Meet Tonye Cole, The Nigeria Billionaire Who Wants to be Governor

Meet Tonye Cole, The Nigeria Billionaire Who Wants to be Governor

Many Nigerian entrepreneurs have made their marks in the business circle both local and international levels. They are recognised across the world for their doggedness and prowess in business and entrepreneurship.

One of such businessman whose impact is being felt on a global scale is Tonye Cole, the co-founder and former Group Executive of Sahara Group an International energy company operating across African countries and beyond. takes a look at Cole's coming up as a young man, growth in business and entrepreneurship and moves in politics.

Meet Tonye Cole, the Nigeria billionaire who wants to be governor
Tonye Cole, Co-founder, Sahara Group, Photo credit - Ripples Nigeria
Source: UGC

Growing up and Education

Born Tamunotonye Cole to the family of Mr. & Mrs. Patrick Dele Cole in Abonnema, Rivers State on January 11, 1967... His father was a former managing director of Daily Times Newspaper and a former Ambassador of Nigeria to Brazil.

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He got his primary school education at Corona School, Victoria Island and secondary school education from King's College, Lagos, and Kings School in Ely Cambridgeshire, the United Kingdom.

After his secondary education, Cole returned to Nigeria and got admission to study Architecture and Engineering at the University of Lagos. After graduation in flying colours, he proceeded to obtain a Certificate of Proficiency at the Universidade de Brasilia in Brazil.

Cole is also an alumnus of Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program, and a Fellow of the ‘Transformational Leadership Fellowship’ programme at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford.

Tonye Cole's work career

Cole started his work career with Grupo Quartro SA, a Brazilian architectural firm as an architech from 1990 to 1992. He was apart of the team that designed and implemented the urban planning and city development of in the state of Tocantins.

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He also designed the building of the Ministry of Justice headquarters and various residential houses in Palmas, the capital of Tocantins, and other projects in Brasilia.

When he returned to Nigeria in 1993, he took up a job with the Nigerian office of Empressa Sul Americana de Montagens S.A.(EMSA) a Brazilian Civil Engineering Company as Director of Operations.

The company which is known to be one of the largest engineering companies in Brazil was awarded a $5.8million Lagos Water Corporation water project, financed by the World Bank. The company also successfully executed no less than three World Bank and African Development Bank-financed projects across different parts of Nigeria.

Co-founding of Sahara Energy

In 1996, Cole decided to fully go into entrepreneurship and in partnership with his friends, Ade Odunsi and Tope Shonubi, Sahara Energy Resource Limited was founded.

The company began as an oil and gas company with core interests in trading of excess fuel from the Port Harcourt and Warri refineries. This was followed by diversification into storage depot and vessel ownership.

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Sahara Group went on to build depots in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja with a combined capacity of 55,000 metric tones and covers upstream, downstream, midstream, power, and infrastructure in its operations.

According to the company, it now operates in 38 countries around the world with a staff strength of over 4,000, recording average annual turnover of $11 billion.

Going into politics

Moved by a desire to serve, Tonye Cole decided to go into politics. In 2019, he contested for the office of the governor of Rivers State under the All Progressive Congress (APC). Even though he won his party's primaries, a court disqualified his party from contesting in the guber elections because of prolonged inter-party legal issues.

Four years later, in May 2022, Cole once again emerged the APC's gubernatorial candidate for Rivers State and is

Other ventures of Cole

Apart from his business acumen, Cole is a writer, motivational speaker, mentor and ordained minister of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. He has authored two books and also writes for ThisDay Style as a columnist.

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Cole is married to Dr. Sylvia Cole and together, they have three children (a son and two daughters).

Top 10 Nigerian billionaires active in politics in 2023

During the 2023 general elections, hundreds of Nigerian politicians contested for many positions, from state to federal level.

Many of them, billionaires in their own right are now in the game of politics, either contesting or supporting a horse in the race. compiled a list (in no particular order) of some Nigerian billionaires still active in politics in the year 2023.


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