What I forgot in Anambra Government House –Ngige

 


 Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige, who represents Anambra Central Senatorial District at the National Assembly, can hardly be described as neophyte in the slippery politics of Anambra State. Rather, he has a name which he earned from his people-oriented governance when he was governor between 2003 and 2006. Ngige, a Medical Doctor turned politician, has announced his intentions to run in the November 16, 2013, governorship election in the state, on the platform of his All Progressives Congress (APC). In this engaging interview, he tells IKECHUKWU AMAECHI, Editor (Daily), and EMEKA ALEX DURU, Features Editor, the reasons behind his aspiration and how he intends to go about achieving it. Excerpts:

What did you forget at the Anambra Government House that you want to go back for?
I forgot a lot of things in Anambra Government House and outside the Government House and we need to retrieve those things. Majorly is my blueprint or what you can call a work plan which I had made for the people of Anambra State in 2003, precisely 29th May, 2003, when I was sworn in. A major part of that blue print has not been achieved in Anambra. I had a blueprint on my inauguration. I enunciated some of them publicly for the people of Anambra. Some were not made public. 
They were in that work plan and, as at today, only 30 percent of that blueprint has been achieved and out of that 30 percent, 23 percent were achieved during my tenure. I stayed in Anambra as governor for two years and nine months. It was during that period that I achieved the 23 percent of the work plan. The incumbent administration in Anambra State, after seven years, has done about seven percent of my own work plan; my own blueprint. Mark you, the word is my own, not theirs. Out of the 23 percent I did, you could see that road construction formed about 10 percent. 
The other 13 percent were in other areas. And as we speak, Anambra has not gotten to the level of development that I have in that work plan. I want to go back to Anambra Government House and bring back that my work plan, dust it up and see what I can do for the people of Anambra in the next four years. 
Today in Nigeria, we have massive infrastructure dilapidation; we have gargantuan lack of security of lives and property, monumental. So I want to get back to Anambra to restore security of lives and property, develop dilapidated infrastructure, face youth unemployment with an agrarian revolution, bring up the psyche of the people back, rejuvenate the belief in government business and secure their lives and property. By the time I do that, Anambra will be an oasis in the desert. The desert in this context is Nigeria because all these things I have mentioned afflict the Nigerian structure.
You had four-year tenure and you were only able to achieve 23 percent in three years. Is that not an indictment on your part?
I didn’t do three years. I did two years and nine months, and do not forget that I was fighting and doing my work. I should have, as a matter of fact, not performed if you put into the context that I was in a fight with the federal government that period. I had suffered some inhibition which was due to the Federal Government’s policy tendencies towards the people of Anambra State, myself and my government. If I had no such distraction in two years and nine months, I would have done over 60 percent. 
All the things I have done in Anambra State, payment of pensioners, liquidation of arrears of salaries of civil servants, improving the lives of pensioners, massive road construction, rehabilitation of existing healthcare facilities and upgrading some like we did at Onitsha General Hospital and a programme to rehabilitate and accredit three more after Onitsha General Hospital, speak for us. There were also our programmes on education, rehabilitation of schools, employment of new teachers. I was the first governor to employ new teachers in the State and since I left, I don’t know whether new ones have been employed or not. We even offered employment to youths and had the civil service employ fresh hands. 
There were also the issues of securing their lives and property and my agrarian policy. We bought tractors, we brought in fertilisers for farmers and started encouraging the farm settlement schemes to come back alive. We started first by going to the agrarian areas, and giving back life to farming. It was manual farming but we introduced tractor hire service. We wanted to establish a School of Agriculture with a farm settlement and students hostel, and we wanted a youth empowerment programme in agriculture by which we would employ youths, put them in the hostels, give them farming equipment for mechanised farming, pay them stipends and buy back their products.
How could you have accomplished all these given the complaints by your predecessors that Anambra was not financially buoyant?
By their own standard, we were not financially buoyant but you need to be a good manager of men and material. Human resources abound in Anambra State and, by some kind of financial engineering, we could start. They were not building roads because they said there was no money to build roads but I built roads and I used first class contractors, and I was able to pay them. I didn’t owe them. No certificate was owed. 
When you manage your contracts well, contractors will come. They will not inflate the contracts if they are sure that their money will be paid. It is not wonderfully true that the finances of that state could not carry them. It depends on how you do your financial engineering and this is one way I used the state’s funds. I used it also to rehabilitate schools. Let me tell you what I did with the rehabilitation of schools. With the UBE programme of the Federal Government, it was like a 50/50 thing with the State Government. I first sat down, read the structure of the UBE programme. I turned that to primary education but they now moved into syndication and articulation of the JSS when I was there. Immediately I saw it, I jumped at it and I called the commissioner for education and I said, we are entering this programme, many states were running from it, because I know I can get funds for it. I started paying.
