SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE TONYE COLE GUBERNATORIAL COUNCIL AND LAUNCH OF MANIFESTO DELIVERED ON THE 9TH OF NOVEMBER 2022
Good morning my esteemed elders of the party, the leader of our party, Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi CON, the Chairman of the party High Chief Emeka Beke, members of this great party, ladies and gentlemen welcome.
I am Tonye Patrick Cole, mni and I have the singular honour of being nominated by you to represent the wonderful people of Rivers State as the next Executive Governor come May 29, 2023. The journey to our victory next year began with the foresight Rivers State APC exhibited in putting me forward in 2018, which required great courage and deep love for you, the people of the State. That foresight is anchored on the need to depart from the norm whereby politics is not about service to the people but all about ‘chopping for the boys’.
We heard your desire to search for and elect a different type of political leader, one you can trust. The listening and caring type of leader who implements projects because of the transformative impact they would make in the lives of the citizens and not simply as an avenue of self-enrichment. Bridges built to open up communities to modern day development and not just flyovers built to nowhere or as conduits to satisfying ego and personal desires. When new roads are constructed, it should be for ease of transport of goods and services from hinterland communities to markets they otherwise would not be able to access.
When governments decide to provide houses for citizens, it should be considering those of you who have little or no hope of ever owning a home. Instead they should be building affordable homes with long term mortgage schemes and not personally taking over all government properties in Old GRA, Amadi Flat and GRA Phase 2 with impunity for themselves. This is not what democracy is meant to deliver and why we elected people to government. Rather, they have chopped alone and enriched themselves stupendously. In the process, they have betrayed our trust in them to lead us and condemned many of us to poverty.
Therefore, 2023 is both exciting and incredibly important. This election provides a unique opportunity for the Rivers people to reset the system and restore dignity to their lives again. For the first time in our history, your votes will count. You can be certain when you go out to the ballot and cast that single vote, it will not be stolen and given to someone else. The new Electoral Act and INEC through BVAS has changed the landscape of elections in Nigeria forever, by transferring the power of electing political leaders into the hands of the electorate and not to those with muscles and guns.
It is for this reason that they are afraid of us. They are very afraid, and you see it in their actions. By their fruits you will know them. Fear has fruits and we see it in the desperate attempt to prevent us from getting to the ballot by shamelessly using the institutions of state. They tried to attack my integrity by concocting a ridiculous criminal trial since their candidate has several counts of corruption hanging over him. He is wanted by the EFCC and just recently was invited by the Code of Conduct Bureau to defend allegations of ill-gotten wealth. He has refused to show. Their attempt of using subterfuge by bringing criminal charges against me fell flat. Instead of facing the people with their record of service, they have become even more desperate by introducing all kinds of obstacles intended to stop us from reaching the people.
We began door to door consultations months ago moving through all the LGAs ahead of when campaigns would officially begin. To stop us from campaigning, the State initially threatened to close and demolish any hotel and event center that allows us to meet on their premises, then went ahead to enact an illegal and unconstitutional Executive Order 21. What are they so afraid of?
APC has remained very conscious of the law and remains determined to operate strictly within the boundaries of electoral regulations. While waiting for campaigns to officially begin so we can erect billboards, they have utilized state resources to deny us spaces for billboards thus violating the electoral guidelines. They have even gone further to threaten billboard owners not to put up APC billboards. What they forget is that billboards DO NOT WIN elections. What indeed are they afraid of?
Our unprecedented ward to ward campaign yielded massive grassroot appeal, and in frenzy, they decided to embark on a vote buying exercise unparalleled in the annals of our politics, through the supposed employment of over 200,000 Special Assistant. The voter is not a fool, and they know exactly what is happening. For 8 years, they weaponized poverty and drove unemployment in Rivers State to number one in Nigeria at nearly 2 million people according to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Then four months to the election, they take a mere 1% of our unemployed youth whom they systematically impoverished by refusing to provide jobs and appointed them as SA’s to be used for elections that they will dump as they did in 2019. What of the 99% that remain unemployed? Will the four months vote buying scheme pay servants their salaries, pensions, and gratuities as well? We are good people, but certainly not fools. They may have created poverty and made us hungry, but we are not stupid. What are they really afraid of?
