History

Nigeria’s Mr Versatility impeached as gov; loathed by fellow doctors, ASUU

“I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.” This part of the Hippocratic Oath is probably what influences Chris Ngige to be so versatile as a human being.

As a member of Nigerian society, he has been actively involved in various facets of life, including the health sector, politics, labour and the economy. Who is Chris Ngige, the man who reportedly visited the infamous Okija Shrine to swear an oath of allegiance to his political godfathers and described himself as “jack of all trades and masters of all”?

Chris Ngige biography

Chris Nwabueze Ngige was born on August 8, 1952, in Alor Town, Anambra State, to Chief Pius O. Ngige and Mrs Pricilla N. Ngige. 

After completing his secondary education at St. John Secondary School, Alor, Ngige attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), where he earned a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (BM.BCH) degree in 1979. He earned his diploma in hospital administration in Peshawar, Pakistan, in 1990, and was later admitted as a fellow of the Pakistan Institute of Hospital Service.

Career

Chris Ngige in handshake with Buhari

Ngige is a doctor with a wealth of administrative expertise who has held the following positions in the government service: Medical Officer at the National Assembly Clinic (1980–1982); Doctor to the Senate President (1983); Doctor of State House/Special Guest House of the Federal Government (1985–1990); Consultant in-charge of Federal Government State Clinic, The Presidency, Abuja (1992–1993); Consultant and Assistant Director in-charge of all Federal Medical Centres in Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Health headquarters, Abuja (1994–1997); and Deputy Director of Hospital Services, Federal Medical Centre (1996-1998).

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Ngige retired in 1998 as a Deputy Director in the Federal Ministry of Health.

Following his retirement from the health sector, the trained doctor subsequently ventured into politics. His entry into politics happened at the same time as Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, which brought about the country’s return to democracy after a 16-year interregnum of military rule, was inaugurated.

Ngige joined the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 1998 and was elected the Assistant National Secretary and Zonal Secretary of PDP in the South-East region in 1999.

Election and removal as Anambra State Governor

Ngige elected as Governor of Anambra State

Ngige was elected Governor of Anambra State in May 2003 in questionable circumstances. But soon after his election, the doctor-turned-politician began to be bogged down by various squabbles. In July 2003, the state House of Assembly attempted to remove him from office via a falsified resignation. However, the attempt failed. Following the failed impeachment process, Ngige swiftly distanced himself from his supposed political godfather, Chris Uba.

More political travails came Ngige’s way when the Anambra Governorship Election Petition Tribunal declared his election as governor null and void in August 2015. He immediately filed an appeal with the Court of Appeal, but it was rejected on March 15, 2006, and Peter Obi of the All Progressives Grand Alliance was declared the winner (APGA). Since no further appeals could be made, Ngige accepted the ruling and vacated the office.

In the 2007 election, Ngige threw his hat into the ring, once again, to contest the office of Governor but was unsuccessful due to his disqualification by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Federal Government. He was disqualified despite a ruling by a Federal High Court, which had overturned the decision following an appeal by the politician. However, the 2007 Anambra governorship election never mattered as the removal of Governor Peter Obi from office was reversed by the Supreme Court in a landmark judgment. 

The dethroned governor contested for his former office again in the 2010 Anambra governorship election but lost to the incumbent Obi, who was elected for a second term.

Political fortune, however, smiled on Ngige in 2011 when he was elected as Senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly under the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He defeated a political heavyweight, Professor Dora Akunyili (now late), a former Minister of Information and Communications, who was the candidate of the ruling party in the state, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

The happiness was, however, short-lived as he lost his re-election bid in the 2015 polls, following his loss to his challenger, Uche Ekwunife of the PDP.

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Appointment as Minister

Ngige was appointed Minister of Labour and Employment by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 11, 2015.

The Anambra-born politician was nominated as a returning minister in 2019. He was sworn in by the president and assigned the same portfolio following the confirmation of his nomination by the Senate. 

However, his time as the country’s labour minister has been far from smooth as he has been engulfed in running battles with various professional bodies, particularly the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).

ASUU (university lecturers) alongside NARD and the NMA (medical doctors) have gone on strike countless times during his reign as a minister, to the detriment of Nigerian students and the citizens in general. Other unions in these mentioned sectors have also declared an industrial action, but it is his fellow doctors and the university lecturers who virtually despise him due to his stance on certain labour-related issues.

Controversies

Before taking office as governor in 2003, Ngige reportedly went to the dreaded Okija shrine in Anambra State to take an oath of loyalty to his political godfathers. Although he has constantly denied taking an oath, he never denied being at the shrine. He claimed that he took his Bible to the Okija Shrine and refused to take any oaths.

During his time as minister, Nigeria witnessed an exodus of trained doctors and other professionals from Nigeria to other countries. However, in 2019, Ngige insisted that Nigeria is not suffering from a brain drain of health professionals, saying that the country has “more than enough” doctors to treat the over 200 million. However, a fact-check by the AFP, a globally renowned news agency, revealed that only 45,000 doctors were practising in Nigeria out of the over 88,000 registered doctors in Nigeria, as of May 2018. Following the backlash that was elicited after his comments, Ngige backtracked, saying he was misquoted.

He, however, has continued to repeat the statement, referring to it in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

Achievements

Ngige has received the following official recognitions and appointments: 

Recipient of Nigeria’s National Honours of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON).
Major Donor (MD), Rotary International, 2013
Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary International, 2011
Achievement Award: ‘’For developing Anambra State significantly during his tenure as Governor ’’ by ASA-USA and ASA-Miami, 6th Annual ASA-USA Convention, Saturday. October 20, 2007, Miami Florida, USA.
Honorary Citizen Award and City Key Recipient, Miami Garden Florida, USA, October 10, 2007.
President’s Choice/Special Performance Award: ‘’For EXCELLENCE as Governor of Anambra State’’, Anambra State Association(ASA)USA,2006.Award of recognition: ‘’For showing extraordinary courage while in office as Governor of Anambra State of ’’, World Igbo Congress (WIC), 2006, Boston, USA.
Achievement Award: In recognition of His Pace-setting record in Transforming Anambra State’’, by Anambra  State(Nig) Association Inc, Washington Metropolis, USA, September 23, 2006.
Award of Outstanding Performance in Governance of Anambra, Anambra State Association of Baltimore Metropolitan Chapter Inc. 2006.
Community Service Award: ‘’Exemplary Leadership’’Anambra State Progressive Union Newyork Inc., USA, 2006.
Value Leadership Award, NDI  Anambra in Boston, USA, 2006.
Performance Award: ‘’For Exemplary and Courageous Leadership in Anambra State of Nigeria, 2003-2006’’, Anambra State Association of Southern California, USA, June 3, 2006.
Grateful Appreciation/Recognition Award: “For his Outstanding and Dedicated Service to Anambra State of Nigeria’’, Anambra State Women Association of Southern California, USA, 2006.
Knight of St. John International (KSJI), Catholic Church, 2005-date.
Kwame Nkrumah African Leadership Award for Excellence in Public Service Delivery in Government as Governor of Anambra State, Nigeria, Accra Ghana, 2004.
Excellence in Leadership Award Winner, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Anambra State,2003.
Prestigious/Meritorious Service Award, 1999, Rotary of Trans-Ekulu, Enugu, 1999.

Chris Ngige net worth

Ngige is reportedly worth an estimated net worth of $5 million.

Family

Chris Ngige and wife

Ngige is married to Evelyn Ngige, a consulting paediatrician. The couple has three children together.

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