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‘Anambra’s Field Of The Half Baked’: Where Okey Ndibe Got It Wrong By Law Mefor

September 20, 2013

A US based writer, Okey Ndibe, in his column in the Sun of 3rd September, 2013, published also in Sahara Reporters of the same day, wrote an insightful and interesting piece on the Anambra forthcoming election, titled ‘Anambra’s Field of the Half Baked’. Okey Ndibe hails from Anambra State, precisely from Amawbia, which is part of the State’s Capital. There is no doubt that Anambra’s political terrain as analyzed by Ndibe has become an all comers affair.

A US based writer, Okey Ndibe, in his column in the Sun of 3rd September, 2013, published also in Sahara Reporters of the same day, wrote an insightful and interesting piece on the Anambra forthcoming election, titled ‘Anambra’s Field of the Half Baked’. Okey Ndibe hails from Anambra State, precisely from Amawbia, which is part of the State’s Capital. There is no doubt that Anambra’s political terrain as analyzed by Ndibe has become an all comers affair.

Okey Ndibe was to observe that the field was clustered by half-baked candidates, all manner of people, charlatans and people who have questionable credentials and certificates, with some either having an incredible load of bank debts or were thrown out of the Universities or Colleges and some without any strand of  public service experience at all in their curriculum vitae.
However, the delectableness of the article went sour when Okey Ndibe tried to bunch Senator Dr. Chris Ngige, OON with all these minnows and reading through his treatise, it became clear to any discernible reader that Ndibe was rather labouring very seriously not to endorse Ngige as standing head and shoulder above these political Lilliputs.
One should however thank him for his fairness on Professor Chukwuma Soludo who was actively courted and hoodwinked by the APGA chieftains led by Chief Victor Umeh to enter the party and was subsequently guillotined when it mattered most in the ‘arranged’ APGA primaries. This left the field open for the Anambra State Government’s “Fidelity Bank Treasurer” to emerge as flag bearer.
Mr. Ndibe has also faulted the primaries of the PDP where Senator Andy Ubah and Tony Nwoye each emerged as factional candidates. One would not want to go into assessments of such candidates, but can make bold to say that starting from the process that threw Ngige up as the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Ndibe has nothing negative to point out therein.
His piece on Ngige was therefore patently faulty because he did not give credit to the APC Direct Primaries, which involved all the party men and women in their respective Wards, in which Ngige zoomed past a shell-shocked Chief Godwin Ezeemo, scoring over  sixty three thousand votes as against nine thousand plus distantly scored by Ezeemo.
In that article, he had also given the impression that Ngige’s popularity and love by the people has waned and that “his image has lost much of its glitter”, to quote him directly, even when he knows that the main issue was that the man simply re-engineered to give the place everything in a State. He also gave Ngige a bashing by describing him as a mediocre senator. He even uncharitably remarked that Ngige’s startling performance as Governor of Anambra State (2003-2006) became amazing to the people because they had been subjected to low culture of expectation by Ngige’s predecessors,  hence he restricted it to building of roads and payment of salaries alone, which is not true and he knows it.
One is also deeply worried by how Okey Ndibe had tried to juxtapose a legislator’s duty and duties of an Executive Governor of a state. It is important to start this argument from this fulcrum as the two jobs are at two ends of the pole.
As Governor, Ngige’s achievements were not limited to payment of salaries and road construction alone as Ndibe insinuated. His achievement in the area of security was spectacular also.  Mr. Ndibe would attest that as at 2003, Amawbia his hometown had become infested with robbers and night marauders, to the extent that even the Governor’s Lodge located few poles from his village home was not spared the ordeal from these miscreants almost on a daily basis. Ngige wiped out all these threats in a matter of months. And by December of the same 2003, the likes of Okey Ndibe had started visiting home again and were no longer taking refuge in Abuja and Lagos, as many did then and still do today.
Ngige got no funds or help at the instance of the Federal Government e.g. Ecological Special Intervention Funds. Yet, he courageously forged on, providing unparalleled visionary leadership, security for the State, constructed roads, both State and Federal roads that were then deathtraps; cleared the arrears of salaries and pensions accumulated by the Chinwoke Mbadinuju Administration and paid salaries and pensions as at when due, revived schools, hospitals, gave water supply to Onitsha and Awka after a decade of dry taps, among other things and for the first time Anambrarians heaved a sigh of relief and received dividends of democracy. It is therefore unfair and unfortunate for Okey Ndibe or anybody to simplistically wave off such a Governor who inherited close to N30 Billion debts from his predecessor and left on a clean financial slate and for the first time in the history of Nigeria, left a N13.8 Billion Credit in the Banks despite his giant strides in developing Anambra State.

