By SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
Comrade Sunny Ofehe, founder and Executive Director, Sunny Ofehe Foundation, is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Delta State. In this interview, the Isoko born activist, who is eyeing the governorship of the state in 2019, reviews the two letters written to President Muhammadu Buhari by two former Presidents, saying they were not in bad taste.
The Netherlands based Nigerian condemned the factional crisis ravaging the APC in Delta and warned that it may cost the party the governorship seat in the forthcoming elections.
What is your take on the two letters written by two former President Olusegun Obasanjo and General Ibrahim Babangida to President Muhammadu Buhari?
If there is anything that is good in democracy, it is the fact that it gives everybody the chance to express himself. In a normal democratic contest, every citizen of Nigeria has the right to express his opinion about governance. In this case, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is a man I respect and he is an elder statesman, has expressed himself; talking about his concerns and concluding that President Buhari should not run for second term.
I believe that what the President should do is to look at some of the issues raised by Obasanjo. I was so happy when I saw a video that went viral, when they (Buhari and Obasanjo) met at the AU Summit in Addis Ababa. The picture clearly shows to the world that they don’t have anything against each other. Coming to the President himself, I am also of the opinion that the president has the constitutional right to vote and be voted for. The decision to run for a second term lies in his hands.
But in deciding that, I want the President to address some of the issues raised in that letter by Obasanjo. And to also hear that IBB also raised the same issues means there is something they must have seen that we may not have seen. The three of them were former military heads of state, so they have a better channel to discuss this. If I were Mr President, I will call these people for a meeting and have a serious discussion with them. I believe that Buhari has the pedigree to meet them and address the issues they raised and convince them that he is ready to run for re-election.
Are you worried about the activities of herdsmen and how it may affect your party in the 2019 elections?
It is not only affecting our party, the issue of herdsmen has brought the country to an insecure state. If I say it will affect my party in 2019, that means I am only trying to narrow the negative consequences of the action on the country. The issue is worrisome and I think it requires, apart from security solution, a political solution because it has created ethnic tension.
We saw the killing of innocent people and we have to deal with the challenge. The intelligence community needs to get to the root cause of the problem. And also the President has to ensure that they instil confidence in Nigeria that we are not playing politics with the issue of herdsmen.
Yes, the situation can affect the APC in the polls because I have spoken to people at the grassroots and one of the things they confront me with is that APC has been unable to resolve the problem and some of them think that herdsmen are having their way because the President is their kinsman, a Fulani. But I think the President is taking serious action against herdsmen because I have seen that from the response of security operatives. Your party is so factionalized in Delta. What is the problem?
It is sad that about a year to elections, the party will find itself in factional politics in Delta State. As the biggest opposition in the state, in order to be able to battle the power of incumbency, we need a united front to show the people of Delta that we have the capacity to take over government in 2019. What is playing out now is a sad reality that we should not encourage. One of the people involved in this leadership tussle, Ortega Omerhor, is a man I respect a lot.
He almost single-handedly brought APC to that level where it is a respectable party in the state. Then we have Great Ogboru whose name is being mentioned in this tussle. Great Ogboru is an experienced politician, he has contested the position of governorship in the state about four times and he knows the merits and the demerits of factional politics with in a party structure. Senator Omo Agege is another name being mentioned in this leadership tussle. He is in the Senate now and I think he should concentrate on delivering dividends of democracy to his senatorial district.
Our party at the national level must move into the matter because Delta is very significant to the national party structure. And we are working very hard to ensure that APC dethrones PDP in Delta but we must stop this unnecessary ego fight. There are three people that have the experience in politics and they must know that their fight can easily help the PDP in winning the election.
I am positive that before our congresses, all the problems will be resolved. And that is why I commend President Buhari for appointing Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as Chairman of the APC Reconciliation Committee. Tinubu is a father and I am sure he will not want people to destroy the party he laboured to build. I believe that he will visit Delta and meet with the warring factions so that peace may reign.
But the people of Delta North where Governor Ifeanyi Okowa hails from want to complete their tenure?
The beauty of democracy is to ensure that the best candidate is elected. And it is for the people to decide who governs them after looking at the credibility of every candidate irrespective of where the person comes from. I think the APC should come out and overcome the politics of ethnicity that has divided us over the years and has not given us anything.
I have met a lot of people from Delta North who are not happy with the current government. And I think those people are in a position to screen all the candidates that will be offered by every political party in the state.. So the politics of rotating candidates on the basis of where they come from would not have a place in the 2019 election.
But there is this feeling that the APC-led Federal Government has not met the desires of the Nigerians. Do you think you stand a chance in 2019?
We should not forget the economic indices the current President met when he took over power. Nigeria’s economy is driven by revenue from crude oil. As of the time Buhari took over, the price of crude had gone down to around 50 dollars per barrel. What most Nigerians forgot is that at the time of the PDP administration oil was selling for an average of 100 dollars. We could not achieve anything, if we had achieved economic stability during that time, like we see in most of the Middle East countries which have saved so much money when they had the opportunity, we would have been better off today. On the campaign promises, first tenure is not sufficient enough for people to see the dividends of democracy. Just recently, other African Presidents gave Buhari an award on his anti-corruption drive.
I agree that there is economic challenge in the country which has affected the people, but when you look at the steps taken so far by the administration, they are steps in the right direction. So I think that APC will be given another opportunity to consolidate on the economic policies that they are already working on.
PDP is an opposition party and you don’t expect them to say good things about Buhari. PDP should be blamed for where we are today, they never saved money when we had it and this affected the current administration from delivering on its promises. However you can see that our foreign reserves have gone up and this was what I was expecting that the previous administration should have done and that would have been able to help us.
And if APC is running at the federal level, I expect Deltans to vote APC because the benefit will be enormous to compare to when you have an opposition party in place. And that is what we in the APC are trying to do in Delta to ensure that our people benefit from the Federal Government.
APC can solve Delta economic woes
Delta State has a very a big economic problem and I have not seen any move being made by the current governor to solve the problem. The debt profile is very high and servicing it is huge challenge. The internally generated revenue has not improved and the federal allocation is dwindling. When you put all these together, that is what has affected the civil service. Civil servants are not being paid; unemployment rate has increased, there is infrastructural decay. Delta is the second largest producer of crude oil but we don’t have tank farms.
There are job opportunities that we need to create in the marine sector by bringing in foreign investors in that area. Edo State is showing us that it can work and they have signed an MOU. Everything that has to do in that investment in Gelegele seaport is less than 3 per cent. And the government’s equity contribution in the whole of the deal has not cost the state anything but it will bring a lot of benefit to the people. It will create jobs, business opportunities, there will be cash flow and that is what Delta politicians should focus on and not fighting themselves.