Ngige at 63: Celebrating an exception
AGING, they say is not lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity and strength. Age on the hand is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. But to Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige’s (OON) friends, well-wishers, relations, and even enemies, it matters because he has just added another year, healthy, hearty, and wavering undeterred.
There is no doubt that right from outset, the personality called Chris Ngige had always has a date with history one way or the other. As a growing young child, Ngige had always carved a niche for himself in all his endeavours.
During his days at St. John Secondary School Alor which is also his town, Ngige was an exceptional student. No wonder he switched from Commercial to Science subjects in class four and still made distinction in his school certificate result in 1972. At University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Ngige studied Medicine and graduated with flying colours in 1979, despite continuous involvement in almost all the extra-curriculum activities within and outside the campus.
Upon graduation, Ngige unlike many of his colleagues who travelled to overseas or picked jobs in multinational companies 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.
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 in which he has proved his mettle, he ventured into the murky waters of Nigerian politics as one of the founding fathers of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP).
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, track record and accountability in public service.
In 2003, Ngige had concluded plan to contest for Anambra Central senatorial seat before he was persuaded by the party stakeholders including the then President Olusegun Obasanjo to contest Anambra governorship seat. This was at a time Anambra State and PDP were in dire need of a worthy governor following the abysmal performance of the then state governor Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju. Within the short period of Ngige’s administration in State, he redefined governance and provided a different kind of leadership that was unprecedented in the history of the state.
Till date, Ngige’s landmark achievements, especially in the area of infrastructural development that cuts across the state, are obvious and verifiable. A feat his successors have been battling to measure up with, but to no avail. Ngige’s demystification of the political godfathers in the state at the risk of his life will remain a case study for student of political history in the country. 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. It was obvious that his removal from office 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.
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 as matter of principle 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 with in the zone, especially in Anambra State, where the party won national and state assembly seats during the 2011 elections.
It was that year that Ngige defeated Prof. Dora Akunyili of APGA in a keenly contested Anambra Senatorial seat election, despite Anambra State government’s support for Akunyili. While in the Senate, Ngige sponsored bills and contributed logically in debates. He awarded scholarship to many students in his zone and provided jobs for several others.
Not left out in his largesse are several communities in the zone, he provided with borehole and electricity. Ngige 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 Odigie-Oyegun.
At the peak of the 2015 general elections, Ngige was among the few men of character who solidly stood for the presidential candidate of his party APC, Muhammadu Buhari, especially in the Southeast zone, where many were beclouded by financial gratifications and sentiment. True to Ngige’s belief and conviction, Buhari won the presidential election. This was despite the collective conspiracy by few disgruntled PDP elements in the zone to ensure that Ngige did not return to the Senate, and probably emerge the Senate President.
But in the face of all these, Ngige’s people have taken solace in the fact that the “Change” which he worked for has finally come for the good of Nigerians with the Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency. This singular event has vindicated him as a man who saw tomorrow, when others are more concerned about today, immediacy and lining of their personal pockets at the expense of others. There is no disputation that at 63, Ngige still has a lot to offer Nigerians in his burning desire to serve humanity selflessly at all times.
• Dr. Anyadiora, a lecturer wrote from Owerri, Imo State.