If there was any person Anambra people never expected to be carried away by the so-called federal might, it was Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige, OON, the current Minister of Labour and Productivity. As Governor of Anambra State between 2003 and 2006, he defended the state against the relentless onslaught of the President Olusegun Obasanjo Federal Government. He fought local agents of the federal might like Chris Uba and his brother, Andy Uba, who was Obasanjo’s closest aide, and Chuma Nzeribe, who was then in the House of Representatives. The great Professor Chinua Achebe appropriately called them renegades, who were determined to make Anambra State ungovernable and a fiefdom conquered by vandals. In protest against the reckless exercise of federal might, Achebe rejected a high national honour, which Obasanjo wanted to confer on him. All Nigerians commended him for the patriotic action.
As Ngige waged a spirited war against destructive federal agents, he became a folk hero. He was using our money to build roads and do some other good things. Therefore, nothing prepared our people for the new role Ngige is now playing in Anambra politics, which is just awful. He is the person who began the new mantra of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Anambra State: “We must conquer Anambra State in the November 2017 gubernatorial election by fire, by force”. Since he is the APC leader in the state, those seeking the governorship ticket have been reciting endlessly the creed.
As though to deepen his new language of hate and violence, Dr. Ngige threatened two weeks ago on a local radio in Anambra State called Odenigbo Radio that if the APC “captures power in the state, the first thing it will do is to pull down all three flyovers” in the state capital, Awka, built by the Willie Obiano administration. The three flyovers are modeled after the Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge in Lagos, a signature achievement of Babatunde Fashola, when he was the Lagos State governor. Like the Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge, the three flyovers in Awka are particularly beautiful at night when the neon lights and other frills come up. If Jimi Agbaje or the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had made the demolition of the Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge a campaign promise in the 2015 general elections, Lagosians would have considered them insane and, perhaps, stoned them. So, why is Dr. Ngige making a show of his wish to demolish three of the most beautiful bridges in Nigeria based on the spurious allegation that they are not good? Ngige is no engineer, and no structural engineer questions the integrity of the bridges. When will he start to think of building things rather than threatening to destroy signature infrastructure built by others?
No person would have predicted the strange behaviour from Ngige before he was appointed a minister. Even after his appointment, he remained his usual self. The change in behaviour began only recently, that is, after some extremely dangerous elements in the Anambra State branch of the PDP joined the APC in order to seek the party’s ticket in the November election. These people whom Prof Achebe would describe as “dangerous lunatics” and “rabid beasts of fanaticism” have now infected Anambra APC with their values. Consequently, Anambra APC has become the new face of Anambra PDP, which former President Goodluck Jonathan has described as being composed of people who always seek election with two corruptly obtained court orders, according to Olusegun Adeniyi, chairman of Thisday editorial board, in his new book, Against the Run of Play. The same elements, who ruined Anambra PDP, are now APC leaders in the state.
Rather than seek to make the new APC entrants begin to behave like decent people, Dr. Ngige has strangely chosen to operate at their level. These are the very people who kidnapped him in 2003 when he was governor. They even physically attacked him by slapping him and locking him up in a hotel toilet even after he had been declared governor-elect. They forced him to sign at gunpoint a resignation letter. They connived with the police high command in the Southeast led by Raphael Ige to carry out a coup d’etat against his government. They burnt the Anambra Broadcasting Service, the Anambra State House of Assembly, the Anambra State Judicial Commission Complex, the Anambra State Governor’s Lodge in Onitsha and the Anambra State Government House in Awka, all in a desperate effort to remove Ngige from office through a state of emergency. How come Ngige is now in cahoots with these vandals? This is foreboding. When a vegetarian turns to meat, he may not stop there; he ends up being a cannibal, devouring human flesh! In other words, Ngige’s new association with the deadliest characters in Anambra State politics ever has terrible implications. We pray Dr. Ngige does not end up behaving worse than his newfound political allies.
Dr. Ngige’s gratuitous blitzkrieg against the government and people of Anambra State is unfathomable. For the eight years Peter Obi was governor, Ngige was declared a persona non grata in the state. He dared not come near Government House or the Governor’s Lodge or any event organised by the government. Obi treated him like a leper. Obi did not recognise Ngige as a former governor because, as he argued trenchantly, Ngige stole his mandate in the 2003 election in connivance with characters like Chris Ubah and aided by the Obasanjo presidency. Just the way Peter Obi denied Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju his pension as a former governor, Mr. Obi deprived Dr. Ngige of his entitlements as a past state governor.
But on coming to power in 2014, Chief Obiano restored all entitlements to Ngige and Mbadinuju. He still invites them to all major state functions where they are treated with respect. He honoured all previous governors of the state last year when Anambra marked its Silver Jubilee. Obiano has explained he gives all his predecessors their entitlements in order to comply with the law but also restore peace in the state. An atmosphere of peace engenders rapid economic development. Investments go to places known for peace and stability. This is why Dr. Ngige built roads, but could not attract one single investment for the three years he was governor. There was no peace in the state. His incessant battles chased away investors. In contrast, Anambra State has in the last three years attracted whopping $4.5 billion investments. As the saying goes, capital and investments are cowards; they do not go to places where there is war or conflict. Thus, Dr. Ngige’s new idiom, marked by expressions like “we will pull down”, “we will demolish”, “the APC government will strike down”, “APC will conquer Anambra by force, by fire”, frightens both investors and the Anambra people. Is this not the same person whom Governor Obiano campaigned for just two years ago to become the Secretary to the Government of the Federation when Buhari was forming his cabinet?
Anambra State has passed the era of political violence and instability. Dr. Ngige should not recreate the dark era. I, for one, never knew Dr. Ngige would ever be in alliance with characters who burnt key public institutions in the state, let alone join them in spewing the language of hate and violence. Like Julius Caesar who expresses great shock that Brutus, his confidant, could join in the conspiracy leading to his brutal killing in William Shakespeare’s great play, the people of Anambra State now wonder: Et tu, Dr Chris Ngige? How times change!
• Dr. Ekwegbalu is of the Anambra State University, Igbariam.