By Festus Ahon
Comrade Sunny Ofehe is human rights activist. He was a Governorship aspirant in Delta State under the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC until he stepped down for Chief Great Ogboru last week.
In this exclusive interview with the Vanguard, he spoke on his passion for Delta State and gave reasons why he stepped down for Chief Great Ogboru.
You were in the Delta State Governorship race and from what we have heard, you have so passion and vision for your people. But only last weeks, you collapsed your structure for Chief Great Ogboru, what actually informed your decision after the rigorous consultations with party stakeholders?
My campaign is more like to talk about the issues, the issues that have deprived our people of their commonwealth and to find a way for them to get the benefit of the natural resources that this state is blessed with, and also to utilise the human capacity that God has deposited in all the people of Delta State. And I concluded by saying if there is anyone in the race whose passion and vision is bigger than mine, that God should give that person the seat.
That is not to say it was why I stepped down.
What happened was that, at a time, I was approached by notable people within the party. They told me that they have followed my campaigns, they have seen how much I have promoted the party and that they want me to remain in the party even though I was against the increase in the price of the nomination form. They told me that Chief Great Ogboru has the grassroot popularity, he has the name that could enable the party gain the number of votes that will help her win the governorship election in the state. Then I had a private meeting with Ogboru, I discussed with him and about his economic plan for the state because that is where my passion lies. Because we need to improve in alot of areas to boost our economy in a way that we can create jobs for our youths, find a sound pension plan for our elders and then we can also bring in quality and affordable healthcare services for our people, most especially our mothers and pregnant women and also every child must have access to quality education in Delta state.
With that you can be able to drive the economy in a way that the middle class can be strengthened. For any economy to function, you have to ensure that your policies promotes the strengthening of the middle class and encourage people to be able to do more, earn salaries, take care of their families, pay their bills, and then we can have system that revolve around economic emancipation principles.
And so after my meeting with him, I saw the passion in the man, I saw his dedication, I saw his commitment to want to see that the people of Delta State are delivered from this current poverty situation as you have him described it, which off course we have also seen. And so after my discussion with him, I felt yes, he is somebody that I can work with. And then I attended his rally in Ughelli and saw the mamount crowd which also justifies what I was told that he has a massive grassroot support base. I saw people who were committed to his course, not just crowd that were hired to attend rallies, I saw dedicated supporters who believed in him, and then when he gave his elaborate speech, I was impressed by the content of his message to his people. And when it was time for me to speak, I told his supporters that I will do everything within my capacity to ensure that victory comes to Chief Great Ogboru. And also to ensure that all my policy plan for the state can also be channeled into the state through his administration.
He has clearly said that he is open to all of these contributions as long as they positively affect the lives of the people. So I instructed all my people to support him, that all my posters and billboards that are in strategic places should be brought down and then we should put in new flex that will promote his campaign. It was a tough decision to make, just as you said having put in so much into the campaign. But then the beauty of democracy is that it gives you the opportunity to solicit support for your ambition. It also gives you an opportunity to align with those you think may have a better opportunity to get to the office with a better message and also offering the opportunity to play a significant role in the government, and therefore what I could not have done for not being there, I will still be able to do for him being there since we have this collaboration that has already started.
Do you see Chief Great Ogboru as somebody who will be able to drive your vision?
I have read so much about him. I am somebody who do not just agree on the bases of sycophancy, or what I personally stand to gain, no. In this race, it has never been about what I stand to benefit. I leave in Europe, ordinarily God has made us comfortable, not that we have too much but we have all the basic things that anybody will need in life. Ordinarily it was a sacrifice on its own to leave my comfort zone to come here and say I want to help my people. Having said that, the meeting I had with him followed closely what I read about him, what I knew about him until now, he is a very dedicated man, business oriented, a very successful one at that. We share something in common, he also have an activist spirit. With what I read about him, he went back to school to study, he took his time in exile to enrich himself with knowledge and experience. So it was easy for him to relate with some of the things that I was saying, particularly in the area of foreign direct investment because he has been there, he has related with the people, he runs an international business before he left the country. So the principle of foreign direct investment and the benefits are already clearly known to him, so it was easy for us to reach an agreement on how we can attract investors into Delta State to improve the living standards of our people.
Also his consistency in sorting the office of the governorship of Delta State without giving up shows that he has something. Now, Buhari is seen today as a role model on the principle of consistency, and he also share that with Chief Great Ogboru. If Buhari had given up he wouldn’t have been the President of Nigeria today. Such a person needs to be supported, such a person needs to be encouraged for the fact that he has been able to create a name for himself and also create a formidable opposition for any sitting governor, it’s not easy to do that and that is also the beauty of democracy that you have somebody with the fortitude, with the doggedness and ruggedness to challenge an incumbent government in the way that can create competition in a democratic platform.
