Opusunju  Rallies Support for Tonye Cole. Calls for a Paradigm Shift  in Rivers Guber 2019

Opusunju  Rallies Support for Tonye Cole.

Calls for a Paradigm Shift  in Rivers Guber 2019




September 11, 2018


My dear Rivers people,

With uttermost humility, I feel constrained to write this letter to you all as part of my thoughts on the ongoing discourse which has thrust our brother Mr. Tonye Dele Cole (TDC) into the upcoming governorship race in Rivers State. This has become necessary after a long period of consultations and deep reflections about the state of our commonwealth and exigencies of our time.


I believe that all Rivers men and women must feel some sense of frustration and are in search of explanations as to why our ship of State within the Southern Nigeria enclave, has  for some time earned an unholy reputation of a perpetually being on the precipice of a failing or collapsing state. Rivers State which once occupied an enviable pride of place among the comity of Nigeria’s federated units has gradually transformed into a degenerative brand as a result of wrong policy trajectories. We can no longer pretend that all is well in this State. Indeed, there is a fundamental defect in the constructs of our polity and balance of power.   This letter is therefore an urgent call to all of us to join hands and fix the flaw once and for all times, in the interest of posterity and our children.   We have no other homeland.

The American philosopher George Santayana once said that “Those who ignore history or cannot remember the past are doomed (condemned) to repeat it.”  Perhaps a starting point to curing this vacuum or deficiency in true leadership is to draw inspiration from our history and remember that unlike other states of the federation, Rivers State was founded on the blood and sweat of our people led by a few distinguished patriots like Chief Harold Dappa Briye, Chief Idanmiebi Brown Esq., Chief Melford Okilo, Chief Sheld Akoto Opusunju, Dr. Obi Wali, Chief P. G Warmate, Chief Senator Amataribo Zuofa, Chief A. K.  Horsfall, Alhaji P. Okiri, Chief A. D.  W.  Jumbo, Chief Awoala, Senator Nunieh, Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa, Chief Ngeri-Rowland, Chief Birabi, Chief Ekenekot, Chief R. R. Briggs, HRM Eze E. N. B. Opurum of Etche (who now is the head of the Founding Fathers of the State), Mr. S. T. Selete, Chief William Unuborji of Ekpeyeland, Chief Nsirim, Chief Nko-Tariah, Mr. EMT Epelle, Chief Andrew Uchendu (then much younger, now Senator) and many more. We cannot forget the Marshall Harrys and the Aminasoari Dikibos!  I wonder what these heroes would think of the sacrifices they made (some with their resources and lives) and the squandered legacies they once left for us.


Another approach and perhaps the most important recommendation for fixing Rivers State is to chart an entirely different course in our leadership selection matrix. We should now place less emphasis on the CVs of linear politicians (mere political appointees with no cognate private sector experiences and entrepreneurship backgrounds) in favour of technocrats.


As a result of technological advancement and information accessibility, governance of nation-states has become far more sophisticated, demanding   and an intellectually engaging endeavour. This has necessitated a departure especially in the developing world, from the pure- conventional politician persona who were usually bred as products of struggles of self-determination and formations on the world scene. These are leaders emanating from a career path of strict political mentorship. They are generally less endowed with the ability and temperament to deal with the complexities of the economics of the marketplace of their constituents in this era that is so interconnected and globalized. Such a governor becomes a mere administrator, lacking the capacity to even formulate or introduce real reforms for growing opportunities for its citizens. The state resorts to deliberately overheating the polity, excessive politicking and blame games rather than face up to the ineptitude of its leadership. Not even the Police and other law enforcement agencies are spared from the pattern of governance; and the collateral effects can be felt as increased rate of insecurity and per capita, capital and investment flights from the State.   In the case of Rivers for example, the once thriving Trans Amadi- the manufacturing hub of the State has gradually been dismantled and de-industrialized. Michelin, Fortune Batteries, NEW Engineering etc have all fled. Even with all the media blitz and infrastructure cosmetics, it is very noticeable that our State is constricting and work said to have been done, does not appear to reconcile with  the quantum of revenue received.


This recommendation is no longer experimental.  It is a settled fact that Lagos State has had a continuity of ex-businessmen as governors in recent times from Asiwaju Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola and now Akinwumi Ambode. For Abia State, it was Orji Kalu, Theodore Orji and now Okezie Ikpeazu.  Akwa Ibom- Victor Obong Attah, Godswill Akpabio and now Emmanuel Udom. Cross River- Donald Duke, Lyel Immoke and now Prof. Ben Ayade. Edo State just recently chose Godwin Obaseki, an “oilman’’ in true sense of the word. The experiences brought by these technocrats and businessmen must have enduring impact on policy formulation, execution and delivery of the dividends of democracy in their various states.


