Ngige, a leader @ 62

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By Justus Anyadiora

CALL him a man of destiny and circumstance or a man of honour, commitment and courage, you wil not be accused of exaggeration because at 62 he has succeeded in keeping a date with history.

While some were born great, others attain or achieve greatness, Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige exceptionally had all from childhood. During our days as pupils at St Patrick Primary School Ogbete Enugu, which we left in 1964, Ngige was an outstanding pupil both in academics and other extra-curricula activities.

He was never found wanting in anything. So I was not surprised when he made distinction in the school certificate examination at St. John Secondary School Alor in 1972.

I had thought that he would be a lawyer because he had studied Arts and commercial subjects to class four before switching over to science subjects, leaving his younger brother, Mr Emeka Ngige (SAN) to continue with Arts subjects.

As if that was not enough and without much delay, Ngige secured admission to study medicine at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, UNN, where he graduated with flying colours in 1979.

This was at a time most of us were still re-taking our school certificate. While in the university, he was actively involved in student union politics, which he did not allow to affect his studies and performance. There were few of them who were medical students and were involved in it then.

Upon his graduation, many of his colleagues travelled to overseas, while others picked jobs in multinational companies motivated by the fat salaries on offer. But not Ngige. Motivated by  humanitarian consideration, he had opted for a job at the Federal Ministry of Health where he worked for years, before leaving voluntarily in 1998 as Deputy Director of Hospital Services, Federal Medical Centres and Teaching Hospitals.

Dr Chris Nwabueze Ngige

Dr Chris Nwabueze Ngige

While in the Federal Ministry of Health, he was instrumental to the establishment of permanent sites for most of the federal medical centres and teaching hospitals, especially in the South East zone. In continuation of his burning desire for public service, he ventured into the murky waters of Nigerian politics as one of the founding fathers of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

No wonder he was appointed the protem zonal publicity secretary of the party in the South East in 1998 and later the assistant national/zonal secretary of the party in the South East zone between 1999 and 2002. The same year he was conferred with the national honour of Order Of the Niger, OON, for his diligence and accountability in public service.

It was from there that he emerged the governorship candidate of the PDP in Anambra State in 2003, though his initial ambition was to become a senator but was persuaded by the party stakeholders to run for the office of the governor.

Having been in public service all his life, Ngige is always conscious of Harold McAlindon’s saying: “Do not follow where the path may lead, but go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”. So from childhood, he never believed in bandwagonism, but in carving a niche for himself in anything he do.

It was for this obvious reason that he redefined governance in Anambra State within the short period he was governor of the state. He set the pace and made the people realise that with sincerity, commitment and transparency, a state government could do much for the people in terms of good governance and provision of basic amenities.

Today, his numerous achievements, especially in the area of infrastructural development that cut across the state, are obvious and unprecedented. And it has become difficult for his successors to equal or measure up to them. As governor, Ngige demystified political godfathers in the state when he took the battle for the soul of the state to them, despite the tremendous backing they enjoyed from the Presidency.

He fought and put his life on line for the liberation of the people of the state, even when he had the option of wooing the godfathers financially in order to remain in office; he resisted it and fought for what was right.

His survival of his political abduction on July 10, 2003 by his estranged godfather in connivance with security agents, was a clear manifestation that God was with him and he has not completed his good work for his people.

The judicial/ presidential conspiracy that led to his removal from office as a governor was known to Nigerians. His removal was not about winning the election, but his refusal to open the state treasury to the godfathers which was the tradition in the state before he assumed office.

It is on record that between 1999 and 2007, Ngige was the only governor that lost his seat in court, even when it was obvious that the 2003 general elections were massively rigged across the country, especially in the  South East zone.

Upon his removal from office, he was given a clean bill of health by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, led by its chairman then, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.

Ngige left the PDP and co-founded the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, with the likes of Senator Bola Tinubu, former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and others. This was at a time nobody gave his new party any chance of making an in road into the South East zone, but Ngige proved the doubting Thomases wrong as the party has remained a force to reckon within the zone, especially in Anambra State where the party won national and state assembly seats during the 2011 elections. He worked assiduously alongside others for the successful merger of the key opposition parties that metamorphosed into the All Progressives Congress, APC. Ngige served as the secretary of the first rancour-free national convention of the party that produced the present leadership of the party led by Mr. John Odie-Oyegun.

*Dr.  Anyadiora , a lecturer, wrote from Owerri, Imo State.

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