As the race for the 2019 elections heat up, politicians are plotting and perfecting strategies to outwit their opponents, both within and without.
This includes forming alliances, embracing foes and friends with similar interests, and for the godfathers, it’s time to push their agenda, and ensure that loyalists and instigators alike fall in line and queue behind the chosen one.
In Rivers State, the minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi who is also the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state is already testing the waters with an aspirant it is hoped will emerge the candidate of the party to wrest power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Recently, reports emerged that the APC caucus in the state led by Amaechi had met in Lagos and adopted Tonye Dele-Cole, an oil magnate to fly the party’s flag in 2019.
This came as a shock as many had expected that either the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, or Senator Magnus Abe, who had been in the battle for the party’s ticket would get the godfather’s nod.
Both men, and other bigwigs of the party from the state, including Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs; the NIMASA DG, Dr. Dakuku Peterside; a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party, Chief Sam Jaja and Senator Andrew Uchendu (Rivers East) were said to have attended the meeting where the decision was taken.
But no sooner had the news hit the airwaves, than Amaechi’s publicists went to town to change the narrative. According to them, the minister has a right to support whoever he chooses, but has not made a choice for the party, as this will be done by the members of the APC In the state.
However, analysts contend that his somewhat face saving tactic falls flat on its face, given the reactions that have even came from leaders and loyalists of the party in the state.
They argue that Amaechi is merely playing down the fact that a choice may have been reached on who represents the party in 2019, in efforts to dispel the impression that Cole is the making of a few individuals, and not via a democratic process.
Many say such has always been the bane of Nigerian politics, where a godfather makes the choice, and such is foisted on the people via a democratic process, which ends up as a formality, to fulfill all obligations.
Amaechi’s denial of what transpired at the meeting, and his argument of a choice candidate versus an anointed one really comes short of the truth, more so, given that his own loyalist have already publicly announced that they have fallen in line with his decision.
For instance, the NIMASA boss, Dakuku, after the meeting 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 Cole.
He further stated: “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 (Thursday) in the leadership meeting. I thus stand by the decision on Tonye Cole.
….“The decision by the leader has been met with mixed reactions, which is expected. My appeal is that we allow the greater interest of APC and Rivers State to prevail.”
Another party chieftain, and one time governorship aspirant, Prince Tonye Princewill, also went to town to confirm that there was a caucus meeting at which Amaechi three his weight behind Coke, and invariable compelled other chieftains of the party to fall in line behind the chosen one, as it were.
Princewill In a statement, said “Being one of the few privileged to be in the room when the decision was taken…, my mind plus my thoughts on the decision were pretty clear, right from the moment it was made”.
He argued, that the riverine area of the state has never produced the governor since the return of democracy in 1999, hence Amaechi’s decision Cole, who is from Abonnema-Kalabari, headquarters of Akuku-Toru (rivernine) Local Government Area, was a welcome development.
Giving more insights to what went on behind closed doors, Princewill said “I was a witness to at least two caucus meetings chaired by HE 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, either of them could have done us proud if given the chance. But alas they weren’t. Amaechi’s preference, our preference rested on the shoulders of Tonye Cole”.
He also said, “Amaechi leads, We follow…. So Tonye Cole is my choice and I urge us all to support him”, and he thanked ‘the leader’, “the Hon Minister for giving Tonye Cole this opportunity to govern this great state, Princewill
To those who know how the game of politics is played in Nigeria, they conclude that Cole is a done deal for RIvers APC, and that whatever rhetorics Amaechi is now trying to play with is only in line with the script, and modus operandi of political gameplay.
As long as the leader has made up his mind, others will simply fall in, and democracy takes a backseat, until it is time to formalize the decision. According to them, it is those who do not succumb to threat, persuasion or compensation that would find themselves leaving the party, to seek other platforms.
This they say, is what mostly leads to defections and that Nigerians should expect to see some of such in RIvers State as the elections draw nearer, as those who had been eyeing the governorship seat, and hoping to get the APC ticket may leave to other parties, to achieve their dreams.
But whatever be the case, all things being equal, it is most certain, Cole will be flying the APC governorship flag, after it’s primaries, because the ‘godfather’ has spoken.