The Nigerian billionaire, Tonye Cole, on Saturday resigned from the board of directors of Sahara Group of Companies, apparently to join the 2019 governorship race in Rivers State.
Cole was an executive director of the energy company which he co-founded in 1996.
The board of Sahara Group in a statement issued on Saturday said he was leaving the company in order to participate in active politics.
The resignation is coming a few days after the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, refuted media reports that Cole was his preferred choice for the Rivers governorship election, and not his longtime ally, Dakuku Peterside, who ran unsuccessfully against the current governor, Nyesom Wike, in the 2015 election.
Amaechi on Saturday said that the claim that Cole was his “appointed” candidate was “preposterous” and “deceitful”.
He said his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), in Rivers would choose its governorship candidate through a democratic process.
Until now, most people, especially in Rivers, believed that Peterside’s name would be on the ballot as a candidate of the APC against Wike who is likely going to be the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate.
Peterside is the currently the Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Despite Amaechi’s denial, a chieftain of the APC in the state, Tonye Princewill, has come out to say that Cole’s is indeed the minister’s choice for the Rivers governorship.
Princewill said on Saturday on Facebook that he participated in the meetings that led to Cole being picked as a preferred choice.
“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,” said Princewill, who was the governorship candidate of the Labour Party in the state in 2015 before he later defected to the APC.
“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.
“I say our preference because it was not imposed on us. We all agreed,” he said in the Facebook post.
Princewill explained why he supports the choice of Cole to fly the APC governorship flag in Rivers.
He said the people would be having only two choices, either Cole or Wike, in 2019 and that Cole “has a track record of success, not failure”.
“He puts his friends above profits, he’s not materialistic and he represents a total departure from the status quo or business as usual. Let’s actually try something truly new,” he said, while also thanking the transport minister for picking Cole.