Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, has stated that the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) in the recent governorship election in Anambra State will have an impact on the party’s performance in the South East in the 2023 election.
The minister, who expressed disappointment over the APC’s failure to unseat the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the state, blamed the party’s election defeat on the contentious primaries that produced the party’s flag-bearer.
He talked on Channel Television’s “political paradigm,” assuaging fears that the setback would have a significant impact on the region’s general elections in 2023.
He vowed, however, that the situation will be different in 2023, because the Buhari administration’s infrastructure revolution has had a significant impact on the zone.
He said that the multi-billion naira Second Niger Bridge project was 80 percent complete.
The massive bridge is one of the five legacy projects that the Buhari administration will deliver to the country, according to Ngige, one of the founding fathers of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
He noted that the Second Niger Bridge had been a campaign issue for Nigerian presidents since 1999, beginning with President Olusegun Obasanjo and ending with President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said, “When President Buhari came in 2015, I campaigned with him all over the South-East zone and even beyond as the zonal campaign coordinator, from Abakiliki to Aba, Akwa Ibom, Uyo, Awka and Enugu. In these places we talked about the Second Niger Bridge.
“That Bridge has been built. It is now at 80 percent completion. Before it was being built by Public Private Partnership (PPP), but now, it is being built from the Sovereign Wealth Fund as one of the five legacy projects that this President is leaving for the country.
“The South Easterners have seen that the Second Niger Bridge is being done. He (Buhari) has completed the Zik’s Masoleum. Many Nigerians don’t even know that President Buhari is a Zikist. I know because we had visited Zik’s son, Chukwuma (now late) who was his friend. We visited that tomb before he was elected president.”
On why the sentiment of marginalization persists in the South-East, Ngige explained that the people of the region value appointments and believe that the President has failed them in that regard.
He said that the President believed that by providing fertilizer plants in Ebonyi State and granting credit and grants to farmers in Ebonyi, Imo, and farming areas of Anambra State, he might empower and make the people of the South-East happy.
“But these are people who love appointments. They know and I say it to them. We have seen presidents appoint people from their zones or even other zones for a four-year term. They come and go. We had plenty of appointments during Obasanjo and Jonathan administrations. When I say it, some people are not happy.
“For example, the Enugu Airport has suffered dilapidation over the years but we had four Aviation ministers, namely, Kema Chikwe, Fidelia Njeze, Osita Chidoka and Stella Oduah. How come that airport remained dilapidated while they were in office? The tarmac was pronounced as the worst in the whole of Nigeria by an Ethiopian Pilot who flew us one day.
“But a Hadi Sirika from Katsina State discussed with the president and some of us in the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the president brought N10 billion special fund and renovated the airport, giving us a new tarmac, rated as one of the best in Nigeria, if not Africa. He put new control towers for us. A cargo section is being built. I don’t know but my people love appointments.
Regarding complaints that the appointments of this government fell short of Federal Character, Ngige said he was more concerned with the impact being made on the economies of the states and what the South-East was gaining from the programmes of the Federal Government.
“They will tell you that the rail line is going to Kano and it didn’t pass through the South-East. It is wrong. The coastal rail from Lagos, passes through Ijebu Ode, gets to Benin-Agbor-Asaba and crosses to Onitsha. The design was approved by the Federal Executive Council. From Agbor, the other one goes to Warri-Yenegoa-Aba and Port Harcourt. That is the coastal rail. There is North-East line from Port Harcourt-Umuahia-Makurdi-Jos up to Maidugri. That line is bifurcated line.
“The one which the fund is available is the reconstruction of the old narrow gauge on this line. It is just like if you go to the UK. You will some other lines. A town can have three rail lines. One can be narrow gauge and the other could be double gauge.
“There is a standard gauge coming from Port Harcourt, side by side with the narrow gauge, with spur lines into Owerri, Awka-Enugu-Abakiliki-Makurdi-Jos-Bauchi, and the new plan is that it bifurcates into Yola and it even gets into Jalingo-Maidugri, Kaura Namoda and the rest. The minister of transport has explained this several times but it has fallen on deaf ears because you people want to be deaf. He has even talked about financial plans.
“Those politicians who play defeatist politics will say that they are giving us narrow gauge and standard gauge. The difference between narrow gauge and standard gauge is in the speed of the train. The narrow gauge will move about 120km per hour while the other one will move about 150km per hour.”