By Emma Amaize, South-South Editor
FOUNDER/Executive Director of The Netherlands-based Hope for Niger Delta Campaign, HNDC, and global campaigner, Comrade Sunny Ofehe, who let go his governorship ambition, few months ago, to support All Progressives Congress, APC, standard-bearer in Delta State, Chief Great Ogboru, says Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, defectors to the APC claimed that Ogboru won past elections in the state, but was rigged out by then-ruling PDP.
Ofehe, who disclosed he was 18 years old in 1990 when he first heard of the name of Ogboru during the failed Gideon Orkar coup, told Sunday Vanguard, “On the reason Ogboru was declared loser after five consecutive gubernatorial elections, several PDP stalwarts who decamped to APC have confessed openly that Chief Great Ogboru had been winning all the elections he contested in Delta State, but was robbed of victory because of national support for the ruling party.”
He did not mention names, but it is believed he was referring to a former governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, and ex-Speaker of Delta House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Emmanuel Igbuya, especially the latter, who said, “It is true, Ogboru has been winning all governorship elections in Delta State” but for the manipulation of forces of the PDP.
Ofehe, however, said, “For the first time, he (Ogboru) would have a level-playing field to contest this election and, with the momentum he now carries, his victory will sound like Abraham Lincoln and President Muhammadu Buhari before him, history will repeat itself, but this time in Delta State.”
The activist went on, “I finally had the opportunity to meet with him (Ogboru) for the first time after a few friends and top party leaders persuaded me to withdraw and support his candidacy. What struck me was when he addressed me as ‘Excellency’ and sat down to explain his passion to liberate the people of Delta State from the self-inflicted poverty.
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“He summarized his key policy interest in micro economic emancipation with focus on jobless youths stating that Delta State must not only be ‘Silicon Valley,’ but that the ordinary people must feel the positive impact of government policies on their daily lives. Throughout the meeting he was soft spoken and his demeanor was calm and selfless.
“Ogboru received visitors with open arms and everyone had access to even his sleeping room. It became clear to me why notable Urhobo sons like Chief Frank Ovie Kokori and Sir Richard Odibo had stood with him in opposition for many years.
“A man of high repute with intimidating profile, offering to serve his beloved state for a consecutive sixth attempt is worth appreciating. It was then I realized the reason for his grass-roots attractiveness and why he is popularly referred to as the ‘Peoples General’.
“Delta State has the international reputation to be an industrial haven with multiple investment opportunities still waiting to be harnessed. To lead such a state requires brevity and doggedness. However, to transform the state’s economic potential into increased revenue generation for infrastructural growth will require an internationally exposed and educated business mogul. These qualities define Chief Great Ogboru. He is the palladium of our liberties and the emblem of our democracy.”
Ethnic sentiment no basis for governorship
On the agitation by Delta North to complete its two terms before governorship rotates back to Delta Central, Ofehe, who hails from Isoko in Delta South, said, “Delta State was created in 1991 and since Nigeria returned to full democracy in 1999, the PDP has consistently produced the governor of the state from Chief James Ibori to the incumbent, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa.
“You just mentioned that the incumbent governor should get the opportunity to complete his second term because he is from the North senatorial district. This is not a good democratic argument. I am not a lawyer, but I know that the country’s Constitution has no provision for this argument.”
“I can understand that for equity and fairness, this can be one of the points of campaign focus for the incumbent, but the ultimate power to decide must rest in the voting choices of the electorate. The election campaign should be based on issues and policies, not tribal or ethnic sentiment. The electorate should be offered a mirror of what they should expect in the next four years. They should also be given an evaluation of stewardship in the last four years”.
‘APC now rooted in Delta’
Commenting on the claim that APC was not strong in the state, he said, “I think we must appreciate the tremendous expansion and popularity of the APC in Delta State. Today, APC is the biggest opposition party in the state and several members of the ruling PDP have decamped to APC, notable among them is a former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, and a former Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. Monday Igbuya.
“APC has firmly positioned itself in all the 25 local government areas, all the wards and units. Its youths and women membership has grown tremendously within the rural areas in the last three years of being the national ruling party. Do not forget that for the first time, the state APC has now produced more members as national political appointees, which amount to increased grassroots’ followership. Therefore, the fall of the state PDP political advantages at the national level has become the gains of the state APC.
‘APC achievements in Edo good, beneficial for Delta’
“Another external influence on the state electorate is the success story of the APC leadership in neighboring Edo State. Edo has set the roadmap that incumbent PDP can be defeated and the amazing leadership of Governor Godwin Obaseki has prompted many Deltans to call for same visionary leadership in Delta.
“In retrospect, we must analyze the 20 years of PDP leadership in the state, the management of the huge resources accruing to the state and the current state of infrastructure and living condition of the people”.
‘Why I stepped down for Ogboru’
Ofehe revealed that he stepped down for Ogboru before the party’s governorship primary for two reasons, saying the first was for the interest of the party and second, “I saw Chief Great Ogboru as the best candidate to steer Delta State on the right pedestal.”
The activist stated, “We must always remember that the beauty of democracy is the difference in personal opinion. The ability to align and realign after divergent opinion can lead to varying estimation. We must not shy away from the fact that we currently have tension within the party in Delta. There are ongoing court cases over the primary and we also have a parallel state executive body”.
On the vexed issue of parallel state executives of the APC, he declared, “The matter of parallel state executive is now in the court of competent jurisdiction and until the court rules otherwise, we have a legitimate party executive led by Prophet Jones Ode Erue. This is a man who has so far been guiding the affairs of the party in the most dignified manner.
“The party’s Constitution is quite clear on how to address unsatisfactory issues and that is what some of the aggrieved persons and groups have done by going to court. However, the party at the national level recognizes this tension and they have setup a committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo to reconcile the party.
“Do not forget that the Delta State APC governorship candidate, Chief Ogboru, is an orthodox politician, his reconciliation moves have been yielding significant outcomes. He is a man that understands the true value of team work and he has assured everyone that he will not leave any stone unturned in his quest to unite the party on the way to claiming the number one seat of the state.
“There has been series of ongoing meetings both in the state and in Abuja to reconcile the differences. Significant level of progress has been attained. It is my conviction that all matters will be resolve very soon for the interest of the party and most especially our resolve to win the forthcoming gubernatorial election.
“We must not forget that the politicians that make up the APC members in Delta are proven progressives. In the cause of my campaigns and consultations, I had the rare privilege to meet with them personally and I was convinced at the level of their commitment and faithfulness to the party. The likes of Chief Hyacinth Enuha, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, Chief Cyril Ogodo, Chief Lucky Esigie and some outstanding women leaders understand the dynamics of politics and the power of democratic sacrifices”.