By Ogbonna Nwuke
On Sunday, APC delegates filed out to elect their front runner. They elected Tonye Cole as their gubernatorial candidate.
The support Cole got was convincing and overwhelming. He polled more than three thousand votes. It was proof of the will of the party machine and the resolve of membership to steer a new course.
In the weeks that have gone by, so much has happened. There have been spirited efforts by the leadership of the APC to put its house in order.
That effort has been successful in some areas. In others, where perfect understandings have not been completely reached, efforts are still being made to tie up lose ends.
Amongst mainstream contestants such as Dakuku Peterside who stepped aside responsively, what appears to be a clear resolve has surfaced.
It is the resolve by these combatants whose activities have helped to promote the progress of the APC that the party must stand together in a fight against all comers.
To be sure, the decision by Dakuku Peterside and others who appreciate the dynamics of internal party politics to throw their all behind Tonye Cole and the Leader of the party, Rotimi Amaechi has been well received by well meaning Rivers people.
Dumo Lulu Briggs may not have come to terms with developments which threw up Cole as a front line aspirant. This may be for a while. Many APC members who appreciate his contribution and the multitude of Rivers people who want change in their State hope he would get over it.
What’s more important is that efforts, regardless of political differences, are being made to ensure that all who are close to Amaechi emerge on the same page.
Looking at what played out, especially after Cole got the nod, not many outside the APC could have believed that reconciliation, especially amongst major contestants in the governorship race, would be achieved swiftly.
Across the country and across Rivers State, many are quite elated by the fact that a broad coalition, ready to go to war with the PDP government, is being forged.
There is no reason to doubt what the rainbow coalition can do. The capacity of its striking force which was tested in the PHALGA Constituency III election is real.
The potency of its intent to take back power from the PDP on behalf of the Rivers people in 2019 is noble and not in doubt while its focus on a target that is defined is as solid as a rock.
All these point to one basic fact. The fact that the Rivers APC genuinely has a respectable leader who can be trusted to lead the battle at the national level and in Rivers State.
Cole has finally surfaced as the candidate. He may be referred to as the chosen one. But power truly, truly belongs to God.
None can occupy a position, high or low, without Him. None can get to dizzying heights when He has not willed it.
Accordingly, men may play critical roles in the making of a dream. The realization of the dream, particularly by dream chasers is no doubt possible only through God.
It is against this backdrop that we all should see the rise of the Cole phenomenon. I am told Cole who is the son of a former ambassador is a practicing Christian. There is something in the humility that he exudes that lends credence to this.
I have heard too that Cole is contemplating to set up his campaign office in the Old Port Harcourt township.
This would represent a break from a past that has portrayed that part of the city as a “no-go-area” for the elite, if this intention manifests.
In my view, regardless of what may be perceived as security challenges, it is a bold effort by the APC candidate to connect with the ordinary people and interact with them. It may prove to be a turning point in terms of his commitment to carrying along the masses of Rivers State on his way to Brick House.
This is the way it ought to be.
Those who seek to govern the people must commune with the people lest they prescribe wrong solutions to the cure of prevailing problems that face them due largely to a distance from true life experiences on the ground.
For me, it is not necessary to put new wine in old wine skin. It is only proper to put new wine in new wine skin. This is the beauty of that which Tonye Cole represents.
Besides, Cole is running on a principle that is fascinating. It is captured in the slogan that says “One Rivers; One People”
The question which is part of the slogan goes thus, “Make we do am?” And the response from teeming party men which says “Do am!” Is gradually resonating.
We – go – do – am, we all seem to be saying without making any reference to change, but I can see that the foundation for change has been aptly encapsulated.
Which means that as the spearhead of the titanic fight that lies ahead, Cole has not left us in any doubt as to where he is headed. He is now set to go.
There is a tendency by some to see the Tonye ticket as a Kalabari thing. Those who are reasoning along this line may have a point.
But it is not.
Unlike Buhari who belongs to no one, Tonye belongs to us – Kalabari, Ikwerre, Etche, Ogoni, Okrika, Abua, Ekpeye, Igbani, etc.
The fight to place him in Goverment House is a fight for all Rivers people who believe in power rotation; who think that what is just is right; and who have faith in the aphorism that it takes two sides of a human jaw to consume a well prepared meal.
Yet, it is true that there are other ethnic groups that have not tasted power at the highest level. They too would have their turn if all we do today is to lay a solid foundation for a future that promises to be inclusive.
In Nigeria, this principle anchored on power rotation has been firmly entrenched. It is not by accident that those seeking to occupy the presidency at this time are all from the north.
Should our experience in Rivers State be different? It really shouldn’t. We ought to prove that we are truly a people united under God.
We must demonstrate that we have feelings for the welfare and wellbeing of others with whom we coher; people with whom we share a common heritage; and people we cannot ignore as we engage in our individual or ethnic pursuits.
Against this backdrop, Tonye Cole has emerged a symbol of the new Rivers State of our collective dream.
The man is obviously like a new broom. When it comes to politics, some may even assume he is naive. Is he?
That perception would even be as naive. The reason is that as political animals, if we agree with that definition of man, we are linked to politics.
The only difference between a brand of politicians and another is that some run for office while others do not. Does this make them any less when it comes to actual politicking?
Tonye has moved away from industry politicking in which he was involved to the real deal. He needs our collective support to make a huge success of it.
We must be willing to rally round him; willing to tap from those successes that have made him successful in the provision of services that are helping the nation and the families tied to that investment that is yielding fruits that all can see.