By DapoÂ Akinrefon
AS the Anambra governorship election slated for February 2010 gathers momentum, various contenders have shown interest for the plum job.
But former governor of the state, Dr Chris Ngige believes that he has the wherewithal to outwit other contenders who are also jostling for the seat.
In this interview with Vanguard, the medical doctor cum politician, argued that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), should use the poll to prove its critics wrong. Ngige, who is also in the forefront of those advocating for electoral reforms called on the National Assembly to ensure the bill is passed before the conduct of the election. He bared his mind on other burning national issues. Excerpts:
WHY did it take you so long before declaring your interest in next yearâ€™s governoship election?
Well, I donâ€™t think it took me so long to declare my intention to contest the office of governor in 2010. I will answer in three ways
First is the legal angle to this election. If you remember well, Mr Peter Obi came back to office following a Supreme Court declaration saying he had to enjoy four years in office with effect from March 17, 2006, the day he took the oath of office as governor.
They rebuked INEC for conducting the 2007 election that brought Mr Andy Uba in and made a declaration that that election should not have taken place at all and made a consequential order that Mr Uba should vacate office immediately. This was in June, 2007 but ever since then, Mr Uba did not rest and went back to the Supreme Court twice and to the Court of Appeal in Enugu twice. As I speak, his last motion for him to be declared governor in waiting is still pending at Court of Appeal, Enugu.
So to all intents purposes and being a respecter of the judiciary and all that flow from it, I decided to wait for the case to be exhausted before IÂ make my intention on the matter known publicly.Â But while waiting for the court pronouncement, I have been on the path of critical appraisal of my tenure of 33 months (29th May 2003 to March 17th 2006) when I was removed by theÂ Court of Appeal and an appraisal of the incumbent in office, MrÂ Obi.
I decided to use my 33months for appraisal in terms of what he was able to achieve in 33 months against what I achieved in same period while in office.
I also looked at the social milieu and the financial position of both of us while doing the assessment and for me not to be biased in the assessment, I gave it out to a firm ofÂ independent assessors on consultancy and then to the planning, research and statistics section of my campaign organisation for their own assessment too.
The verdict from both teams had a five percent difference margin. One group scored him 30 percent while another scored him 35 percent. Both teams returned Peter Obiâ€™s performance at 40 percent and mine at 75 percent in overall performance.
Critical indices used were that financially, I collected from the federation account a total of N42 bn while Obi for the same period collected N115 bn explained by the fact that they were getting the excess crude stored during the Obasanjo era and the oil price explosion of 2007 to 2008. Again, in the social milieu, the stability of the state was disturbed by the contrived Federal Government destabilisation of the state working in tandem with some renegades from Anambra. The result shows that Obi’s government is a collossal failure.
On another plane, I had to do more soul searchingÂ self examination especially against the background that it is difficult to please everybody given the peculiar nature of our environment where people complain about not been given contract when situations for that does not exist.
So for those genuinely aggrieved, I reached out to mend fences with them as part of the wide consultation. Consultation had to be extended to folks in the US, UK, Germany and church leaders. This can be referred to a power points.
The grassroots and common folks, to wit the okada riders,Â and people in the rural communities are yearning for our come back especially because of the total collapse of security of lives and property in the state.
We had to do these consultations before the pronouncement of our intention for I didnâ€™t want to be placed in the situation of the young antelope who danced himself lame before the actual dance but when it started it found out that its legs were gone.
IsÂ your party selling nomination forms? If yes, how much and have you purchased yours?
Yes, they brought out their forms for sale like other parties since last week. Our director of mobilisation has gone to purchase my form from party headquarters in Abuja. The price is N250 thousand for expression of interest and N2.5 million for the purchase of form.
Besides, one would want to know if you are the consensus candidate of AC or will a primary hold to select a candidate?
There is nothing like a consensus candidate in our party constitution. Even if you are the only one whoÂ picked the form, article 21, subsection 2 of our constitution will always prevail and by this, the state is convertedÂ into one constituency for the nomination of the gubernatorial candidate and an aspirant for gubernatorial candidacy shall submit himself for election to ward congresses in the state. Our ward congress has been fixed for 7th October and INEC has been notified by our national party within the 21 days notification required by the Electoral Act.
There are speculations that you do not have a running mate and at the same time, it is believed that you are shopping for sponsors. How true is this?
It is not true that I donâ€™t have a running mate. Iâ€™m still with my 2007 running mate and as we speak, the position has not been changed unless he for any compelling reason declines in future. Yes it is true I am shopping for sponsors, no single man can fund an election alone especially governorship and presidential elections.
I donâ€™t think it is a crime to look for donors who will contribute to the electoral funds of the party. Even the Electoral Act permits that.
I think it is foolhardy for people especially business men to take the principal funds of their business and invest into making themselves local government chairmen with an aim to recouping the monies from government purse. I donâ€™t believe I should sell my cars, landed property to get into public office.
I am not going there to steal public funds.Â People should be able to donate into campaign funds of parties for the right people to serve as their own gift back to God because when the righteous are on the throne, the people smile according to the Bible. But this does not mean I donâ€™t have my ownÂ contribution of funds, what I can call my careless or pleasure money to put into my campaign and then for the election proper.
How much support have you got so far from your party especially at the national level and how soon will the bigwigs in your party come to Anambra to mobilise support and show solidarity?
