Frank Tietie Launches Frank Talk Africa, Hosts Dutch Activist, Sunny Ofehe
Human rights lawyer, radio host, TV producer, founder and executive director of Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), Mr. Frank Tietie, over the weekend, launched the maiden edition of his media show, “Frank Talk Africa”.
The launching was held in his studio located at Asokoro in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory [FCT].
To kick-start the programme, he hosted Comrade Sunny Ofehe who he described as “legendary activist” owing to his feats and achievements as a crusader of human and environmental rights.
Comrade Ofehe flew into Abuja from the Netherlands Wednesday night and engaged a section of the Nigerian media together with a Question and Answer session.
Sunny Ofehe is a Nigeria-born, Dutch environmental rights activist whose activities focus on the environmental degradation in the oil rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
The session was organized by Mr. Tietie and Friends, together with other stakeholders on issues of national development, including those affecting the Niger-Delta.
During the show, Sunny, as he was fondly called by his host, dazzled the audience with his oratory, knowledge and passion of the Niger Delta in particular, and the country in general.
He took the audience into a journey of his early life, starting with life as a child to Chief Bernard Aghogho and Theresa Ofehe of Iyede, Isoko North Council area of Delta State.
In pursuit of light, Ofehe completed his primary education in 1983. His secondary education was completed at Unity School Agbarho in 1988.
In 1991, he gained admission into the University of Benin to study industrial chemistry. He graduated in 1995.
For those who do not know him, his reason for migrating to the Netherlands came as a shock.
The 12 June 1993 saga resulting from the annulled election of the late chief M.K.O Abiola became Ofehe’s first call into activism.
He mobilized his fellow students to demonstrate against the annulment of the Presidential election by the then military Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida.
Ofehe, however, fled Nigeria for the Netherlands on 28 November, 1995, where he sought political asylum to escape the hunt by the Sani Abacha-led military government.
Ofehe, who kept the audience spellbound, recounted how he founded a non-governmental organisation, Hope for the Niger Delta Campaigns (HNDC), headquartered in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in 2005.
HNDC was focused on bringing the plight of the people of the Niger Delta to international awareness and successfully facilitated a dialogue with the militants in the creeks of the Niger Delta in 2005 in the midst of the face-off between the militants and the State security outfits.
Ofehe adopted a non-violent approach to his advocacy and played a prominent role in bringing an end to hostage taking in the Niger Delta as his campaigns led to the release of Dutch kidnapped oil workers.
He was also instrumental in a litigation involving four Niger Delta farmers brought against Royal Dutch Shell in The Hague with a ruling in January 2013 in favour of one of the farmers.
As part of his efforts to expose the plight of the people in the Niger Delta region he began publication of a monthly Niger Delta Diaspora magazine called “Inside Niger Delta Magazine”.
His activism did not go unnoticed and soon met with stern opposition which left him and his family at risk of being victims of planned attacks.
His 60-year-old mother was strangled to death in his family home in Benin City on 4 October 2007 by assailants suspected to be hired assassins which nearly brought him to his knees.
However, as dark forces noticed and tried to silence him, so also did the positive ones as, due to his activities to foster peace in the Niger Delta region, Nigeria’s former president, Goodluck Jonathan, extended ti him an invitation.
He also addressed a joint committee of the Nigeria House of Representative and eventual invited 15 Honourable Members of the House to the Netherlands and the European Union in Brussels in 2009.
On February 25 and 26 2010, Ofehe hosted stakeholders in the Niger Delta Peace process to an international Conference in the Hague, Netherlands, that was instrumental in finding a solution to the problems of youth restiveness in the Niger Delta region.
He also invited an aide to the then Nigerian president on Niger Delta and Head of the Nigerian Amnesty Committee, Kingsley Kuku, to engage senior European politicians in Paris and Brussels.
This led to a Dutch member of Parliament Sharon Gesthuizen and Dutch embassy officials in Nigeria to visit the slums and devastated areas of the Niger Delta.
The outcome led to a Dutch parliamentary hearing about Shell in January 2011 at the Dutch Parliament in The Hague with Ofehe alongside speakers from Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth, Cordaid with Shell present at the hearing.
The indefatigable activist narrowly escaped a bomb blast that rocked his room at the government guest house in Delta State, Nigeria and was subsequently arrested by operatives of the Nigeria State Security Services.
In February 2011, he was arrested by the Dutch Police after around 30 officers raided his home in Rotterdam in the early hours of the morning and detained for 14 days.
He was later charged with terrorism in a case that attracted international condemnation.
In 2017, Ofehe ventured into politics and declared for the race for the governorship of Delta State under the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).
He will later step down for another political bigwig, Great Ogboru after a mutual agreement was reached.
Journalists present at the event, took turns to ask relevant questions, both personal and otherwise and the eloquent comrade did not disappoint them.
Our reporter, who came well prepared for the occasion, reeled four strategic question that reflected the life and economic struggle of the Niger Delta as follows:
Q: Has anything changed in Niger Delta after so much killings and kidnappings to justify the agitations that claimed thousands of lives?
A: No it hasn’t. It rather exposed how deeply entrenched the tragedy bedeviling this country are.
Q: There are perceptions that civil societies have failed as some end up as spokespersons of the institutions they were meant to watch or criticise?
A: It is agreed that civil society organisations have collected huge sums of money or governmental positions and jeopardised the people they are meant to protect their interests.
Q: 83% of oil blocks in Niger Delta owned by Northerners as revealed by a national lawmaker during plenary. If you find yourself elected into power or appointed on advisory position, what will be your position?
[Initially he wondered how it was arrived at that only northerners will own oil blocks and asked what their people were doing while the oil grabbing was going on to which the host, Frank Tietie explained that the shoddy deals were done mostly during the military era where the rulers were majorly emperors. He then answered as follows…]
A: I will appoint local elders and chieftains as advisers and we will map out a strategy on how to reclaim our stolen goods and rights. Before then, I will apply for license to own and operate my own oil block to test the reaction of the government at the center.
If I am denied such, I will cause laws to be enacted at state assemblies in the Niger Delta region to challenge the injustice at the federal level.
Q: There are four seaports in Delta State yet Southeasterners spend billions in Lagos monthly trying to secure goods. What would you have done for a change? Advice South South leaders.
A: Once again it boils down to laws. I will ensure that the laws establishing those institutions are challenged, discarded and replaced with laws that will give power to each state to control its own resources.
Finally, he said he wanted to be governor to put an end to the sufferings of his people and bring about diversified sources of revenue to Delta state and reduce the dependency on oil and Federal allocations.
The event was concluded by a vote of thanks from the host and other stakeholders which was followed by some light refreshments.
NB: A video of the event will be uploaded later.