2023 presidency, Ngige and other matters | NN NEWS

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A great deal of the debate on who becomes the next President of Nigeria has been based on zoning and power rotation. Should the presidency shift to the South or remain in the North? If it is zoned to the South, should it go to the South-East or South-West or South-South? While all attention is focused on which part of the country the presidency should go to, there is less emphasis on other critical issues, such as competence, political will and capacity to govern.

In his 68-page seminal book “The Trouble with Nigeria,” celebrated literary icon, Professor Chinua Achebe (of blessed memory), identified the failure of leadership as the bane of our dear country. According to Achebe, with good leadership, Nigeria could resolve its inherent problems such as tribalism, corruption, indiscipline, social injustice and cult of mediocrity. Although the book was published in 1983 (39 years ago), the message in it seems to be more germane and relevant today, more than ever before.

Today, in spite of the efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to address the numerous challenges confronting our nation, we are still grappling with insecurity, social vices, economic downturn and unemployment, among other problems. The need to sustain and possibly improve the efforts of the current administration therefore makes it imperative for us to prioritise competence in choosing the next President.

However, let me state unequivocally that my opinion here does not amount to complete disaproval of zoning and power rotation. I agree to a large extent with those who contend that the aforementioned principles promote stability, unity, equity, fairness and progress of the country. My take is that, beyond the issue of zoning, Nigerians should consider “competence and capacity” while choosing the next President.

In this regard, efforts should be made to see that Buhari’s successor is an individual of good character and integrity, with a track record of good performance in offices previously held. In addition, the next occupant of Aso Rock must be a believer in One Nigeria, besides being passionate about addressing the needs of the people.

At the time of writing this piece, a legion of politicians has expressed interest to contest on the platform of the two main political parties in the country, the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Notable among those who have declared their interest in the APC include the former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, and former Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the incumbent senator representing Imo West senatorial zone.

Those that have declared interest on the PDP side include former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, his running mate in the 2019 presidential election, Mr. Peter Obi, two former Senate Presidents, Anyim Pius Anyim and Bukola Saraki, Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal and his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed.

Some presidential hopefuls are still engaging in consultations, preparatory to their possible entrance into the race. Notable among them is the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Nwabueze Ngige. Twice in the past one month, the former Anambra State governor has come under intense pressure from members of APC in Anambra State to enter the race. It would be recalled that, on the eve of the New Year, stakeholders of APC in Anambra State adopted a resolution urging Ngige to contest for the presidency. The resolution was adopted at the party’s 2021 end-of-the-year party hosted by the minister at his hometown, Alor, in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State. Ngige did not accept or decline the offer but pleaded with his enthusiastic supporters to give him until Easter to consult widely before taking a decision.

Again, penultimate weekend, at the office of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment in Awka, a group of Anambra women renewed the call, urging the minister to enter the race without further delay. Once more, he assured the women that his consultations were ongoing and pleaded with them to wait until Easter for his decision.

Easter is about two months away from now. But, as we anxiously wait for his decision, I wish to state without equivocation that, at this critical time in our journey to greatness as a nation, the country needs somebody like Ngige who has a track record of excellent performance in public office.

Although a medical doctor by training, he is endowed with vast public service experience, accruing from his days in the Federal Civil Service, to the time he served as the governor of Anambra State, the senator representing Anambra Central senatorial district and, now, a two-term minister under the Buhari administration.

As President, Ngige will not learn on the job, having garnered practical experience from the civil service, as well as the executive and legislative arms of government in Nigeria. Also, being a former senator, his understanding of the workings of the legislature would be brought to bear on governance in a country where several laudable government policies and programmes are truncated as a result of legislative gridlocks.

Furthermore, apart from being the most successful governor in Anambra State since its creation in 1991, he has demonstrated enormous managerial and administrative proficiency at the helm of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, successfully conciliating most of the disputes apprehended by the ministry since he came on board more than six and half years ago.

Records of the ministry would confirm that only a handful of the disputes brought to him were referred to the Industrial Arbitration Panel and the National Industrial Court for arbitration and adjudication, respectively. The minister has received several accolades from organised labour for his exhibition of empathy, understanding and sensitivity while conciliating labour disputes.

Besides domestic matters, Ngige’s front-line participation in the affairs of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) shows that he is equipped with the skills and knowledge to manage Nigeria’s relations with other countries, if elected President. I will cite a few instances to buttress this assertion. One, he took Nigeria back to the ILO Governing Board in 2018 after about 10 years’ absence and became the leader of Africa and Asia Ministers of Labour. Two, in August 2019, he became the president of the Government Group for all the 187 countries in the ILO and propelled and got Nigeria elected for a second term on the Governing Board as a full titular member.

Also, Sen. Ngige has played a pivotal role in Federal Government’s efforts at tackling irregular migration by spearheading collaborations with other countries towards job creation for Nigerian youths in order to dissuade them from illegal labour migration. Courtesy of his efforts, the German Government through the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) established migrant resource centres in Lagos, Benin and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja. He is also pushing for the establishment of more resource centres across the six geo-political zones of the country.

Moreover, with the dwindling resources of the country, Nigeria needs a President who can “squeeze water from a stone.” Ngige fits the bill. Not minding that he met an empty treasury when he became Governor on May 29, 2003, in just 34 months in office, he constructed 105 road projects across the three senatorial zones, promptly paid salaries and pensions, including arrears and executed other life-impacting projects, cutting across the education and health sector. If given the opportunity to serve as the President of Nigeria, I am quite sure that he would replicate what he did in Anambra State in the entire country.

Above all, he has the personal charisma and the political will to take critical and decisive actions and decisions that could impact positively on the lives of Nigerians. Before he came to power as Governor, Anambra State under his predecessor, Chinwoke Mbadinuju was held captive by political godfathers, who not only shared the state’s monthly federal allocation in Abuja, but also carted away the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). The siege of the godfathers left the state indebted and insolvent, with several months arrears of salaries and pensions owed civil servants and pensioners respectively. Not minding that the godfathers enjoyed federal might, he fought them and liberated the State.

Finally, Ngige is somebody who cares for Nigeria. He is not provincial in thinking and therefore capable of treating every Nigerian equally irrespective of tribe and religion. He is undoubtedly the man that can lead Nigeria into a brighter future.

•Chukwunyere, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja

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