I strongly believe that everybody should be given equal rights on the table of democracy and this man has shown that consistency can increase competition and increase the democratic base of people who will be interested in taking part in our politics, and that is what I see and that is one of the things he has done that I strongly appreciate. Even though I may want to say there is still room for more things to be done, that is why he is reaching out to everyone to bring an added value to his campaign, particularly in the area that he falls short in achieving, that is where I feel people like us who are still young, who are still vibrant, who are exposed internationally can bring in that angle into his campaign to form a formidable force that can be able to elevate our state and put us in the global economic map and I think that is what we are building on.
Should he win the primaries, do you see him as somebody who has the structure to wrestle power from the incumbent Governor?
You know, Ogboru has the structure and from the testimonies that was heard during his rally, everybody has been saying Ogboru has been winning all the elections that he contested but unfortunately the extra dynamic power needed to see victory for him was always lacking. Now for somebody that has been contesting elections, going into his sixth election, he must have built a structure and without structure you cannot see the kind of crowd that you have been seeing in all of his rallies in most places today. So the structure is there already, the structure to wrestle an incumbent government is there.
So what is your party the APC putting in place to wrestle power from the incumbent PDP?
Now APC, as you know has some division within it and the good thing, because during my consultation I met people from both sides of the divide, and this are people with strong political experience, and I know the issue will be resolved because they know that the only way to defeat an incumbent is to be unified. Now we may have these disagreements, we may have the various aspirants splitting themselves into different factions but I’m very convinced on the bases of the principles that I know are behind these divides that once we get Ogboru as the candidate of the party, there will be reconciliation, the party will come together, the party will understand at that stage that fighting will not help the collective will of the party. So we will go into the election with a formidable force. The bible says one will chase a thousand and two will chase ten thousand. So there is power in unity and that unity is what we will bring to bear in the general election.
The national wing of the party is doing its utmost best to reconcile the differences within the party and they are making tremendous progress. So once the primaries comes and go on Saturday, there will be reconciliation, all aggrieved members of the party will sit together in a round table discussions, there will be negotiations to forge a common front that will take over Delta State. Because the Delta State we see today is in a terrible economic situation, workers are not being paid, so there is no motivation, teachers are being owed, doctors are being owed, infrastructures are dilapidated, once it rains in Asaba, you cannot drive on the major highways. For a state like Delta State that is supposed to be the economic bedrock of the whole nation going by the natural resources that we possess, a state that has two strong terminals, exporting crude oil out of the country, we should be able to grow in the area of marine, in the area of oil and gas. I’m still surprised that as at today, even though the Federal Government had given licences to private individuals to own modular refineries we are still where we are. Like I said, we should not only be looking at the internally generated revenue, we should also be looking at how we can generate revenue externally. We should not just sit down, we should run Delta State as a private business, where whatever comes in, we look at where we can invest in, so that we can be able to generate revenue.
We should broaden our none oil sector. We are the gateway to the South East, we are the gateway to the South South, we should use our geographical locations, we have 170000 square kilometres of coastline, we can use that to our advantage, we can revamp all of our almost none existing ports. And then the distance between our ports is not even too much, so we can access them and use them to feed the South-East which is also a business region. You know we have two major airports which we can improve upon. The run way in Asaba can meet international standard, we can attract even Ethiopian airline to fly directly to Asaba, we can attract some international airlines to use Asaba as a hub.With that they can be able to reach the South East and the South South. We can get more of the cargo flights to do more of transportation to Delta State. Also we can de-urbanize some of our already congested cities. And how do we do that; we can create a low cost housing, there are modern technologies that can bring in prefab houses, prefab houses at affordable cost. Push them into these small villages, power them with solar energy if there is need for power, make them affordable for the civil servants to stay and that way they will move themselves out of the big cities. Make the connecting roads linking the rural areas with the big cities to be in good conditions.
When people know that they can move within one hour from Asaba to the nearby villages on a good road, they will say to themselves there is no point for me staying in Asaba whereas I can pay less and get better facilities in Kwale for instance, why would I stay in Asaba. We can do that, we can set up policies that can change the way we reason and live with our people. I think Ogboru has what it takes to do that and that is why I’m supporting his candidacy.
What is your message for Deltans?
My message for Deltans is that, 2019 will not be business as usual, 2019 will be the beginning of a new dawn for Deltans in our economic emancipation progress. 2019 will be the year where every Deltan will begin to enjoy the benefit of our God given resources and by God’s doing, we will take Delta State to global economic map, where it will become the hub of people who are doing businesses both from within and outside the country.
Also more importantly, we will begin the process of eradicating poverty, to put food in everyone’s table, so that we can find our way into becoming a part and parcel of the United Nation’s policy of the sustainable development goal.