next level unless you want to take us to the next level of despair and hopelessness. So, when people complain about the absence of any impact, I sympathize with them, they are like commuters who grumble about road works designed to improve their travel times or hungry people who don’t want to hear about the inevitable delay that comes from preparing the food.
My hope is they are not going to end up like militants waiting for dividends of democracy coming in the pipeline. Nigerians shouldn’t be taken for granted, even if they are their own worst enemies. Those with the responsibility of leadership should prod on regardless of any lack of appreciation they feel. If you want to get anything done in Nigeria, forget about any short term commentaries and move ahead regardless. I’ve seen government functionaries make very huge progress and not even bother about the media or publicity. This government fortunately or unfortunately does not go out of its way to court the media. The advantage is they remain focused, the disadvantage is the public assume nothing is happening.
We have won the election, let the focus be on governance. Even if Nigerians are happy with you this year, next year, they will still forget.
You are here with your friend at the AMAA awards, yet it isn’t clear that the Federal Government is supporting the arts like they should. You have been a firm believer in the arts and have put your money where your mouth is. Why is your party not doing likewise?
They are doing a lot more than they are credited for. But I agree they are not doing enough. The problem is on both sides. The industry does not have a voice, operates in silos and hasn’t learnt the basics of lobbying while the government is guilty of not going out of their way to nurture a sector that is quite easily the next billion dollar industry in Nigeria. The presence of the Minister is a testimony to the hope some of us still have in its future. I know he has an interest and I know that Lai Mohammed has an interest in the industry. Add that to the interest from CBN and BOI and I believe we have the beginning of a solution. No government can do all things at once. What is worse is when they hope on the advice of experts and the experts are not singing from the same hymn sheet. That is a major cause of stagnation because no wise government wants to make mistakes. My advice to the industry is if you want to make progress, articulate a coherent message and drive it.
As a lover of the arts and especially the entertainment industry, any message for the youth and the entertainment industry? Are you up to anything soon, any movie, entertainment project or event coming up?
Yes. I am. Both a movie and an entertainment project. But it’s too soon to make any clear cut announcements. Let’s be patient. As for our youths, my one and only message is that they should not make the mistake of thinking that the status quo will continue like this forever. In 1999, the military handed over to civilians at a time when many believed that it would either not happen or would not last. Now 20 years later, the older civilians may soon handover to younger ones and whenever it happens, they need to be ready. Believe it or not, Buhari is the best bet since independence to help the next generation achieve this level of joy. He may very likely sign a new electoral bill into law. Do not expect any other President to do it.