The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige has said that the poor performance of the incumbent governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano has cleared the coast for his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) to take over government in the state in the forthcoming governorship election next year.
He said that APC was presently reconciling aggrieved members and differences and would do everything humanly possible to win Anambra State.
He spoke of the cause of the problem in the party, the reason the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) will not win elections again and the Federal Government fight against unemployment. Excerpts:
Anambra governorship election is next year, is APC going to turn the table in that election?
Our party will do everything humanly possible to take over Anambra State, luckily for us the incumbent has not done well in terms of performance. During his first tenure he and his former boss, Peter Obi led Anambra people astray, promised them heaven on earth and because of that Anambra people were hoodwinked. Do not forget that I contested in that election in 2013, and they took the victory, they sabotaged voters in Idemili North, Idemili South and parts of Onitsha, everywhere they knew was my stronghold. They took the victory, pyrrhic victory. They continued with that propaganda of APGA, nka bu n’kanyi, APGA is an Igbo party and were rail-rolled again in 2017 for a second term into office. Now that they have done six years, Anambra people have judged them fully and discovered that they have not made any impression, no impressionable progress, no tangible infrastructure or achievement seen on ground. Even the economy of the people is not buoyant anymore. Anambra used to have an economy that is fast growing in Nigeria, but now as you can see, everybody is disenchanted. Moreover, the essence of the formation of APGA as a political party is now overtaken by events. When APGA was formed in year 2000, 2001 it was because the Igbo in the National Assembly felt that even half parties have principal officers’ seats allocated to them based on party basis. By that I mean if you come to a place like House of Reps or the Senate, the parties at the time, PDP had principal officers, that is, presiding officers as the party in majority and some other officers as principal officers, majority leader, deputy majority leader, majority whip and deputy majority whip, so six, then if you go to APP, it has four principal officers, APP leader, APP deputy leader, APP whip and deputy whip joining in the leadership. Same goes for others, so that was what prompted the National Assembly members led by Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, then Senate President to press for us to have an Igbo party. I was an officer in PDP, they sold the idea and all of us bought it so that we can also have a regional party from which we can also get principal officership in National Assembly and so that in decision making, it will be a decision making based on a tripod; because the only national party then was the PDP that has stronghold in the North and in the South. So, that was how the idea for APGA was conceived and people like Jacob Nwokolo, Mrs Obegolu who was then in INEC, Chekwas Okorie, first Chairman and some of us in the ruling party supported the idea of APGA and it came to fruition. In forming the first group of officers it was also allocated based on the states in the Southeast and to make it national it got the National Secretary to come from the North. So, that idea with which we went into APGA is already overtaken by events, there are two major parties in Nigeria now, that is PDP and APC and again if you look at its colouration you will see that APC is more entrenched in the Northwest, Northeast, North-central and in the Southwest, it is 50, 50 with the PDP, so that is the configuration now. The South-south and Southeast are not very much in APC, but in the build up to 2023 election a lot of South Southerners and South Easterners are now coming into the party and with that it is only but logical that Igbo of Southeast have now to embrace APC with both hands if they are going to make any impressionable mark in the journey of 2023 presidency. So, for me, Anambra will now be the test case for our people to show that they are not longer doing a lone ranger party type of situation by which I mean that APGA should now do what we call voluntary dismembership and starting the dismembership with the Anambra election where they have now to enthrone and vote massively for an APC candidate to become the governor of Anambra State. So my party is working towards that and we are not leaving anything to chance, that is the way to go and some of us will put all our efforts towards that direction because that will be a situation of buy one, get two for the Southeast especially Anambra, so that is my take on it. So, the whot card is there now for Anambra to turn to APC.
The way PDP is moving now in your state, do you think APC will have any chance to upturn things?
Well, the election in Anambra will be in November 2021, it is a long time and also not a very long time. But you know in politics, one week, one month and even one day can make the difference. Therefore, we are trying to embark on reconciliation that is what the new caretaker committee led by His Excellency, Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State is doing. We have some little brand of reconciliation to do in the Southeast starting with Imo and after Imo we enter Anambra, Enugu and other states where we have rumblings will be visited. In Anambra State, for example, the issue of former PDP members who joined us for the election in 2017 is not fully settled. There are people they met in that party and they feel they can take over the party and those people are resisting. So, these are issues that will be resolved, as leader of the party in the state, I am handling the reconciliation and it is not an easy thing because there is a tendency for people to resist neo-colonization, that is what is at the heart of it. And so we will do that, after the reconciliation, we restructure the party and by the time we are restructuring into the congresses and national convention, the party will be good to go. And so I have in my mind a small timetable that by December 2020 and January 2021, all these would have been sorted out and the party will be a fit and proper vehicle for the journey to Agu Awka Government House.
Notwithstanding your government claims of giving unemployment a serious fight, the rate is still very high, how can you rate employment generation of your government?
Job creation and employment situation, especially job creation is a multifaceted thing. Job creation is not only for the government to do, it is also for the private sector. Job creation and employment are serious indicators and indices, they’re used in measuring any economy and you will also agree with me that if an economy is troubled like we have now, it also creates unemployment and these affects employment situation whether it is employment or unemployment, they will all manifest as symptoms. For now, the economy is in doldrums, we even suffered contraction for the second quarter which is not surprising because of the Coronavirus disease in 2019. As a matter of fact the prediction of the degree of contraction vis-à-vis what the economists predicted for Nigeria shows that the contraction did not get up to the envisaged. We are only praying that quarter three will be better because the economy needs to be cleaned up with this lockdown, we were locked in quarter two and even part of quarter one. So, we anticipate and expect that with easing up of the economy and businesses, we will have a better economy and a better growth. Even if we don’t have positive growth, our negative growth should be able to drop. But government is not taking the matter lightly; a lot of things rolled out for the private sector from the CBN and from the government side, relief materials or palliatives that will aid the industries and all the sectors manage the bad situation. For example, the government will visit the aviation sector with some relief, some fund as bailout, we have also given them spare parts for aircraft duty waiver, they are also to benefit from the monitorial place of credit by the CBN for those who are taking big loans. Pharmaceutical industry will also benefit from this, the CBN has windows, very soft loans for them and the government has created a 500 intervention budget palliative called 2020 COVID amendment budget and if you go there you will see that a lot of the things are for job creation. If you go to agriculture there is a marking for farmers there and there is also grants that will go to farmers which means that some of them will get subsidy to help them. Fertilizer, rice will be subsidized and some will get very low credit too. There is also the opening up of roads so they can comfortably convey their products. It is also the issue of land clearance for them subsidized for farmers.