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Delta YPP Gov’ship Candidate Ofehe Ramps Up His Campaign Around Battle-tested Loyalists, Deprived Deltans

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Delta YPP guber candidate, Comrade Sunny Ofehe in warm embrace by the younger and older generation





Comrade Sunny Ofehe, the Young Progressive Congress (YPP) governorship candidate for Delta state, has chosen to build his electioneering campaign around battle-tested loyalists and an army of ordinary people who are willing to end the reign of the two major political parties in the state to occupy the Dennis Osadebe Government House in Asaba in the 2023 governorship election.

Ofehe has not wavered in his efforts to bring his campaigns to the doorsteps of the electorate since he was announced as the YPP governorship candidate last year. He has done this through rallies and informal meetings with stakeholders and a variety of professional groups, such as the Nigeria Bar Association, where he participated in an interactive session with other candidates. From Delta North to the Central and South senatorial districts of the state, Ofehe has built a legion of foot-soldiers and enthusiastic voters who are so keen on his candidacy and willing to prove that there is power in the will of the people.

In addition to the numerous endorsements in his kitty, he had also made contact with influential political figures in the state, regardless of their political affiliation, including two former governors, Chief James Onanefe Ibori and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, as well as renowned traditional leaders like Ogiame Atuwatse III, the Olu of the Warri Kingdom, and Christian leaders from all over the state.

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Ofehe, receiving prayers from Ibori during his consultative visit

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He had dispelled skeptics’ doubts and those who thought he would drop out of the race for want of the funds to see him through the campaigns and the election. Ofehe is running as an independent candidate for the office of governor under the banner of the relatively unheard-of YPP, but he has been able to show off his managerial and leadership abilities by personally funding the campaigns and seeing to it that everything is done correctly.

But despite extensive consultations, some political observers think it will be difficult for him to unseat the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has ruled the state for 24 years as a third force, and install a new generational government through the Young Progressive Party, one of the little-known political parties that has gained significant momentum and is connecting well with the youth.

With his “Fix-Delta” campaign mantra, which he generated in 2019 when he first contested the governorship under the APC, Ofehe, a traditional chief in Iyede Kingdom, and his running mate, Mrs. Eloho Chalele-Dafe (Eqs.), with their 16-page manifesto outlining the fundamental tenets of his administration, are hoping to leverage on the network of deprived Deltans who had suddenly gained consciousness of the mala-administration in the state from the “Obidient” movement to dislodge the “big players” and supposed big political parties that have offered little from the huge revenue and allocation that accrued to the state for years.

Ofehe has remained unfazed and determined to inform the undecided voters about his ability to take the state as the new kid on the block, despite the fact that critics believe he and his YPP, which he has built to a significant level of state-wide acceptance, are no match for the PDP and APC, the two major political parties in the state.

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The Isoko-born environmental rights activist, who has worked in civil society for close to 30 years, has intensified his game plan by raising awareness of his candidacy throughout his state, particularly by conducting community-to-community canvassing. He is fully aware of what it would take to overthrow the ruling party. Ofehe had traveled to isolated upland and riverine communities that none of his competitors thought were important.

While introducing his running mate, Mrs. Eloho Chalele-Dafe (Eqs.), and officially releasing a 16-page manifesto outlining the core principles of his administration, Ofehe engaged journalists and laid out his plans and agenda for the state at the newly commissioned secretariat of the Delta State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Asaba, the state capital.

Nearly every sector in the state has invited him to speak about how he plans to develop it if elected due to his exceptional level of engagement, including the Student Union Government (SUG) of Delta State University, Abraka and the Federal University of Petroleum Resources (FUPRE), Centre for Sustainable Development, Ugbomro, Uvwie local government areas of Delta State, where he was honored as a fellow.

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The event, which was put on by the institution’s Centre for Sustainable Development as part of its inaugural stakeholders forum/discussion series, featured a lecture titled “Climate Change & Flooding: The Niger Delta Experience, Causes, Defence & Response” that was given by Ofehe.

At the event, Ofehe and other stakeholders in oil-rich Delta state called on the federal and state governments to adopt the Netherlands’ approach to flood risk management techniques in order to address the country’s persistent flooding problem.

