The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige has said that he will not abandon the national assignment given to him as a minister to contest the forthcoming Anambra Central senatorial district election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is set to conduct elections into the vacant seat in the Senate following the Appeal Court’s nullification of the election of the former occupier of the seat, Senator Uche Ekwunife, who was elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, but last week defected to the All Progressives Congress.
Ngige, who represented the district in the Senate from 2011 to 2015, lost his re-election bid in the 2015 general elections.
Explaining his decision not to contest the senatorial election, which he said is based on both personal and official reasons, the Minister said the task given to him by President Muhammadu Buhari requires a Spartan like him to get the job done.
Speaking with newsmen at the APC national secretariat Wednesday in Abuja, Ngige said despite the economic down turn in the country, his ministry will do everything possible to fulfil his party manifestoes of job creation.
“I am not running because of official and personal reasons. The official reason being that I have an assignment given to me by Mr President as minister of Labour and Employment. As a matter of fact, the job is 60 percent more of employment generation than Labour. Labour matters constitute only about 40 percent which is about Labour and Industrial relations, workers welfare and the rest of them all.
“Unemployment is a very big scourge, a very serious disease in Nigeria now and we need to fight it frontally. I have gone to that ministry, had briefings from relevant officers and top management officers and I fill that Nigeria is at a cross roads.
“The APC manifesto stipulates what we are going to do. We promised Nigerians that we were going to create jobs, we are going to create employment and unfortunately for us, the economy has taken a serious down turn so we need Spartans like me to keep our flag flying and bring out water from the rock and that is what exactly we are going to do”.
In response to a question if he actually endorsed Senator Ekwenife to return to the Senate, the former Anambra State governor explained that “as at the time Sen. Ekwunife came in, she was the only person who was an APC person that wanted to do the reruns, if she is the only person, I have no objection but today I’m told that two other people have shown interest, the party would do the normal thing and the normal thing the party is to do is to run a primary, the question of baptizing of blessing now does not arise”.
On the chances of APC at the March election, Ngige said “we stand a very good chance, my political structure is there, the party has its own machinery. They’re interwoven and if I don’t want to over-estimate I will say that if you combine my structure with that of the party, I don’t have an Organisation as such but there are certain things that go for me in that senatorial district, the party, before the election starts, has a solid 40-45 percent vote that she can say is her own based on our effect.
“APGA is not a push over in the state, it can boast of say 30 percent. PDP can boast of maybe 10-15 percent. Out of those 10-15 percent, Sen. Ekwunife has some because she has ran a federal constituency two times and won therefore she’s not a push over. If you do an additive of all these I mentioned, the chance of the party is bright and we will work hard in taking that seat because we want to show that the state is not an APGA state or a PDP state”.
While responding to the court case instituted by the APGA candidate, Chief Victor Umeh against the candidate of both APC and PDP, Ngige advised him to canvass for votes from the electorate rather than busying himself with litigation to stop the candidature of another person.
“It’s a fresh election and besides for us in APC we are on very safe ground because section 33 of the electoral act permits us to substitute a candidate who has either died or has withdrawn. The two elections I ran, I came in as a substitute candidate in those two elections. That section has always been there to make allowance for people who for circumstances beyond their control could not continue. The APGA candidate should better go to the field and ask for votes rather than wasting his time in court to stop the candidature of another person”, he said.