For Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Chris Ngige, President Muhammadu Buhari, is right and should not be blamed for his unsavoury attitude towards the South East, including denying them critical appointments in the government,
The former governor of Anambra State, argued that the President, was only acting natural as every politician would in dispensing patronage in return for support.
A counter argument against this position at any time it was canvassed stress that Buhari being a beneficiary of block votes, which his people had given him over the years he contested the presidency without similarly being discriminated against.
Brushing the counter position aside, Ngige, one of the founders of the All Progressives Congress (APC), told THISDAY that since Ndigbo refused to “invest” in Buhari’s 2015 presidential election, they should be content with the treatment being meted out to them.
Speaking of how his efforts to persuade the Igbo to wisely invest in Buhari’s presidential bid in 2015 failed, because of lack of co-operation by many South-east leaders, who threw their weight behind former President Goodluck Jonathan, Ngige accused some Igbo leaders of playing a cat-and-mouse game with Buhari during the electioneering period.
He recounted how he went to Lagos and convened an Igbo stakeholders forum in William Nwodo’s house in Ikoyi, Lagos in 2014, where he analysed the voting pattern in Nigeria and told them that even if they did not want to support Buhari, they should give him 25 per cent of their votes.
The minister added: “They refused to listen to me, and to make matter worse, there was no voting in most of the areas in the South-east; they just allocated 5 per cent to APC.
“It was that bad, it is too late to cry when the head is off. Politics is business in a way, you invest in business and you reap profit.
“Yes, that is what it is. But all I want to tell you is that we played bad politics; we made a bad investment because they invested in the Jonathan presidency. They invested in Jonathan more than the South-south, where he hails from.
“I am not saying that is enough to marginalise them or not allow them come in but we are there. I will continue to speak for them and when there is anything to be distributed, we will make sure that the South-east gets its own portion. But they will not get excess portion.”
Drawing an analogy from a wise, successful farmer, Ngige, a former governor of Anambra State, said: “Even in a family where the head of the family goes to the farm to harvest his yams those who accompany the farmer to the farm get more share.
“When they bring back the yams some of them will be damaged, and the pieces are put out in one section. Then the whole yams are put into the barn and some will be sent to the market for sale. And some will be sent to the family centrally for distribution among the family units.
“Those ones that are in pieces, the extras, will be shared among those that went to the farm.
“We did not benefit from the extras with people who went to the farm. We didn’t go to the farm in the south-east.”
He noted, however that leaders in the zone are reassessing their political strategy so that in 2019, the zone does not repeat the same mistake.
Asked what the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will be campaigning on as the country gradually slips into another election year, Ngige stated: “Oh my God, so you are in the group of those who are pessimistic, who have refused to see the wonders of this government?
“Well, I’m from the South-east, so when we get there we will show them that first and foremost we have fought corruption to a standstill and that people can no longer steal at will, much less keeping such monies at home.
“The movement was from the bank to the house, but now that homes have been raided, maybe they will go to the farm to keep them. But people cannot steal money because there is no hiding place anymore. They cannot steal primitively like it was done before. The poor people of Nigerian are happy about this,” he said.
The APC chieftain said he has no regret for his role in helping to bring Buhari to power, saying if the opportunity presents itself again he will do exactly the same thing.
According to him: “If anything, I feel happy every day when I wake up, and as I pray to my God, I asked him to enable me to take important decisions with him guarding me.
“If not for this government, the government of Muhammadu Buhari, government of change, Nigeria would have been worse than Venezuela.
“The crisis you have in Venezuela today, the demonstrations in Venezuela, are as a result of the collapse of the whole economic firmament of that country. Venezuela, like Nigeria, did not plan for the rainy day.”
Ngige scored the Buhari-led government high in the fight against corruption and terror.