Vanguard (Lagos)

30 December 2012

Nigeria: Governor Not-On-Seat

Where is Governor Sullivan Iheanacho Chime? Is he dead? Is he alive? There is clear indication that in Enugu state, a cabal of state officials has taken government hostage by their complicity to stage what might be the most scandalous and most elaborate cover-ups in Nigeria's public administration.

There have been indication that Governor Sullivan Chime is not in good health; the grapevine, usually more reliable in these matter than the more established media is rife with the rumour that Mr. Chime is in harrowing and terminal ill-health. The word thrown-about is "terminally ill" and it has gained momentum in the last month when the governor's absence became quite stark.

The administration in Enugu has repeatedly doused the chatter with its own talk that the governor is in fine and dandy health; he is merely vacationing; taking an extended vacation from a backlog of unspent leave. The only problem with this is that Mr. Chime, a Lawyer before he became a governor, knows well the constitutional limits or requirements incumbent on a governor who is deemed no longer capable of carrying out his sworn responsibility to the people as a result either of physical or mental debility.

A governor who runs mad in office is a danger to that office; as much indeed as a governor who develops full-blown AIDS in office, or who in the course of driving to the office one day gets into a freak accident that renders him permanently, physically incapable of carrying on with the tasks of the rather demanding office of governor.

The evidence of Chime's real health situation is hard to come by; there is no medical records - particularly since state officials travel now to India or Germany or some such places to receive treatment - more so because the sheer weight of executive power makes their actions unaccountable and their Medical history indisclosable.

As a result, far too little is available to the media which have either been gated from the facts, or have remained in a convenient fog of impotent but complicit distrust, and who have chosen to swallow fully and with a satisfied belch, the hook, the line, and the sinker thrown by our friend, Mr. Chuks Ugwuoke, Enugu's commissioner for information, that there is no "vacuum" in Enugu.

No one knows the true state of Chime's health because it has become "a security risk" to know such detail. The governor is a god, his powers are sublime and limitless, and as a result the people on whose mandate he purportedly remains in office must be kept in the dark of convenient ignorance. But what is very clear is that Sullivan Chime has been serially absent from his duties.

This is troubling. He has been away from his job since September, over ninety days; well past the statutory period allowed for the governor of a state to be constitutionally away from office. The constitution is not silent on this. In fact, the constitution makes a provision for dealing with a governor whose duties are impaired by a continuous and sustained absence from office as a result of ill-health.

But the executive council in Enugu has not deemed it necessary to make full disclosure to the people of Enugu State. The absence of the governor from the public in the last ninety days has also not compelled the Enugu State House of Assembly, to raise the question on behalf of the people and to take appropriate action as the demands of the constitution warrants.

This is irresponsible. The Enugu state executive Council has, by law under the current supervision of the acting governor of the state, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, the responsibility to call for votes to replace the governor of the state in the face of his continued absence from his public duties outside of the specified number of days allowable for such an absence.

At this stage, it is imperative for all who are committed to good governance to say without ambiguity that Governor Sullivan Chime seems permanently impaired and therefore incapable of continuing in the office of the governor of Enugu state and that the Deputy Governor of the state has the constitutional right and obligation to assume full duties as governor forthwith. Even if the governor appears publicly on Monday morning hale and hearty, he has demonstrated with his long absence from office, a lack of interest and a lack of judgment.

Staying away for so long from his job makes his tenure in that office untenable. There is no public officer who overstays his or her leave without consequence and Governor Chime has broken a cardinal rule of his obligation as Chief Executive of the administration of Enugu State.

We, the people, who recruited him to that job and the State Assembly, as the key trustees of the people's interest must either commence impeachment moves against the governor or nudge him gently into dignified rest if indeed it is true, as the rumors go, that the Governor is in no physical or mental state to continue in office.

He should also come out publicly in a press conference to dispel these rumors of his ill-health for both his sake and the sake of the administration, already compelled to make interminable excuses for an inexplicably absent governor. We need full disclosure. We must move away from the tradition of silencing and cover-ups long associated with such offices in Nigeria.

The governor's health is no security matter. It is, or ought to be against the law, for government officials to feed false information to the public about the state of affairs in any administration. Information sent out to the public, if found to be false, even if to protect an administration or the government should be fully prosecuted. It ought to earn such an official a long term in jail who retails false information to the public.

So the question again: where is Governor Sullivan Iheanacho Chime? Is he dead or alive? Can he continue as the governor of Enugu? We ask because it is long past time to tell the truth.

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