I have tremendous support or what I call granite support from the national Headquarters. Even before I made my intention public, the national secretary led a delegation of bigwigs and national officers from the headquarters to AnambraÂ in solidarity with the state chapter in July, 2009.
They were impressed with the state of preparedness and saw Anambra people expressing their yearnings for the party and for me to come back to power.
By the schedule of the election, public campaign, by political parties starts on November 8thÂ in conformity with Section 101 (1) of the Electoral Act and all the bigwigs you know in AC will be in AnambraÂ to campaign with us. By this, I mean the Oshiomholes, Fasholas, Tom Ikimis, Ben Obis, Musa Gwadabes, the Lawal Kaitas, Bugajes, Akandes, Osobas, Adebayos, and all other progressives who believe in what we are doing will be here.
With the myriadÂ of aspirants showing interest by the day in the plum job, are you not in any way intimidated by the growing number?
Well, the myriad of aspirants are all in PDP. I understand they are up to 51 in number but now pruned down to 47 but one thing I can assure you is that out of the 47, if they are asked if they will face Ngige in a free and fair election where the peoples vote will count, the will keep mute but the courageous one will tell you they will not be able to.
Other parties donâ€™t have a as much candidates so the simple inference is that these aspirants in PDP have something up their sleeves which we are yet to know and at the appropriate time they will tell us what it is they have seen in being governor which we all have not seen.
That thing they believe that whoever gets the slot, INEC will perform magic and make him governor against the peoples’ wish. Even when they know that some of us were PDP members and worked in the PDP engine room. But things have changed. Anambra people are ready to fight election rigging with the last drop of their blood. I have been in the state in the last 2 months and know what I am talking about.
Why should the people of AnambraÂ vote for you and what are those things the incumbent governor is not doing that you intend to do when you get into office?
The reasons are legion. They show me effusions of love wherever and whenever they meet me. They said I was the first person to show that the state has money to pay salaries and pensions as at when due, constructedÂ roads and provided potable water for them, protected them from ravaging erosion by building anti-erosion roadsÂ with big drain culverts and concrete flood ponds.
They said I secured their lives and their property and there was no single case of kidnapping, no violent bank robberies in the day, crime was reduced to the barest minimum, even petty crimes, so they could sleep with their eyes closed.
Visitors and investors came to the state to invest, traders came to buy goods to transport , hospitals were open, doctors and nurses were working, health services were being provided, and above all, unknown to me, my actions showed I was ready to lay down my life for their sake. So as they tell me in gatherings, it’s payback time.
A larger majority believe it is not payback time, but that I should come back to complete my blueprint and it is this group I agree with, because I have only done 25 percent of my blueprint. More importantly the government today has failed because despite the huge resources at its disposal it couldnâ€™t use the security vote fund to provide adequate security for the citizenry.
Moreover, the ugly era of strikes, closure of hospitals and schools has returned again.
The few contractors who have been in the state have been grumbling aloud for the non payment of their generated certificates as at when due and the debilitating effects of kickback collection, which was confirmed by the present governor in an interview.
To that extent, they are fed up with the Obi administration and they are looking for a new lease of lif from a fresh governor.
It is a case where a beautiful damsel marries two husbands, she can tell the better of the two. Another thing Obi does is the excruciating propaganda from his Anambra radio and televisions and many newspaper adverts where he claims roads, buildings, and hospitals,Â schools rehabilitation that were done by governments before him.
Everybody is also tired of propaganda of dredging Nwangene pond with 800 million naira paid and no drainage work done or the cancellation of the Oba airport for which a whopping N400million of state funds have vanished, or the award of rehabilitation of Nkpor to Awka road which my administration costed at N2.5 billionbut has nowÂ been awarded atÂ N5.8 billion with a large chunk of the money paid out as mobilisation without work in progress. AllÂ these characteristics never existed in my time, and hence Anambra people are fed up.
As the build up to the election gathers momentum, do you, in anyway, see INEC conducting a free, fair and credible election?
Well that question should be directed to Professor Maurice Iwu and if I were to make my comment, I will advise INEC to conduct a free and fair election because we shall have an influx of local and foreign observers into the State.
It will be an opportunity for INEC to prove that a lot of what happened in 2007 were man made errors and that the logistics were overwhelming at time because all the states were involved. Certain elections done at the House of Representatives and federal house shows that there may have been a rethink and I ask INEC to continue so they may help us to redeemÂ our image before other foreign countries.
In AnambraÂ today, registration of voters is on-going but it is moving on a rickety note as voting machines are notÂ enough. People queue upÂ in some centres for hours without INEC appearing. Even my humble self has not registered. I was away in 2006 when registration in my ward was ongoing and till today no INEC official has appeared.
Iâ€™m appealing to INEC to allow Anambra people to register for the next two weeks and they should bring in moreÂ machines and officials to complement the people on ground. Anything to the contrary will presuppose that the rigging has started and it is a dis-enfranchisement of the populace as 30 percent of the voting population has not yet been registered.
What is your position on the proposed electoral reforms?
The National Assembly can finish with the Electoral Act before the end of December 2009 so that Anambra can be used as template to test electoral reform. People always talk about 2011 elections, I disagree. Anambra should be the guinea pig to test electoral reform. If it is the Electoral act, it involves the National Assembly.