Rivers: How APC’s Tonye Cole emerged as Wike’s challenger


* How it happened

* What Amaechi said

* What Dr Dakuku Peterside said

* What Wike, PDP think

* What next

It is now official that the globe-trotter and CEO of Sahara Energy, Tonye Dele Cole, is the anointed flag-bearer of the Rivers State wing of the All Progressives Ciongress (APC) to challenge the incumbent, Gov Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 governorship election.

The waiting for the emergence of the APC flagbearer led to Senator Magnus Abe declaring unilaterally. This caused a break up in the relationship between former governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (now transportation minister) and Abe as well as the APC in the state, each faction confessing total loyalty to President Muhammadu Buhari.

This made many to urge Amaechi to lead the way in choosing the flagbearer so that speculation could end and work to start. At a press chat in Port Harcourt a week earlier, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) who contested and lost against Wike in 2015, hinted that no loyal party member was allowed to declare himself. He said they agreed to use consensus to pick the flagbearer. He said he was waiting for that exercise.

Last week, Amaechi gathered those regarded as contenders and stakeholders in a place in Lagos and tabled his choice, Tonye Dele Cole. After some debate, it was gathered, all agreed.

Amaechi said he knew not everybody would like it but he gave his reasons, especially the need to choose someone with less political injury or known to lead a faction.

Wike reacted by calling it a business partnership, referring to the sale of Rivers power sector to Sahara Energy. He said he would lead the people to resist such partnership.

Senator Abe said the choice was to govern Lagos and that the ordinary people would sit in Port Harcourt and choose the flagbearer.

Two of the prominent persons seeking the position in the APC, Dr Peterside and Prince Tonye Princewill have spoken, giving insight how the decision was reached and their support for the eventual choice.

What Amaechi said

Mr. Tonye Cole, the oil billionaire and Co-founder of Sahara Energy is Chief Rotimi Amaechi’s preferred candidate for the APC’s governorship ticket in Rivers State.

“We are aware that not all would find it easy to accept the decision but I am also conscious that the decision was made for the best interests of the party and the group. We are aware that interests are divergent and numerous. And that they can only coalesce if we get someone neutral; someone who is able to get every interests to converge as one. What is critical is victory.

“Loyalty is not only when it favours you but when you are tempted and stretched to your limits. Ventilate we must but to move ahead we also must as the battles ahead are numerous and tedious. You all urged me on to proceed to make a decision and swore to stand by that decision. The time has therefore come to so do. Good morning my fellow compatriots and wish that we stand with each other to bring down this evil Government. God bless all of us.”

Tonye Princewill: The Choice of Tonye Cole – Matters Arising

Being one of the few privileged to be in the room when the decision was taken, one would have expected me to speak a little sooner. After all, I have been known to shoot from the hip, speak my mind plus my thoughts on the decision were pretty clear, right from the moment it was made. I confess that I had played out a series of scenarios in my head before hand and to each one, an appropriate set of responses was measured out and kept waiting. But I thought it wise to let the likely political gladiators for Governor have their say first, before doing my own justice to the moment. That time has come.

I want to start by thanking God for his grace and blessings to let me see this day. Having decided to sit this 2019 contest out, I had repeatedly told my supporters and my associates, that my role in this process was to be a facilitator, to help the leader and his leaders achieve victory in 2019. I joined the APC to help ease Wike out of government house, not to run for the position of Governor. The fact that I saw Amaechi as head and shoulders above Wike and saw the Buhari/Osinbajo collabo as better than our recent past, did not hurt either. APC members were warm and welcoming to me and it felt real good coming home. I never hid my preference for a Riverine Governor, preferably of Kalabari origin, but in the end I said, power must rotate. By negotiation.

Now in just under two years of being in APC, our work in Rivers state is no longer business as usual, a more formidable team has been assembled and with new direction, our fortunes have been given sound assurance. So the question that was before Amaechi, before us, was “Who would bell the wicked cat?” If it was an easy decision it would have been made earlier. I was a witness to at least two caucus meetings chaired by HE Amaechi on the issue and several one on one meetings that spanned many months. Chief Dumo Lulu Briggs and Dr. Dakuku Peterside had put up a good case for their consideration, Engr. Bekinbo Dagogo Jack had also made himself available and to be honest, either of them could have done us proud if given the chance. But alas they weren’t. Amaechi’s preference, our preference rested on the shoulders of Tonye Cole.