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Back to the issue of Ngige being a docile senator; one has to first and foremost understand the fundamental and statutory responsibilities of the arm of Government. Statutorily, by the 1999 Constitution as amended and the Nigerian Senate Rules (the Red Book), the functions of the Legislature are Representation, Lawmaking and Oversights functions or monitoring of implementation of the laws, especially the money laws - Appropriation Act.
On these three scores, Senator Ngige has been one of the most effervescent and remarkable Senators of the 7th Senate. He is one of the most visible and is amongst those who spoke regularly, vociferously and forcefully in support of Bills and Motions that could ameliorate the lot of the distressed Nigerian masses. And when the need arose, he also spoke against Bills that are oppressive and anti masses. Typical example being when an Anti-Strike Labour Bill was surreptitiously sent to the Senate by the Executive, as a Private Member Bill and was almost scaling through (passed by the Senators) to go to 3rd and final reading, till Senator Ngige got up and spoke against that Bill and many Senators then found their voice and started clapping for him – an unconventional thing in the Senate but was adopted by his colleagues to demonstrate their appreciation of this rare display of courage.

It will also interest Okey Ndibe to know that in the National Assembly, the bulk of the work is done in Committees and Senator Ngige has been very remarkable in Committees’ works, especially in the Senate Committee on Power where he is the Vice Chairman  and Health where he is the medical doctor with the longest years of post-registration and public service experience.
Remarkably too, before the Senators representing both Anambra North and South settled down in their seats in the Senate, following their long drawn and protracted litigations, Senator Ngige ensured that the Constituency Projects’ Funds accruing to the two Zones were not lost. He fought as the only Senator from Anambra State for their Constituency Projects to be captured in the year 2012 Budget, amidst stiff opposition from those who argued that with Senator Andy Uba’s mandate having been nullified by the Court of Appeal then and Senator Margery Okadigbo slugging it out with Chief Alphonsus Igbeke in the different Courts for about 2 years, their Zones were not entitled to those funds.

Perhaps the most historic contribution of Senator Ngige is his Motion for the immortalization and National Burial for the Late Professor Chinua Achebe. Professor Achebe ordinarily may not have been given a National Burial if the Motion by Senator Ngige did not forcefully pray for it and won it in debate. Though one of the most outstanding Nigerians that ever lived, Achebe never served Nigeria at   National level in a capacity that would have earned such a National honour.

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But to give Professor Chinua Achebe his full place in Nigerian history, Senator Chris Ngige believed that anything short of National Burial would be a disservice to the fallen national hero. He captured it in the Motion and the entire Senate totally agreed. This is the first time such wholesome and complete agreement has passed the Nigerian Senate.  Achebe had a full day of the Nigerian Senate Plenary session – a rare privilege accorded only to serving Senators who died in active service.

Mr. President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, graciously acted on the Motion and Professor Achebe was given a national burial, comparable to those of the late Dim Emeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. A National monument and a major street in Abuja, FCT will also be named after him in the spirit of the approved Motion.

One should expect that Mr. Okey Ndibe even if he did not notice any other Ngige’s contribution in the Senate, should have taken a very special notice of this great honour done to his mentor and confidant Professor Chinua Achebe.

Senator Ngige also has several Bills passing through the different stages of legislative process; including a revolutionary Bill – “Farmers Registration Council Bill” – which aims to, among other things, revolutionize agriculture by providing for a specialized Parastatal in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture that will be responsible for registering farmers and their farms hence develop a sustainable data base of professional farmers in the country, with its attendant benefits.

Ngige has many other Bills; for the repeal and reenactment , namely: National Hospital Abuja Act; Bill to Develop Industrial Parks in the South East Nigeria to help impact Skills and Reduce Unemployment among the Youths; Bill for the ban on importation of Incandescent Energy Consuming Bulbs, Robbery and Fire Arm (Special Provision) Act 2004  Amendment Bill, Bill for an Act to amend the Federal Housing Authority Act Cap F14, Bill for an Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act Cap F32, LFN 2004, to name a few. At least two of these Bills have scaled First Reading in the Senate. He has co-sponsored more than 25 Bills emanating from his different Committees.

