Kalabari Kingdom is one of the clans that make up the Ijaw ethnic nationality in the Niger Delta region. The Kalabari kingdom comprises of Akuku-Toru, Asari-Toru and Degema local government area of Rivers State and part of the Rivers West senatorial district.
Although the Ijaw nation produced three governors in the old Rivers State, now Rivers and Bayelsa States, the Kalabari kingdom has not produced any governor since the creation of Rivers State in 1967.
From 1999 when civilians when civilians took over the reigns of government in Nigeria, several prominent Kalabari sons have made efforts to achieve this feat without success.
As another electioneering period takes off in earnest, young and influential Kalabari sons, belonging to the major political parties, apart from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have indicated interest to take over the Brick House, the Rivers State Government House come May 29, 2018.
The incumbent Governor, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is of the PDP and so far, no member of the ruling party has indicated interest in contesting the governorship ticket of the party against him.
In the All Progressives Congress (APC) alone, there are no fewer than seven governorship aspirants, out of which three are from the Kalabari kingdom.
Architect Tonye Partick Dele Cole, the scion of Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Netherlands, Chief Patrick Dele Cole, is one of those in the race to take over power from the incumbent Governor, Wike.
Although he is yet to publicly declare his intention to run, Cole can boost of an already made structure, the Rivers Unity House, an advocacy group within the APC, which has been clamouring for his emergence as the next governor of the state.
Born in 1967, TDC is he is fondly called by friends, political associates and supporters, is a billionaire entrepreneur, executive director and co-founder of Sahara Group.
While he serves as a board member for Atlas Mara, Bloomberg TV Africa, Enactus Nigeria, Nigerian Chamber of Shipping and Digital Jewels, Cole is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) and also the Private Sector Advisory Group of the United Nations Sustainable Development Fund (UN SDG-F).
A winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the United Kingdom Oil and Gas Council in 2017, many of his supporters believe he will bring in this wealth of experience to the governance of Rivers State and bring prosperity to the state.
According to Kingsley Wenenda Wali, leader of Rivers Unity House, Cole remains the biggest financier of the APC in Rivers State, adding that the agitation for his candidacy is based on principles and not the convoluted narrative of those who are scared of his statue.
Wali said, “Tonye Cole has been very supportive of the party and he is the biggest individual financier of APC in Rivers state. The agitation for a Tonye Cole candidacy is based on principles anf not the convoluted narrative of those who are scared of his statue. We can’t be complaining of poor governance & still continue to recycle those without capacity.,
“We are tired of rhetorics and politics. We want a state that health is key, education is a priority, development of commerce is fundamental purpose of govt, a more secure state where the environment is not taken for granted.
“We are not saying Tonye Cole is the only APC member or even a Rivers man that can do it, we are only saying that he has the verifiable history of industry and drive.”
Wali, who had said in several for a that he never discussed with Cole before embarking on the campaign, believes that the billionaire entrepreneur would use his connection to attract foreign investors to the state, thereby creating job opportunities for the people of the state.
The Rivers Unity House leader said, “We have gotten to the point where we say, fine, our state has been so politicised. What do we do? It is one thing to say something is wrong, it is another thing to provide the vehicle to correct that thing. And that was the point when some of us sat down and said this is the time to look for Rivers men and women who cab best offer service without thinking about self.
“We looked at those who had accomplished in what they had been able to do for themselves. People that started something and completed it. For example, if you have never created employment for two people, you can create for 20 people.
“So, at that point, our ambition of creating a Rivers State that is run on civilised reflexes led us into a campaign or advocacy for one of us.
When I say one of us, I mean a Rivers son, who is accomplished to come and see how he can best translate that thing which he had done for himself into helping the society grow.
“That is how we got to campaigning and advocating for Tonye Cole to run for the governorship of Rivers State under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).”
According to George Azunda Chinda, a chieftain of the APC in the state, Rivers people, let’s trust Tonye Dele Cole, a man who from a small office in downtown Lagos in 1996, built a conglomerate that now cuts across eight countries, three continents and over 50 branches.
“Such men are rare breeds. If he can manage the little he saved from working in Brazil and pooling resources together with two other guys to build Sahara Energy to the height it’s today, my people repositioning Rivers State with all its resources wouldn’t be a tough one.”
Also speaking on the possible emergence of Cole as the governorship candidate of the APC, Mudiaga Okorite Wanogho, a chieftain of the party, described the billionaire entrepreneur as an opportunity the people of Rivers State cannot afford to miss.
Wanogho said, “There comes a time in a people’s life when they must decide to swim against the tide, when it is convenient to flow with it. In such a time, when whatever actions they take can either make or mar their future.
“At this time of our collective existence as a state, Rivers State, the Treasure Base of Nigeria, whoever the mantle of leadership is thrust upon to steer the ship of the state from want to prosperity, from lack to surplus, from underdevelopment to development should be someone that has the requisite leadership qualities to lead with prudence and competence, with character and content that would ensure the progressive development of Rivers State and her people by implication.
“Since the creation of Rivers State in 27th of May, 1967, the state has been governed by military and civilian administrators alike. They have been people of divers intellectual and leadership qualities. Over the years, at no time can it be said that we have had someone with the intellectual and leadership standing of Tonye Dele Cole.
“Judging by the experience and expertise of TDC as a development strategist, an entrepreneur of no mean reputation, an oil and gas expert it is most apposite to state that when given the opportunity to steer the ship of the state in the troubled waters of underdeveloped societies, his experience would count and he would not have difficulties in investing the resources of the state for the development that is greatly desired by all. The time to make history has presented itself again, let us not be found wanting.”
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