 By the time I left, I had about N1.6bn in that account for the rehabilitation of schools and manpower development which includes training teachers. A lot of those who want to be governors are not experienced. They don’t know what public service is like not to talk about the civil service. Some of them have not read files in their lives. Some of them don’t know how the files move; some of them don’t even know what a memorandum means, they don’t know the type of memos we are talking about. Some of them don’t know about budgeting. You cannot be a Chief Executive Officer of people when you don’t know how to guide them. You are not supposed to be an expert but you must have knowledge of all these. If you are not knowledgeable, you cannot lead. A Governor is a Chief Executive Officer.
 He is a leader of the team. You must be jack of all trades and master of all. And these are acquired by the fact that you must be educated, you must go to school, you must know how to read and write, you must have the vision. You must be a good visionary to carry people along with you. You must also be courageous to take certain decisions. To take certain decisions, you must step on some toes. Once that decision is for the overall good, of the masses or the populace, do not hesitate to take it. These are the attributes one must put in leadership to be a Chief Executive Officer of a State or, even a country, or a club.
Your successor may dispute most of these claims. He has often said that all the achievements you made were in road construction and that he has done more roads than you ever did and that the cost of your roads was exorbitant – 
Did he say that really? I will take the issues one after the other. One, it is not true that I did only road construction. You didn’t also add that he said that I did all my roads in Idemili Area and that they were localised in my village area and local government of Idemili North and Idemili South. He said so. I didn’t do only road construction. Road construction is such a thing that is very visible any day so people can point at it and say these were done at this particular time. That is why they cannot dispute that and that is why they hung unto that and said it was the only thing I did. I have told you what I did in education. They are verifiable and the UBE scheme gave Anambra State a prize as the best UBE programme facilitator in the South East for over three years and the award was given in 2006.
 I was governor in 2003, 2004, 2005 and part of 2006. So who is to get that award? The award was given as a trophy and cash prize. Governor Obi received it on behalf of the state but he knows he wasn’t the one, because it was a three-year plan rolled backwards. It was for my period. I entered that scheme when no governor was touching it. I was the first person in the South East to enter that programme and by the time I left, like I said, I had about N1.6bn in that account. General Hospital Onitsha was accredited in May 2006. I left as Governor in March 17, 2006.
 The result of visits, inspection and evaluation for accreditation were released May/June 2006. My successor said it was due to his effort. I don’t know which hospital can be accredited with a two or three months stay, especially when no visit was undertaken in the person’s tenure. So, it is preposterous for somebody to say that he came in March and accreditation was done in May/June. They announced that I was sleeping as a Medical Doctor and I did nothing but, of course, those who know me know that if I put my hands on the plough, I do it to the best. When they say Ngige did nothing in health, I just laugh. 
This is a familiar terrain. In fact, that is my major constituency. It doesn’t fit. I let them be because I don’t want to enter into altercations with the government that succeeded me. Any advice I try to give them, they say it is criticism and they would shout it on the radio and television that I have come back with trouble. So, I let them be. I was the first person to employ doctors for local governments so that they can go to the health centres in rural areas, and for them also to do some local government management at the local government headquarters. I was to increase them to 42, that is, two for each local government. We had done interviews and employed the first batch and we were paying them. As a matter of fact, by the time we came, doctors were on strike. I brought them back. We employed the first batch of nurses in the State, we employed doctors and we paid all their allowances. They never went on strike for one day. 
Since I left they have gone on strikes. In one of them, they were on strike for almost 13 months. So it is not only roads. I did health, I did education, I restructured the civil service by bringing fresh hands, I paid civil servants their salaries, I promoted them and, like I said, the roads were the only thing they saw, but these roads are high quality roads. I left office nearly 10 years ago. The roads I built are still there and these roads are evenly distributed, not limited to Idemili, my area.
There is this mantra of power shift to Anambra North. You are from Anambra Central.  How would you situate your aspirations within that which has come to be the current opinion?
It is not the current opinion. This is what I can say. First and foremost, I want to point out that there has never been a consensus among the political leaders, among the stakeholders in Anambra State, on power shift to any part. There has never been such a meeting and even when some of us have called for such a meeting, nobody had listened to us. The people of Anambra state have never, at any time, during the contest for governorship, said that any zone should not contest. That is why, from 1998 to the present time, with practical illustrations, we can show you that political gladiators have always come from the southern districts of Anambra State, from the central and from the north. In 1999, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju was in the PDP. Other gladiators that came at that time included Dr. Obinna Uzoh. 
From the central you Dr. Anaeze Chinwuba and others. From the North, in fact, I think the North had a greater number of aspirants and candidates. After Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, in 2003, the race was called again. I became Governor from the Central Senatorial District. The incumbent was also from central. Okey Nwosu from Central vied under UNPP. He was in APGA when the ticket was taken away from him. From the South, we had Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju. He ended up vying under Alliance for Democracy. We had Obinna Uzoh from PDP. He ended up vying with one other party. Even from Central, we had Chudi Ofodile who vied. But at the end of the day, I became Governor and after that Peter Obi came in. 
