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2023 elections: APC making inroads in the South East ~ Ngige

By Chris Ngige

APC is making inroad in the South East against the 2023 general elections. The inroad has started. It has started with this clamour for the Nigerian presidency of Igbo extraction.

The project is realizable, but I don’t want to discuss the chances, because I am not discussing the presidency and who is filling it next now. I feel it is unfair for the incumbent, who has not spent half the time. You know in a football match, it is at half time that necessary changes that win the game are often taken. So, people should leave the matter till next year, maybe, when we would have been two years in office.

That is when our party members should be talking about who will go into this office, wear the shoe, and it will fit and our agenda. The ones the president has achieved, how do we maintain and build on it. This is my view on this. But whether there should be rotation, zoning or not, for me, is a simple matter. It is a gentlemanly agreement. Even the American constitution doesn’t have everything written in it. It is not written in our constitution, but for me, it will make for stability and fairness if it rotates back to the south.

I was in PDP. We practised it. It makes for stability. We don’t have it in our party constitution but we the framers of the constitution of the APC agreed that it is something possible. I was one of the wise men that drafted the APC constitution with Chief Segun Osoba as head. That’s what we agreed on; that we don’t have to insert it but these are things that could be done by gentlemanly agreement. And when we went for the first national convention of the party to elect the presidential candidate, we told all the southerners to step down.

It was only Okorocha who refused to step down and we quarreled with him. People like me quarreled with him from the South East and I told him I won’t support him and I did not. So, that is it. If you are talking about merit and competence, you can also enthrone it. If you come to the southern part, you will also see competent persons. So, for me, this is the way I look at it but everybody has his own opinion on the matter but the side of the divide I will stand and stand firmly will be known after May 29, 2021.

I left the office of governor in 2006, fourteen years ago. It’s a long time and I have done national politics ever since. I have run for senate election and won. I have done one term as minister and the president called me back – a big mark of honour, a big vote of confidence. So, I have to assist him. I have to hold on to him.

Being in the senate is great but by the way, to get to the senate for me is a life-long ambition, which started when I served in the National Assembly as a youth corps member. I saw Uba Ahmed, how they maneuver. I saw Victor Akan, his big oratorical skills. I saw Jonathan Odebiyi, Late Fasami, very articulate. I saw my kinsman Onyeabo Obi, Echerue, perfect delivery all the time. I saw them and fell in love with being a senator.

Remember that I had lost the party primary to Mike Ajaegbo in 1999, but had my ticket in 2003 before agreeing to go for governorship. I have always yearned to be a senator and that is why I had to contest again after leaving office as governor in 2011 and gave it my all. It was the toughest political battle in my life as a politician. It was the toughest, the most gruesome, because it sapped everything out of me. I faced five formidable opponents, five in one.

I fought five strong opponents, personified by only one person, Prof. Dora Akunyili. Dora was the APGA candidate but behind her were very strong forces. Victor Umeh, National Chairman of APGA, from the same local government, the senatorial district, Peter Obi, the incumbent governor with all the paraphernalia of state government, Dora Akunyili herself, very strong personality with large and wide connection in Nigeria, even internationally. They had very strong connections inside INEC.

In fact one of the INEC officials told me we would continue doing re-run election in this senatorial district till we run you out. Of course, Dora herself said she has some ACN members, my own party backing her. It was the fight of my life. We did election three times and when we finished, we entered the courts and started another round of election inside the court. The tribunal had to send our case to the court of appeal three times – back and forth. It was to the extent that 180 days caught up with us and I now filed at the tribunal that 180 days had gone, that the case be terminated.

My biggest challenge as minister is the economy of Nigeria, and the problems associated with it – unemployment and under employment. You also have disturbance in the industrial milieu. Lack of money/revenue in the economy, giving rise to agitations all over, over wages, because remunerations aren’t enough anymore! The employers and employees will always be at daggers’ drawn and their point of termination is my place, which is the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

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But, more importantly, as Minister of labour and Employment, it is disheartening to me that we are unable to assist people and say, this agency is recruiting, this company is recruiting, because in the former times, it is as the employment and wages section of the my ministry that unemployed people go to register so that they can be captured as unemployed and employers will be coming to our system to ask for this type of person with this qualification or the other. They will give the job description and the required qualification and the ministry now does the matching but all that have gone. So, in a way, it is frustrating to me.

I am not on any vendetta mission at the NSITF otherwise they would not be there up to this time. Do not forget that they came there since 2017. The Managing Director and the Executive Directors have four years tenure and they have spent three years of the four years tenure, remaining about ten months. I am not on a vendetta, but I don’t want the place to crash. I have tried to manage them.

The memo from the SGF office that ministers shouldn’t be sacking heads of agencies; people misconstrue that memo. Go and read that memo. I was a civil servant. It is a circular. Two things about a circular: a circular is an inferior legislation, very very inferior. The hierarchy of legal authority starts with the constitution. Constitution is the grund norm. Any law made by the National Assembly or any other body that contravenes the constitution, the constitution supervenes.

Number two, after that constitution, you have the Acts of the National Assembly and after that, laws made by states which is void, when it contravenes the acts of the national Assembly. Then come regulations, which flow out from laws. In fact, before regulations, you have executive orders. We aren’t using it much but as Anambra Governor, I used much of it because I had a very good Attorney General.

After regulations, you now have directives from the executive in particular or in anything that affects both the executive and the legislature especially in terms of the economy or management of the public service – these come out as circular.

So, you see where a circular is? So, if you are talking about what I did being against a circular, the President has given an approval based on section 171 of the constitution. In fact, from section 169, 170, 171- read them together. President can appoint and dismiss some group of public officers without recourse to anybody.

It is only those he appoints conjointly with the National Assembly that he goes back to the National Assembly to say I want to remove this man or remove this man for me and that is those in the federal executive bodies and not those in 169, 170. 169 is the public service of the Federation and it also said there that the president owns it.

And if you also go to section 5 of the constitution, the President is the chief executive of the federation. Again, if you go to 171, it lists the offices – the offices are SGF, Head of Service of the federation, permanent secretaries and heads of extra-ministerial departments or by whatever name so-called, personal assistants, advisers and ministers in section 147, 148, 149. So, even these people you are talking about, the SGF circular or no SGF circular – section 171 overrides everything.

So, the SGF circular is subservient document to presidential directive or approval, because it is the same president that directs that will issue this circular. But the same president can grant exemption. Even in this case, however, like I told them at the National Assembly, I also passed a memo through the office of the SGF to fulfill all righteousness, apart from the presidential directive.

They are on suspension. The President has not sacked them. His directive says: I want to hear from you people, go and face a panel. There are some breaches and financial regulations infractions. Some of them are prima facie – go and prove your innocence there. Some of them are there before the panel. It is only two of them that decided to go to court. Today, I saw their summons taking the president and I to court – the National Industrial Court.

Senator Chris Ngige is Minister of Labour and Employment

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