The prolonged absence of governor Sullivan Chime from Enugu is generating anxiety among the people as his aides are not forthcoming on his true state of health.
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Nov. 19, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT
ALL seems not to be well with Sullivan Chime, governor of Enugu State. For the past two months, the governor has been on medical vacation abroad and there are no signs that he would be returning soon. There are also allegations that he didn’t properly hand over to his deputy, though officials in the state said he did. The governor’s last appearance at a public function was at the meeting of South East Governors’ Forum on September 18, 2012, in Enugu. Some residents of the state are beginning to worry over the whereabouts of their governor and the state of governmental affairs in his absence.
Reports from government circle have indicated that the governor left the country about two weeks before the 2012 independence anniversary. Sources said the governor travelled out for urgent medical care. “He was not in very good condition before he left the country for London. We noticed it. Although they didn’t want to make it open, maybe you journalist will miss-interpret the story. For some time now, we noticed that the governor had not been his usual bubbling self. You may not easily know this because he carries himself well and hardly talks, but some of us knew that the man was down. From what we heard, he is no longer in London; he was flown to India last week because his health condition wasn’t getting better. As I speak to you right now, he is in a hospital in India,” said one of the sources.
RealNews gathered that Sunday Onyebuchi, the deputy governor, has been acting in the absence of the governor. He was always referred to as the acting governor on many public occasions he attended of late. But the acting governor is not pleased with Chime’s directives that he should not approve more than N500, 000 for any project, no matter the circumstance. He is questioning his power as the acting governor since his approval limit is only N500, 000.
To heighten the suspicion over the governor’s health, flood victims at Udi Local Government Area where Chime hails from said they did all they could to make the governor visit Udi communities that were ravaged by flood in early September, but to no avail. Instead, they were told that he wasn’t too strong to do so. Some indigenes of Udi said Chime refused to detail any of his aides to visit Udi on his behalf because he comes from there and if he did, that the press would easily have suspected that something was amiss. “Heavy rains destroyed our houses and livestock worth millions of naira at Umuifi village in Obioma, Udi Local Government Area, yet the governor could not visit us, obviously due to his health. Our people in government told us that on the day he was supposed to make it, he relapsed and the trip was cancelled,” one of the flood victims said.
Many residents of the state have expressed worries that the governor was over-staying his welcome abroad. But his aides insist that there is no cause for alarm. Meanwhile, other residents who expressed worry over Chime’s absence felt it was unusual and strange for the governor to stay more than one month outside the state. Some civil servants who spoke on condition of anonymity said his prolonged absence had given room for rumour mongering and speculation which they said was not necessary in the state at present.
When RealNews contacted Chukwudi Achife, the chief press secretary to the governor, he said the governor was on vacation and also very healthy. He explained that the governor had handed over to his deputy before travelling and equally informed Eugene Odo, the Speaker of the Enugu State House of Assembly of his vacation. “The governor is on vacation. He is not sick; he did all that was expected of him before travelling by handing over to his deputy and informing the state House of Assembly. The people who started this rumour need our prayers because anyone who wishes a healthy man to be sick needs healing,” he said.
However, some members of the state House of Assembly who pleaded anonymity said a letter was sent by Chime to the Speaker, but the speaker did not inform all the lawmakers of the letter. We also gathered that the absence of Chime has stalled the planned trip by the state house of assembly members to America for a 10 day legislative course. The trip was put on hold following the inability of Chime to return to work. His absence has also affected the weekly meeting of the state executive council, which had never meet since his travel.
Chuks Ugwoke, Commissioner for Information, also said the governor is in good health and that there is no cause for alarm over his absence. He stressed that it’s mischievous for people to say that the governor is sick. He explained that the governor took his accumulated vacation because he had not taken his annual leave since he became governor in 2007. And that he duly handed over to his deputy who was fully in charge of the state before travelling out. “Activities have been on. There is no activity of government that has slowed down because there is an acting governor who is fully in-charge. Work is in progress at the new secretariat and on some on-going road projects. So also with rural development. Where some communities are being connected to the national grid,” he said, adding that the governor would return as soon as his vacation is over.