Determined to usher in genuine leadership and make a difference, many of our brethrens presented themselves to manage the affairs of the State pursuant to the general elections of 2015.  Let me acknowledge the efforts of Dr. Dakuku Peterside, Barr. Odein Ajumogobia SAN, Pst. Oseleye Ojuka, Engr. Bekinbo Dagogo Jack, Hon. Tonye Princewill, Hon. Bernard Miko, Hon. Sampson Ngeregbara, Chief Dumo Lulu Briggs, my humble self and many others who offered to serve.


Brothers and sisters, a few days ago we received news of the thrust of Mr. Tonye Dele Cole (“TDC’’) a former director and co-founder of Sahara Group into the gubernatorial race in Rivers State under the platform of APC. I am aware that the leadership of APC has made statements to the effect that TDC’s adoption was consensual. There is no reason to doubt this giving the fact that Senator Andrew Uchendu, Dr.  Dakuku Peterside the incumbent holder of APC gubernatorial candidature in Rivers from the 2015 election,  Mr. Tonye Princewill and other front line politicians in the APC state hierarchy have  subscribed to the elevation of TDC for the 2019 race.


TDC has a successful career in the private sector.   He is a workaholic, a self-made man and an illustrious son of Rivers State of Kalabari extraction.  His father, Dr. Dele Cole was at one time the High Commissioner (Ambassador) of Nigeria to Brazil, a presidential aspirant and later adviser on intergovernmental relations to President Olusegun Obasanjo.   Dr.  Cole is a true democrat and close associate of the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua who was the elder brother to late president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.  As a corresponding adviser at the State level on intergovernmental affairs, I can attest that Dr. Dele Cole promoted the interest of Rivers State at every opportunity and facilitated several projects in collaboration with then Governor Odili for the benefit of our State.  Both father and son have contributed immensely to the development of Rivers State. In fact, TDC was once the Chairman of Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority- that strategically conceived master project now impiously rolled back by the incumbent administration. In all respects, TDC is both constitutionally and by any known test of affinity, whether customarily, qualified to contest for any electable position in Nigeria pursuant to S 25(1) of our Constitution assuming the invocation of law is even necessary to affirm his root.


The Rivers South East (RSE) Senatorial District which include riverine communities has authored a claim based on zoning arrangement in the State. In discussing this, we should factor in two important points: i) that the arrangement had been serially violated with far reaching implications. In 2015 in particular, this problem arose because of the dilemma and sentiments evoked by the Goodluck Jonathan/South-South presidential tenure ambition. Support for the then president automatically extended to the governorship race because of the integrated structural campaign machinery at the national and state levels. There is now no presidential aspirant from our State or other states in the South-South geopolitical zone in 2019. This presents a perfect opportunity to fix Rivers by disengaging it from its captors.  ii) That the RSE is subsumed under a superstructure often referred to as the “Upland-Riverine Dichotomy.’’  Consequently, the TDC emergence falls under this superstructure and it is my appeal that we collectively render our total support to him.


Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters:  I believe that there is elite consensus about fixing our State and that the choice of TDC is about this desire and nothing else. It is to try something different in order to return our State to its competitive advantage; restore its unity; enjoy the dividends of democracy; bequeath a future to our children; engender safety of lives and property and achieve the quality of life we deserve. To advance the State we need a wealth creator and as we have established, there is a strong correlation between capacity to perform and private sector experience of State officers.  The presumption is that there are predictable expectations which are inherent to the model of leadership choice canvassed here.   Let us therefore try it out.


Former governor Rotimi Amaechi must be commended for facilitating this opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past and install an administration whose legitimacy will meet the standards acceptable to all of us. In doing this, he has encouraged a new set of dynamics; a paradigm shift which seeks the pursuit and actualization of the social contract between government and us all as citizens. A salient part of his message is that we must henceforth interrogate how we chose our governors so that there will be no disenfranchisement of all peoples and communities of our State.  I urge you to eschew personal interest, partisanship and join forces in bringing about a new lease of life into the polity of Rivers State. Let us understand that TDC will be making tremendous personal sacrifices. He is already an accomplished technocrat guided by core life principles, one of which is that “one need not be loud to be seen to be strong.’’


Fellow Rivers men and women,  permit me in closing to recall an important piece of  event initiated by  two brothers of same family and illustrious sons of our State, during the 1999 general elections (in particular the governorship contest in Rivers State). Of course the narrative was different at the time; but the outcome of the disagreement is now part of our State’s electoral history.


Thank you.


Long Live Rivers State

Long Live Nigeria.



Dr. Silva Opusunju Ezq.

Email: silvaopusun@yahoo.com


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