Nigeria’s minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige recently granted an interview to Daily Sun in which he extolled his late minister of state, James Ocholi (SAN) and dismissed complaints from Nigerians over hardship during the Buhari administration, his decision to pull out of the Senate race in Anambra, and Buhari’s plan to not pay the campaign promise of N5,000 to “lazy Nigerians”, among other issues.
See excerpts of the interview below:
On Ocholi’s death
I want to describe the incident that happened to Ocholi and members of his family as a bad dream which will fade away. But I woke up the next day to realise that it has become a reality. When I heard the news of his death, I thought it was a rumour especially as I was rumoured to have collapsed and died in the National Assembly during budget defence about some weeks ago.
Initially, I regarded the news about his death as the same rumour from the same people. It came when I had finished a television interview where I extolled his analytical mind, greatness, intellectual bent, erudition and scholarship. It was when I got security report that I started networking with people who confirmed it to me. I cannot believe that death has taken away James Ocholi, his son and wife. I was shocked to the marrow and even as a medical doctor, I saw patients die but none was as shocking as Ocholi’s death. I had no inclination about his death. It was like a thunderbolt that only time can heal the shock.
Ocholi’s person and what he will miss about him
James was a man of many parts, he was very ebullient, agile and a workaholic. He was one man that never grumbles for any assigned role and I noticed it while we were in the same committee in the party. It was the same while we worked in the Labour Ministry. He stays in the office late like me and as somebody who likes work, I developed special interest in him. He had a very good analytical mind. He had the capacity to evaluate issues, compartmentalise them and come up with the necessary deductions.
He was intelligent with very scientific mind even as a legal person. He was a very good family man who attended virtually all functions with his wife and little wonder he died with his wife and son in the same car.
I can only pray that Almighty will accept their souls.
The controversy over FG’s payment of N5000 to jobless Nigerians
We will not give N5000 for people to go and sit down at home and be sleeping; we won’t give the money to loafers and indolent persons. We are going to give to categories of people that fall under the three programmes we have packaged. The first programme is Teach Nigeria. It is a programme we take graduates, NCE holders, education and professional graduate majors, comprising geologists, biologists, lawyers, engineers, scientists, pure and applied scientists as adhoc teachers. In this category, Nigerians will be converted to emergency and auxiliary teachers. They will undergo training, depending on where they are domiciled. If it is near the training centre, we can give them N5000 each as transport fare.
On reconsidering his decision for senate rerun election
Well, I can tell you that a lot of water has passed under the bridge since the last election. The same scenario does not exit again when I contested that election. As situations emerge, we and our party will try to find a solution.
Personally, I was not even interested in contesting the senatorial election of March 2015. I contested because I wanted a base for my party, the APC, in the South-East, I wanted to work for our presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, and make sure he gets at least 25 per cent in the South-East.
APC has won that presidential election and I have achieved that major goal. The people of Anambra State watched as PDP seized the ballot result and wrote whatever they wanted. As at today, the new scenario is that I am on another national assignment which is also very critical to the change agenda of Mr President and our party, the APC. Looking at that scenario vis-à-vis the new rerun election, I know that we have capable hands in that senatorial district and so we are still searching for the right person to fly the party’s flag.
We are still discussing within the party and I can tell you that many scenarios have been throwing up like the recent court judgment by the PDP which ordered INEC to regard the rerun election as a fresh election in which parties can present new candidates.
On Nigerians angry with APC government over hardship in the country
I don’t know what you mean by hardship and those you call Nigerians. Are they the federal civil servants getting their monthly salaries as and when due? We don’t owe them, not even allowances and there is no reason they should be unhappy with the APC government.
Are the okada riders among those complaining when they are making brisk businesses or the graduates we will soon address their problem of unemployment after the passage of the budget? Unemployment is the harbinger of Boko Haramism, harbinger of IPOBism, OPCism and militancy in the Niger Delta.
It is a scourge and serious disease condition that we must fight and that is why we are in this ministry and government. We have job creation programmes under the supervision of the Vice President and other inter-ministerial ones that will be rolled out very soon.
By the time we roll out, more funds will be put into the economy. Let us warn that the funds are not for stealing. The only difference between APC and PDP is the stealing of the lots of floating funds. Many of the elite were grabbing these floating funds and they are the ones protesting that they are not happy with the present government.
Those complaining especially the elite are members or loyalists of the PDP. We are not bothered because we are going to continue with our common-people’s programme and I want to assure that the tide will soon change. So, we are waiting for the budget. Don’t forget that we are not the ones that appropriate funds but the National Assembly. We have given them budget, done some alterations and amendments as needs be in areas where some people try to mutilate and we are waiting for now. Once they approve the budget as proposed, we roll out our programmes.
Read the full interview at Daily Sun