A Veteran in Anambra Guber Race

Chris Ngige, one-time governor of Anambra State and a sitting senator, returns to the ring to seek another mandate to govern the state come November 16, election

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Nov. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

MOST Nigerians who knew him in politics may not know if he played the game of football in his hey days. Neither are they in a position to know if Diego Maradona, the iconic Argentine football player, is his idol. But what most people will agree is that he has mastered the art of dribbling and undoing his opponents in the political field just as Maradona does in the football field. The similarity between Maradona and Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige, the All Prograssives Congress, APC, governorship candidate, stretches to the fact that both cannot boast of being tall but their achievements make them stand taller than their opponents. Just like Maradona is hated by those he had undone in the football field and loved by many of his fans, that is also the way it is for Ngige, who is also hated by those he has tackled effectively in the political field and loved by those who approve of what he had done while he was the governor of Anambra State from 2003 to 2006.

There is no doubt about Maradona’s popularity in football in Argentina just like Ngige is very popular in the politics of Anambra State.  The hand of God through Maradona helped the Argentines to win the English side in one of the world cup series in the 1978 and the average English man never forgave Maradona for it. So, it was for Ngige whom the hand of God propelled to victory in Anambra State in the 2003 election. That victory and the aftermath of all political brinksmanship between him and his godfathers in sharing the lubricants of office, the refusal of Ngige to be controlled and the Okija shrine episode –  are  expected to come into play now that he is gunning to be elected the governor of Anambra State in November.

Unlike his political opponents, Ngige is coming into the current game having lost all claims to political innocence and naivety which may have dogged him previously. He is certainly not being bogged down by another tuff fight with the godfathers before and after the election. Apart from financial heavy weights who will help to bankroll his election, he is in the political field this time around very much his own man without anybody holding his hand unlike what obtained in the previous primaries  where he emerged the candidate of Peoples Democratic Party. Apart from that political baggage during his sojourn with the PDP, Ngige is coming into the political fray of Anambra this time around well prepared and more experienced than the other contenders. Also the laudable infrastructural projects mostly durable roads he built in his first missionary journey in Anambra State speak loudly for him.

He has premised his bid to run for the governorship race on the fact that he forgot his blueprint for the development of Anambra in the government House Awka, when he left unceremoniously in 2006. According to him, he only implemented 25 percent of his blueprint before he was ousted by the court in  while his successors implemented only five percent, leaving 70 percent now crying for attention. Ngige, who is confidently sprinting to the November 16, Anambra governorship election has a “vision to build an Anambra State that would truly be “The Light of the Nation” in its capital, natural resources and material developments.” Ngige’s mission on his “second missionary journey is to continue, and finish the work I started building an Anambra State where government exists to work for the people; impact on their lives in positive ways; lift and enhance the conditions and environments of their living; give hope and succour to the poor and provide security of lives and property for all, and create a conducive and an enabling environment for businesses to thrive in.”

Ngige, 61, born to Pius and late Priscilla Ngige in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State, prides “himself as a known crusader of social justice with a doggedness for standing firm by his people even in periods of trials and tribulations, especially during his tenure as the governor of Anambra State.”    A medical doctor, Ngige was educated at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in 1979. He also has a diploma in Hospital Management Services in Peshwar, Pakistan, in 1990 and also attended several national and international conferences and trainings in different areas including, but not limited to leadership, administration, legislative and democratic principles, fiscal management, budget and contract procedures and due process.

Described as a seasoned administrator who had worked for 18 years in the civil service of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from where he retired as a deputy director in the federal ministry of health in 1998, Ngige has headed and run several successful businesses before his foray into politics. They include Ponsel Nigeria Limited, Pinkline Laboratories Limited, Chriseve Clinics among others. He was the sole administrator of Aka Ikenga, Lagos and has held several high ranking positions in political parties including his membership of the National Caucus of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. He was a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, where he also held several positions including that of protem zonal publicity secretary, assistant national secretary and member of the National Executive Committee, NEC, and assistant national zonal secretary (southeast).

