Senator Chris Ngige, a former governor of Anambra State, who now represents Anambra Central Senatorial Zone at the National Assembly, in this interview with Nwanosike Onu and few other journalists in Onitsha, spoke on Anambra State’s 2014 governorship election, President Goodluck Jonathan’s recent visit to the state and other issues. Excerpts:
Recently, President Goodluck Jonathan visited Anambra State to commission some projects, including the Orient Petroleum Resources Company. What are the gains for the state?
Yes, we have a lot to gain from Mr. President’s visit to our state. We are also happy about the success story of Orient Petroleum Resources. That project was discovered earlier by the former governor, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, who started the push for the exploitation of the oil and gas reserve in Anambra State. By that time, I was the president of a PAN Igbo organisation, known as Aka-Ikenga in Lagos. We, as a body liaised with Ezeife and the then Minister, Professor Chu Okongwu on the prospects of having a refinery in Anambra State. But the regime of Ezeife was short-lived. Then, former governor Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju came into office and continued. He was able to secure license for the project and set up Board of Directors. He also gave Orient Petroleum an office complex as its operational base.
When I came into office as governor, we organised an investors’ forum for Orient Petroleum and worked with the Board of Directors that was put up as at then.
Like you know, government is a continuum and my administration acquired the land where Orient Petroleum is currently operating and also gave them the Certificate of Occupancy. We at the National Assembly shall push it further for Anambra State to have its share as an oil producing state and this is determinant on the quantum of the number of barrels that we produce.
So, the dream of Orient Petroleum on that day materialised and I must not fail to commend the incumbent governor, Mr. Peter Obi, for his contributions as a government to the success of Orient Petroleum. Anambra State is sitting on a large deposit of hydro carbon; we use to have a gas leakage in Ugwuagba and parts of Idemili area. So, we are going to move a step forward through gas committees in the Senate, Federal House of Representatives and Anambra gas must be tapped fully.
And during the stake Holders town hall meeting in onitsha, issues were raised about the second Niger Bridge?
We the South-East senators have made representations before the Federal Government about the second Niger Bridge. We have also told the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that if this bridge doesn’t work in the next two years, our people will not forgive them. Already, we have approved the 2020 plan which they brought to us in that regard but my worry is that they are constructing the bridge on Public Private Partnership (PPP) which means that there will be toll gates where our people will be compelled to pay. So, if you are going to Asaba you pay toll.
The President also commissioned the Onitsha River Port, how happy are you with that?
Giving the availability of road infrastructure, can it cope when the goods are discharged there? The answer is no! The answer is a big no, except for the fact that the Onitsha-Owerri road is almost completed. But you know that the road has taken almost eight years to complete.
Let us look at the National Assembly and the probe panels, especially power?
The probe panels are okay. They are good. We are not members of the executive. The panels put people stand on their toes. They make them sit up. And it is like an X-ray. And if you remember, it is not only probe that we do.
We also carry out what is called public hearing on any matter that has cloudiness that we are not clear on, or a matter that we want to legislate on. There has been a lot of hearsay in Nigeria, a lot of rumor-mongering, that give us the opportunity to clear the air. So in a probe panel too, it is the same thing, so he, who has done no wrong, has nothing to fear. There was a probe panel on power led by Hon. Ndudi Elumelu and later on Senator Ubani. So, as it were, they synchronise. That was the sixth senate and we looked at that report and a lot of things in that report are factual and good.
How would you react to the resignation of Professor Bath Nnaji, the former Minister for power?
You know that in that town hall meeting with Mr. President at Onitsha, before it was raised, I told Mr. President that this question will be raised. I told him that the crux of Ndigbo are here and they would talk about Nnaji their brother, because already they have started feeling that the man was victimized. And you heard what he said. He said that Barth Nnaji did not commit any offence. That is the cardinal thing. He committed no offence.
He quit the job based on his background. He had been in America and Europe and he had been sitting in America as a Professor of Robotics and Industrial Engineering and he said he wanted to do what is done in civilized countries. I have a company. I resigned from that company as Chairman/MD. I am now minister, but this company, because I put my interest there in a blind trust, this company had gone to align with another company without telling me and this other company that they aligned with bidded for arts and power distribution and for Enugu distribution company. So, it is a clash of interest.
