Chris Ngige is a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) and representative of Anambra Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly. He was Governor of Anambra State between May 29, 2003, and March 16, 2006. He was the APC candidate in the November 16 governorship election in the State. He spoke with journalists in his campaign office recently on the just concluded Osun election, the last Anambra governorship election and other issues affecting his party and the nation in general.
CORRESPONDENT, EMMANUEL NZOMIWU, was there.
While commending the election of Osun, you actually condemned what happened in Anambra State. We know that you are now in the Supreme Court, challenging what happened in Anambra. Irrespective of the case in Court Governor Willie Obiano is presiding over the affairs of the State. What is you candid assessment of his administration so far?
Well, I won’t be able to do a good assessment for you for two reasons. First, the man who is on the saddle is about 130 days in office. He did his 100 days in office. I wonder why he should be stretching himself trying to commission buses and commission certain things. I don’t believe in that 100 days in office because 100 days is about three months. It is not enough for anybody to settle down and do something tangible as such, more so when the person has not been in government. The new Governor has not been in government before. He was a person in the private sector. He is not a public sector man. So, I won’t go to assess him. For now, he says the major thing he is doing is security. I won’t also assess him by the number of various Hilux pickups donated to the Nigerian police or giving to vigilante services in the State. I will assess him when the results start coming out. For now, kidnapping is still going on. For now, armed robbery is still going on. So, I will be unfair if I start assessing him seriously now. Maybe I will do that after his one year in office. And I am in court. If I also start doing anything now, I will be a jaundiced assessor. Any assessment that I make, will be jaundiced. And I am jaundiced in my view because I think that he didn’t get in there the proper way. I have nothing against his person. He is an amiable person. And those who dealt with him know him and say he is an honest person. They also say he is frank like me. He talks straight. I don’t do double speak. I don’t do double talk. So, I don’t want to be unfair to him now.
2015 general election is fast approaching. Are you contesting for any office?
2015 is February/March election and your question is good, but if you calculate now, you can see it is about seven months away. And six/seven months away is a lot of time in politics. A lot of things can change.
But we learnt party primaries will hold in October.
Primaries start in October. My party will do their presidential primaries first. We are starting with presidential and from there we’ll move to other primaries. Positions that are there to be contested are many. President-I am qualified to be President. I can contest it. It doesn’t then make it an Anambra election. There is also Senate or National Assembly. Well, National Assembly, but I cannot be a Senator and then go back to House of Representatives. That again is a seat that is available to be contested for. But more importantly, I am in the Court challenging the last governorship election of November 16. We have just finished at the Court of Appeal. This week, our lawyers have submitted their papers to the Supreme Court and if you look here, you will see my own copy. They just delivered them today. If the Supreme Court says that the election in Anambra State was not right and agrees with APC and PDP that there were electoral flaws that made for non-substantial compliance by INEC with the Electoral laws in declaring Governor Willie Obiano as the Governor of the State, and ordering a rerun, then we will go for a rerun to repeat election. If they also finds that Mr. Willie Obiano did multiple registration in two places and also did a transfer of his old registration in Lagos State which is a third registration, and they concur with us and agree with us that he placed two voters cards which to all intents and purposes are voting certificates, voters ID certificates, and extrapolates from there to affidavit he swore in CF001, that we are not presenting any forged certificates because that is what we asked, if they extrapolates into that and agree with our counsel that these voter cards are voter certificates, voter identification certificates, it then means that one of them was forged. And if it is forged, it has contravened information given in form CF001 because people mistake that area of forged certificate to mean only academic certificates from institutions, whereas a certificate is anything that certifies you as Mr. A or Mr. B. of this particular identity. And that is what also we have. It is a voter card because it has a VIN. It identifies you with a voter identification number called VIN. It identifies you with an address. It identifies you with your trade or business. It identifies you with your photographs, everything. So, it is a certificate. So, if they agree with us, they will disqualify Willie Obiano as prayed and then order for fresh election. But if they don’t do that, we leave them to God. We leave the whole matter to God for final judgment and in which case if they agree with us, like I said, we will rerun election, and I will be qualified to run. If it were a question of whether I choose to run or I don’t choose to run. It depends on my party.
Is it not the party that chooses people?
It is not the party that chooses people. It is the candidates that choose. They choose and present to the party and the party will do a run check on the person. But we have gotten to that stage.