Stakeholders listening to Ofehe’s lecture at FUPRE

Apart from being the star of the January 21 signing ceremony for the Open Governance manifestos, Ofehe has demonstrated such charisma as a candidate to beat in the governorship race that numerous civil society groups in the state have endorsed him as a sign of support for one of their own. They have even gone so far as to canvass for votes for him in their thousands, urging Deltans to turn out in force on the rescheduled Saturday, March 18, election to vote for him overwhelmingly.

The interesting thing about his candidacy is that, while a sizable contingent of supporters from the civil society organizations marched through the streets of Asaba, the state capital, beginning at the Stephen Keshi Stadium and marching all the way to the Grand Hotel and back to the stadium in support of Sunny Ofehe, another army of seasoned supporters from the entertainment industry, which had earlier endorsed his candidacy, was in Sapele and Oghara. Ayovuata Courage Uyoyou, a representative of the civil society group “Courageous Girls Women and Children Initiative,” stated that all civil society groups in the state had to march alongside Ofehe as he made his way to Government House Asaba in the rescheduled March 18 election.

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She said, “Comrade Ofehe is one of us, he has proven his worth in the civil society space over the years, and he is now bringing his wealth of experience to bear on the “Fix-Delta” project. We have high hopes for his campaign because the consensus is that both the PDP and APC have been ineffective and should be replaced. She urged everyone who is eligible to vote in the state to turn out in force on election day to support the YPP’s candidate for governor. Other notable leaders of the civil society coalition who spoke in turns, commended Ofehe for the courage to push his campaign through knowing fully well that he was an independent candidate with no financier and no baggage.

They included representatives from the Total Care for Peace and Development Initiative, Phil Badaki, the Levites Initiative, Mr. Samuel, the Humanitarian Foundation, Mrs. Onyekachi, the Greensphere Initiative, Green Activist Agboro Harrison, the Courageous Girls Women and Children Initiative, Ayovuata Courage Uyoyou, the Glorious Hands of God’s Home Initiative, Mrs. Rose, and the Searching a Plus Women and Children Initiative, Mrs. Ndidiamaka.

Civil society organisations in Delta endorse Ofehe guber candidacy





Ofehe while addressing the CSOs members, said that as a CSO advocate for more than 25 years, I understand the significance of CSO in governance, adding that when elected, he will, through executive order, make civil society organizations the fourth arm of government so as to be able to drive policies and programs. He said: “I was a Special Guest speaker at the CSO interactive and engagement session held a a week ago in Asaba, by the coalition of civil society organisations in Delta State.

“I have promised Deltans that civil society organizations (CSOs) will be my fourth arm of government. As a CSO advocate for more than 25 years, I understand the significance of CSO in governance. “My government will set up a Civil Society Trust Fund that will ensure yearly institutional funding for established CSOs in the State. I will ensure that we have a monthly interactive session with all CSOs in the State. I also understand the challenges faced by CSO due to neglect and lack of sufficient support from the government. The coalition was unanimous in the declaration of support for my candidacy”, he enthused.

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As his campaign gains traction, more and more people are starting to realize that they have an alternative who is qualified to lead a state like Delta. The Young Professionals for the “Obidient Movement” in Delta state is one of these organizations. They vowed to work tirelessly to ensure the victory of the state’s YPP’s candidate for governor, Ofehe, in the Saturday election that will take place the following week.

In conjunction with other group members, including Mr. Fidelis Igbago, the group’s leader, Dr. Chris Idibia, made the commitment at a consultation meeting held at the Wellington Hotel in the Effurun, Uvwie council area. It was time to give power to “our best eleven,” he added, and they chose Ofehe because, among all the candidates, he was the only one who marched what the Obidient movement represented.

Idibia claimed that many people underestimated the “Obidient movement” when it first began and believed it would not succeed, but that these same people have since been shocked by how the movement’s wave has spread throughout the entire state. He expressed confidence that “we will shock them again in next week’s Saturday governorship election,” asserting that Ofehe is the one who, in terms of what the “Obidient movement” stands for, has the political clout to march the money bags in both the PDP and the APC.