I have to step aside while the analysis and every thing go on and that is honourable. That is what is being done in civilized clans. We Nigerians don’t do it. Many Nigerians don’t do it, many Nigerians even when their family company is doing business with whatever name, they are still telling you that it is okay. I know that Professor Barth Nnaji’s resignation would be a major set back in our power reforms. But in any case, he has laid very solid foundation.
Now that he has resigned how do you see power supply in Nigeria?
That is what I am saying. He has laid foundations; it is only for the next successor to be a knowledgeable person. He must have managerial acumen. On how to manage men and materials that is all, and he will then build up on that. All of you can attest that your power supply has improved and I can assure you that by 2012 December, a lot of generating stations will put in more mega wax into the grids. A lot of rehabilitation works being done in transporting them are carried out. This is because a lot of grids are old and decayed.
The senate has embarked on constitution review, how far has it gone?
So far it has been full of progress. We are in the review to define the political structure. We have six geo-political zones in Nigeria but it is not enshrined in our constitution. It is not there. So, there is the need to define it, or we say let us have regions instead of geo-political zones. Even in the area of state creation, apart from Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Delta and Lagos States, some people say that the rest of the states are not viable. Others say we need more whether they are viable or not. Even those that are viable are being assisted by the oil companies. If you remove money from the federation accounts, how many states can stand on their own? How many of them can do business.
Also at the review, some said let us have regions due to the non viability of the component states. But my take on this is that every state in Nigeria is viable only that they are lazy. Is it Anambra or Enugu that has coal? Ebonyi State has lead, zinc, salt and rice. We have Abakaliki and Omor rice. In Anambra State, we are still on the area of state creation, we in the south -east zone are saying, no matter what is being said, there is a zone that has been badly treated and that is the South-East. So far, there must be equity. A state must come from south-east if other zones say there should be parity and evenness in the number of states of each geo-political zones then our zone should have two more states comparatively. We shall go to the presidency for an executive bill for the creation of states.
Anambra North is calling for the next governor to come from their zone, do you agree?
I have heard it and I have read in the papers that the incumbent Governor Peter Obi is also canvassing the same view and in response, the Obi of Onitsha told the governor that he would allow the governor to have a hand on his successor. This is undemocratic. We are not discussing Ichieship or Kingship hereditary, when you say it is your person, if he does not win, there will be trouble. If he wins they say he rigged and he was anointed by his godfather or godfathers. I am a politician and I know what that means. Anambra people should be free to choose who ever they want. The second plane of my fears is that this particular pronouncement has caused trouble in APGA. They now have big crack and figure other states in the south-east. I am a progressive and I am also radical. I like radicalism, I am not a member of APGA but we know how APGA was formed. I was as at then, an executive member of the PDP in the South East zone, and we know our contributions to the formation of APGA. The party was formed as an alternative due to what the then president, Obasanjo was doing. We used to attend the conclave at Chris Okoye’s house in Enugu. The records are there, you can ask Victor Umeh. APGA had today been cracked due to the position of the
governor. But I have three questions for the North. I had asked this question during the 2010 governorship election in Omabala forum. Has there been any election till now that Anambra North said okay we give you the chance to contest, we will not contest so that after you, it becomes our turn?
In 1999, it was Chief Frank Oramulu from Anambra North. ABC Nwosu from south but Mbadinuju snatched it, if not he would have won.
All the zones made gargantuan and titanic efforts at the primaries and even at the election proper. Same was the case in 2007. Senator Emma Anosike from the North contested in the primaries and later became running mate to Professor Charles Soludo.Politics should be devoid of deceit and as soon as we stop it the better. Number two question: Have politicians in Anambra state ever sat to rotate it? And the answer was defining silence, a big no.
But Ndigbo are facing the same fate at the National level?
Yes and that is why we are carrying out constitutional review, so that we agree on the rotation and enshrine it in our constitution; that is what should be done in Anambra State.
But we expect you politicians and stakeholders to do that in Anambra state.
Yes, we are ready to do that but who would call for that conference? Who should call for that meeting? It is still the governor that should call for that meeting instead of making such pronouncement like he did recently. That is why we want to sit down and agree on rotation and it becomes sacrosanct in the state. The governor is not doing this with good intentions.
Peter Obi should call a conference.