The Minister of Labor and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, recently has been vigorously campaigning for the ruling APC as well as President Muhammadu Buhari in the South East zone, insisting that the Federal Government has not in any form marginalized Ndigbo. This is contrary to the fact the leaders and people of the South East are of the opinion that the present government at the centre do not factor in their interests in carrying out certain functions, particularly appointments and building of infrastructure.
Ngige stated it unequivocally that the South East had an equal representation in the Federal Executive Council, FEC, like other regions of the country. He noted that had Buhari been an Igbo hater he would not have obeyed that section of the constitution which made it compulsory for every state to have at least one minister. He pointed this out during a meeting of the Eze Ndigbo Association in the 19 northern states and Abuja last weekend.
He vehemently denied claims of uneven appointment by the Buhari-led government, even as he revealed that Ndigbo had adequately enjoyed key appointments in the past. The minister insisted that the South East has produced an Inspector General of Police, Chief of Army Staff, Secretary to the Government of the Federal among other key positions in the past.
He said: “We are in the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which is composed of a minister per state. But we have one extra ministerial slot. So, the South East is effectively represented to ensure justice is done to the region. People can say that we are not honoured with appointments of Inspector-General of Police, Chief of Army Staff and Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF). These are positions we have enjoyed before in Nigeria.
South East produced two Inspectors-General of Police (IGPs), Ogbonnaya Onovo and Mike Okiro. We had an SGF, Senator Pius Anyim. We also produced four Senate Presidents. Twice we produced Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker, Ike Ekweremadu and Emeka Ihedioha respectively”.
He noted that those named above were in charge of federal budgets” for eight years. Ngige stated that the talk about the South East being marginalized in the area of “appointments” was a “matter of perception.” According to him; “A lot of them don’t understand how government works. A lot of them don’t understand that I, as a member of FEC can influence things that will come to my state; my zone or any other area and where we think things should be sited or done in Nigeria”.
Responding, Eze Ifeaka, an opinion analyst based in Owerri faulted Ngige’s standpoint. He said; “You can see that is full of contradictions. By mentioning that Ndigbo have produced two IGPs, secretary to the federal government and an army chief in the past means that he has agreed to the allegation of marginalization against Ndigbo by the present administration.
The three key positions he mentioned came to the South East during the 16 years of PDP. Ngige said Ndigbo have produced two IGPs, SFG and an army chief and because of that, we are not worthy again for further appointments. My question now is, has the north not produced scores of IGPs, SFGs and COAFs and yet Buhari has continued to give these appointments over and over again.
As a matter of fact, Ngige is a bundle of contradictions and he just displayed such in this his Buhari defence on South East marginalization”.
In a related development, the governor of Ebonyi State and chairman of the South-East Governors’ Forum, Dave Umahi, has sensationally noted that the leaders of the geopolitical zone were opposed to secessionist agitations in the part of the country, insisting that President Buhari does not hate or marginalize Ndigbo. The governor stated that they (leaders) were ready to know the grievances of the youths in the zone.
Umahi enthused that Buhari and his ministers certainly are not aware of all the cases of marginalization or exclusion of Igbo people in the country. He noted that Buhari handed over Grade A ministers to Ndigbo as outlined in the constitution. On the insecurity going on in the South East, Umahi revealed that the governors in the South-East would first meet with the youths in the zone on Saturday to itemize their grievances, some of which would be taken to the Federal Government and the Presidency.
The governor made this known on Monday while featuring on Politics Today, a current affairs programme on Channels Television, monitored by our correspondent in Abuja. Umahi was asked if the governors’ forum discussed the agitations for secession and call for a national dialogue and restructuring at a security meeting held recently.
The governor said, “A section of South-East youths is saying that there is marginalization, maltreatment of the people of the South-East and they want a country of theirs. Our position as leaders is to say, ‘who did you discuss that with? And that we are better in a united and fair Nigeria. “So, we do not accept their position in terms of secession. But we can as leaders listen to them and that is what we are going to do on the 19th of this month.”
When asked to state categorically if he felt that the South-East was not marginalized, Umahi said, “It is not a straight-worded thing. There are issues which I explained to the wonderful honourable Minister of Defence.
He added, “My position is that there are certain things that happen in this country that even Mr President, even the ministers will not be aware of. When somebody from the South-East is due for promotion or a particular appointment is not appointed, how will Mr President know about it?”