Why It Matters
The Rivers APC is presently factionalized between the loyalists of Amaechi, who is seen as the party’s leader in the state and those of Senator Magnus Abe, his ex-ally who has indicated interest in obtaining his party’s nomination.
Tonye Cole’s recent resignation from the board of Sahara Energy, a company he co-founded in a bid to join politics confirms the speculation that he feels reasonably assured of picking the APC ticket when the primaries are held later this month. Before now, it appeared that Amaechi was set to endorse his political godson, the 2015 APC guber candidate and head of Nigeria’s maritime agency, Peterside Dakuku, but he has now changed course.
However, this is not the first time Amaechi had attempted to bring Cole into government. Cole was nominated alongside Governor Wike in 2012 for a ministerial position within the former President Jonathan administration which eventually dropped Cole after initially submitting his name to the Senate for confirmation.
What we are hearing:
Amaechi had a change of mind in favor of Cole, a candidate with outsider status, connections and financial war chest to match the state governor, Nyesom Wike. For him, Tonye Cole, who is a close friend of his ticks those boxes.
While it came as news only a few days ago, Cole who is yet to make any public statement already established structures within the APC – a group called the Rivers Unity House – which has been working to promote his candidacy.
Reactions from key stakeholders:
Governor Wike Floats An Existing Conspiracy Theory:
Wike revived the rumors that Cole was acting as a front for former Governor Amaechi’s business interests. Reacting to the news, Wike said Rivers would not allow the state to be hijacked by “business partners”, alluding to a transactional relationship between Amaechi and Cole.
He said: “We will not allow two business partners to take over this state. We are aware in Rivers State. Nobody can do to this state the charade that is obtainable in Lagos State.
“People intentionally sold key assets of Rivers State to themselves and now they want to take more through business partnership. They sold to themselves the gas turbines, sold to themselves Olympia Hotel and Abonnema Wharf. If we allow them, they will sell the whole GRA to themselves. They should know that we are prepared.”
Peterside Understands and Pledges Loyalty to Leader Amaechi:
Dakuku Peterside in his reaction agreed to abide by the decision of the leader and expressed understanding of the consequence of such pronouncement to the party’s unity.
He said: “The decision by the Leader has been met with mixed reactions, which is expected. My appeal is that we allow the greater interest of APC and Rivers State to prevail.
“To those who believe in the vision I shared in the past 5 years, the leadership I gave at various times and 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 Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and ensure total victory for our party. I pray for unity among the members of APC & victory in the 2019 election.”
Magnus Abe Is Indifferent And Added That Tonye Cole Is Not A Party Member:
Senator Abe downplayed the significance of Tonye Cole’s endorsement by Amaechi. Abe insists that he remains in contention for the ticket and said he does not recognize the membership of Tonye Cole within the APC.
“I, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, have said I am going to vie for the governorship ticket of our party, the APC, and I want to repeat that I will vie for the governorship ticket of APC.
“Every other Rivers son or daughter who believes that he or she has the capacity and the experience to offer the needed services that our state needs at this time is welcome.
“As far as I know, I have not known Tonye Cole to be a member of the party (APC). But if he has decided to join the party as to contest for the governorship, it is a welcome development.”