Few days ago, both the traditional and social media space were awash with the news that the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State and Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, endorsed gubernatorial ambition of a billionaire entrepreneur, Architect Tonye Dele Cole, popularly called ‘TDC’.
Until the ‘endorsement’, nothing much was heard about the personal involvement of Cole in active politics or activities of the APC in the state, even though a pressure cum advocacy group, the Rivers State Unity House (RUH) had been touring all the nooks and crannies of the state canvassing for support for the billionaire entrepreneur.
Several prominent members of the APC had indicated interest in flying the party’s flag in the governorship election come 2019. They include; the senator representing Rivers South-East district in the National Assembly, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe and the Director-General of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside.
Others are oil mogul, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs; the Executive Director, Procurement, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Dr. Sokonte Davies; former member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Dawari George; former leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Dr. Chidi Julius Lloyd and renowned environmental activist, Celestine Akpobari.
In an apparent move to prove that he is indeed ready to accept the task, Cole resigned from his position as the Chief Executive Officer of Sahara Oil
To Amaechi, who is also the immediate past Rivers State Governor, his endorsement of the candidate of Cole, does not mean he has been appointed the governorship candidate of the APC in the state.
The minister, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt described report of appointment of a governorship candidate for the party as “wild, misleading, misguided and deliberately distorted”, saying that he has the constitutional right to support or promote any qualified party member of his choice.
The statement reads in part, “On official national assignment in China, the attention of the Honourable Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has been drawn to several wild, misleading, misguided and deliberately distorted stories and claims linking the Minister who is the Leader of the APC in Rivers State and the South-South region, to a purported ‘appointment’ of a Governorship Candidate for the APC in Rivers State for the 2019 gubernatorial election.
“To clarify this fallacy, the Minister restates that: As an individual, a registered voter and a card carrying APC member from Rivers State, it’s the Honourable Minister’s inalienable, constitutionally enshrined democratic right to back/support/promote any qualified fellow party member of his choice, to aspire to be the candidate of the party in the State in the forthcoming governorship election or any other election.
“However, as a true and thorough democrat, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, a foundation member of the APC and a leading light of the party, recognizes that the Party candidates for the 2019 general elections will be choosen/elected by party members through the prescribed democratic process in the party’s constitution, rules and regulations.
“It is therefore preposterous, mischievous; wholly and intentionally disingenuous and deceitful for anyone to claim, allege or even insinuate that the Honourable Minister has “appointed” a governorship candidate for APC in Rivers State.”
Already, several governorship aspirants on the platform of APC and other chieftains of party, have come our openly to declare support for the endorsement of TDC by Amaechi, believing that being relatively new in active politics, the billionaire entrepreneur will give Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike a good fight.
To take the lead in this direction was the Director-General of NIMASA and one of the governorship aspirants in the party, Peterside, said he decided to support Amaechi’s choice because he made a decision to support anyone chosen as the governorship candidate of the party.
The NIMASA boss, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt said: “Yesterday our leader , Rt. Hon. CR 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.
“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.
“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.
“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 and Rivers State to prevail.
“To those who believe in the vision I shared in the past five 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 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.”
To Oji Ngofa, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Netherlands, he believes that Amaechi’s choice for the 2019 governorship election remains the choice of majority of the APC members in the state, who are loyal to the minister.
Ngofa said: “Our Leader, The Honourable Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has this morning revealed to us our choice of candidate for the 2019 Gubernatorial Elections. Yes, it’s our choice because we have all pledged our loyalty to our Leader and agreed that we shall support his choice the way we had always done.
“The choice of Tonye Dele Cole is to me at once pragmatic and visionary. It takes care of the tenuous nexus of our divergent alliances behind aspirants and also speaks to our party’s serious desire to take the growth and development of our dear state beyond mere political platitudes.
“I believe fervently that what has defined our tenacity as members of APC behind Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi more than anything else is our believe in his unquestionable and all consuming love for Rivers state and his visionary altruism which he has demonstrated succinctly through out his political career.
“We have kept faith with him and made dangerous sacrifices as members of APC because of our love for our state and acceptance of his leadership model. This is the time to demonstrate even deeper faith in our leader.
“I understand, and it’s quite normal that alliances behind aspirants had been forged and promises made but we owe our dear state greater commitment as our individual prosperity can better be realised through enthroning an enduring prosperity in the state.
“I acknowledge and appeal to other aspirants who have toiled and made tremendous sacrifices to engrave our party as a formidable alternative platform in the consciousness of our people to accept the decision. As major stakeholders, we can work out an all inclusive mechanism to integrate and guarantee an adequate reward system within the party.
“Fundamentally, we are resolved around one purpose: The growth of Rivers State under APC. We have imposed on ourselves the onerous responsibility to kick out from the Brick House an elaborate tapestry of a criminal syndicate erroneously referred to as a government under the headship of a political mobster called Wike. It’s a task we must achieve, and it can only be achieved in a united party, with a concatenated synergy of purpose.”
On his part, a chieftain of the APC in the state, Prince Tonye Princewill, said he was among the previlleged few that witnessed the endorsement of TDC, saying his job is to help the party ease out Wike in 2019.
Princewill, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt said: “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.”
To Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, who is another governorship aspirant, although he reserves his comment on the endorsement of Cole by Amaechi, he remains a committed and loyal members of the APC in the state.
Lulu-Briggs, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt said: “Our party leaders and members expect me to state my position on the Thursday August 30, 2019 endorsement of Arch Tonye Dele Cole by the leader of our party in Rivers State and the South South, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi
“I congratulate the leadership of the APC in the State, our vibrant party members and very particularly our leader, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi for transforming our great party in the state to a bigger and stronger political party.
“I appreciate the enormous sacrifices of our leader in making the APC the party to beat in the 2019 elections and his acknowledgement that I have strongly supported his every effort in building the APC in Rivers State the moment I joined.
“My interest in the governorship seat of Rivers State was not a hasty decision. It has spanned over a decade; built on consultations and supported by people who have volunteered because of our extensive engagements and consultations and their dreams of a greater, more prosperous Rivers State.
“My aspiration has acquired a status that is beyond Dumo Lulu-Briggs. It is therefore in this respect that we are unable to make a definitive statement at this point in time, considering that we have to consult and inform our supporters about the August 30th endorsement of Architect Tonye Cole by our leader.
“Let me however in this interim statement, reaffirm my unequivocal belief in the unity of our great party, the APC and my unalloyed loyalty to our leader, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, whose favourite mantra is the scripture that says “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this: that power belongeth unto God” (Psalm 62:11).
“Let me assure the party that our final position on this matter shall enhance the gains of our great party, the APC in Rivers State and make it even bigger and stronger.
“We do this believing that the will of God in my life and the lives of each and every one of us shall surely happen. Let none of my supporters therefore despair and let none be disrespectful of the party, its membership and our great leader.”
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