From the grapevine, we learnt the Vice Presidential candidate of APC has been reserved for you. Is this true?
Where did this grape come from and where did the vine come from? In which vineyard is this vine coming from?
But we thought it had been zoned?
We have not zoned any position of our party to any zone. We have not. As a matter of fact, organs of our party are now being put in place. After our last convention, what we now have is State, Local Government and ward executive. But we are going to put in place, our booth executives in the respective states. At the National, what we put in place at the Eagle Square Convention of 12 and 13 June is our working committee-National Chairman, Deputy National Chairman South/North, National Secretary, Deputy National Secretary, National Organising Secretary, Deputy and other members of the NEC. By next week, hopefully, according to the timetable drawn up by our National Chairman, we will inaugurate our full NEC, which encompasses all officers in the working committee, their deputies, two Senators per zone, three House of Representatives members per zone, zonal officers of the cadre of youth leaders, women leaders, even the zonal chairman who is also a member of the working committee, zonal secretary and zonal treasurer. These are members of the full NEC and our Governors who are sovereign in their respective states. After these, we are also putting our Board of Trustees. Nominations are going now as we speak and members of the national caucus. Luckily, I am a member of all these organs of our party by my being the only Senator from the South-East. I am automatically a member of the NEC of our party. I am a former Governor, I am automatically a member of the national caucus and the Board of Trustees of our party. So, there will be no decision taken in all these places that I will not be privy to. So, as far as I know, we have not zoned any office. The only zoning that we did was for party offices and we have gone passed that one. In the next few weeks, we will meet as elders of the party and fashion out what we are going to do about our presidential candidate because we don’t have time anymore. There is no time. =As we sit here, my very good friend, President Jonathan, is campaigning every day. In all the media, you will see various groups, transformation agenda, GIFT, Jonathan for President, ‘over our dead body’, ‘if he doesn’t become President, we shall die’. These organizations are there and campaigning. You can’t also stop them because they have not said vote for Jonathan. They are only showing that he did this work, he did that work. But luckily enough our brother in Imo State is also showing his own work now. And when Mandela’s photograph and Obama’s own come out, his own comes out, too. So, we, as a party, have realized that we don’t have time. So, in the next few weeks, it will be run, run, run for us.
Speculations have also been all over the place that President Jonathan, who is your very good friend, has been prevailing on you to join PDP to run for Senate in 2015. Is this true?
President Jonathan is my personal friend. We used to sit in Council together when I was Governor because we sit in alphabetical order, and we have remained friends ever since he was Vice President until when he eventually became President. Now, there is no law that for two persons to be friends forever or continue to maintain their mutuality, they must belong to the same political party. As a matter of fact, you can lose your friend when you go into the same political party. So, to me, our different political parties don’t matter. What matters to me is good governance for the country. Good governance, credible, strong, good governance for the country, government that can provide power supply, electricity, to the people so that generator importers, sellers and distributors will be out of business. A government that is able to give jobs to our youths. We have thousands of youths out there in the streets and our universities keep on mass producing and piling every year. Every year, universities in Nigeria graduate with the polytechnics about 240,000 persons. That is what they pour into the labour market. And when you don’t give jobs to these people, the devil will find jobs for them. I can bet anything to prove that 50 percent of those in Boko Haram are unemployed youths in the North-East of Nigeria. And when this job of Boko Haraming came out, they willingly accepted, going further with the brainwashing that is given to them, going by their religion. So, I am interested in a government that will provide jobs for the people and also interested in a government that will give infrastructure, roads, railways, rail tracks. I am interested in such a government. I am interested in a government that also does industrialization because it is not government that will give everybody jobs. It is the industries. We import toothpicks. Why should we be doing that? We import everything importable. When we are able to industrialize here, we will save our foreign exchange. I am interested in a government that will open up the space for our refineries to work so that we don’t export crude petroleum products. We should refine them here and export refined products. We should be exporting petrol to West African countries, export DPK (Dual Purpose Kerosene), export AGO (Automotive Gasoline Oil), which we call diesel. We should be interested in such government. We don’t have them now. We are not doing all these. There is no rocket science for us to get these. We can only do it by ourselves. There is no rocket science. We are not reinventing the wheels. So, I am interested in that. So, my former party, the PDP has not produced that for the Nigerian people. I am a foundation member of PDP. I am one of the foundation officers of PDP in the South East zone. I was interim publicity secretary and after our convention at Eagle Square, I became Assistant National Secretary in charge of South East zone, plus NEC member. I was a Governor on the platform of PDP. And as Governor on the platform of PDP, I thought we were going to do our country well, serving faithfully and creditably but while I was doing that, other people had other agenda and they said I should leave their party and deregistered me. So, personal friendship doesn’t matter on this issue. I am in another party with a different ideology, different agenda, and that is the truth of the matter. We will remain in APC. I am a strong and staunch member of APC.
