Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Dr Chris Ngige has berated Anambra businessman, Prince Arthur Eze, for casting aspersions on him over his advice that the 12 traditional rulers suspended by the Anambra State Government, should be relocated from their communities to avert breach of peace.
Ngige described Prince Eze as ‘a fair weather politician’ who befriends “any government in power,” and uses his wealth to intimidate, oppress and brutalise the downtrodden people in Anambra State communities, bordering his Ukpo hometown in his land grabbing spree”.
The two-time Minister spoke while reacting to the scathing attack on him by the controversial Anambra businessman. Eze had on Sunday issued a press release through a freelance journalist, Oliver Okechukwu Okpala, where he attacked Ngige in reply to media reports that the former Anambra State Governor had called on the incumbent Governor, Willie Obiano, to banish him (Eze) and the suspended traditional rulers.
Governor Willie Obiano had sanctioned the 12 traditional rulers for travelling out of the State without clearance in order to accompany Businessman Arthur Eze to Aso Rock on what they tagged, “a thank you visit to Mr. President,” for his infrastructural development in the South East and what he has done for Igbos.
Reacting to the attack on him by the Anambra businessman, which he viewed as unwarranted and indecorous, Ngige said “Arthur Eze is a fair weather politician, a political turncoat and an apostle and Commander-in-Chief of members of “any government in power,” (AGIP) in Nigeria.
In a statement from his media office signed by Emmanuel Nzomiwu, the labour Minister explained that as a former Governor and elder of the State, he had only advised Anambra State Government to relocate the traditional rulers out of their domain for administrative and security reasons.
According to Ngige, when an official of government and in this case, these government certified traditional rulers are suspended from office, they cease to perform the functions of the office and hence, they should not be allowed to be visiting or threatening those carrying out their functions by still visiting the office whether it is in the palace or elsewhere.
He said: “Much more importantly, those suspended traditional rulers have started experiencing violent protests, demonstrations and calls for their outright dethronement in their respective communities of Abacha (Idemili North LG), Alor (Idemili South LG), Aguleri Enugu Otu and Mkpu Nando-Otu Aguleri, both in Anambra East LG as well as in many other places, thereby raising security concerns.” Ngige said.
“These two reasons are very compelling and serious enough for the Anambra State Government to relocate these persons, especially the one from Ngige’s community, Alor, who was never crowned by the community abinitio but was imposed by the Anambra State Government of Peter Obi on the Alor community as a retaliation and punitive action for their loss of the 2011 senatorial election to Ngige who defeated and trounced their candidate, Late Dora Akunyili, sponsored by the then Anambra State Government of Obi.”
The statement noted that “there is no time Ngige as a man of rule of law, asked for banishment of Arthur Eze, an act which would have run against the tenets of the 1999 constitution, as amended.
“But, this does not derogate from the fact that Senator Ngige had said that from the facts- video clips-in the media and in the public domain, Eze had engaged in an act of sabotage, against the government and people of Anambra State.
“Arthur Eze had sabotaged the Anambra State Government by gathering a group of disgruntled persons, some gullible and even non recognized traditional rulers for ‘a thank you visit’ on behalf of the South East when in actual fact, no traditional ruler from Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia and Imo states, was in his motley gathering of Ezes. The Chairman of Anambra State Council of Traditional Rulers was not there, same with the Chairman of the South East council of Traditional Rulers. He also neither involved nor informed South East federal ministers, not to talk of those from Anambra State, even out of courtesy.”
Senator Ngige rightly asserted and stood by his earlier statement that Arthur Eze should be sanctioned and punished for the act of sabotage, of aiding and abetting those traditional rulers to travel out of their kingdom without appropriate clearance from the Anambra State Government, an action for which all of them have pleaded guilty and apologized to the Governor.
The statement equally debunked the claim that Ngige lived in FESTAC before Arthur Eze rented a decent apartment for him in Lagos and helped him change his Volkswagen car.
“In 1980 he was already living in comfort in the 1004 Estate, National Assembly Wing, Victoria Island, having been moved from his temporary accommodation in the Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island where he stayed when he arrived in Lagos as a youth corps medical doctor.
“Rather it was Prince Arthur Eze who had been a family friend since 1967 that relocated from his elder brother’s house in Kirikiri to squat with him (Senator Ngige), he(Arthur) having come back from the USA in 1979 and doing the petty trading, buying and selling trips (Afia attack) to London, in the United Kingdom.”
The statement maintained that the Minister had a hand in growing Arthur’s petty business in the early eighties, from his buying and selling of T-shirts, ladies pants and Bra, to VHS cassette business, even as he provided him and his young trading associates with shelter and food whenever they returned from business trips from London into Lagos. He equally introduced him to many VIPs from where his business metamorphosed from supply of VHS Cassettes to NTA and Anambra TV to construction of TV Stations in the 80’s.
