Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the leadership of the All Progressives Congress has picked Lagos-based businessman, Tonye Cole, as its standard bearer in Rivers State.
Recall that 10 governorship aspirants from the riverine extraction, including Tonye Princewill and Dr Dakuku Peterside, had signed a pact to support whoever would emerge amongst them.
But it was learnt that the leader of the party in the state and Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, had last week asked all 10 aspirants to halt consultation, saying the party would choose a standard bearer.
Cole was the party’s candidate in the state in 2019, though the APC was excluded from the ballot by INEC following a court order after series of litigations by opposing camps of both Senator Magnus Abe and Rotimi Amaechi.
Confirming the party’s choice in a statement on Saturday morning, a chieftain of the party and one of the aspirants, Tonye Princewill, said Cole was picked not by Amaechi but the party’s leadership.
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.
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“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.”
A well respected member of the party, who was privy to the development, disclosed that the meeting held in Abuja, and that all those aspiring for the governorship ticket of the party from the riverine extraction were present, including Dr. Dakuku Peterside.
It is worthy to mention that Amaechi and other key stakeholders of the party had placed preference on a riverine governorship candidate.
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They insist that it amounts to equity and fairness for a riverine Ijaw to be giving the opportunity for the job, a decision that runs contrary to the aspiration of Senator Magnus Abe, on the APC paltform.
The source, who did not want his name mentioned in the media, said the party arrived at the decision following the reports submitted to it by a nine-man committee set up by the party to look into who the party fields for the poll.
However, it was gathered on good authority that some of the aspirants who were not in tandem with the decision took up a mild protest against the decision, although no negative action has been taken.
Meanwhile the faith of Magnus Abe who recently declared his interest to contest the governorship position on the platform of the APC remains unknown.
Abe, who represented Rivers South-East District in the National Assembly, had fallen out with Amaechi.
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He had said anything less than a fair contest to pick a governorship candidate in the state might have dire consequences for the party.
Reacting, Golden Chioma, Chairman of the Senator Abe-led APC faction, said it would not support the emergence of Cole as the standard bearer of the party in the state.
Chioma in a telephone interview said the process of Cole’s emergence was a “fraud”, adding that the business mogul would not be accepted by APC delegates.
He stated, “Cole does not have our approval. We cannot be with him; the man is not a party man. He is a business associate of the Minister of Transportation.
“This entails that selfishness has been taken to the highest order for a man who has no business of playing politics, who has no iota of idea of playing politics to be shoved down the throat of his supporters.”
Chioma said Amaechi was backing Cole because of their business dealings, pointing out that there are more credible and experienced candidates in the minister’s faction but he (Amaechi) did not endorse them