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July 10 and Anambra Liberation

July 10 2003! It is fifteen years already. How time flies. Yes, 15 years since the foundation of the modern Anambra State was laid. A decade and half off the era of bondage and hopelessness as liberation came that fateful day through a failed coup attempt on the Governor of the State, Sen. Chris Nwabueze Ngige. For five and half hours that day; 10am to 3.30 pm, the late Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG Ralph Ige and his AK 47-wieldin Deputy Superintendent of Police held him hostage at the Anambra Government House, Awka. The ‘coupists’ had forged a resignation letter and sent same to the Anambra State House of Assembly. It is history but the ugly event became a blessing in disguise as it turned a springboard for the emancipation of the state from the manacles of godfatherism.
But the event of July 10 would have paled into insignificance without the renaissance it ushered in. It was a period of self-re-discovery, an end to narrowness. As the new Governor firmly retrieved the plough of the governance, he hit the ground running. Anambra was a state then notorious for violent crimes and insecurity, dilapidated infrastructures as in overly collapsed state and federal roads , decrepit schools, hospitals, urban and rural water supply, disillusioned and demoralized workforce in the state civil and public service as well as local government, with unpaid arrears of salaries and allowances, even to those on essential services such as doctors, nurses and other health workers. Teachers and pensioners were asked to get theirs in heaven. A failed state Anamabra almost was!
Sen. Chris Ngige was governor for only thirty-four months but within that short period, he breathed a new lease of life into the state. His managerial skill, prudence, frugality in the management of government resources, honesty, doggedness and determination to surmount all challenges gave birth to a new state. In a very brief period of time, Ndi-Anambra, the people long used to self-effort, realized for once, that there could be government, and that the government could provide for the people. He made them realize that the state has a treasury and that the treasury is meant to carter for their collective needs. Starting with the civil servants, he instituted the Governor’s Executive Order to make salaries of civil servants deducted as first line charge from the consolidated revenue of the state. For the first time, salaries became paid as and when due while pensioners enjoyed an instant 143% rise. Gratuity and severance benefits were also paid to deserving retirees.
Then, came the road revolution that is yet to be out-classed till date. It is not surprising therefore that a state under the shadows of erosion, gully and craters, in matter of months became a reference point for standard state and federal roads.
In education, the Ngige administration signed the first Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) with religious bodies for the return of schools to the missions, going further to approve a solid machinery for sustained government grants to them. The administration also initiated a strong partnership with UBEC and uplifted the status of primary and secondary schools with new buildings, teaching aides, while recruiting new teachers. At the Anambra State University where he met a glorified secondary school, apart from new buildings and other infrastructures, which sprang up within its campuses courtesy of a generous 2003 upliftment grant to the institution, the administration secured accreditation for thirty-two courses for the university in 2005. Being a medical doctor, the Governor expeditiously brought the infamous eighteen months strike by doctors to an end and partnered international donor agencies to give a new lease of life to medical care in the state, paying off counterpart funds owed these donor agencies.
Under security, the Anambra Vigilante Service was reformed and aligned to the Nigerian Police and the DSS under an enabling law by the Anambra State House of Assembly. As the men of the vigilante service were adequately trained and equipped, a state once notorious for violent crimes turned the most secured enclave as persuasion, job creation and exemplary leadership which the administration engaged as crime fighting tools paid off!
It was under this era that the state epithet was changed from Home to All which derogatorily and impliedly suggested even home for criminals to the “Light of the Nation,” in view of the unequalled contributions the citizens of the state, dead and living made to the freedom and greatness of Nigeria and in line with the light which Sen. Ngige brought back to the state. As a true Christian, Ngige rested the ghost of religious dichotomy in the state by ensuring that all denominations were treated equal in appointments and other benefits.
The list is long for the limited space here but it is important however to add that successive administrations in the state have been consolidating solid foundation laid. It was such an eventful thirty-three months that even when the Appeal Court ruled against his election, he crowned his efforts with a whopping 13.8 billion Naira left for the succeeding administration. Though the administration tried to deny this huge savings for reasons best known to it, the Justice Ononiba Commission, which the same administration set up, confirmed the sum and heaped encomiums on Sen. Ngige for selfless service to the state.
Though two attempts to return to the government house was frustrated by the reigning scourge of non-credible elections, the people of Anambra Central stoutly resisted such electoral heist to vote him in 2011 to represent them in the Senate and he didn’t disappoint. It is on record that all the communities in the senatorial zone got at least one transformer reinforcement as well as rehabilitation work under his constituency project. As a frontline member of the Senate Committee on Health, he was at the forefront of the legislative push that made the 2014 National Health Insurance Act a reality. His voice was also heard on many topical issues as he sponsored and co- sponsored many bills and motions.
Today as the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Ngige has lived up to expectation as an eagle on a very tall iroko. Under his deft diplomatic engagement, Nigeria was successfully returned to the Governing Board of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), also securing the membership of four strategic committees. The import of this on the inflow of technical assistance for the country is already bearing fruits. His sterling representation also attracted the attention of other African Ministers at the Governing Board meeting of the ILO in October 2017 as they nominated him to lead the Africa position on the vexed issue of neo-colonialism in the ILO. Earlier in February 2017, he successfully engineered an end to an obvious dictatorship by the South African countries led by Zimbabwe at the African Regional Labour Centre (ARLAC) making sure Nigeria was also elected Vice President of the organisation.
At home, his skilled and patriotic approach to labour administration opened a new chapter in government/labour relations. While the new national minimum wage is in the works, Sen. Ngige has in less than two years in office created a conducive atmosphere for social dialogue leading to the arrest of myriads of labour unrests and saving thousands of jobs in the financial, petroleum and construction sectors. It is to his credit that in spite of economic recession, the Federal Government has retrenched no staff either in the ministries, agencies or parastatals. Besides, his unique vision on job creation has shifted the emphasis from the diminishing white collar jobs to the elasticopportunities that abound in blue collar skills with the rehabilitation of skills acquisition centres across the country.
As the 2019 general elections approach, the unflinching support of his numerous supporters is for the continuity of rewarding stewardship of President Muhammadu Buhari. They also no doubt reason that there is a great wisdom especially at this challenging period of our national history, for the return of credible men like Sen. Ngige to the Senate of the Federal Republic.

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