Enugu State Governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime, has broken his silence on why he was absent from the state for about five months, declaring that he had to take the opportunity of his "accumulated leave" to undergo treatment for an ailment later discovered to be cancer of the nose.
He had left the state on September 19, 2012 after handing over to his deputy, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, who was the acting governor while he was away.
He spoke just as Cross River State Acting Governor, Mr. Efiok Cobham, said Tuesday that the governor, Senator Liyel Imoke, who has also been out of the state for months, was expected back this weekend.
Chime, who returned to Enugu last Friday amidst tumultuous welcome, told reporters on Monday night that his treatment for cancer, which lasted for 12 weeks, ended on December 14, 2012.
He said he would have returned immediately after he had finished his treatment, but had to delay his return based on the advice of his doctors.
According to him, by late January when he went for a review of his case, the doctors were shocked by his recovery rate which showed that the tumour had gone.
"I was almost declared cancer free. I will be required to be going there from time to time, but I can assure you that they succeeded in curing the disease," he added.
The governor dismissed insinuations that he was yet to fully recover following his refusal to address the crowd when he arrived in Enugu last Friday, adding that he had to keep mum because "of the chaotic situation at the Akanu-Ibiam International Airport".
Chime, in his account, confirmed THISDAY exclusive report published on January 25, amid conflicting reports on why the governor had been away for so long, that he was undergoing treatment for cancer.
He said: "In August last year, I was privileged to be one of those nominated by the Nigerian Governors' Forum to go to Germany to study their federalism; I was to represent the South-east zone. I had to use the opportunity of the trip to pass through London to do my medicals since it was the only opportunity I had to do that. After my medicals, I was certified fit by the doctors; but I noticed that I had a little growth beneath my jaw. Ordinarily, nobody could see it but I felt it seriously and asked the doctors to further carry out investigation into it.
"I was later referred to a consultant who after examining me said there was nothing wrong with me. I still asked for further investigation. I even made arrangement with them to help me set appointment for closer investigation.
"I left for Germany and had to return to London to keep the appointment for proper screening of the growth. It was after the screening that it was discovered that the growth in question was cancerous. It was also discovered that the main tumour was behind my nose; it was simply called cancer of the nose."
Continuing, he said: "Cancer is such a thing that when you hear it, the person involved will even declare himself dead instantly. I was subjected to further scanning at the nose and neck and was told that it was curable, not manageable.
"When I asked how to go about it, I was told it has to be as early as possible before it spreads to other areas.
"Accordingly, I arranged for it to be done. I had to cancel further trips and agreed to be back in London in two weeks.
"Within the period, I came back to Nigeria and made arrangement for transition (of power). I wrote a letter to the speaker, informing him of my decision to proceed on leave and sought his cooperation to work with my deputy who will act as governor. We even held two executive council meetings within the period where I informed members of my exco that I was proceeding on a long vacation.
"I left for Abuja the next day and attended the governors' forum meeting and the next day I left for London, settled in and saw the oncologist the next day. By Monday, I commenced treatment.
"Cancer is a deadly disease and the cure is also deadly. It is not like panadol, not drugs we buy off the counter. You go through different stages. The treatment altogether lasted for 12 weeks and throughout the treatment, I was an outpatient. I was never admitted in any hospital in London. During the period of the treatment, I had challenges and these are challenges I will not even wish my enemies to go through; it's not easy to imagine.
"When I read in the papers that I had died in India, it was a source of entertainment. What became worrisome was the deliberate and sustained attempt to undermine the government of Enugu State. If you've been following events over the years, we've invested a lot in infrastructure but I've always said that one thing I would like to leave behind is a workable system.
When we came in, there was no system in place and I felt there was the need to build one in order to encourage continuity. This was therefore an opportunity to test the system we had put in place. You must have observed that we have something resembling a system in place now. While I was away, the government kept on functioning, everything kept on moving as if I was around."
Chime applauded his deputy for sustaining the system and decried attacks on his aides for refusing to disclose why he had been away for so long.
"They didn't know the problem because I only told them I was going on vacation. It didn't concern anybody because I complied with the law by transmitting a letter to the speaker. I ensured that the ship of government remained on course; I didn't abandon anybody. All those attacks were mischievous and it equally exposed the ignorance of some of our people even those that were supposed to know the law. I can tell you that I was officially discharged, that's why I had to return. I'm still in the process of recovery and as such, you don't expect me to be running tomorrow; but I'm free to resume duties to ensure that activities are running on full speed," he stated.
The governor, who appeared physically fit as he fielded questions, also described as mischievous, the attempt by some people to liken his situation to that of the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, saying while Yar'Adua travelled out of the country as a sick man during his time, he (Chime) travelled out a healthy man.
He also urged Nigerians to be patient with public officers who he said are not "super humans", stating that inasmuch as they hold exalted positions, they should still be allowed some privacy, adding that having passed through the experience, he would be ready to do it all over again, if the situation rears up in the future.
Also Tuesday, the Cross River State acting governor told the gathering at an interactive session to end the visit of the National Good Governance Tour to the state that Imoke was expected back in the state this weekend.
Cobham, who was responding to questions from the audience on the whereabouts of the governor, said Imoke was in Maryland, US, for medical treatment, adding that his ailment was not life threatening.
"Your governor is in Maryland and any moment from now, he is coming back. There is no secret about his whereabouts. Last December, I had cause to address the elders' forum of this state and it was one of the platforms that I felt was necessary for me to clear all doubts about the whereabouts of the governor.
"If he does not come back this weekend, then definitely next week he is coming back," he said.