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“The ‘Obidient’ Movement was focused more on the suffering of common Nigerians rather than the Labour Party. We joined forces from various political parties to launch the movement in our respective states because we believed the Obi-Datti ticket to be sincere and that Obi was a candidate who had been chosen by God for the position. We have seen the same qualities in you that we saw in Obi. You’ve demonstrated your ability and shown that you have what it takes to address the state’s numerous issues. He continued, “We need someone like you who will think outside the box and help bring our state to the path of glory. We’re tired of both PDP and APC misrule and maladministration”.

A faction of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) in the state, along with a few civil society organizations, had chosen YPP in the state and adopted Ofehe as their candidate for the rescheduled March 18 governorship elections the day before. A number of merger discussions between the YPP governorship candidate, a coalition of different groups, and NNPP factional executive in the Isoko North and South Local Government Area led to the adoption of Ofehe.

Some of the NNPP officials after the met with YPP guber candidate Ofehe

Ofehe claimed that his own crowds of supporters were real people who were genuinely supporting his candidacy, which is interesting because the major political parties rely on large crowds of supporters during campaigns, some of whom are reportedly hired crowds used as widely accepted indicators.

He is therefore ecstatic about the enormous momentum his governorship campaign has created in the state and noted that everyone who wants to vote out the APC and PDP in the March 18 governorship and state assembly elections genuinely loves him and his aspirations.

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Speaking to reporters after visiting some communities in the state’s Udu, Ughelli North, and South local government areas over the weekend as part of his campaign, Ofehe maintained that his candidacy is what the people of the oil-rich but poverty-ridden state want. He claimed that wherever he went during his campaigns, the poor and electorate, who had been denied access to basic necessities for years, were overjoyed that God had sent him to run for office and free them from the chains of poverty.

In spite of how badly the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) had screwed up the state, the chief executive officer of the Netherlands-based Hope for Niger Delta Campaign (HNDC) expressed shock that some people could still support political gladiators from those parties. He asserted that the APC governorship candidate would have nothing new to offer and that the party as a whole deserved not to be the new government in Delta state on March 18 due to the party’s abject failure at the national level.

He also taunted the state’s ruling PDP for running up enormous debt through reckless borrowing, which has reduced the state to an international laughing stock. “I wonder how people can still vote for PDP and APC, the two political parties that have made our State and nation a laughing stock around the world where we are in debt and now pay to get our own currency,” he said. It’s a shame! Let’s chart a new path and make our State great again”.

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He said he was moved to tears when he met some elderly people who had rendered meritorious service to the state and were owed substantial pensions. He bemoaned in particular the subpar living conditions of the pensioners of the defunct former Delta Steel Company, also known as Premium Steel Company Ovwain/Aladja in Udu council area.

Ofehe receives cheers as he reeled out his blueprint to voters

“My campaign does not hire and pay for crowds like the big political parties normally do. We attract Deltans who fall in love with our message and vision for the State. My goal is to identify with the poor, impoverished, and vulnerable citizens of our State who have been deprived of the basic needs of life. The people who have suffered from corrupt and poor leadership over the years. “We took our campaign to Otor-Udu, Aladja, Uwhenwe, Agbarha-Otor and Ovirhe defying the heavy rain. I had the great privilege to fraternize with young and old women and men. I promised to serve them and lift them out of darkness, lack of clean drinking water, provide health care clinics, and provide them with education”, he added.

While urging voters in the state’s three senatorial districts to support him, Ofehe stated that if elected on March 18, he would focus his policy agenda on how he can strengthen the middle class, contending that no government can run effectively without the middle class. He said he would scrap levies and taxes imposed on people who chose not to do crime but genuinely eking out their living by their daily hustling on the street, maintaining that state governments need to think outside the box on how to generate revenue besides FAAC allocations.

The construction of roads, hospitals, and schools, which are frequently celebrated as accomplishments by the majority of Nigerian governors, would not be celebrated under his administration, he said, because those were the bare minimums that any responsible government should provide for its citizens. He added that providing quality healthcare for expectant mothers, young children, and unborn children would rank at the top of his policies and programs. Ofehe stated that his policies would be geared towards an industrial and agricultural revolution in the state, and that he would improve the standard of governance by making sure that civil servants, who are the backbone of any government, are in good positions and that the oppressed will feel the impact of his administration.

