Ahead of the 2019 elections, indications emerged on Friday that the Minister of the Transport, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi may have endorsed oil and gas businessman, Mr. Tonye Dele Cole who is also the founder of the Sahara Energy group as the flagbearer of All Progressives Congress, APC, for Rivers gubernatorial election.
Amaechi, who is generally regarded as the leader of APC in Rivers has not publicly made any statement on the issue.
However, his very close ally and the Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside, who was the Rivers’ APC governorship candidate in 2015 and his running mate, Asita O. Asita took stakeholders in Rivers politics by suprise when they issued a statement supporting the choice of Cole as party’s gubernatorial candidate in the 2019 election on Friday.
Peterside, who made his support for Amaechi’s choice official in a statement he personally signed, called on APC members to rally behind Mr. Cole, whom he called “my friend and brother in Christ”, for the sake of the party and the ordinary people of Rivers State.
In the statement which he captioned, “Unity to Triumph”, Peterside, recalled his earlier commitment to stand by whatever decision Amaechi would make 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 (Tonye Dele Cole)”, Peterside said.
The NIMASA DG, who was believed to be a frontline contender until the announcement, said that APC and its members in Rivers Stat had toiled to build the party, a process which involved loss of lives: “We have toiled from 2013 to date (a period of five years ) and have made sacrifices and 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.”
Peterside, who noted that Amaechi’s decision on Cole had met “mixed reactions” which he said was expected, however, noted that the greater good of APC and Rivers State should be paramount.
“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 CRA(Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi) and ensure total victory for our party.”
However, APC in Rivers State through its Publicity Secretary, Chris Finebone, said the party is unaware of such endorsement by Amaechi to pick somebody neutral to the political bickering that has led to two parallel secretariats of the party in the state.
Mr. Finebone said that party’s constitution does not give room for “adoption” and governorship aspirants would have to contest in the forthcoming primaries.
“The process for choosing candidates, whether Presidential, Governorship and State Assembly as ratified by National Working Committee, NWC, does not recognize adoption. If people are are speculating who the leader (Amaechi) would support, he has always made it clear that he would support somebody. But whoever he would support has not been made known “.
Asita O. Asita in his reaction, said the choice of Tonye Dele Cole, a Kalabari, from the riverine area of the state and a big player in oil and gas industry was in line with the desire of APC to shift power from the upland to the riverine part of the state.
Dr Peter Odili, Celestine Omehia, Chibuike Amaechi and Nyesom Wike will complete 20 years domination of the upland’s occupation of Rivers Government’s House by 2019, he noted.
However, Senator Magnus Abe, who represents Rivers South East, Senatorial district from Ogoniland who had also declared his ambition to contest for the 2019 gubernatorial ticket of APC has argued that since the state was created 57years ago, no Ogoni has been Governor, Deputy Governor, Speaker of the State Assembly or the Chief Judge of the state.
Abe and his supporters created a parallel APC secretariat by Waterlines Junction on Port-Harcourt /Aba Expressway about a kilometer away from the secretariat of the other members loyal to Amaechi.
Below is Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside’s full statement.
UNITY TO TRIUMPH – DAP
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 and 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 and Rivers State to prevail.
5. 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 CRA and ensure total victory for our party.
6. I pray for unity among the members of APC and VICTORY in the 2019 election.