Just like the rest of us, they know that the masses have not felt any positive impact of their government in the last 8 years and have decided to vote them out in 2023. The fear of this happening has made them even more desperate and caused them to run to court, to do everything in their power to ensure APC does not contest against them in 2023 as they will surely be soundly defeated. They secured a judgement against the party which we have filed an appeal and already they are boasting that the same judge is in their pocket and will deliver another curious judgement in a few weeks’ time on the issue of my dual nationality. Curious because in both cases, there are clear Supreme Court judgements that rule in favour of justice for all. Why are they so afraid as to go to any length to pervert justice?
We are an extremely wealthy and incredibly blessed State with unacceptably high poverty rates. How can you be in the river and use spit to wash your face? Our people are suffering and those elected to serve them are completely blind to their plight. Rather, what has preoccupied them has been how to get immunity at all costs, first trying to buy national acceptance, then when that failed, they have become a national comedy theatre group on tour. Now they want a third term Rivers State and are in desperate negotiations with any platform. Nigerians are not fooled and will not be willing to give them that safe landing they desperately seek at the expense of our commonwealth. Rivers State and her people can never be up for sale or collateral for a bargain for immunity. How can they sell Rivers State and the future of our children while we are still alive? We will not allow it. They cannot give what they do not have, and they do not have the mandate of the Rivers people for a third term nor the right to sell the State.
All these notwithstanding I am confident of victory in 2023. Why? Simply on three counts.
- God is the true Judge and is not asleep. Power belongs to Him and not man.
- We will be on the ballot in 2023. Nothing can stop this from happening. They will not take away your right to make a choice in who you can vote for.
- You are fed up and want a fresh start, which Dr. Innocent Barikor and I offer you today. We will be your Governor and Deputy in 2023.
As I traversed the State, I often make unscheduled stops to interact and converse with very ordinary men, women, and children. What I have learnt has both humbled and inspired me even as it has also saddened me to witness the plight of so many of our people firsthand. The needs of our people are very simple. They want a State that works and a government that cares. They would like to be able to fend for themselves without resorting to begging for everything…. Food, school fees, house rent, hospital bills, marriages and even burials. They don’t want to rely on big men before getting a job or setting up a business. They want peace and security so they can move freely without fear of kidnapping. And they want electricity so they can operate effectively. All they want are the basic necessities of life.
It is based on this that we designed a manifesto that considered all we have heard from you these past few years so we can deliver a purpose driven and result oriented government to you. The manifesto we are unveiling to you has you at the core of everything we will do. The people come first and will be the parameter with which the policies we drive, and implement are centered. If any policy does not improve your life and well-being, we simply will not do it.
Our government will stand on three cardinal pivots that are all centered around you. First is SOCIAL WELFARE. We must address the basic things that concern your immediate survival and provide means to enable you stand on your own. Bringing as many of our citizens out of poverty is a priority for us. While this is going on, it is paramount that we bring back businesses that have fled this State in droves. Business responds to environments where peace and security thrive, attracting innovation and investments with it. PEACE & SECURITY forms the second pivot. However, to achieve it, impunity must end, and respect of the law must naturally be restored. These two provide the impetus for the third pivot to thrive and that is DEVELOPMENTAL INFRASTRUCTURE. Here we will invest in any form of infrastructure that will enable your development. From agriculture, education, health, entertainment, sports, to digital infrastructure. Provided it adds positively to improving your Human Capital Development, we will invest in it.
The positive thing in all of this, is the fact that you know and trust that I can do this. You know I have the experience to do these things as an entrepreneur that has represented Rivers State honorably, globally. I did not bring disgrace to the State but have either competed against or done business with global brands such as GE, Huawei, KEPCO, Saudi Aramco, Shell to name a few. I am not intimidated by global power and have sat with Presidents and world leaders in private meetings or shared podiums with them at international meetings, such as the World Economic Forum at Davos and the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
At home in Nigeria, the National Institute at Kuru provided me with skills required to close the gap I had in public policy and implementation, while granting me access to a deep pool of nation building talent. There is an incredible network at your disposal to develop Rivers State and achieve the vision I have of making us the number one destination to invest in Nigeria. We will surpass any economy in our country and compete favorably beyond the shores of our nation. Some already have a head start, but we have the determination to pursue and overtake.