What is your opinion on the impeachments going on in the country now, especially the ones affecting your party, the APC, in Nasawara and Adamawa?
Well, the impeachments have gone down now. As you can see the impeachment in Nasarawa has fallen like a pack of cards. The panel has dismissed the allegations. When the House of Assembly reconvenes, they will get their report and the constitution is clear. When you get such a report, the whole processes have died. You cannot do anything about it anymore. In Adamawa, yes, that one was successful. But the good thing about Adamawa is that we are going for a new election, brand new election, and we have put in place processes for our primaries, to get a solid candidate that will win back the state for us. Do not forget that that state was won by us under ACN when Nyako was PDP. So that our ACN structure that delivered that state to Gundiri is still there. So, we are revving up that structure and we rev that structure, with Atiku Abubakar as the anchor man there, and then we will take over that state in an election. We will go there just like we went to Osun and make sure that our people are not intimidated again and we shall win the election and get back that state. So, I don’t know what else you want me to say in terms of our being ready for election. I have told you that our presidential primaries, tentatively, is in October, and by the time we finish inaugurating our NEC, Board of Trustees, you will see our presidential aspirants going all over the states, asking our party members to vote for them in a free and fair primaries and our primaries will be transparent. It is an election and the mode of election by our party constitution is either we arrive at a consensus, in which case there will be consensus in all the states and the candidate by voice votes, because the constitution says that even when a candidate has been put on consensus arrangement as agreed, our members still need to do a ‘yes and no vote’. And this yes and no vote will take place in all the electoral precincts in the country, which is the wards, the local government and state, especially if we are doing the consensus arrangement. If we are not doing consensus arrangement, we can also do indirect primaries.
One is thrilled by all these internal democratic mechanisms you have enumerated, but few months ago, during the congresses of your party, people complained about lack of internal democracy, and some of them, like Ben Oranusi, Annie Okonkwo and Odedo defected. One wonders, if your party has such democratic processes like you talked about, guaranteeing internal democracy, why did they defect? What happened?
The people you are talking about are those we call bad losers. They are bad losers. I start with that of Odedo. I am not sure Odedo will not say that publicly because he participated in the primaries in question and he was the returning officer for Idemili North. We swapped the minority leader of the House of Assembly to be that of the South. We conducted the primaries and I know you are a good media man, you must have seen when Odedo and our then women leader, Sharon Ikeazor and Odedo described the congress as the best they have ever seen. The clips are there, even with their photographs. They went round. And those primaries they described as the best, Ben Oranusi also participated in it in his Orumba South area. For Odedo, trouble started when after the primaries for the wards, he went into Idemili North and instead of playing the role of a returning officer, he started handpicking and choosing those who will be local government chairman in Idemili North and who will be secretary in other people’s domain. He didn’t want people to vote as per our party constitution because the people themselves opted to do a consensus arrangement and zoned the offices by themselves. In Idemili South where I come from and where he also comes from, it was done too, but I didn’t give a damn because he is the honourable member representing Idemili North and South in the House of Representatives. I represent Idemili North, South, Awka South, Awka North, Dunukofia and Njikoka in the Senate but because he felt that he wanted those officers, I said, no problem, choose the ones that are good. So, for Idemili South, he did handpick officers and I told them to go and do it because I am not the Senator for one particular local government alone. So, he participated in that. But when the people of Idemili North refused, the Minority Leader refused as the House of Assembly member from the area, some other people who were interested in doing nomination for House of Assembly and House of Representatives refused also, and when the matter came to my knowledge, I said that democracy means people of the area choosing what is good for them. He is not from Idemili North. I am not from Idemili North, so we should be able to leave the people of Idemili North to choose their leader. And that was interpreted by him to mean that I want contestants from Idemili North, some of them eyeing his position, to have an edge over him and therefore after the local government elections, he defected to PDP.