By Tonye Princewill

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 any issue. I had played out a series of scenarios in my head and to each one, an appropriate set of responses was measured and kept waiting. I thought it wise to let the likely political gladiators for governor of Rivers State have their say first, before doing my own justice to the moment. That time has come.

I thank God for his grace to 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 All Progressives Congress (APC) to help ease Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State out of government house, not to run for the position of governor. The fact that I saw Hon. Rotimi 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.

Under two years of being in APC, our work in Rivers State is no longer business as usual. A more formidable team has been assembled and with new direction, our fortunes have been given sound assurance. The question that was before Amaechi and the rest of us, was “Who would bell the wicked cat?” If it was an easy decision it would have been made earlier. I was a witness to, at least, two caucus meetings chaired by Amaechi on the issue and several one-on-one meetings that spanned many months. Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs and Dr. Dakuku Peterside had put up a good case for their consideration, Engr. Bekinbo Dagogo Jack had also made himself available; and to be honest, any of them could have done us proud given the chance. However, Amaechi’s preference, our preference rested on the shoulders of Tonye Cole.

I say our preference because, it was not imposed on us. We all agreed. “Amaechi leads, we follow.” Not only when it suits us. It was not dependent on how he led, neither was it dependent on where he led. This was hard for me to swallow because I am used to being my own boss, being The Candidate, but I opted to be a team player by choice. My word to my team is my bond. Good leaders must also be good followers. Independence is growth, but interdependence, when independent people join hands, is maturity. Some people will encourage rebellion, some will prod us into exercising our independent streak. Many for valid reasons, some to further deplete our resources. What is a cause for some of us, is a job for others. I hope we will resist that temptation.

Tonye Cole is my choice and I urge us all to support him. It’s either him or Wike. He has a track record of success, not failure. He puts his friends above profit. He’s not materialistic and he represents a total departure from the status quo. Let’s actually try something truly new. We may get different results. It will take some getting used to- for all of us, for him, the party and Rivers State. I’ve had my differences with him, as I have too with Amaechi, but I’ve never had cause to doubt their ability to deliver and their concern for the fate of those who are less privileged. In Tonye, we have a very quiet Kalabari son, not a stranger to the atmosphere of politics (thanks to his colossus of a father). In Tonye, we have a man who can speak the language of business and a man who knows how to create jobs. He is not an ethnic jingoist, so he will see the whole state as his constituency, not just a part of it.

We as Kalabaris will come out en masse to support him. I thank our Leader, Amaechi for giving Cole this opportunity to govern this great state. You stood by us when you did not have to. We will never forget. My message will not be complete without thanking the party. You have been open to change while standing by the Leader. I will also like to thank the elders. Your wisdom got us here. Let me also thank Hon. Byke Wanjoku and the IYM for sticking their necks out for us when it was not popular. Let me thank all of the other ethnic units of Rivers state, we respect you, we are coming and we need your support. To Ibiamu, Ngerebara, Dumo, Dakuku, Bekinbo, Dawari, Tolofari, Sokonte and all my Ijaw brothers, Haaaa Izon! We did it! It’s time to lead well. Truth has no hiding place. It‘s time to set Rivers state free- peace, security, jobs, empowerment for all.

Princewill is the Convener, Riverine Leaders APC – Rivers State