QNo sooner had the stampede at the Holy Ghost Adoration Centre, Uke broken than it assumed political controversy. How do you react to the tragedy?
A.Let me first and foremost extend my deepest condolences to the immediate families of the deceased, the pastoral Director of Adoration Ground, the Archbishop of Onitsha Archdiocese, the Governor of Anambra State and the entire people of the State.
Having said this, I think the correct thing to say is that due to evil machination of some people, an otherwise fulfilling spiritual pilgrimage was turned into political arena by Dr. Chris Ngige and his party for choosing to plant his supporters at 3 points in the Adoration Ground. I have been there before and know the situation there. Even the day Ngige came, nobody, not even his so-called supporters shouted onwa onwa onwa. The way they did it when Obi was there is more than enough evidence that they were purposely planted to boo the Governor and createfalse sense of popularity for Ngige, which I understand he enjoys so much. All I am saying is that Ngige politicized the place.
Q.The Ngige Campaign organization and the APC have blamed the tragedy on Governor Peter Obi and the APGA that visited the centre, saying their conduct at the centre triggered off the stampede. How correct could this be?
A.I listened to the Archbishop of Onitsha Most Rev.Dr. Valeria Okeke. TheArchbishop was bitter over linking the incidence directly or remotely to Governor Obi. He was detached; for he even went on to tell us that Obi left the ground 3 hours before the stampede. Those who know Governor Obi would tell you that he is a true Christian. A Governor that once alone inside his vehicle will be saying the Rosary – a governor that the toils of office have not stopped from attending daily masses. I am a Catholic. I belong to some prayer groups. I can tell you off hand how many crusades I have been privileged to see Governor Obi participate – Fr. Mbaka, Fr. Edeh, Okunerere ? crusades by visiting pastoral pastors ? I have said this to let you know that attending crusades for him are not for political expedience.?
You can contest this with Dr. Chris Ngige. I am not trying to judge his spiritual life laced with fairy stories, including visit to Okija shrine naked, but what I can tell you is that as a typical politician, he frequents prayer arena during politicking as part of electioneering. So it is safe to assume with some certainty that Obi?s going to Adoration ground was purely a matter of routine. It is therefore wrong for All Progressives Congress (APC) to question his visit to the place as it will be justified to also question Ngige?s visit.
For those questioning the visit, Obi, though invited by the priest in charge of the Adoration, does not need invitation to attend any function in Anambra State. Trying to link the stampede to Obi?s conduct whilst at the ground is to exhibit ignorance about the man?s life and everybody in Anambra knows his descent conduct in places of worship. Let me give you an instance if Obi comes late to a church, he stays at the back. Contrast this with Ngige who, before going to a church or any occasion for that matter, will first of all plant his thugs and then purposely go late to have them shout onwa, onwa, which I understand be enjoys as the bee enjoys honey.
So, Obi?s conduct did not trigger anything, not the regrettable stampede thathappened 3 hours after he left. As confirmed by those present at the crusade, he spoke for five minutes, and only called on those present to pray for Anambra and for Nigeria. He also requested names of 20 indigent ones to sponsor on pilgrimage and pledged to construct the access road to the place and check the erosion there.
Q.Could the story have been different if the Governor did not address the gathering?
A.His address to the gathering did not have anything whatsoever to do with the stampede. But let me ask you, have you witnessed a sitting Governor attend any function in his State and he is refused to speak? So gentlemen, those questioning his address to the faithful are being mischievous, ignorant or both.
The APC people raising this issue are behaving typically like their leader, Ngigewhose problem is partly refusing to accept reality.
Q.What in your opinion caused the stampede?
A.We have heard eye witness account that talked about Ngige planting some thugs to stop Governor Obi from speaking. It is possible their mission went beyond that to include, as it were, to physically molest the Governor. Let us face it, if a crowd of over 100,000 thousand was said to have visited the Adoration ground became multitudinous, Obi?s security would not contain them. It is possible that the same place where thugs were planted will naturally lose its security. It could be that somebodyraised fire alarm that led to stampede. All these are however conjectural let us wait for the panel of inquiry?s report to come out.
Q.The National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh has called for the arrest and interrogation of Ngige over the matter. Do you think he is justified?
A.Yes, he is, if you visit the social media you would notice that as the stampede was going on, Ngige?s supporters started writing about it on the net as if they had prior notice. You know Ngige is very crafty and vindictive. You know shortly before this happened, his aide slapped a Catholic priest and that took over the social media, but the moment the stampede took place his die-hard supporters on the net said that such misfortune was needed to shift the story from Ngige slapping somebody to something else. Again, the rapidity with which Ngige and his supporters commented on the face book pages suggested they had prior information.
Then, the issue of planting his thugs showed that beyond that plan of his, he might have nursed other plans. He should therefore be arrested.
That he has not been arrested is part of what I consider as failure of security in Nigeria. The other day, in his usual obsession with Mr. Obi, and that APGA he said that police and NYSC uniforms were being sowedat the Governor?s Lodge preparatory to the election, up till now nobody was arrested by security agencies that investigated the places where thethings were alleged to be done.
Q. Ngige is still moving about freely. Don’t you think that shows the security agencies do not consider him culpable?
A.That is failure of security. In countries that take security seriously, one thing useful is allowing one?s lifestyle. Let me give you an example, somebody stole somebody?s credit card and American Express needed to block the card. They noticed that the man?s expenditure pattern was different from that of the original owner. In Nigeria today, Ngige is predictable. He is one man that if he plans to instigate robbery attack, in two weeks time, will start by raising alarm that armed robbers are planning to attack him. Recently, he raised alarm of his billboards being defaced, but two weeks after that we saw all billboards of Dr. Willie Obiano defaced. The recent raising of alarm against sowing of police and NYSC uniforms suggest what Ngige plans to do so.
Q. Don’t you think your party and APC are trivializing a serious tragedy like this by playing politics with it?
A.APC trivializes everything. They play politics with everything. If President Goodluck Jonathan decides today to travel to the North, APC will say why not South? If he decides to travel to the East, they will say, through their loud mouth, Lai Mohammed, why not west. Is this opposition? No, it is antagonism. APC is a terrible party, peopled by terrible men. Let me give you an example, when Ezu tragedy in Anambra occurred, Obi decided to sink a borehole for them, which is functioning. Ngige started his own, which is abandoned after he said he spent 50 million on it. When the Uke tragedy occurred, Governor Obi visited the ground and the hospitals where victims are, Obi requested names of those in hospital and declared the Government will pay their bills unannounced. Prior to Ngige doing the same thing he announced from the rooftops that he will pay their bills. In the long run Obi will pay, and having announced his own, he will now claim to be the one that did it. This is Ngige and APC for you.
This is what he does. He claims Obi?s projects. Those that are glaring to him that he will not claim, he will tell the tale of how he conceived it and was about starting it before he was removed.
Q.It appears to me that the politics that followed the Uke tragedy is a demonstration of desperation by APGA and APC, who want to gain advantage from the church. Isn’t it?
A.What else do I say? Ngige is becoming an irritant. I am sure and confident that come?November 16, the people of Anambra will reject him. Finally, why should they not, when as a Senator from Anambra State for almost 3 years he did not propose a single bill. He is deaf and dumb at the Senate. The original gara gara he made for Senator David Mark,thinking it was Anambra, resulted in his not heading a single Committee at the Senate. Even as his becoming the Ag. Chairman of Committee on Health is just because the Committee chairman died.
Ngige should know that politics is beyond childish gara gara he is known for.