Ngige’s exposure in politics at various levels in the country has made him to become very savvy, astute and quick to read the political temperature and to apply the right medicine to tone down political tensions. He has a way with the media and sometimes he also dribbles journalists who are on his trail for interview. He also has the natural gift to pre-empt his political opponents and with the help of his caustic tongue to return political blows that send opponents into a haze as to what next to do to check his surging popularity. He demonstrated this recently during the deportation saga. His opponents drummed the ethnic samba and thought that they had cornered him effectively when they let the nation know that the APC-led government in Lagos state had deported 76 Igbos and dumped them at the bridge head at Onitsha at night. Initially, some people thought there was no way Ngige could wriggle out of it and that his political fortune would dwindle. But he adroitly wangled his way out by drawing everybody’s attention to the fact that more Igbos have died in PDP-controlled states than in Lagos, where no Igbo man has lost his property or life since the beginning of the current civilian dispensation in 1999. He also touted the fact that Babatunde Fashola, the Lagos state governor, had apologised and also that the Anambra State government also had a hand in what happened because, contrary to its claim, it actually exchanged letters with the Lagos state government on the rehabilitation of the affected but reneged on its agreement to collect the victims after the Lagos State government officials had taken them to Onitsha.

One other huddle Ngige will have to face in his quest to emerge as the next governor of Anambra State, is the campaign by the opposition that his party is not Igbo party but Yoruba party. He will have to contend with the school of thought who thinks that he may not have much to offer if he wins an election this time around. He will also have to overcome the burgeoning opinion that people from other senatorial zone other than those from the North have had their fair share of ruling Anambra State. Ngige overcame the Yoruba party issue to beat Dora Akunyili of All Progressives grand Alliance to clinch the senate seat in 2011. He is confident that this will not be an issue again this time around because Anambra people are wiser. As for the power shift to the North, he believes that the issue is being over flogged. “In a place where everybody is qualified, if you say somebody is a mediocre…. There is no time in Anambra that zoning was done covertly or overtly. It has not been done before, not discussed, why do you come now with this? There is a hidden agenda; someone is offering us a poisoned chalice.” That is what the proponents of power shift is introducing, he said. He cites the fact that late President Nnamdi Azikwe from Anambra North senatorial zone, ruled for eight years in the eastern region. After him, Micheal Okpara took over. Then came the government of Ukpabi Asika also from Anambra North, who was the administrator who ruled and reigned for eight years in Anambra State without any parliament. Also, late Senate President Chuba Okadigbo was from the North. “There has never been any politics of the North, south and central thing before. Anybody saying it now is being mischievous and unfair,” he said.

If Ngige scales through the power shift hurdle, he will still have give an account of his stewardship at the Senate. His political opponents throw jabs of non-performance at him. To reply them effectively, Ngige has produced a 48-page booklet chronicling all his activities since he got to the senate. The activities are based on three main areas namely oversight function, committee work and legislative work where bills, that become laws and motions  are made. The booklet shows that Ngige belongs to seven committees making him one of the very few who belong to more than five committees.

The committees are committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy, where he serves as the vice-chairma, committee on health, committee on police affairs, committee on science and technology, committee on capital market, committee on investments and committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution. He said that he has so far sponsored 10 bills and co-sponsored more than 10 others which are going through different stages of legislative and senate processes on their ways to being signed into laws by the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The booklet also revealed that he had sponsored five motions and co-sponsored 40 others. He cites the most prominent and essential of his bills as the Farmers Registration Council Bill. “When this bill becomes law, it will jump-start an agrarian revolution in Nigeria, putting food on the table of the ordinary Nigeria by creating a platform for the organisation, registration, recognition, formalising, and empowerment of the Nigerian farm cooperatives and other farm organisations. It will serve as the official instrument for ensuring that Nigerian farmers, farm cooperatives and other farm organisations receive interventions and assistance planned by government for farmers for example fertilisers, seeds etc; and it will identify and register the authentic farmers and remove the excesses of middle men who have not allowed government interventions to reach the actual farmers; and build a reliable official data base of Nigerian farmers that will be used by government agencies that would want to relate directly with farmers.”

One thing going for Ngige is that he understands the need to mobilise the electorate at the grassroots instead of engaging his opponents in a debate in far away United States. As one security official told Realnews: “Ngige does not have time for the US debate. He is moving from house to house knocking on people’s doors, those who will vote on the election day. Tell me, will the people in the US fly home to vote on election day?”

There is no doubt that Ngige, with his popularity, which his opponents will readily admit, is in the battle well primed to clinch a win. What most Anambra people and his supporters alike will like to see is a situation where he will win decisively without any hand of God to push and score the goal. A decisive win, if it happens, will help him erase the sad memory of the past and galvanise all Anambra people for the greater task of taking the state to the next level. But then, Anambrarians will wait for the outcome of November 16, election to know if the campaign song of Ngige Kanyi ga eso (We will follow Ngige) will materialise.

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