I say our preference because, it was not imposed on us. We all agreed. “Amaechi leads, We follow”. Not only when it suits us. It was not dependent on how he leads, neither was it dependent on where he leads. This was hard for me to swallow because I am used to being my own boss, being The Candidate, but I opted to be a team player by choice. So my word to my team is my bond. Good leaders must also be good followers. Independence is growth, but interdependence, when independent people join hands, is maturity. Some people will encourage rebellion, some will prod us into exercising our independent streak. Many for valid reasons, some to further deplete our resources. What is a cause for some of us, is a job for others. I hope we will resist that temptation.

So Tonye Cole is my choice and I urge us all to support him. Why????? Because it’s either him or Wike, he has a track record of success, not failure. He puts his friends above profits, he’s not materialistic and he represents a total departure from the status quo or business as usual. Let’s actually try something truly new. We may get different results. It will take some getting used to. For all of us. Both for him, the party and for the state. I’ve had my differences with him, as I have too with Amaechi, but I’ve never had cause to doubt their ability to deliver and their concern for the fate of those who are less privileged. In Tonye, we have a very quiet Kalabari son, not a stranger to the atmosphere of politics (thanks to his colossus of a father). In Tonye we have a man who can speak the language of business and a man who knows how to create jobs. He is not an ethnic jingoist, so he will see the whole state as his constituency, not just a part.

We as Kalabaris will come out en masse to support him. Make no mistake about it. Let me use this opportunity to thank our Leader, the Hon Minister for giving Tonye Cole this opportunity to govern this great state. You stood by us when you did not have to. We will never forget. My message will not be complete without thanking the party. You have been open to change while standing by the Leader. I’d also like to thank the elders. Your wisdom got us here. Let me also thank Hon. Byke Wanjoku and the IYM for sticking their necks out for us when it was not popular. Let me thank all of the other ethnic units of Rivers state, we respect you, we are coming and we need your support. To Ibiamu, Ngerebara, Dumo, Dakuku, Bekinbo, Dawari, Tolofari, Sokonte and all my Ijaw brothers, Haaaa Izon!!!! We did it!! It’s time to lead well. Truth has no hiding place. It‘s time to set Rivers state free. Peace, security, jobs, empowerment for all. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. AMEN

Egberi fa.

(Prince Tonye T.J.T Princewill, Convener, Riverine Leaders, APC – Rivers State)

Dr Dakuku Peterside  

The Director General of NIMASA and 2015 governorship candidate of APC in Rivers State, Dr Dakuku Adol Peterside has now cancelled his planned declaration this weekend following the adoption of Tonye Cole.

Indication has also emerged that Dakuku Peterside has now jettisoned his governorship ambition as a result of the development.

In a statement personally signed by him, titled “UNITY TO TRIUMPH”, Dr Dakuku said he has no ill-feelings on the choice of TDC by his boss,  Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.

He described APC as a family and directed his teaming supporters to now support Tonye Cole and also maintain their loyalty to the leader of the party in the state and Minister of Transportation,  Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.

Here is DAP’s statement:

“Dear Compatriots,

Yesterday our leader, Rt Hon C R Amaechi, whom we all subscribe to his leadership   made a decision of whom we should back for the office of the Governor of Rivers State in 2019. The lot fell on my friend and brother in Christ , Tonye Dele Cole .

2.  I made a commitment to the group earlier to stand by whatever decision the leader makes in the overall interest of the party and rivers state . I reiterated my position yesterday in the leadership meeting. I thus stand by the decision on TDC .

3. We have toiled from 2013 to date ( a period of five years ) and have made sacrifices & lost lives  in course of enthroning the kind of government we want in Rivers State; a government that will guarantee peace , unity and prosperity. In course of the struggle we bonded as  one indivisible family under God.

4. The decision by the Leader has been meet with mixed reactions, which is expected. My appeal is that  we allow the greater interest of APC & RVS to prevail .

5. To those who believe in the vision   I shared  in the past 5  years , the leadership I gave at various times & the path of loyalty to the cause I have chosen over time , I urge  you all to stand by the Leader, the party and the ordinary people of rivers state in support of TDC . I personally pledge my loyalty to the Leader (who is to me family ) and the decision he has made . I enjoin all my supporters to queue behind our leader CRA & ensure total victory for our party.

6.  I pray for unity among the members of APC & VICTORY in the 2019 election.

What next?

Now that the lords of the APC have brought up Cole and Magnus Abe is saying no way, what next will happen in the APC: will Abe decamp to PDP, will he float a parallel candidate (himself), or what? Will the APC stage a congress to endorse Cole or submit his name without congress and risk a court disqualification? Wike has picked his form and is waiting.