Some 11 days after Governors Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, Gabriel Suswan of Benue and Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers visited ailing Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State in London and swore he was in fine fettle, even pressing to return home, Akpabio has reportedly told the media on his arrival from London on Friday that this time the Enugu State governor would return in two weeks. The first time the three governors spoke to the press on the controversial subject, they only indicated that the governor was on his feet and had made a sensational recovery. Now, according to Akpabio, a timetable for Chime’s return has been set. Two weeks is a short time; it will soon pass. And in any case what is two weeks compared with the more than four months Chime has spent in hospital, away from the splendour of State House?
When the Enugu State governor’s long absence first assumed controversial dimension, with some political interests in the state asking for the application of either the Doctrine of Necessity or some other constitutional imperatives to declare Chime incapacitated as a prelude to his replacement, his troubled aides swung into action to denounce what they described as uncharitable and amoral moves to unhorse the governor. The governor’s poor health was being malevolently politicised, they wailed. And just as the aides of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua employed subterfuge to throw curious citizens off the scent, Chime’s loyalists have also seized upon all the subterranean tactics they can find to both distract the governor’s opponents and denounce them for being so unfeeling. It was clear that to the aides, their principal’s health condition had become an emotional, not constitutional, thing.
After observing the reactions of the three governors who purportedly visited Chime in London – whether in hospital or out of hospital, we do not know – and their curt replies to media inquiries, Hardball had on January 24 observed as follows: “It is clear that neither Chime nor any of his three august visitors understood the issues involved, and indeed it is no surprise that most Nigerian governors are simply incapable of adapting to the governmental needs of the modern era. If Chime and his fanatical supporters had come clean on his health, regularly updated the public with news of the governor’s health condition, and not take the same electorate for granted, would there be speculations, let alone a wish for some hypothetical evil to befall him? The problem with Chime’s long absence is not whether the constitution had been breached or not; the problem is lack of good faith, disrespect for Enugu people, childish contrivances, and now additional verbal indiscretions from the visiting governors.”
Now, quite unfortunately, Akpabio has seemed to magnify the lack of wisdom displayed by Enugu State officials in the management of their governor’s health crisis. It must be reiterated that Enugu officials and Chime’s aides ought to have opened up on the governor’s health trips, give periodic updates, and if possible a timeline. A governor from another state is least qualified to fill that information gap. Indeed, it is incongruous and even insulting. Above all, it must scandalise us how governors, presidents and high state officials here treat their health crises with demeaning furtiveness. They all give the impression health problems are a metaphysical thing that must be hidden from prying eyes. Is this how barbarously low the country has sunk, or how backward it has become? After many months of lying unconscionably to the public, could Enugu officials finally and kindly issue an official press release on the governor’s health trip and date of return? And let us hope this time that the ‘fit as a fiddle’ governor will honour the timeline.