By Chekwube Chukwunyere

WARREN Gamaliel Bennis (1925-2014), an American author and scholar, regarded as one of the pioneers of contemporary leadership studies, famously said: “Leadership is the ability to translate vision into reality.”

The deduction that could be made from this statement is that a leader who has a dream must have the passion to pursue it. Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, re-echoed this notion when he addressed African leaders during the wave of elections across the continent in 2020.

Speaking under the auspices of Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, Blair recalled that he came into the UK government in 1997 full of enthusiasm and optimism with a significant mandate from the people and a majority in the parliament, but swiftly found out that the set of skills that brought him into power was largely redundant when it came to governing.

According to him, the one was about persuasion and the other, was about getting things done, and over time, he realised that the core challenge was turning the great vision into a practical reality (implementation).

Regrettably, since independence in 1960, Nigeria still grapples with the challenge of producing leaders who cannot translate vision to reality. We have a leadership selection process that more often than not, produces either leaders who do not have a vision or those who have a vision but lack the passion to pursue it. The attendant consequences include maladministration, widespread corruption, mismanagement of public resources and the ripple effects, such as rising cost of living, poverty and underdevelopment, and decaying infrastructure, among others.     

However, the coming general election presents another golden opportunity for Nigerians to change the leadership trajectory to guarantee a prosperous and bounteous future for the country. In the meantime, politicians have started indicating interest in various offices, including the office of the President. By the time of writing this piece, several politicians have indicated interest to contest the presidential elections under different platforms.

A fortnight ago, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige told Channels Television that he was seriously consulting to run for President in 2023. Ngige said: “I told my constituents that were urging me last December that I will do some consultation and speak to them in April during Easter.

So, I am doing my consultation.” Prodded further by the interviewer, Seun Okinbaloye, the minister quipped: “I am qualified to be President although I am yet to inform my boss, President Buhari.” The two-time minister further disclosed that some Nigerians, including a former Inspector General of Police, have asked him to run.

Ngige, however, made it clear that he would not be running based on regional sentiments but as an eminently qualified Nigerian from Alor in Idemili South Local Government Area in the South-East of Nigeria. “I will not wear the toga of an Igbo President,” he said.

I was not baffled by this statement being somebody conversant with Ngige’s Zikist inclinations and belief in one strong indivisible, equitable, fair and just Nigeria.

Besides, in a clime like ours where politicians deploy ethnicity and even religion to capture power, it is heartwarming to note that we still have politicians like Ngige who eschew primordial sentiments from politics. Whilst some politicians would only run if their parties zone the ticket to their section of the country, Ngige has chosen not to be a provincial candidate.

The good news here is that if elected President, the former Anambra State government intends to make the entire country his constituency. Prior to the Channels Television interview, the Anambra State chapter of the APC had in December last year adopted a resolution, urging him to run for the presidency. He asked the party faithful to give him until the coming Easter to decide. Ever since the pressure on him to contest has gained more momentum.

As somebody who has followed Ngige’s flourishing political career, I see him as somebody capable of translating vision to reality. Apart from his sound educational background, vast public/private sector experience, versatility and other outstanding leadership qualities, the medical doctor- turned-politician has distinguished himself, beginning from his days as the governor of Anambra State (from May 29, 2003-March 16, 2006), senator representing Anambra Central (June 2011-June 2015) and the Minister of Labour and Employment (2015 till date).

In his current assignment as the Minister of Labour and Employment, Ngige’s interventions have been felt in critical sectors of the country, such as Work, Health and Education.

He contributed immeasurably to the success of the Second Niger Bridge, one of the five legacy projects of the Buhari government. The multi-billion naira bridge is billed for commissioning by October this year, having reached 91 per cent completion, according to the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola. 

Also, courtesy of Ngige’s interventions alongside his counterparts in the Ministry of Health, the Federal Government released N32b as a hazard allowance to doctors and other health workers at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the government and the health workers have concluded negotiations on a new hazard allowance, expected to be more meaningful than the N5000 the workers have been earning as a hazard allowance since 1991.

In his ministry, he has demonstrated to the delight of the organised labour, “the penchant for leaving open the door of frank discussions, open negotiations and genuine reconciliations”. In 2019, he played a key role in the negotiation of the N30,000 minimum wage for workers in Nigeria. He returned Nigeria to the frontlines of international labour and diplomacy by taking the country back to the Governing Board of the International Labour Organisation, ILO, in 2018, after about 10 years of absence. His political sagacity propelled him to the position of the leader of Africa and Asia Ministers of Labour. In 2019, he became the President of the government group of the 187-member nation UN agency.

As governor of Anambra State, he laid the foundation for the rapid development of the state through massive infrastructure development. For instance, the Ngige administration executed 105 road projects cutting across the three senatorial zones of the state and some linking Anambra to neighbouring states.

He also invested heavily in healthcare development, education and provision of security while salaries and pensions were promptly paid. He initiated the process of returning schools to the original owners (the churches) and began the process of getting voluntary agencies to partner with the government in the management of hospitals.

Even as an opposition senator in the seventh Senate, he attracted power projects to the South East and his Anambra Central senatorial district, courtesy of his position as the Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Power and as a member of the Committee on Health, co-sponsored alongside Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, the bill that produced the Health Act 2013, among other bills.

Ngige’s exploits in these offices have continued to earn him accolades both locally and internationally. For instance, in February this year, he was inducted as a Distinguished Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Corporate Governance, INSLEC, a leading global body of both present and aspiring leaders, entrepreneurs and people in corporate governance.

According to the President/Chairman of the council of INSLEC, Professor Gabriel Emecheta, the decision to elect Ngige as a Distinguished Honorary Fellow of the institute, speaks volumes about his pristine and differentiated worth as a leader, mentor and bridge builder. Similarly, the Chairman of, Planning and Resource Committee, Prof. Ayandiji Aina extolled Ngige’s creativity, confidence, decisiveness, humility and trustworthiness, describing him as a conflict manager of great extinction.

This same February, Ngige received a commendation from the French President, Emmanuel Macron for exhibiting diplomatic finesse while receiving the French delegation that came to seek Nigeria’s support for the candidate of France for the post of the Director-General of International Labour Organisation, ILO. Macron made the commendation in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari. In conclusion, I am of the opinion that the APC should support Ngige.

Being a consummate politician, he has all it takes to offer Nigerians purposeful leadership that would consolidate on the enormous gains of the Buhari administration.

Chukwunyere, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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