Despite the call for cancellation by some aggrieved party members, the All Progressives Congress in Rivers State is anxiously awaiting the next General elections scheduled for 2023. There is an increased tempo of campaigns and political activities by the various actors, but it seems the most preferred candidate is Tonye Patrick Cole, the All Progressives Congress candidate, who was unanimously endorsed by the party leadership. With his emergence, the drumbeats of war are dying down in the party, and all hands seem to be on deck for his victory. And as the Election Day draws near, Tonye Cole and other parties are becoming even more conscious that the voter armed with his voter card is king.
Born in 1967, Tonye Patrick Cole is the co-founder and former Group Executive Director of Sahara Group, an energy conglomerate with operations spanning the entire energy chain in Nigeria and neighbouring West African countries to East Africa and beyond. The Group operates in 38 countries around the world with over 4,000 employees and annual turnover of $11 billion. He was directly responsible for building the Group’s global expansion and upholding her corporate governance principles, maintaining her status with global institutions like the World Economic Forum, where he was a key member of Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI), The United Nations), where he was a pioneer member of the advisory board of the Private Sector Advisory Group for the UNDP Sustainable Development Group Fund (SDG-F), The African Philanthropy Forum amongst others.
Ten governorship aspirants from the riverine extraction, had signed a pact to support whoever emerges amongst them. Cole in 2019 had also received the nod of Amaechi, to fly the party’s flag.
For 20 years, Tonye Cole, and his business partners have successfully managed and sustained their partnership on Sahara Group without a partner moving on with some parts of the business empire or another threatening with litigation to get his piece of the conglomerate’s vast assets. Meanwhile the APC governorship candidate in Rivers State and former Chairman of Sahara Energy, Arc Tonye Cole, has promised to industrialize the State when elected in 2023.
Cole specifically commended the former Minister of Transportation, Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, as well as members of the party in state for the success of the gubernatorial primaries.
“I want to assure the people of Rivers State that what you’re seeing here today is the change for a better Rivers State. We are bringing dignity back to Rivers State
“APC is on a mission in Rivers State to bring hope to the hopeless; to bring back a future for our youths; to open up an environment where young people can express their talents; to bring back industrialization to this state.”
According to Wikipedia, apart from running one of Nigeria’s largest energy conglomerates, Mr. Cole also spearheaded and developed work carried out for the Sahara Foundation globally. He has inspired the youths of Africa, especially his kinsmen through charities such as his NGO, Nehemiah Youth Empowerment initiative, which aims to influence change in Africa by bringing together young and emerging leaders to develop and implement practical strategies that will produce positive outcomes for millions and more recently, Behavioral Health Institute (BHI) that he set up for the study and management of behavioral health issues especially among the youths in Nigeria. In addition, he works closely with a number of foundations in Nigeria including the Down Syndrome Foundation, Slum-2-School Foundation, The Compassionate Center and various orphanages. He served as a board member for Atlas Mara, Bloomberg TV Africa, Enactus Nigeria, Nigerian Chamber of Shipping and Digital Jewels. He is also a member of the Private Sector Advisory Group of the United Nations Sustainable Development Fund (UN SDG-F). and He was appointed to the World Bank Group’s (WBG) Expert Advisory Council on Citizen Engagement.
The race is now before Tonye Cole, who seems to be the preferred candidate for River State indigenes, and his only goal is to win and become the next governor of Rivers State. Having emerged from his party primaries as victor, Tonye Cole is prepared to test his popularity among the electorates, whose votes would determine his fate next year.
Though, about 28 political parties and their candidates are standing for the coming elections, in Rivers State, hopes are high that Tonye Patrick Cole is the preferred candidate. Only three of the parties have shown seriousness in the race, and Tonye Cole has been on the lips of all.
This is because, all appears not well with the ruling party in Rivers state, giving the instance of the unfair treatment meted to Governor Nyesom Wike, during and after the Presidential primaries of the PDP.
The situation is particularly worrisome considering that it is just less than seven months to the general election, in which the All Progressives Party’s candidate, Tonye Cole, ordinarily, has a bright chance of performing well.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers, just as in other states is facing internal wrangling, an aftermath of the presidential primary, and it is primarily because Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa was picked by the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar as his running mate. The situation has escalated in recent days.
The thinking is that the performance of the APC in the coming general election would go a long way in determining how strong the party is in the oil-rich state. More reasons, political pundits believe choosing Tonye Cole as its candidate is the best choice for Rivers APC.
Some pundits think Cole has a brighter chance of performing better in the gubernatorial election, considering his political influence, financial strength and popularity.
Cole, during the Primaries polled 986 votes ahead of his closest rival, Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, who scored 190 votes at the Rivers APC governorship primary held on Thursday.
Cole is believed to be supported by major party leaders in Rivers state, including Mr. Rotmi Amaechi, Nigeria’s Transportation Minister, and political rival of former Senator Magnus Abe.
Confirming the party’s choice in a statement issued yesterday, a chieftain of the party and one of the aspirants, Tonye Princewill, said Cole was not picked by Amaechi but by the leaders of the party. The statement read, “The decision has just been made for Tonye Cole to fly the flag. It was not made by the minister.”
It was made by the leaders of the party. The 10 aspirants plus two new names that had also indicated interest were asked to excuse themselves, while all of the leaders minus the minister then sat and deliberated. We were just called back along with the minister to be given their decision.”
Cole is an active politician and a rich businessman with an impressive resume. He is perceived to have the financial capacity to wrest political power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State.
In the last few days, some leaders of the APC have on different platforms expressed their pleasure on the choice of the party’s candidate in Rivers State.
While another leader also applauded Rivers APC’s decision to align with the party leader’s recommendation of Tonye Cole. They believe Tonye, as the party’s choice is in tandem with the overwhelming recommendation by the party leadership. They have several times commended the candidate and other aspirants for honoring the democratic choice in the selection of the party’s gubernatorial flag bearer.
“Fortunately, Tonye Cole was unanimously picked by our party. That is wisdom,” a Party leader said.
Infact, the Ijaw Nation Congress, INC, has commended APC and its gladiators in Rivers State for their support for the Tonye Cole of Ijaw extraction to be candidate in the 2023 general elections, noting that it shows an uncommon sense of oneness, unity equity, fairness to balance the political equation of the state.
“It’s a win-win and victory for the Ijaws in Rivers State to vote for the best with the rest of Rivers people, a governor that will truly transform and industrialize Rivers State to her place of glory as an economic hub in Africa”, INC said.
“Our long nonpartisan agitation is for an Ijaw governor in Delta and Rivers State, since the coast is getting clearer in 2023 in Rivers State, we urge all sons and daughters of Ijaw nation, especially the Rivers State Ijaw clans to rally round the ambition of these their sons, who are now governorship flag bearer of All Progressives Congress, APC, Pastor Tonye Cole; Peoples Democratic Party, PPDP, Maopu-Senibo Dinars; Accord party, Dumo Lulu-Briggs and National Rescue Movement, NRM, Amb Sobomabo Jackrich”, INC stated.
INC noted that for these noble Ijaw sons, flying the flags of their various political parties in Rivers State for the forthcoming governorship elections in 2023 was a victory to the Ijaw nation and a win-win situation.
Olamide Adeniji is a member of the editorial team of TheScript Newspaper