“It will therefore be unnecessary talking about mundane things like cars and abode. For now, the Minister is a very busy person with state duties and he ordinarily, should not waste precious time responding to this innocuous vibes, but to put the facts straight, Arthur Eze is still his friend but he should heed the advice given to him by truthful friends like Ngige and other Eze family members, that he should refrain from partisan politics like other highflying businessmen, such as Aliko Dangote of Dangote Group, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, Femi Otedola and BUA Group Chairman, Alhaji Samad Rabiu who he claims are his contemporaries, and face his business and establish industries that can create jobs for numerous unemployed people, especially the youths in Anambra State, thereby lifting these Nigerians from poverty through job creation, which is the primary agenda of this administration.
“Instead, he had in the last decade used his money for fruitless political ventures, victimisation, oppression and tyrannical behaviour to the downtrodden people of neighbouring communities of Abba (the hometown of award winning creative writer, Chimamanda Adichie), Abagana, Ukwulu, Nawgu, among others, where he has engaged the people in forceful land acquisition, arresting and detaining people of the area at will on trumped up charges and igniting and fuelling Kingship disputes in many areas like he is presently doing in Awka, Alor, and Ukwulu Kingdoms to mention a few.
“Given that his style of politics is that of a political turncoat, especially when everybody remembers vividly his appearance in January 2015, at a TAN rally in Enugu, shouting ‘Jonathan for life President’, it is detestable that at the same rally he called Ngige and APC’s then Presidential Candidate, Muhammadu Buhari names, alleging that they were arrowheads of Boko Haram party,APC. Later when Buhari won the Presidential election and Jonathan lost, Arthur turned around to claim a total love and loyalty to Buhari by September 2015. This is not minding that he led an onslaught of policemen and soldiers to rig election same year against Ngige and other APC members in Anambra State, for Jonathan, the only election he ever ‘won’ his ward. In 2019 again, he was shouting support Buhari so that Igbos will get presidency in 2023 but he clandestinely worked for Atiku/Obi ticket.”
Ngige said whilst he had nothing against the traditional rulers personally as four of them are his friends, just like Prince Arthur Eze, a friendship that started in1967 in their boyhood days during the civil war, but as a former Governor, Senator and Minister from Anambra State, he would not sit by and watch while the seat of Governor of Anambra State was being desecrated, diminished as if a single individual or persons are above the state authority.
‘The seat must be respected by all of us, especially when we were not campaigning for elections.”
He pointed out that “there is an ocean of difference between a wealthy man and the man with the authority of the state.”
He insisted that “whoever is Governor of Anambra State irrespective of party affiliation-APC, PDP, APGA or ADC-is the numero uno and sovereign of the state and sits on a seat which by the collective resolve of the people through the ballot box has been bequeathed to him or her.
He declared that an elected governor must therefore be allowed to govern the state unfettered, unhindered and without distractions,” in order for such a person to give an appropriate account without pleading alibi for his stewardship here on earth and in Heaven when he or she meets with the creator.
On the claim of his being an “accidental minister”, Ngige said he prepared and equipped himself well, educationally as a WASC distinction student, Doctor of Medicine from the famous and reputable University of Nigeria Nsukka Medical School Enugu and did not drop out of technical schools in Germany or USA like some people. Besides, he had acquired many postgraduate diplomas and certificates in medicine and administration.
“I accept that I am an accidental minister twice but it is doubtful whether Arthur Eze is qualified to be an accidental minister, even for once. President Buhari’s council of ministers position is not ‘accidental’ in any form as only men and women of great acumen, high integrity, honour and wealth of experience are usually chosen, otherwise Prince Eze could have bought the position on the two occasions that he had tried to do so, but failed.”
He recalled that he served as National Assembly doctor before becoming the Senate President’s physician, worked in federal the civil service, during which he worked to establish many Federal Government clinics, Federal medical centres and teaching hospitals in Nigeria, before retiring voluntarily as the Deputy Director of Hospital Services and Training, from the Federal Ministry of Health in 1998 and venturing into politics to do further public service so as to touch more lives, having served meritoriously and being conferred with a National Award in 2002 for his civil service accomplishments.
“Since retiring from the civil service, Ngige was already an investor in many private clinics established in partnership with other medical doctors in Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Apapa” apart from being a major investor in one of the biggest carn shop in Victoria Island , Lagos.
“As for the vituperations of the cash and carry media man, Oliver Okpalla on behalf of Arthur Eze, perhaps Oliver Okpalla has to get back to their common friend, Arthur for accurate briefing because of the distorted facts of history he had dished out, saying it was from the businessman. Otherwise, the logical conclusion is that the Eze Ukpo is suffering from irreversible dementia, or has deliberately decided to attack the Minister’s person out of peer jealousy that he has been displaying since Ngige’s debut into politics, or both.”
“We wish to warn Mr. Okpalla that as a former Chief Executive of Anambra State and the only Governor that was courageous enough to fight godfathers frontally in that state, Senator Ngige had in 2003 empanelled the Justice Keazor led “Anambra State Contract Review and Debt Recovery Tribunal” and received the report and its recommendations. The contractors who failed or abandoned contracts after collecting payments for the projects, including the African Development Bank (ADB) projects, the amount collected in naira and dollars are properly documented and known to the Ex- Governor, so also the agreement reached on the repayment plan and those who had reneged on it. But, this is not the time or the place for declassifying of government reports. Those who live in glass houses should never throw stones on those living in concrete houses. A word is enough for the wise.”