Nobody says nobody from the North should contest. But we had always done our things on merit. Anambra abounds with a lot of intellectuals, abounds with a lot of good people, abounds with a lot of men who could be governor. We had never labeled anybody as a rooster in the political leadership. It is absurd that it is at this time that the governor and others are taking that stand. If I take you back to memory lane, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Owelle of Onitsha, our revered father nationally, was presidential material before the military coup. But before then, he had won election in the western region. He left Western Regional House of Assembly and became NCNC leader and from there, Premier. He governed the former Eastern Region from 1950 to 1960 when he went to Lagos to become Governor-General; from Governor-General to President of Senate; from President of Senate to President of the Federal Republic. 
He was from Anambra North, Onitsha. In 1967, after the Military Government in Nigeria under Gowon declared police action and later total action against the then Biafra, they appointed Ukpabi Asika as Sole Administrator and he was in charge from 1967 to 1975 when Gowon’s government was overthrown. After the war in 1970, he controlled what is now the entire South Eastern States. He ruled and reigned totally because there was no legislature, no parliament to check anything he was doing. He made budgets as he pleased, at his whims and caprices, made his appointments and cleared with nobody. No House of Assembly to approve commissioners or approve appointments of Chief Judge to the extent that, at the time, he was administrator, he appointed an Onitsha man as Chief Justice of Eastern Central State. In fact, the first 10 judges were from Onitsha.
 He even appointed commissioners from Onitsha. We are one people; we regard ourselves as one. The people of Anambra State have always regarded ourselves that we always give the best in whatever appointment or position we find ourselves. We have never segregated, we have never discriminated. The rule of the game in Anambra State is that we have been using merit and we have been using who can be effective and who can deliver to us, even in appointment of ministers. We never discriminate about that. Our last two ministers are from the north of Anambra State. Nobody is talking about it. So this question of north or south is of no value and nobody from Anambra will bring that kind of challenge.
Many people see your party, the APC, as being a Yoruba party. How do you address that?
I don’t know how you want me to address this except that I have to be my own man and say that which I have always said, that a party is a vehicle that takes you to your destination. And when you get to the destination, you disembark and do the business that you are asked to do. You want to be governor, the constitution says that you must be sponsored by a political party, if you want to be a senator, you must be sponsored by a political party. Any elective office holder who wants to go to a destination must do so under a political party but the primary thing there, the cardinal issue there, is the worth of that person.
 Parties are like transporters. They might all get you to your destination but some might get you to a bridge and dump you inside the water and people will get drowned. What is written on the vehicle, as the Igbo would say, is not the primary thing. It is immaterial. I am an APC Senator today, but I speak for the Igbo of the South East, I speak for the Igbo of Anambra and I speak for the Igbo of Anambra Central in particular. They are the people who sent me there. I am not going there to move a motion for the people of Ondo Central or the people of Oyo West. I won’t do that. They have their own senators. If I become governor, I will be governor of Anambra State. Make no mistake about it, the people you think don’t know, they know. That is why they sent me to the Senate on the platform of ACN. Even when the propaganda of ACN being a Yoruba party was being bandied by the government of the day, it was unfortunate because the Yoruba are people that are most friendly to the Igbo. 
They don’t kill us. Our people have never run home to say that they were being killed or that their shops were being looted. I feel pained when this blackmail is being done just for political ends. For example, the Governor of Anambra State has all his businesses here in Lagos. His company, Next International, is based in Lagos. That is where they are trading. All his containers come from here but the same man will sit down and tell people I am from a Yoruba party. It is not fair. Why would somebody tell me that I should not associate with Yoruba. I want you to know that those who are shouting All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) today do not know that the intention of our founding fathers when they formed  United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA), led by Dr. M.I Okpara and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was a good handshake across the Niger, between the East and the West, a good handshake across Benue; between the East-West and Benue. 

That was why we had Okpara from the East, Awolowo from the West, Joseph Tarka from Benue as frontline leaders, Mallam Aminu Kano, northern leader. So it was a fusion of NCNC of old which was predominantly Igbo; Action Group of old, which was predominantly Yoruba; UNDP, which was predominantly Tiv and Idoma people; NEPU, predominantly Hausa talakawas, and the other party in the north east of Nigeria. For people to say they are forming APGA and that it is an Igbo party means that they are hijacking that original UPGA and that they are divorcing the intent, the motto of the old UPGA, and they do so because of selfish ends. A lot of them that parade APGA today don’t know how it was formed. They don’t know the people that promoted it. I know that one day, the truth will be told.


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