People Think They Can Cheat Me Because Of My Size –Chris Ngige
The Senator representing Anambra Central in the National Assembly, who also contested the November 16, 2013 governorship election in Anambra State, Senator Chris Ngige, spoke with SUNDAY ABORISADE on the election and other issues
Why did you go to tribunal to challenge the result of the Anambra State governorship election?
The election which held on November 16, 2013 had a prelude which started when our voters’ register was marked for continuous registration and upgrading. In the course of doing this, some people in the information technology unit of the Independent National Electoral Commission used the opportunity to bastardise the voters’ register. The exercise was meant to upgrade the one used for the 2011 election. By the Electoral Act, they were supposed to have given us the Certified True Copy at least 30 days before the election. INEC gave us the electronic copy and we were in the process of printing it out when INEC invited us to a voters’ stakeholders forum, three days before the election and told us that there was a mistake in the register and that they discovered that everybody’s age was down by two years and that they would do the upgrade. The electoral body assured us that the issue of multiple registration had been well taken care of. So we believed INEC and accepted the new e-copy that its officials gave us during the meeting for the election. But INEC identified all the strongholds of the All Progressives Congress such as Idemili North, Idemili South, Ogboko area of Ogbaru and Oka South, especially the GRA. They removed people’s names. They did that across board in my entire strongholds. In Idemili South which is my local government, my own hometown, they did that simple fraudulent arithmetic. Apart from that, on the election day, they removed people whose names started from ‘N’ to ‘Z’. They know that many Igbo names start with ‘N’ such as Nwankwo, Nweke, Nwafor to Okeke, Okafor, Okoli, Okerekenta, and Ugochukwu. They removed all and people were running up and down on the election day looking for their names in the register. But more annoying was the fact that INEC had pasted names of eligible voters at the polling booths for verification 30 days earlier. Its own voters’ register which it gave to us and which contained the names of these people were actually pasted and so the people drew the attention of the electoral officers to the fact that they found their names pasted on the walls but that they were not in the register with which they would be accredited to vote. The electoral officers ignored the complaints. The electoral officers who were deployed in my strongholds were specially trained because they were drawn from the Federal Government institutions in Anambra State like the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, and in the previous meetings with INEC officials, we were told that people from that institution would not be used for the election because the All Progressives Grand Alliance deputy governorship candidate, Nkem Okeke, was a senior lecturer at the university and he resigned shortly before the election. The lecturers were used as supervising/ presiding officers who distributed and received materials and results. When you complained, the presiding officer would tell you that he could not help you and that it was only the SPO that could help; the SPO would in turn ignore you. That was the fate of my people in these places that I mentioned. The case of Idemili North was more pathetic because some days before the election, we were told that there would be no voting there and because APGA people were booed when they went there to campaign, the people were told that they would not be allowed to vote on the election day.
What are your expectations from the election tribunal?
My expectation from the tribunal is that I should get justice. I am not asking them to declare me governor. I am saying that the election was a bad one. The National Chairman of INEC also confirmed that it was a bad one. He said it was an albatross to INEC. In places where it claimed that voting took place, materials arrived there too late. Those places were in Anambra Central where I won the senatorial election convincingly so they have a reference point. It was not as if they were guessing, they knew what they were doing because they calculated their strategy to rig. We want to get justice so that Anambra people can go for a genuine election.
Are you calling for an outright cancellation of the election or a re-run?
We are asking for an outright cancellation because they did not get it right. The voters’ register is the foundation for any good election. The PDP candidate found neither his name nor that of any member of his family, so they didn’t vote.
But some people believed you lost the election because you contested on the platform of the APC which is considered as an ethnic political party.