Ngige also sponsored and co-sponsored a total of about 50 Motions. But in all, this Senator believes that Money Bill i.e. the budget is the football that a sharp Legislator should have his eyes on, for it is Appropriation that brings projects and economic wellbeing to the Constituents.

Apart from the clear legislative activism of Senator Chris Ngige, he has equally put to good use his position as Vice Chairman Senate Committee on Power to improve the lot of the South East and Anambra people, especially in the area of electricity and employment. The number of graduate employments, especially in the area of Electrical/Electronic and Mechanical Engineering graduates, Sub-Station reinforcements in the South East zone and transformers, which he made available or has in the 2013 Budget for his Zone and in particular for Anambra State, speak volumes. Another typical example are the 21 young first degree graduates in Electrical/Electronic Engineering graduates he sponsored for one year field training at the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria (NAPTIN), and at various electrical outfits and Transmission Stations such as Ijora, Egbim, Afam, Kanji and Jebba Stations.

Equally important should be the several Rural Electrification projects, which he attracted to Anambra state. These efforts have yielded a boost in electricity supply in the State and given access to the many areas hitherto without electricity supply. Professor Ndibe should find out what is happening in Awka Metropolis and environs with Electricity Supply as a result of the work on the 2  by 40 MVA/132 KV line and the 2 by 15 MVA Distribution in Agu Awka, completed by the PHCN/NIPP with Ngige’s continued pressure and interventions.

Ngige has also been a resource person to the Senate Committees he belongs by drawing heavily from his wide experience as a seasoned Civil Servant who retired in the directorate cadre and in governance as former Governor in management of men, materials and projects. Always fearless, Senator Ngige was responsible for the Nigeria Integrated Power Projects (NIPP) recovering from Nigeria Customs its missing 22 Containers of NIPP materials months ago. The recovery of these containers has contributed much to the recent improvement in power Generation and Transmission in many parts of the country.

So, Okey Ndibe’s assessment of Senator Ngige as one of the docile senators is in bad faith and grossly misconceived and clearly shows that he is not at home with the legislative functions of a Senator, especially in this environment. He could be given benefit of the doubt as he may not have such information as provided herein though he made no effort to obtain some. And that is why the Senate Hansard, which contains the contributions of Senators to Debates is available in the National Assembly Internet Site and the Professor and others should avail themselves of it. More importantly and not intending to sound repetitive, he should note that Senator Ngige is more interested in Bills that have direct bearing on the lives of the people, be it on Health, Power, Education, Water Supply the Appropriation Bill i.e. the Budget and that makes him the people’s senator!

On Anambra governorship race, an objective assessor would give it to Senator Chris Ngige as one whom the cap fits, as he stands head and shoulder above the other political Lilliput contenders. He had been there before and posted a sterling performance, despite the saturation bombing and onslaughts against his administration by the Obasanjo-led Federal Government and his local co-conspirators in their dubious, desperate maneuvers to remove him from office.

As a Golden Era, in the 34 months of reengineering the State as Governor, Anambra people realized for the first time that there was money accruing to the coffers of the state. With such relatively meager resources and his stubborn refusal to share the State money with the cabals, he launched the State into the path to true greatness as the gateway to Eastern Nigeria and a flagship State in Nigeria.

There is little doubt that Anambra under Ngige would have long attained the One City State status longed for by many, fully industrialized and connected to the rest of the world as the commercial and industrial hob of West Africa reminiscent of the Silicon Valley in the US. Under Senator Chris Ngige, Awka couldn’t have remained the only undeveloped State Capital in Nigeria since its creation in 1991, what former Minister Oby Ezekwesili christened  a “Glorified Village Capital”.

All Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige and other well-meaning Anambrarians ask of INEC is a free and fair election so that Anambra masses would be able to decide who governs them in the 4 years of post-Obi era, and this will be decided November 16, 2013. God bless Anambra State!

·        Law Mefor, Anambrarian and Forensic Psychologist, wrote in from Transform Nigeria Movement Office Abuja.+234-803-787-28 93; [email protected]  

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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