Enugu — For the first time since he returned last weekend from a five-month trip abroad, Enugu State governor Sullivan Chime told reporters that he was hit by nasopharyngeal cancer [cancer of the nose], and was treated in a London hospital during his absence from office.
Governor Chime, however, shocked reporters when he said that he never regretted the fact that he kept many in the dark during his absence. He said he owed apology to anyone for keeping them guessing about his whereabouts.
Chime, who spoke to select reporters in Enugu yesterday described cancer as a 'deadly disease' just as he said its cure was deadly too.
"Cancer is a deadly disease and the cure is also deadly. The cure for cancer is not Panadol; the cure for cancer is not these drugs you buy off the counter. By the time you go through Chemotherapy and radiotherapy, you will be a changed person," he said. Chime said the treatment lasted for twelve weeks and throughout the period he was an outpatient. "I was never admitted in any hospital, all my treatments. I was an outpatient," he said.
Chime also disclosed that he was highly entertained by the rumours of his purported journey to India, and that of his death. "When I started reading in the papers, how I went to India, how I died at so so place... to us it was a kind of entertainment. Anytime we felt like being entertained, we call up the Nigerian papers and we will be laughing," he said, adding however that "what became worrisome was the deliberate and sustained attempt to undermine the government of Enugu state."
Chime narrated the genesis of his ailment thus: "In August or thereabout, I was privileged to be one of those nominated by the Nigeria Governors' Forum to go to Germany to understudy their federal system. A governor was picked from each of the six geo-political zones. I was nominated from the southeast and we were led by our chairman, Rotimi Amaechi. I decided to go a little bit earlier through London to do my medicals because of what I will call lack of time. We don't have time here.
"I got to London, did my medicals and was certified fit. I was given a clean bill of health. But I had a little growth on my neck that was not visible to anybody, I am a very observant person, I noticed it, showed it to my doctor; he touched it and said he did not think it was anything serious, but I should investigate it.
"I thought they would have seen anything when they were doing the general scanning and screening but nothing was found, so I just singled it out and asked them to investigate it. I was referred to a doctor who after investigating it and asking me questions [of course I told him, no pains, no symptoms, no disturbance from anywhere], said as far as he was concerned there was nothing wrong with it. But he would also, as a professional, ask me to investigate it further, because I was almost running short of time.
"I made arrangements with them to help me set up appointment for closer examination of the growth. So the following day, I left for Germany to join my colleagues. On that trip was my commissioner for commerce and industry Dr Jude Akubuilo and my SSA investment; they were already in Germany waiting for me, so I joined them.
"After about a week, when they had set up the arrangement, I left Germany, went back to London and did the proper screening of that particular growth. They did biopsy and all that. So in the process, it was discovered that the growth was cancerous. "So in further examination it was discovered that the main tumour was behind my nose. It actually turned out to be what they called nasopharyngeal cancer [cancer of the nose].
"At that stage, you know when people hear the word cancer; the first thing is to declare yourself dead before any assistance could come. They subjected me to further scanning to know if it had spread, and luckily it hadn't spread. It was just in those two areas - my nose and neck, so they said the good news was that it was curable.
"That was when I became interested and they said as soon as I was ready, they would commence treatment. Originally we had planned to go from Germany to Lebanon on our way back to Nigeria but I cancelled that trip, went back to Germany, informed my people I went with, came down to London with the commissioner. "The SSA hadn't UK Visa then, so he travelled back to Nigeria from Germany. In London we made arrangement and agreed on when to come.
At this point, Chime said he returned to Nigeria and within the two weeks, was able to make arrangements for the medical trip.
"I wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House of Assembly in accordance with the constitution, informing him of my decision to proceed on leave and of course sought his cooperation to work very well with the Deputy Governor, who would work as governor in my absence.
"Within the two weeks, we held two EXCO meetings, the last was held on Tuesday of week I left. After the EXCO meeting, I told my EXCO members that I was proceding on long vacation which I wouldn't know how long it would last to treat myself.
"That was the information they got and of course I told them to cooperate with the acting governor. The following day, Wednesday, I left for Abuja, and again attended the meeting of the governor's forum, that night. Then Thursday morning, we had National Economic Council meeting and the Deputy Governor was there to represent me.
"I got to London and settled in and the following day Friday went to see the Oncologist who had already made arrangements for treatments to begin and on Monday, I started treatment. I don't think any of you has had an experience.
Chime said during the treatment, he had some challenges. "Like I said, except you see somebody that has taken that kind of treatment, it is not easy to imagine," he said.