But I flew the flag of the Action Congress of Nigeria and won the Senatorial Election. I defeated the PDP candidate and he did not even get up to 10,000 votes. We also defeated the APGA candidate, Dora Akunyili. It is wrong to say that I contested on the platform of a Yoruba or Hausa party. Are there no Hausa or Yoruba persons in the PDP? Are there no Hausa/Fulani people in APGA? PDP as we speak today has a Hausa/Fulani as the chairman. The National Secretary of the PDP is a Yoruba man. There is no Igbo man who is a ranking officer in the PDP. The highest officer the Igbos have is the Publicity Secretary. By ranking in the PDP even in the party’s constitution, the publicity secretary is number seven or eight officer. So, who is fooling who? The APC is a national party just like the PDP. Hausas are there and they are in good quantum; the Igbos are there – Rochas Okorocha is from Imo, Chief Ogbonna Onu is there, Ezekiel Isiugo and Senator Julius Ucha from Ebonyi State are all there. The only thing is that my own part of Nigeria is not used to opposition politics. I remember when we formed the PDP in 1998, we were few. We had Alex Ekwueme who was contesting presidential election then but a lot of the Igbos and all their billionaires were all in the All Progressives Party. Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu was in the APP, Arthur Nzeribe, Arthur Eze, Chris Uba and others including Evans Enwerem, Ifeanyi Ararume and a host of others. But immediately we won the presidency, they all drifted to the PDP and today, they are the champions in the PDP. But when we were toiling to register the party, they were all in the APP, they were not with us. We only had the late Chief Chuba Okadigbo, Chief Joseph Okonkwo, Alex Ekwueme, myself and a few others. It was after we won election in 18 local government areas of Anambra State that they identified with us, so the same thing will happen in the APC and we are waxing stronger and growing everyday. If our politicians in Igboland hear an announcement today that the APC had won the Presidential election, they will drift to the party. My people are not too used to being in the opposition party and we don’t have regrets for being where we are. I have played this opposition politics since 2005. They removed me from the PDP then and de-registered me. PDP is the only party in the world that deregisters members and asks them to go. That was what happened.
It was even said you used the media to hype your popularity before the election.
That opinion is wrong. This is because we won the Senate election there. Senate is one-third of the state and that is seven local government areas. There was nothing like media hype at all. If there was anything at all, it was the APGA that used all the money in this world to do propaganda. It had the television houses that it engaged on dedication coverage and the print media too, so, I am with the people of Anambra State; they know me and I know them. They love me. I know that if they had the opportunity to vote, they would have voted for me. The fault was not theirs. In few places where voting took place, a political party took money to the polling booths and shared it among the people with the assistance of the police.
It was alleged that you relied on manipulation when you boasted that you would win the election.
Well, one of them saw me at the airport and said, ‘Yes, we beat you to a game. We learnt you wanted to use Idemili with their high votes and other strongholds of yours to get the majority of the total votes cast but we stopped you by preventing elections there.’ APGA admits that. It is not a secret; the party even said it was not hiding it. They connived with the Resident Electoral Commissioner to allow voting in some places; they tore the register into two and removed a portion. When some people called me from the fields to complain, I asked them to take the register we gave them and go back to the electoral officers since they had confirmed two days earlier, but the INEC officers rejected them and said the register they brought was not the certified true copy. The INEC officials gave us e-copy as against the CTC. We printed our own copy but they brought out their own and their men manipulated the process. That is why we concluded that they employed sophisticated rigging mechanism in the election. It was scientifically rigged.
Some people believe that you won the contest between you and Dora Akunyili through manipulation.
How can anybody say that Dora Akunyili was more popular than me in the area? Was she ever a governor? Was she doing her NAFDAC activities in the rural areas of Anambra State? Her NAFDAC was in Abuja, Lagos, Aba and Kano. That election is gone and I don’t like discussing it. She is a family friend. She wants to try her luck again in 2015 and I don’t want to discuss it but if she comes out and we meet on the field, if I am not running, I may give her tips on how to win.
Anytime you contest election, it is always trailed with controversies, why?
Because they are looking at my size. They underrate me. They say this is a very small man that they can go and undo very easily. That is it. Even as a governor, they said this is a small governor, we can put him in a toilet, we can kidnap him. But I am always fighting back. Even as a child, I was small in class and my mates would bully me but I did fight back, and the bullies usually got injured when they fought me. From primary to secondary school, I remained myself. I stay on my own, I don’t look for trouble but I don’t run away from trouble either. That is the situation.
What gives you the impression that you could win another governorship election in Anambra State?
I am relying on the people. They will vote for me because they believe in me.
