This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Enugu, in the Grip of a Cabal

With the prolonged absence of Enugu State Governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime, from office, the political climate of the state has been on the rise following swirling rumour that a cabal has taken over governance. Olawale Olaleye unravels the power game triggered by Chime's absence

Reminiscent of the drama that characterised the last days of the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, Enugu State's political turf may have caught the bug of the cabal system. The political character of the state, as observers have noted, is presently being fashioned in similar pattern.

The cabal theory crept into prominence in the twilight of the Yar'Adua presidency. The former president had flown to Saudi Arabia on November 23, 2009 after he was diagnosed of pericarditis, an inflammation of the membrane covering the heart. But unlike Chime, he left the country without transiting a letter through the National Assembly, empowering his then deputy, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to act in his stead as stipulated by the constitution.

That was not to be the end of what later became a national distraction. The development was soon followed by severe protest across the country as there was no substantive leader until February 9, 2009 when the National Assembly seized the initiative and invoked the Doctrine of Necessity which eventually empowered Jonathan who is now President to act in Yar'Adua's position.

Mindful of the crisis the development had generated, the National Assembly did not end it there; it further undertook a precautionary measure with a view to avoiding a repeat of the situation. By this, it amended the section of the 1999 Constitution which stipulates that the president or governor must transmit a letter to the National Assembly before his deputy could act in his stead.

The amendment, thus, empowers the deputy to act in a situation where the president or governor fails to transmit a letter to the National Assembly or House of Assembly while leaving the country or medically unfit to discharge the functions of his office

Ironically, while Chime followed true to this constitutional instruction which had since put his deputy, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, in acting capacity; the latter, as observers have noted, is only in government but practically not in power as a clique loyal to the ailing governor is said to have wrest the authority of state and determines what goes on at his expense.

Supposedly responsible for this situation as indications have shown is first the ploy to maintain and sustain the hold of the ailing governor on critical structure of the state and two, the desperation to keep the yet fluid extrapolations of the 2015 general election afloat. As a result, in Enugu today, two people are said to hold the ace: Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Eugene Odoh and Chief of Staff to Chime, Mrs. Ifeoma Nwobodo.

The duo are said to now control state powers since they are able to work together because their interests are in sync and in tandem with the ultimate goal of holding forte on the one hand while on the other hand, setting the stage for the governorship election in 2015.

Chime, reports had it, left Enugu ostensibly for his annual leave on September 19, 2012. The journey which started with the understanding of a terminal date is yet to end, in addition to the fact that nobody knows his whereabouts much less his state of health.

Interestingly, he was said to have left standing orders through his "trusted allies" to ensure that even the local government chairmen discountenance orders that are supposedly not his as evident in some of the recent happenings in the state.

Unfortunately, for the cabal, the news of Chime's sickness has gone viral even though they have continued to argue to the contrary, short of attacking those reporting issues related to his long absence and state of health. However, while transmitting his letter to the Assembly, Chime did not say he was ill. There is, therefore, a fresh controversy now that he lied to the Assembly and may have committed perjury- an offence impeachable under the constitution.

Indeed, sometime in November 2012 during a Board of Trustees (BoT) meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), President Jonathan, while giving the state of the nation account, was said to have told the gathering that Chime was sick and might not return to the country anytime soon. That, automatically, contradicted the story from official quarters that he was hale and hearty and would be coming back soon.

And despite the threat emanating from the state Assembly about planned impeachment which follows an ultimatum, billed to expire this month end on the state of the state, the state's legislature is said to be foot-dragging because the Speaker also commands an instruction from Chime to hold the fort and keep his colleagues in check.

This instruction, however, is critical to the Speaker if he must keep his governorship dream alive, analysts have said. Odoh who comes from Nsukka, understands that swearing-in Onyebuchi or supporting moves that would make him become governor by default might vitiate his chances of being governor, and so, he is said to find it convenient to indulge in Chime's hide and seek game in order to buy more time.

Odoh, many believed was behind attempts to get Chime and Onyebuchi out in order to pave the way for his governorship dream but was said to have been frustrated by the Judiciary as the Chief Judge allegedly declined compliance on the grounds that Onyebuchi had done nothing wrong.

Much as the state and supporters of Chime desire to have him back in good condition, unconfirmed reports have continued to describe him as incapacitated- an imperative that should have paved the way for Onyebuchi to act with as much authority, in obedience to the constitution and in the overall interest of the public.

Although, the Deputy Governor is believed to be in acting capacity, he does not wield the powers and influence of a governor to effectively use the resources of state for quality delivery. While some say it is his weakness as an individual having been pronounced acting governor, those who understand the politics of the state however say it has a lot to do with the influence of the entrenched cabal on the turf.

And since he does not belong, it might be difficult to assume or proclaim any authority when the speaker and his colleagues can easily cook up the books and boot him out of office. But the cabal system is said to have adversely affected governance such that the entire state now suffers at the expense of one man's interest.

For instance, the tide of insecurity and other social vices is said to have gone up in the past months, on account of Onyebuchi's guided acting. The news of the sack of ENSEMA boss, the state's waste management authority, because refuse had taken over the city and the sacked boss said it was because money provided for the job was not enough, confirmed the prevailing maladministration in the state.

With the Chief of Staff, Nwobodo, also tagged the "real acting governor", because of the enormous power she wields on Chime's behalf and with the support of some of the commissioners and advisers, it is clear those in charge in the state.

Indeed, she was the one who allegedly sacked the former Secretary to the State Government, Obiora Iloh of Africa Independent Television (AIT) and appointed in his place, her own Personal Assistant.

The recent presentation of the 2013 budget by Onyebuchi, also pointed in the direction of the drama playing out in Enugu. He became the last resort when it was clear to those in charge that Chime was not going to come and do the job, having waited for him for over a month without promises of an encouraging recovery. Yet, Onyebuchi was said to have presented the budget without an input- defending what he had no knowledge of.

To soon compound this is the threat by tanker drivers to withdraw their services in the state unless the truth about Chime's state of health is brought to public knowledge, latching on their rights to know. As if acting on the advice of Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), who once said the people should write the authorities, especially the security agencies, alleging that their Governor was missing because they have a right to know his whereabouts since he is a public person.

Beyond the issue of performance which is equally pivotal in the context of the ensuing debate, the constitutionality of the Enugu situation, defined by continuity in governance appears to have formed the fulcrum of debate in the debacle, as pertaining to the collective interest of the people. If it is true that Chime is incapacitated, the constitution is clear: no such person is fit for the office of governor. And this is presumed so since government has kept quiet on his state of health.

The cabal, observers say, should exhibit a good sense of history, make official the state of Chime's health and reorder the path of progress for Enugu State. Even where interests clash, stakeholders cannot continue to, on account of selfish pretext, pretend this can be manage for as long as they hold sway and can blackmail others into submission. The backlash, if blown up, could consume such conspirators whenever the entire scenario comes to total dramatic closure.

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