My running for office is for you today and the future of our children tomorrow. I am not motivated by the treasury of Rivers state, so I am not running to steal and amass wealth. You know I am not in the race for access to power as I already attained that from a relatively young age. I am here by the grace of God to join hands with you to salvage our state from destruction. The office of the Governor is for the people and not the personal property of one individual emperor. In office, I will be Governor of all inhabitants and everyone residing or doing business in the State, and it won’t matter if you are in PDP, SDP, ACCORD, AA etc.
I know there are those who have been sent here from Brick House to spy on us and take our message back to the citadel of subterfuge and conspiracy. You are most welcome in our midst today. Our message to you is simple. Rivers State needs good doctors and health workers to man the hospitals and health networks we will establish in government. We will need competent architects, engineers, and town planners to construct the new cities, roads and bridges we will carry out across the state. The State will require coders, programmers, and all sorts of tech specialists to drive innovation over the fiber optic digital superhighway we will implement to provide internet connectivity state-wide.
We will need exceptional teachers, lecturers and educationists that would revamp our educational base and prepare our children to compete with the world best for jobs of the future. We shall need expertise to revamp our ports and waterways to handle cargo and logistics to and from the new manufacturing and logistics industrial clusters developed in the State. Indeed, we will build a state where all professionals will be glad to stay and practice without fear of the overbearing influence of little gods and emperors.
We shall need a functional civil service that is paid as at when due with their gratuity and pension intact. They will be an integral part of our government at the center of implementation the policies that concerns you and me. The possibilities are endless, and with the help of our able public servants we will put in the framework that allows future governments to build on what we have started rather than jettison everything and litter our state with abandoned projects and wasted resources. So kindly pass this message back, if you have any of these expertise and love for the State, you too can be a part of the journey as all hands, whether APC, PDP, SDP, ACCORD, or others, must join together to make Rivers State the greatest state in Nigeria.
Finally, before I end permit me one last task. Every year, and certainly for the past eight years, our people have suffered devastating floods some worse than others. This year has been particularly bad and as usual, all leading presidential and gubernatorial politicians have visited the flood zones. Just like at previous times, palliatives have been shared which is a pittance compared to what the people lost. As the waters recede our people are going back to their homes to pick up the pieces and start the struggle to make ends meet without any hope of further government intervention. Naturally they will be waiting for the flood next year and the cycle of perpetual poverty starts again.
I have developed a solution to resolve this problem and mitigate the devastating loss to the people annually. While I am prepared and will implement the solution from the day I am sworn in, the sooner the work starts the better. I would therefore like to offer the plan to the Rivers State Government for immediate action so that the people can benefit sooner rather than later in a long-lasting solution to perennial flooding. Kindly pass this message on and I would be glad to see the work commence.
At this juncture, I would want to thank all members of Rivers APC that have remained steadfast despite the odds. We have been offered incredible amounts of money to defect as a strategy to weaken us and some have succumbed including people we thought of as men of character and honor. Some have been deceived into believing that we would not be on the ballot and for fear of becoming politically irrelevant have moved to where they hope for glory. We wish them well, but they will be alive to see us win. Some have left out of anger that they did not get the ticket or support they expected to get. But the doors of the APC are still wide open, and it can never be late for them to unite with the party that best offers Rivers people a better tomorrow.
Whatever justifications may have led them to leave, you had the same but chose rather to stay. The experience has forged us into a much better unit, there is far less rancor within our ranks, and we are a leaner, meaner fighting machine than ever before. I have seen a determination rising in the ranks of our people and a better understanding of the call of duty placed upon the shoulders of APC to the people of Rivers State. They are increasingly depending on us to stem the deterioration of their self-esteem and restore dignity to their lives. They know APC is the only party capable of taking on the real enemies of our state and defeating them.
I am deeply honored to serve with you and truly grateful knowing the character and caliber of those who have remained in APC to forge ahead with me. As we inaugurate these gallant men and women into the Campaign Council today, I wish to commit us all to the hands of God and say, may His will be done in our lives and over Rivers State.
God bless the people of Rivers State.
God bless Rivers State.
God bless Nigeria