The recent local government election was won by the APGA by a landslide; is that not an indication that no other party is strong in the state other than it?
Haaaaaa !!! Are you talking about that election? It means you are not familiar with what is happening in Anambra State. Ask your correspondent in Anambra State whether there was any voting anywhere in the state on that day. There was none. After the governorship election, APGA further perfected its rigging strategy. In fact, it did not print enough electoral materials for a start. its members didn’t want their materials to fall into wrong hands and they remove people who were validly nominated by the party. People believed that there would be a battle. My party asked APGA to bring its voters’ register for the election but it failed to produce it. We asked the party whether it was the INEC register, which was being queried in court that they would use, but it couldn’t give a direct answer and we wrote them, yet, we didn’t get any reply; hence, my party pulled out of the election, and so we didn’t participate and there was no election. I can confirm that. What then happened was that there was selection of people; people were selected based on connections like in my local government, the son of the traditional ruler is the chairman of the local government in Okah South. We have two other council chairmen who were selected because they were children of traditional rulers. The selection was done on patrimonial basis, they did allocations.
What is the striking aspect of the APC manifesto that made you to embrace it compared to the PDP and how will that affect the welfare of your people if elected?
The APC is the party of the people. It is a party that is owned by the people. If you go to the APC-controlled states today, starting from Imo, Ekiti, Edo, Osun, Lagos, even Borno and Yobe states that are being troubled by the Boko Haram insurgency, you will discover that the people are happy with their state governments. It is government by the people because the people elected their governors genuinely. You need to see the quantum of work that is being done there, such as agrarian work, massive infrastructural development, social welfare, educational development and health. When you see it, nobody will tell you that these are the people’s governments. Go to Rivers State, you will see that there is no pretence about it. Go to Osun State. Even with the huge population and the cosmopolitan nature of Lagos, the APC government is working there. The APC manifesto makes the people its priority. It’s a people-oriented manifesto and that is why we have change as our motto. We want to change the people’s attitude of doing things into a positive perspective. We want to have a people-oriented national budget. We want to create jobs for people so that when you create jobs, our country would be economically productive and not a consumption economy.
If today, the Chief Executive of Anambra State defects to the APC, would people like you not defect to other parties?
We will welcome him.
Would you still remain in the party? Some people believe that you joined the APC to actualise your governorship ambition.
Noooo!!! If the governor of Anambra State today decides to defect and become an APC member, I will go to the tribunal and withdraw my petition. I will withdraw it because there is no way he can escape running the party manifesto. He would be baptised. After baptising him, we will confirm him. We will give him confirmation and teach him the ropes. He would get inculcated into the APC’s manifesto and our way of doing things. That is what I wish for Anambra people. So, if I have somebody who can do it, why not? He should go on. Everything mustn’t be me. It’s true I am not vying because I want to be the governor. I have been the governor before, so it is not a do or die affair. If the senate race comes up again and I don’t want to vie, so be it. By then, I would have contributed my quota; everything is not about self. We are doing it because of service to the people. If there is anybody, especially the man they say is the governor-elect in Anambra State today, who wants to join the APC, he would come and we will give him our manifesto which he will start implementing.
Looking back now, how do you feel about the Okija saga?
Why do you want to go to that area? The Okija saga has been over-flogged. But you know that I went to Okija and I told the world that I went there. I took my Bible and I know that my prayers are stronger than any deity or whatever they have there. They are very small gods. My God is a very big God. Eighteen months after my visit there, those deities were removed. The place was converted to schools and some other things during my regime. The Federal Government sent security agents there and so many things led to others and the place was turned to a plain ground.
Do you feel bad about the saga anytime you think of it?
Of course, yes, because I thought all those things didn’t exist again and that they were mere manipulations and that once you believe in the Supreme God, and you worship him well, he can do all things for you. There are no two Gods. Okija was a makeshift arrangement by some 419 people to hoodwink and extort money from people and do what they wanted. It is fake. I am a practising catholic. I’m a knight of the Catholic Church and I believe in everything Catholic. I practise my faith religiously and I have no apologies on that. Those who are fetish and occultic can continue but I pray that they will see the light very soon.
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