Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige, a medical doctor, politician, former Governor of Anambra State, Senator and Minister of Federal Republic of Nigeria, a humanist, philanthropist, political strategist is a giant in many strides.
Ngige retired from the Ministry of Health as Deputy Director in 1998 and joined politics. He was elected as Assistant Secretary (South Zone) of People’s Democratic Party (P.D.P) which he served up on till 2003.
In 2003, as a result of the dismal performance of the then governor of Anambra State Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, it was obvious that there was a need to stop him from going for a second term. His party PDP denied him a ticket for a second term hence the need to seek for his replacement.
Fate threw up Ngige as the gubernatorial candidate of PDP in 2003 election against all political permutations and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared him winner of the election. He was sworn in on May 29, 2003.
The same forces of political vampires that frustrated Mbadinuju came with full force on Ngige; however, Ngige demonstrated the giant in him by stoutly resisting the political vampires who wanted to empty the state till for their selfish interest.
His resistance and insistence that the public funds should be for the public good and interest knew no bounds.
The political vampires descended heavily on him and with the connivance of the leadership of the then Federal government, the state suffered casualties. 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 the giant in Ngige came to the fore because, he 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 roads are still there today while the roads built by his successors are now replete with potholes and devastation.
The accumulated salaries were paid including pension arrears.
The pensioners that were once described as “dead woods” transmuted into “living wood” because they received enhanced salaries.
As 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, 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 political scavengers to steal the public funds meant for the good of the people. I recall that he was once advised by one of the party chieftains to settle the political vampires and remain in power as governor or he might lose his governorship seat. He retorted to him that he would not mind since he was not born a governor.
Ngige remains the only governor of a state who governed without security because during the political brouhaha that bedevilled the 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, surprising that Ngige lost his governorship seat in March 2006. The people mourned and wept. In appreciation of his good governance, the masses gave him delectable sobriquets such as Igbo leader, Ozoigbondu, Onwa, Onyilimagba.
He felt, however, he had laid the foundation for good governance in the state. No doubt, his successors – Peter Obi and Willy Obiano had no choice than to perform. It is true that they have not matched his performance, however, credit should be given to them that they have tried to build on his foundation.
To his political detractors, who taunted him that he did not win 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 – Prof Dora Akunyili who had the strong backing of the sitting Governor Peter Obi.
As a political strategist, Ngige could read the political pendulum; he did that in 2015 when he advised his people not to put their political choice 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, All Progressives Congress won the presidential election vindicating him.
He was later appointed a Minister of Labour and Productivity where he discharged the job creditably. He is presently one of the ministerial nominees.
Ngige presided over and ensured that the long agitation of the workers for enhanced wages came into fruition with the increase in minimum wages.
The Ministry of Labour and Productivity came alive with activities that enhanced workers welfare, improved employees/employer relationship and creation of employment.
Though it is not yet Uhuru, however, it must be admitted that Ngige has no doubt made a positive impact, an indelible presence in the usually controversial ministry. It was, therefore, not unexpected that Ngige at the twilight of his tenure as the Minister of Labour and Productivity had issues with a factional trade union. What does one expect when one is relating with an organisation whose cardinal credo is “Aluta Continua” (The struggle continues).
Even though this piece is not meant to delve into the issues between Ngige and the trade union, suffice it to state that it is ultra vires of the trade union to question the appointment of chairmanship of a parastatal by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who has the statutory right to do so. The trade union did not quarrel with Ngige over the minimum wage that benefitted all the workers. One needs not say more!
Today, Ngige has been re-appointed a Minister of Federal Republic of Nigeria to the cheering of the good of people of Nigeria and admirers of good performance.
One congratulates Ngige, one congratulates him also as he marks August 8, 2019 his birthday anniversary.
We need to celebrate our leaders especially those of them who have distinguished themselves in ensuring good governance and qualitative leadership.
Onwa, you are celebrated and urged to keep up with the good work. Bravo! Ngige the Giant!
Mr. Anyadubalu a lawyer, writes from 129, Okota Road, Okota Lagos Nigeria.