How Tonye Cole had first taste of Rivers politics


* But Tonye Princewill blames unbridled violence on alleged US, UK impotence

When the oil business billionaire, Tonye Cole, emerged gubernatorial flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State few weeks ago, many said he was unknown in his state, may miss his way in the creeks, and may not pull in the votes. The moment the oil magnet however set out to tour the rural areas and prove his mettle with the village folks, guns boomed on his way to Degema last week.

A shootout was said to have occurred on the way with hoodlums, but Cole seemed to put the encounter behind him and has continued his tour of the grassroots, meeting groups in various localities of the Riveine state. Inside sources said after the local council level, the flag bearer would now take the ‘Discovery’ to villages and kindreds. He is said be excited by the outpourings in the villages and the fact that he has met areas never before visited by any top politician.

All this may not excite some his close associates who have berated the international allies for doing nothing when known politicians endorsed a non-violent pact in 2015 only for more killings to rather ensue. They say the US and UK have failed in showing enough guts against the known leaders of the parties that engaged in violence.

News broke out last week that Cole was ambushed on his way to Degema, apparently to sensitise the communities to go pick up their permanent voters’ cards (PVC). The attack came few days after the rival PDP group was allegedly attacked at Ipo in Ikwerre local council area during also a PVC sensitization rally.

Now, one of the strong pillars behind Cole, the Kalabari prince, Tonye Princewill (formerly of the PDP, later Labour Party, and now a staunch APC loyalist) who even rested his guber ambition just to ensure a united Kalabari or riverine front in 2019,raised the alarm.

He said after the incident: “I want to thank all those who reached out to our candidate with messages of sympathy and support after witnessing the act of sheer desperation the other day by our opponents during his visit to Degema LGA. It should be of no surprise to anyone to know that Tonye Cole is not only still active and well, but even more determined to push forward until sanity is restored to our politics again. He is neither bowed nor subdued, but is rather emboldened by his faith and his purpose. He’s here to win. By God’s grace, he will.”

He went on: “I want to use this opportunity to first call on the security agencies who are responsible for keeping the peace, to set an example that such acts will never go unpunished. It is the absence of consequence that provides the climate for this type of lawlessness. While Castro said “it is unlawful to be lawful in a lawless society”, Tonye maintains that “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”. Many of us were not with APC immediately after 2015, when being a member of APC was an invitation to write your will. We won’t accept that. We expect this set of security chiefs to mirror their successes elsewhere. The Niger Delta is the wealth of the nation and Rivers State is the treasure base. It must be secure.

“Secondly, let me remind the international community, particularly the US, UK and EU ambassadors, that previous attempts at halting violence did not work because none of your governments had any teeth. Known candidates engaged in known violence and nothing came out of it. No travel bans, no targeted sanctions and no withdrawal of support. I was there, every step of the way. It’s that impotence that provides a cover for no consequence. The result is a recurring cycle of violence. If we want to stop getting what we are getting, you have to stop doing what you’ve been doing. Friends should tell each other the truth.

“While we appreciate a lot of the good work both you and the security agencies are doing, it is clearly not enough in Rivers state and the cost of failure is too high. It’s measured in people’s lives. Condolences, shuttle diplomacy, and speeches are simply not going to be enough.”

The police are yet to declare any arrests in either of the shootings (Ipo or Degema)