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The environmental rights activist said that, if elected, his administration would make sure that all fundamental necessities that Deltans are supposed to enjoy but are currently lacking, like water, power, and sustainable energy projects, would be easily provided. According to him, some of those initiatives—some of which have been dubbed “star projects” by national politicians—were the bare minimum that any responsible government could provide for its citizens.

In one of his many speeches, he reaffirmed the power of the will of the people, noting that he is the most qualified candidate in the race at this time when the state needs a messianic figure, but his candidacy has been undermined by those who believe that ousting the chieftains of the PDP and APC who have underperformed would be a difficult task.

Ofehe has sufficiently demonstrated that he is a well-bred grassroots person who understands the plight of the people, despite being based in the Netherlands, and this will count in his favor. Early in his life, he lived among the residents of Ughelli and attended Unity School Agbarho (USA), from which he transferred to the University of Benin (Uniben), where he eventually graduated with a degree in industrial chemistry.

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Elderly man at the Ibo market, Warri praying for Ofehe, his wife and his deputy, Mrs. Eloho Chalele-Dafe

“I have lived in a society that has opened my eyes; a society that values life; a society that meets all of the needs of its people; a society that does not take pride in building roads, hospitals, or bridges. We don’t know the people responsible for providing basic amenities, and they don’t hold ceremonies to brag, but here (Nigeria) is the only instance I can recall of where they spent N80 million to complete a project and another N30 million to mark the project’s completion. It is insane!  Ofehe had said this in a number of speeches, including when he recently visited the Rubber Plantation, Iron Market, and Tools Spare Part Market, where he was overwhelmingly adopted as the governorship candidate for the poll.

“Nobody has contributed a penny to my campaign; whatever we are spending is our widow’s mite. We may not have the resources they do, nor the clout they do, but what I have, money cannot buy. I am running for office because I occasionally reminded myself that there are still people in our democracy who share your concerns. If I speak out on issues that affect you personally, your family, or your kids, I hope you will support me because that is the alliance I am looking for. “I’m here to further reaffirm my promise and to reassure you that whatever I have to say, I want to say it again because we are getting close to the finish line. If all I were looking for was your votes, I wouldn’t come here again because I’ve been here before.

However, I’m here to further reaffirm my promise. I am still competing in this race because of the strength of people like you. I make a commitment to myself that I will do whatever it takes to stay and finish it, even if that means devoting all of the remaining energy that God has given me.

“No government in Delta history has ever done for you what I will do as governor,” the governorship candidate said. Continuing, he said; “None of the candidates on the ballot, from the APC or PDP, can do what I will do for you because they keep recycling themselves for office. On that ballot, I am the candidate with the most exposure and the most experience. I am the only candidate who has traveled far and wide and who has the tenacity, toughness, and doggedness to be able to use his or her connections to advance the state. I am also the only candidate who understands how to make the most of what little we have in order to obtain what we need.

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“Look at Delta State today. We currently have the second-highest debt profile of any state in the nation, despite the fact that we are supposed to have four ports that are underutilized and underperforming. We are the only state not taking advantage of the 165 square kilometers of coastline that we have been given. When Shell operated in this region many years ago, Warri served as the state’s economic center and employed an average of 20, 000 people, but today everything is gone because of lack of purposeful leadership. When I become your governor, I will review the exist of multinational oil companies and I will have a social contract with you. Let me focus on that.

“If you elect me as your governor, I’ll create a social trust fund and make it accessible. Some of you have taken out loans from banks, and those banks are squeezing every last penny out of you with double-digit interest rates. I’m going to put up a barrier against those borrowing. I will make money available for you to borrow from the government without requiring collateral, and the interest rate I charge you will be between 5 and 6 percent at most.

According to his social contract, which would see 1 million disadvantaged Deltans lifted out of poverty, the aim is to increase the state’s middle class and ensure a minimum standard of living.

