Writing a tribute to commemorate the birthday of a medical doctor, former governor and two time Minister of Federal Republic of Nigeria is not an easy task. One struggles to abridge the tribute for space and to find the most appropriate epithet to lucidly describe the man who once was prepared to lay down his life to ensure good governance for his people. He liberated the State from those who emasculated it and metaphorically annexed its political and economic heritage.
After introspection and unbiased appraisal of the man, I settled to call him “Ikenga”. Ikenga is a generic name in Igboland; it means different things to many people depending on the contextual application.
However, there is unanimity that Ikenga signifies strength. Some people allude Ikenga to represent the virility of the man “in the other room”
Now in this context, I refer to Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige OON as an Ikenga in deference to his strength of character, love for good governance, philanthropy and doggedness even in the face of orchestrated campaign of calumny.
Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige OON was born on August 8, 1952 into the family of Late Chief Pius Akunnia and Mrs. Priscillia Ngige of Alor Town in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State. He is married to Dr. (Mrs.) Evelyn Ngige, a consultant pediatrician and Federal Permanent Secretary. The union is blessed with three children. Ngige obtained his West African School Certificate (WASC) with distinction in 1972 and a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery Degree from the University of Nigeria in 1979, Diploma in Hospital Management in Peshawar in 1990 and fellow of Pakistan Institute of Hospital Services.
Onwa, the Moon, as his numerous admirers fondly call him, retired from the Federal Ministry of Health in 1998 as a Deputy Director.
Buoyed by the Plutocratic injunction that those who shy away from politics suffer the consequences of being ruled by people they are better than, Ngige joined politics.
In 2003, Anambra State was faced with leadership challenges and there was unanimous call to change the leadership of the then government of the State through the ballot box. Dr. Ngige was gunning for Senate and out of sheer providence, he was elected the Governor of the State.
His determination to liberate the State from the firm grip of the parasitic political elite and economic vampires was phenomenal. Ngige indefatigably displayed uncommon resilience to the acclamation of the people of the State who have been traumatized and trivialized by the effete and sadistic leadership of the past.
The people of Anambra State received dividends of democracy especially in the areas of human and infrastructural development. Take for example, his success in road construction was enviable and remains a reference point. Ngige personally inspected the construction of these roads to endure that it was according to the specification, no wonder these roads constructed by him still remain in good condition.
The civil servants were not left out as Ngige ensured regular payment of their salaries and clearance of the arrears of salaries. He put smiles on the faces of the pensioners (who were previously described as dead woods) through over 100% increments of their pensions and regular payment of same.
As a development enabler, Ngige saw the need to unbundle Onitsha, a city that prides itself as the haven for the largest market in West Africa.
He relocated some markets in Onitsha to other neighbouring towns and communities. This singular initiative has enhanced the commercial value and development of such towns like Ogidi, Ogbunike and Oba to mention but a few.
As a selfless and incorruptible person, he wedged fierce war against those insistent on stealing from the public till. At the end, he sacrificed his exalted position of governor instead of being cowed into submission to the obscene demands of these economic vampires.
The people were saddened that in March, 2006, the Court of Appeal sacked his administration. However, people rejoiced that he had laid a solid foundation for good governance.
The subsequent governors, Peter Obi and Willie Obiano, are no doubt leveraging from the foundation. It is however arguable if they would have made any meaningful achievement without Ngige as their precursor.
Today, Ngige as the two time Minister of Labour and Employment has discharged the job creditably. This is not surprising as Ngige is reputable as a performer.
The Federal Government with Ngige as Minister finally settled the minimum wage saga. There are other labour friendly policies of the government all geared towards ensuring employment for our teeming youths. The N-Power policy and creation of 1,000 jobs from each of the 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria is to the credit of Buhari’s administration in which the Ministry of Labour is particularly a part of. There have not been any long industrial disputes from the Labour Union.
Ikenga, as you mark your birthday, we urge you to remain resolute and fastidious in ensuring good governance for the common man which is the hallmark of President Buhari’s administration.
As an Ikenga, we note your outstanding courage, astuteness and doggedness even in the face of organized campaign of calumny against you.
One is not perturbed because as the Igbo maxim puts it“Okuko nona Ngige egwu, Ngige egwu”, loosely translated to mean that while the fowl that perches on Ngige dances, Ngige dances.
•Anyadubalu writes from Okota, Lagos.