Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige, a medical doctor, politician, former governor of Anambra State, senator and minister, a humanist, philanthropist and political strategist, is a giant in many ways. He retired from the Ministry of Health as deputy director in 1998 and went into politics, wherein he was elected as assistant secretary (South zone) of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which he served until 2003.
In 2003, his party, PDP, denied then Anambra State governor, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, a ticket for a second term and gave it to Ngige. Therefore, fate threw up Ngige as the gubernatorial candidate of PDP in the 2003 election, against all political permutations. After the elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared him winner. He was sworn in on May 29, 2003.
The same forces that frustrated Mbadinuju came with full force against Ngige while in office as governor. He, however, demonstrated the giant in him by stoutly resisting them. His resistance and insistence that public funds should be for the public good and interest knew no bounds. In the political battle, the state’s public institutions were set ablaze and Ngige himself was kidnapped.
Prof. Chinua Achebe, a renowned writer and poet, alluded to this in his open letter to the Federal Government wherein he rejected the honour bestowed on him by the federal authorities. Notwithstanding the acrimonious situation and the subterranean moves by his political detractors to decapitate his government, Ngige did not take it as an alibi not to perform. He revolutionised governance and, for the first time in the history of the Anambra State, the people felt good governance.
The roads were opened up and paved. The accumulated salaries were paid, including pension arrears. The pensioners that were once described as “dead woods,” transmuted to “living wood” because they received enhanced pay.
As a development strategist, Ngige saw the need to unbundle Onitsha, a city that prides itself as the haven for the largest market in West Africa.
He relocated markets to other adjoining towns, like Ogidi, Oba, and Ogbunike. Today, these areas are now springing up as beautiful cities to behold. Thanks also to the enhanced good road network.
As a selfless giant, he was prepared to sacrifice his exalted position instead of allowing people to steal the public funds meant for the good of the state.
Born on August 8, 1952, Ngige remains the only governor of a state who governed without security because, during the political brouhaha that bedevilled Anambra State, the Federal Government withdrew his security detail and left him vulnerable. He remained undaunted and maintained law and order in the state. It was not, therefore, sad that Ngige lost his governorship seat in March 2006 at the Court of Appeal. The people mourned and wept. In appreciation of his good governance, the masses gave him delectable sobriquets such as Igbo leader, Ozoigbondu, Onwa, and Onyilimagba.
He felt, however, he had laid the foundation for good governance in the state. No doubt, his successors, Peter Obi and Willie Obiano, had no choice than to perform optimally. To his political detractors, who taunted him that he did not win the 2003 governorship election, Ngige demonstrated the giant in him in subsequent elections he contested. He won the Anambra Central Senatorial ticket in 2011, defeating a very popular candidate, the late Prof. Dora Akunyili, who had the strong backing of the sitting governor, Peter Obi.
As a political strategist, Ngige could read the future, politically. He did that in 2015 when he advised his people not to put their all choices on one candidate and that the political pendulum was swinging to the North. Some of his people did not listen to him. True to his political permutations, the All Progressives Congress (APC) won the presidential election. He was later appointed Minister of Labour and Employment, where he discharged the job creditably. He is presently one of the ministers-designate.
Ngige presided over and ensured that the long agitation of workers for enhanced wages came to fruition with the increase in the minimum wage.
The Ministry of Labour and Employment came alive with activities that enhanced workers’ welfare, improved employees/employer relations and creation of employment. Though it is not yet Uhuru, however, it must be admitted that Ngige has made a positive impact, an indelible presence in the usually controversial ministry.
Today, Ngige has been re-appointed a minister to the cheers of the good people of Nigeria and admirers. As he marks his birthday today, we need to celebrate him, having distinguished himself in ensuring good governance and qualitative leadership.
•Anyadubalu, a lawyer, writes from Okota, Lagos