CALL him a man of honour, courage and commitment, you will not be wrong because at 61 he is all of these beside being a man of destiny as he clearly has an important date with history. It is said that some are born great, while others attain or achieve greatness.
Senator Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige(OON) had a humble beginning. 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-curriculum activities.
He was never found wanting in anything. So I was not surprised when he made distinction in his 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. A feat many of us never tried because of fear of failure.
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 retaking our school certificate. While in the university, he was actively involved in student union politics, which he never allowed to affect his studies and performance.
Upon his graduation, many of his colleagues travelled to overseas, while others picked jobs in multinational companies. But Ngige in line with his deep flair for public and humanitarian service opted for a job at the Federal Ministry of Health where he worked creditably for years before leaving voluntarily in 1998 as deputy director of hospital services, federal medical centres and teaching hospitals.
While in Federal Ministry of Health, he was instrumental in 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 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, he 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 words: “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 does.
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, the 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 developments that cut across the state are obvious. And it has become difficult for his successor to equate or measure up to his performance. 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 settling the godfathers financially and remained 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 the security agents was a clear manifestation that God was with him. The judicial/ presidential conspiracy that led to his removal from office as a governor was known to Nigerians. His removal was beyond not winning the election, but his refusal to open the 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.
Upon his removal from office, he was given a clean bill of health by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, at a time most ex-governors were dragged to court by the EFCC for alleged corrupt practices while in office.
True to his type and belief, Ngige left PDP and co-founded the now defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN with the likes of Senator Bola Tinubu, former vice president Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and others.
So come November 16, the people of Anambra State may have their wish for the return of the people’s governor and the authentic Igbo leader to Anambra Government House to continue from where he was rudely stopped in 2006.
This was at a time nobody gave his new party a chance of making an in-road into Southeast zone, but Ngige has proved the doubting Thomases wrong as the party has remained a force to reckon with in the zone, especially in Anambra State where the party won national and state assembly seats during 2011 elections.
As an evidence of how heroic and popular Ngige is in Nigeria politics, especially in Southeast, particularly in Anambra, Ngige defeated the candidate of the incumbent governor of the state Mr. Peter Obi, Prof. Dora Akunyili in the Anambra Central senatorial zone keen contested 2011 election.
As senator currently representing Anambra Central zone in the upper chamber of National Assembly, Ngige has continued to identify with the people through his quality debates and contributions on the floor of the Senate. He has continued to remain his self and the man of the people, being mindful of the fact that being oneself in a world that is constantly trying to make one something else is the greatest accomplishment.
No wonder ahead of Anambra 2013 governorship election, majority of the Anambra people are already mounting pressure and calling on him to stage a comeback to the government house to complete the good works he started, which have become difficult for his successor to complete.
This clarion call by the people is a clear proof that one good turn deserves another. So it is obvious that at the age of 61, Ngige still has much to offer the people and the sky is his starting point in his quest for service to humanity.
There is no doubt that he is most the admired and colourful politician in the country today with followers across the divide particularly in the Southeast zone. So ahead of the Anambra governorship election slated for November 16, Ngige remains the man to beat for better and transformed Anambra for humanity.
That is why whenever Ngige sneezes other jesters and clowns pretentiously jostling for the governorship seat in the state catch cold easily. So come November 16, the people of Anambra state are eagerly looking forward for the return of the peoples’ governor and the authentic Igbo leader, Ngige to Anambra Government House to continue from where he was stopped abruptly in 2006 by forces of darkness that never meant well for the State from time immemorial. Hurray, my colleague, brother and great leader at 61.
Dr. JUSTUS ANYADIORA, a lecturer, wrote from Owerri, Imo State.