Posted by FRED CHUKWUELOBE on
TO those who regale in political manipulation, he is too stubborn. To others used to free money from the treasury of the state at the expense of the people, he is too stingy. But to the down trodden in Anambra State, praying for salvation from years of economic strangulation and political squeeze, he is a "messiah".
TO those who regale in political manipulation, he is too stubborn. To others used to free money from the treasury of the state at the expense of the people, he is too stingy. But to the down trodden in Anambra State, praying for salvation from years of economic strangulation and political squeeze, he is a "messiah".Different strokes for different folks you may say depending on which side of the divide you stand. However, there is one area of agreement even among his fiercest critics: His emergence as governor of Anambra State has changed the landscape of the state. If he leaves office today, Anambra State will never be the same again. So for the good people of the state, if the end product of stubbornness and stinginess is the unprecedented infrastructural development being witnessed across Anambra State today under his tutelage, if being prudent with their resources and refusing to fritter them on frivolities and indiscriminate award of contracts that end up being abandoned after the collection of mobilization fees, can be interpreted to mean stinginess, then Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige is their choice any day.
To the common man in Anambra State, his emergence as the third civilian governor of the state was the best thing that has happened to them and their hitherto beleaguered state. Not only has he transformed the entire landscape - infrastructurally and behaviorally - within two years in office; he has also restored people’s confidence in government business through prudent management of resources and execution of people-oriented projects and programmes. These achievements may not have been possible if the man was dishing out money as it were to the elite to the detriment of the masses and the state.
Ask teachers and civil servants who thought that regular payment of their salaries/allowances was impossible and that closure of schools for one calendar year was the lot of Anambra State, and they will have lots of cheery news for you. In schools and offices across the state, despair has given way to happiness. Life has returned to the schools and student enrolment is on the rise. Pensioners, who were once described as "deadwoods" are today "living woods", no thanks to the regular pensions and gratuities they receive courtesy of the Ngige administration.
Roads abandoned for upwards of twenty-fives years have been reconstructed. Ask the man from Nibo, Mbaukwu, Nkpor, Ogidi, Abatete, Nnobi, Nnewi, Onitsha, Awka, Okija, Uga, Umuchu, Umunze, Nkwelle-Ezunaka and Agulu. Or the man from Adazi-Ani, Umuoji, Uke, Oraukwu, Ukpo, Ifite-Dunu Owerre-Ezukala Ogbunka, Ihembosi Awkuzu, Ozubulu and other parts of the state, he will tell you that driving on these well-asphalted roads with their wide drains is like a dream. The same scenario is repeated in the health, water, agriculture, security of life and property and other sectors of the economy. In Anambra State today, the impossibility has happened. So, rather than be despondent from years of neglect of their welfare and basic infrastructure and continue to wallow in self-pity, the people have woken up and have taken their destiny in their own hands.
So today August 8, 2005, the people have cause to sing again when their chief servant, as Ngige prefers to call himself, goes to church to give thanks to God for these works and for his life as he clocks fifty-three. All his well-wishers agree that this is one birthday that is worth celebrating going by the travails the governor has had to go through since assumption of office on May 29, 2003, the efforts and sacrifices he has made in salvaging the state from the ravages of the locusts and the outstanding achievements he has recorded in so short a time.
Characteristically, the occasion will be low-keyed in keeping with his style and the prudence that has become the main pillar of his administration and which has enabled him record this milestone despite limited resources and in the face of obvious distractions and provocation. But one thing is certain: Ngige has every reason to thank God for His mercies, for His protection these past fifty-three years but most importantly since these past two years. Not only did he survive several illegal attempts aimed at removing him from office for refusing to align with those who preferred quick money to hardwork, he equally survived a fatal automobile accident that claimed two lives, a bomb blast that shattered the walls of his official residence and other sleepless nights spent in search of solutions to the myriads of problems created by years of neglect.
Born on August 8, 1952 into the family of Chief Pius Ngige (Akunnia) and the late Mrs. Priscilla Ngige (nee Okafor), of Alor, Idemili South Local Government of Anambra State,.Ngige never set out to be governor of Anambra State. In fact, he wanted to be a senator of the Federal Republic representing Anambra Central Senatorial District in the Senate. He had earlier contested the 1999 Peoples Democratic Part (PDP) primaries for this seat but bowed gallantly to Senator Mike Nnaemeka Ajegbo. When the search for a capable hand that would lift Anambra State from the abyss where it had fallen after the years of the locust began, the searchlight turned towards him but he was reluctant to contest. Eventually he gave in after persistent pressures and persuasions from close friends and well-meaning Anambrarians.
The man’s pedigree made him an ideal candidate and the lobby intensified. The pressure was that much because Ngige was never known to have used his position for self-aggrandisement. For instance, at a time when it was normal and common for party officers to request for land allocations in Abuja and other choice places, Ngige stood out as one man, indeed the only official of the ruling party in Anambra State, who turned down these offers of land. To date, he has no land allocation in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) which was then offered to almost all PDP officers/National Executive Committee (NEC) members.
He knew the road was thorny and got himself prepared for the challenges that lay ahead. Having inherited a government that was indebted to both foreign and local creditors to the tune of N40.29 billion verified debt part of which included several months’arrears of salary owed workers, pensioners and contractors, a demoralized civil service and dilapidated infrastructure, Ngige knew it was not going to be a tea party. As the governor pointed out in his inaugural speech, twelve years after its creation, Anambra State, despite its potentials and abundant human and material resources, still lagged behind in terms of infrastructural and human resources development.
Undaunted by this state of affairs, which would have scared the faint-hearted to his wits end, Ngige approached the job frontally. Immediately he was elected even before being sworn-in, he began by consulting with a wide spectrum of the society with a view to fashioning out the best means of revitalising the state and giving hope to the people. With his wealth of experience in both public and private sectors, it was no surprise that in two years the state has recorded such monumental achievements that it could not boast of since its creation in 1991.
His contributions to socio-political bodies prior to ascending the office of governor of Anambra State are outstanding. He was between 1992 and 1996 foundation sole administrator and later president, Aka-Ikenga, a respected group of Igbo intellectuals in the professions and industries. It was on this platform and as co-convener of Mkpoko Igbo, the pre-1995 Constitutional Conference for the Igbo, that he helped articulate the peoples’ positions on national politics. As member, Ohanaeze Council of Elders and member strategic committee of that body, Ngige between 1992 and 1997, re-awakened the people’s zeal in the search for an egalitarian Igbo society. His contributions to politics particularly his leadership roles in fashioning for Ndigbo the road map to national politics in the apex Igbo socio-cultural body earned him the title "authentic Igbo leader."
A man well-grounded in national politics, the governor was a foundation member of the ruling PDP, and was later elected assistant national secretary/zonal secretary South East a position he held from November 1999 to 2002. As a member of the NEC of the PDP from 2002 till date, Governor Ngige has continued to contribute to the growth of democracy in the country. Happy birthday, the authentic Igbo leader!
Chukwuelobe is senior special assistant to Governor Ngige on media and publicity
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