We remember that today, July 10, 2020 marks exactly seventeen years the foundation of the modern Anambra State was laid. That day, one man staked his life for Ndi-Anambra to be free. Held hostage for five and half hours(10am -3.30pm) in his office, he almost lost his life. Thence, waken from despair, Ndi-Anambra of all walks of life , the lowly, the high and the mighty all, united in struggle to liberate our homeland from the clutches of the deadly godfathers.
We recall the grim picture of the late AIG Ralph Ige, commanding more than two hundred and fifty other officers and men of the Nigeria Police, armed to the teeth, encircling the Anambra Government House as well as the Anambra State House of Assembly and held the Governor, His Excellency Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige, OON captive, in an effort to extract a forced resignation letter. Courageous, Dr. Ngige broke loose from powers of captivity at the popular Choice Hotel, Awka where he was transferred by his police captors and made contact with the outside world, announcing that he was still alive. The contacts yielded dividends as senior party leaders, Chief Audu Ogbe, then National Chairman, late Chief A. K Dikibor, then National Vice Chairman, South-South and Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, National Secretary of the PDP made critical intervention in conjunction with the then Vice President. The rest is now history.
From that day however, the people of Anambra, men and women formed the Anambra State Liberation Army with a self-imposed mandate to protect the State Governor in and out of office and form a bulwark against internal re-colonization by vicious godfathers. Inspired by this unprecedented peoples power, the revolution began! Forthwith, arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities previously outstanding from the previous regime were cleared. The Governor went on to institute an Executive Order which placed payment of salaries and pension on First Line Charge and backed it up with relevant laws by the Anambra State House of Assembly. That prompt payment of salaries and pensions is taken for granted in Anambra till today is traceable to the enablement of this visionary act.
Then, the revolution torched off an armada of road construction, covering over one hundred and five roads built by reputable first class contractors led by RCC Nig. Ltd, Setraco Nig. Ltd, Nigercat Nig. Ltd among others. In nearly thirty-four months as Governor, over 500km of roads, spanning all the senatorial zones of the state and still standing close to two decades, were done. Some of these roads deserve mention.
*Isuochi -Owerri Ezukala- Ogbunka – Umunze – Umuchu – Amesi-Uga/Uga -Ezinifte – Igboukwu Rd.
*Otuocha-Aguleri-Umuleri-Nteje-Awkuzu-Ifite Dunu-Abagana–Eziowelle-Abatete-Uke-Ideani-Alor-Nnokwa Rd.
*Nnobi-Nnewi-Ozubulu-Ihembosi-Okija- Ihiala Rd.
*Isseke-Orsumoghu-Ukpor-Utuh-Nnewi-Awka Etiti Rd.
*Onitsha-Atani-Osamara- Ogwu-Ikpere Rd
*Onitsha Township roads-Modebe Avenue, Oguta Rd, Ozomagala Str, Upper -Lower Iweka Road, , Francis Street, Ms Elems, Port Harcourt Road.
*Ziks Roundabout- Nkpor-Umuoji-Uke-Nnobi Road
*Awka Township Roads-dualization of Nnamdi Azikiwe Avenue, Civil Service Commission Rd, Nya Lane etc.
*Nnewi Township Roads-Roads- bank road, Ezemewi, Ibeto, Nnewi High School, Rds.
Similarly, education, the pride of the State as the Light of the Nation was not left out as you initiated a Memorandum of Agreement with Church Leaders for the return of schools to the mission. While Archbishops Obiefuna and Valerian Okeke, Bishop Hilary Odili Okeke and Bishop Simon Okafor led the Catholic Church team; Bishops Maxwell Anikwenwa, Ken Sandy Okeke, Efobi and Okpala led the Anglican team. Effectively therefore, schools were handed over to the Missions on 15th September 2005. Today Anambra is better for it.
You didn’t stop there. You revived the basic education scheme by payment of counterpart fund of 1.6 billion naira as well as renovation of primary and secondary schools.
