Tonye Cole was one of the few oil magnates who benefited immensely from former petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke sleazy administration. In the mafia-esque oil and gas industry, with its unwritten and understated Omerta, Tonye Cole, Tope Sonubi and Ade Odunsi are notable cowboys. Though successful young men whose storied and sensational life would make many of their peers feel like they came to the world at a wrong time.
Those who couldn’t understand their meteoric rise contented themselves by making up stories and mustering conjectures about the trio; oil industry pundits and rivals concluded that they were exactly the kind of guys that you give a rope and they doggedly aspire to become cowboys.
However, Tonye Dele-Cole, is poised to fly the flag of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Rivers State governorship election next year, following the adoption of his candidacy by stakeholders at their apex leadership caucus meeting in Lagos on Thursday.
Observers had expected the ticket to be a straight fight between the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr.Dakuku Peterside and Senator Magnus Abe.
That, however, was not to be as the Lagos meeting, presided over by Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi, who doubles as APC leader in Rivers State, gave Cole the nod.
Other party leaders at the Lagos meeting included oil magnate, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs; the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside; a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party, Chief Sam Jaja and Senator Andrew Uchendu (Rivers East).
Informed sources said that Amaechi wanted a ‘neutral’ candidate that would be largely acceptable to the mainstream APC in the state as well as the Abe faction of the party.
Amaechi has been pushing for a candidate from the riverine part of the state to take over from the incumbent governor, Nyesom Wike. The riverine area has not produced governor since 1999.
Cole, an architect and Chief Executive of Sahara Energy, is a son of Dr. Partick Dele Cole, a former managing director of Daily Times and a former ambassador of Nigeria to Brazil.
He is from Abonnema-Kalabari, headquarters of Akuku-Toru (rivernine) Local Government Area.
He attended the Lagos meeting along with Peterside who was the party’s candidate in the 2015 election.
The NIMASA boss welcomed Cole’s endorsement yesterday as did Abe, who was not at the meeting. But Abe said he was not aware that Cole was an APC member.
Peterside, in his response, said: “Our leader, Rt. Hon. Amaechi,” whose leadership they all subscribed to, made a decision on who members of the party in Rivers State should back for the office of governor of Rivers State in 2019, with the lot falling on his friend and brother in Christ (Cole).