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He explained to the two former governors of the state that he decided to run for governor because he is passionate about enacting positive change in the state because “all the possibilities he tried to bring in through people that he knew in government, either fell on deaf ears or shrugged off,” when they met to discuss his campaign for governor of the oil-rich state in the postponed general election. ‘I just feel that it is time for me to use the knowledge that I have acquired in my 27 years, the experience that I have acquired, and the exposure that I have gained to come and serve through the ballot in the 2023 election.”

Ofehe, a well-known environmentalist who has addressed the European Parliament in Brussels as well as the United Nations General Assembly in Geneva, is one of the front-runners right now after successfully awakening the public’s conscience to the need to only support the most qualified and incorruptible candidates.

 

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When Ofehe and Uduaghan met over his guber ambition

Since 2019, when he first nurtured the desire to take over the state’s leadership as governor under the APC platform before he was forced to resign for Ogboru, who was selected as the party’s sole candidate, Ofehe has not wavered in his desire to bring about a fundamental change in the state’s leadership. As he subtly changes the narrative and chants a new road map using the “Obidient” philosophy to advance his campaigns, he has set an example for the other candidates with his tenacity and passion in this race, and they are now lining up behind him.

“In this race, I want to make sure that we lift a lot of people out of poverty and that we give the average person access to food. Since I’ve started running for office, I’ve spent a ton of time in communities that the government has neglected, and in the vast majority of the places I’ve visited to campaign, people have always said this is the first time a governorship candidate will visit the area. I found out that Omo-Agege and the Sheriff both came to this location. He explained to the motor spare parts dealers that they came here because they had heard that I had visited this area the previous year.

In one of his campaign speeches, while bemoaning the fact that “today the Ethiope River is not even being utilized,” he declared that if elected governor, he would capitalize on the business opportunities in the Ethiope River, the deepest river in Africa, and turn it into a hub for local and foreign tourists.

The YPP governorship candidate claimed that Delta State’s administration was underutilizing the state’s potential in terms of its natural and human resources. He also expressed displeasure that, as the nation’s top producer of crude oil, Delta State was supposed to compete with Rotterdam in the marine industry and establish itself as the nation’s maritime hub.

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On March 18, if Ofehe is elected governor of Delta State, he has pledged to make significant investments in independent power supply to ensure that every home has access to dependable electricity as a basic necessity.

Ofehe unveiled his manifesto in front of journalists and stated that if he is elected, his administration will bring in at least $26 billion in direct foreign investment. When elected, he promised that his administration would prioritize issues like healthcare, education, security, sports, and culture in addition to subsectors related to agriculture in order to promote the industrialization of the state on a bio-based basis by creating local processing facilities to recover agricultural waste.

As if that weren’t enough, he listed additional areas that his administration would concentrate on when he announced that he would create a Ministry for Diaspora Affairs and appoint a Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs who would be charged with expanding the ways that Nigerians living abroad can support state development. He added that a Diaspora Investment Fund would be created to enable people living abroad to finance initiatives that will advance their home countries’ development and bring in money at the same time. “You cannot drive an economy, whether at the state level or the federal level, without building your middle class,” Ofehe said in reference to how he plans to rebuild the state’s economy.

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In Nigeria as a whole and in Delta state specifically, we observe that there is essentially no middle class at present. You cannot function if you lack that. Because they cannot earn enough money to participate in the economic process, people cannot afford to own homes, cars, or even to enjoy the small, essential pleasures of life. We have therefore described in this sector how we intend to address that,” he said.

He had stated that, despite having roots among the locals here and in the Diaspora, his approach would always be issue-based and would focus on how to bring to the international stage some of the problems that have been upsetting the populace. Because of the peculiarities of Nigerian politics, which are skewed toward money, he acknowledged that the race would not be an easy one, but he insisted that he was the best candidate and the only one who would be completely sincere and honest with voters.

“I know it is going to be a tortuous journey because it involves money, and that money I do not have, but I have always prayed that God should help me connect to the people who can help me navigate these paths.”

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Ofehe’s chances of winning the governorship are still unknown by pundits, but it is true that his campaign is growing stronger by the day and gaining momentum, which could have a positive impact.

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