Till date,no other definition of history has made as great an impact on me
as what ourhistory teacher, Mr. Nwosu taught us in January of 1971.
“History”, Nwosustarts in a husky voice, “is the record of past events”. I
still have a mentalpicture of him peering over the rim of his pair of
glasses as he declared that,“through history, we learn about how our
ancestors lived” before ending on theprescriptive note that, “if they were
good, we emulate them but if they werebad we correct or try to improve on
what they did”.
I do notrecall what made the greater impression on us at the time: whether
it was theprofundity of the definition or his commanding posture. All the
same, with thepassage of time, it dawned on me that the message was
stronger than the messengerand that those who failed to learn the lessons
of history were inexorablycondemned to, not just repeating it, but
learning the hard lessons of obduracy.
There areso many ways in which Nigerians, with their ears wide open, have
remained deafto the lessons of history. That shouldn’t surprise anyone.
For a country thathas thrown every virtue to the wind, a country that
knows no shame, it is onlyto be expected that it took the President of
France, the youthful EmmanuelMarcon, to remind us what a legend Fela
Anikulapo Kuti was; why we should notconsign the philosopher musician and
social critic to the scrap heaps ofhistory. Fela’s bold depiction of our
wrong-headed approach to national issuesremains relevant today as it was
over three decades ago. If the music of Feladoes not strike a note with us
today, it should be understood within thecontext of a people that have
lost their moral compass, a nation that isperilously adrift; a people
heading precipitously towards self destruction.Nigerians, nearly all of
us, appear to be deaf, even mad because, as the sagessay, those the gods
want to destroy, they first make mad.
What isplaying out in Nigeria today is akin to the situation in Anambra
State thatinglorious day, in 2003, when Dr. Chris Ngige, as governor of
the state at thetime, was kidnapped from Government House Akwa by agents
of the state in whosecustody his safety was entrusted. Thus, when recently
I came across the publicationunder the title: “July 10, 2003, DaySen.
Ngige Liberated Anambra State”, by some of Ngige’s associates, itdawned on
that, in spite of the shenanigans dogging our national life, there isstill
hope that we are not all held captive by some form of collective
amnesia,that unlike those who, having forgotten their history must relearn
it, albeitpainfully, we may still escape the damnation that looms so
ominously within thehorizon.
Whatfollowed that bizarre and tense moment was unprecedented in the
chequeredhistory of brinksmanship in Nigeria. But the people rallied round
Ngige, to theshame of his traducers. The rest is now history, but it is a
history thatshould never be forgotten because doing so would lead to
It is inthe context of the ramifications of that incident and the lessons
of historythat the promoters of that publication under reference deserve
to be commended.For obvious reasons, the greater credit should go to Ngige
whose courage in theface of danger, whose persistence and resistance
followed the same line ofthose patriots who were ready to lay down their
lives that democracy could gaina foothold in Nigeria. What Ngige
demonstrated was that a time comes when, atthe risk of personal danger,
even life, the oppressed must confront theiroppressor, the victim must go
for broke and stake a last ditched effort to achievefreedom; the corollary
being that confronted with a groundswell of publicangst, the pretenders in
our midst will scamper for safe haven; that the fightfor freedom and
liberation is not a tea party.
What Ngigelost momentarily by way of personal sacrifice and outright
humiliation, AnambraState gained in multiple dimensions. The checklist is
unassailable. Once hefound himself in the eye of the storm, abandoned by
members of his party, themedical doctor-turned politician realised that
his survival did not lie withthe elite but with the people. Thus,
unshackled from the arrangement thatenslaved Anambra State, Ngige embarked
on a wide range of projects undergirdedby a governance environment that
placed the people above self, infrastructure aboveceremonies, due process
above arbitrariness and sustainable development aboveshort term gains.
The authorsof the publication in question had put the matter in
perspective and I wish toquote them: “Inspired by the massive support, the
liberation began. Arrears ofsalaries, pension and gratuity…outstanding
from the previous regime werecleared. He went on to institute the
Executive Order which placed payment ofsalaries and pension on First Line
Charge and backed it up with relevant lawsof the Anambra State House of
Assembly. Enabled by this order, salaries aretill date paid as and when
That is notall. Continuing, they wrote: “The revolution saw the
construction of over onehundred and five roads by reputable contractors.
It also saw the beautificationof Awka GRA with well-constructed and
asphalted roads and the dualization ofNnamdi Azikiwe Avenue, Awka…” I am
yet to see any evidence challenging theseclaims.
Beyond thewell deserved encomiums heaped on him, Ngige’s associates have
unwittinglychallenged us, as a nation, but more specifically, the south
east, tointerrogate the not-too-distant past, to confront the shenanigans
of thepresent and, by so doing, establish a Modus Vivendi with the future.
If Ngigecould achieve so much in the face of adversity and with less
resources thanhave been frittered away in some states, if he could defy
federally-backedanti-people elements to unshackle Anambra from bondage,
why are some statesstill held captive at a time that we should have
achieved a qualitative leap inthe ability to override impunity? What this
points to is the urgent need toincorporate case studies, a form of peer
review, into the orientation of publicoffice holders; to study how their
ancestors, read predecessors, performed: ifthey were good, they emulate
them, but if they were bad, they improve on whatthey did or correct them!
Anyone witha passing knowledge of the Anambra odyssey will agree that in
Ngige, Godprovided a Moses to lead the state, to the Promised Land. Ngige,
like hisimmediate successor, Peter Obi, was not prepared to spend one
naira of Anambramoney without a clear picture of the deliverables and the
strategy forachieving them. Once convinced, he threw his weight behind it.
Yes, his weight!If you are looking at his physical size, you are likely to
be widely off themark because as experience has shown, any leader’s weight
is not measured byphysical size, eloquence, demagoguery or ability to defy
court orders. Ofgreater importance will include: personal integrity, a
clearvision/developmental road map, the ability to rally all patriotic
stakeholdergroups to buy into a developmental paradigm and the willingness
to stand by thevision even at the pain of death. It is a tribute to Ngige
that, as governor ofAnambra State, he stood for all these and more.
It is noteworthythat Ngige has brought the same qualities to his present
national assignment asminister of labour and employment. Living up to his
reputation as patriot,advocate of the workers and principled party man,
Ngige, by his utterances andactions, stands out as one of the shinning
lights of the Buhari cabinet. It isa measure of the dexterous management
of labour issues by his ministry that wehave not recorded a national
strike in spite of pent up anger caused byprotracted labour disagreements
and the economic hardship being experienced byworkers. It is my considered
opinion that, as we approach the 2019 presidentialelection, Ngige’s legacy
in Anambra, his forthrightness and the politicalcapital he has acquired in
the past three years will constitute strongelectoral assets for the Buhari
candidacy. Only comedians and entertainers willmiss this point!