Other success recorded in this and other sectors include:
*Infrastructures at the State University with the accreditation of 32 courses in 2005 and decentralization into a multi-campus system.
* Ending the infamous 18 months strike by doctors in the state and partnering with international donor agencies to give a new lease of life to healthcare by paying off counterpart funds owed these donor agencies.
*Establishment of the Anambra State Vigilante Service with an enabling law by the State House of Assembly, providing security to every nooks and cranny of the State.
*liquidation of government debts to banks, clearance of arrears of salaries, some of which accumulated up to 15 months.
* 134% rise in pensions
* Decongestion, development and re-location of new social market centres for building materials, textiles, and electricals from Onitsha City centre to the peripheries at ogidi, Ogbinike, Bridge Head, and Oba respectively.
* Revival of the Onitsha and Awka Township Water Scheme (pipe-borne-water ran in these two major cities before his exit in 2006.
* Mapping out of the agriculture zones in Omor, Ifite Ogwari in Ayamelum and Ogboji in Aguata L.G.A.
*Changing the State epithet from “Home for All” to “ Light of the Nation
*Resting the ghost of religious dichotomy by ensuring that all denominations were treated equally in appointments as well as other benefits.
We wish to place on record, that subsequent governments in the state have been consolidating on these gains and building on the foundation solidly laid by Onwa n’etliora, though Ndi-Anambra have had cause to draw a comparison between the beginning and the ‘now’ manifest retardation in speed, pace and quality of service . Very important is to recall also that when the Appeal Court said otherwise and you had to leave the seat of governance; you had already saved a whopping N13.8 billion reserve for the succeeding Obi administration. Though the administration tried to deny this huge savings, the Justice Ononiba Commission, which the same administration set up, confirmed the sum and heaped encomiums on you for selfless service to the state. Onwa, jide k’ iji!
Subsequently in 2011, the masses you selflessly served decided that you represent them at the Senate. Onwa, you left the Seventh Senate with an indelible record of achievements. And when in 2015 President Muhammadu Buhari found you worthy for appointment as the Minister of Labour and Employment, you came with your usual Midas touch. Your unprecedented brilliant labour administration not only restored Nigeria to the Governing Board of the ILO after over a decade at a remote, back corners but you also emerged as the Chairman of the Governing Board of the organisation. That election was sequel to the frontline leadership that endeared you to the Africa regional membership of the organization who had earlier in 2018 elected you its spokesperson on critical issues of African interest. Back home, you midwifed the National Minimum Wage Negotiations, giving the Nigerian worker a critical base pay of N30, 000 Naira. Notwithstanding teething challenges confronting the Buhari administration since 2015, your sterling contributions enabled the Federal Government clear decades of unpaid salaries, allowances to Federal Civil Servants. It is a great feat that under you , no Federal civil servant was retrenched even while Nigeria was in recession rather millions of jobs were created through your job rich labour policies. The existing relative industrial harmony and stability needed for optimum national productivity is largely also attributable .
No wonder, our dear President found you worthy of re-appointment in 2019 and no wonder at all that the Director General of the ILO , Mr. Guy Ryder in his congratulatory letter on your re-appointment described you as a remarkable Minister whose reappointment did not come as a surprise ! Onwa, you have since moved to ensure that the house of bricks you met in 2015 when you were first appointed is left in marbles when the work is done in 2023!
As we reflect on this day, may we flashback on so many persons , living and the dead who participated in that struggle. Time to congratulate ourselves while thanking God for your solid soul, golden heart and vision. We thank Him for your uncommon courage with which you fought off the vandals, the godfathers, thus saving the state from their brutal grip. We fervently pray the Almighty God to protect you always. We wonder at times what would have been the fate of our dear State had you lost your life that day. Again, what a time for Ndi-Anambra to critically reflect on the fate of their state today. Time to reflect on the extant backward progress and ask whether this is what Ngige put his life on the line for ? Needless saying every July 10 is your day of rebirth.
May God continue to bless you Sir.