My heart goes out to Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State, who is reportedly cabined by an unnamed ailment in a foreign hospital. We have no alternative than to believe that Chime is highly indisposed, as he has left his seat as governor since September 19 last year, to embark on accumulated vacation, from which he has not returned almost four months later.
From the way the average Nigerian wields power, maximum, totalitarian, it’s a big deal to be away for about four months, and it can’t be without cause, a major cause.
Yes, Chime handed over to his deputy, Sunday Onyebuchi, who has been acting governor since September 19. But he did not say for how long he would be gone, and you know Onyebuchi can only act within certain bounds as had been determined by his principal and the kitchen cabinet. In Nigeria, most deputy governors are never members of such conclave.
Chime is not the only governor at large in Nigeria. Two others, Danbaba Suntai of Taraba and Liyel Imoke of Cross River, have also been away since last October and November, respectively. However, the difference is that the other two are admittedly away on medical grounds. Suntai suffered life-threatening injuries after being involved in an air crash in October, while the Cross River State government confirmed that Imoke had been hospitalised abroad.
A statement from Christian Ita, Imoke’s Chief Press Secretary had confirmed: “His Excellency took a short break after a long, hectic and eventful year… He used the opportunity to undergo medicals and in so doing, was advised by his doctors to undergo further medial examinations.” But with Chime, mum has been the word. No official of the Enugu State government has confirmed the health status, or the whereabouts of the governor since September, allowing the rumour mills to go into overdrive. Some say Chime has been in an Indian hospital, suffering from a terminal disease. Others say he’s in a London hospital, where he had surgery for a major ailment. At a point last month, others said he was even dead.
Yet, no definite word from the Enugu State government, except chimes and tintinnabulation: Chime will come today. He will come tomorrow. He will come next week. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time (William Shakespeare in Macbeth).” Yet, no sign of Chime. Enugu is in a state of suspended animation. Where is the governor? Didn’t we vote him into office? Don’t we have a right to know what is happening to him? Is he not accountable to us again? But not even a whisper from government, just as the wheel of governance trundles sluggishly.
A group, going by the name, Civil Society Initiative, has launched what it calls ‘Operation Locate Governor Chime,’ and Jude Agu, one of the promoters, says: “We want to search through all the nooks and crannies to fish him out.” How funny! You often have mirth accompanying untoward happenings. A whole governor is now lost, and has to be ‘fished’ out from wherever he is. Chime’s loyalists continue the chimes, however.
He will be home for Christmas. He will be home for New Year. He will be home within days in January. Yet, no Chime, and January is running fast. When rumours circulated in December that the governor was dead, his younger brother, Jideofor Chime, said, “in a matter of days, those merchants of fibs would eat their words.”
Well, it is running into a month later, and no Chime in sight. But those behind the chimes make one mistake. They think because you are a governor, you are super-human, and have no reason to be ill. So if you fall sick, it has to be kept away from the public as much as possible. Grave fallacy. Governors, just like all human beings, can fall ill, they can recover, and they can die.
Presidents too can fall ill, recover, and can die. We have seen it before in Nigeria, as President Umaru Yar’Adua died in office. In Venezuela now, President Hugo Chavez is battling for life in a Cuban hospital, suffering from cancer, even as he was due to be inaugurated for another term in office. Top public office holders are as human and mortal as the next man. In fact, all mortals are doomed to death, and governors or presidents are by no means immune. Nobody bears a charmed life. We all have our entrances and exits on this stage called life, where as a poor player, we often strut and fret, thinking we would live forever. It is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing (Shakespeare).”
Chime’s handlers should have levelled with Enugu people on the state of the governor’s health. Happily, he was doing quite well, particularly in the area of public infrastructure. Enugu was really working under Chime, till the man dropped out of sight. So, if the government had levelled with the people, they would have risen as one man, and prayed passionately for their governor. And who knows, the heavens may just hearken to the supplications, and grant Chime sweet release in the area of his health. But this cultic silence? It does nobody any good. Not Chime, not members of his kitchen cabinet, not the acting governor who can’t take key decisions, not Enugu people as a whole.
When Umaru Yar’Adua was ill unto death, former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, said something instructive (never mind that you can’t trust the man farther than you can throw him). He said if you were given a job to do, and suddenly, along the way, you found that you could no longer deliver due to health challenges, then the fair thing was to throw in the towel. That is the same counsel I’ll give Chime, or his handlers, if the governor is no longer in a position to take independent decision. Heck, Chime was not born a governor. If he dies, Enugu State would continue. If he recovers, his tenure will lapse one day.
So, why bog down the wheels of progress of the state? You have my sympathy Chime, in fact, I empathize with you, as I don’t like to see people fall from elevated positions. But if your health prevents you from continuing as governor, quit. Quit, man, quit. It will be the honourable thing to do.
National Secretary of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, Willy Ezeugwu, has called on the State House of Assembly to act in accordance with the Nigerian Constitution, and remove Chime, or “I will personally lead 10,000 Enugu citizens to the streets for them to let us know where our governor is.” Mr Osita Okechukwu of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), has also urged the State’s Chief Judge to ensure that the acting governor replaces Chime without further delay. But must things get to this pass before the Chime camp admits defeat, if, indeed, the governor is sick unto death?
If Chime is well enough to run Enugu State, let him return home and get at it right now. But if not? Well, he swore to uphold the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and section 189 (1) of that document prescribes what should be done to a governor that becomes incapacitated, and can no longer continue in office. The constitution is greater than all of us, and no respecter of personality.
The survival and growth of our democracy must be paramount at all times, no matter the narrow interest of any person or group of persons. Enugu is today facing an absurdity, an embarrassment, which need not continue for one day longer. The clock is ticking, and it is either chiming Chime back into office, or forever out of it. The state cannot afford this lingering impasse anymore. Definitely.