By Nnamdi Mbawike, Leadership, February 12, 2013
After spending over 140 days outside the shores of the country, Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime returned to Enugu, the state capital, last week Friday amid jubilation.
Chime, whose long absence generated a lot of controversy, first arrived Abuja last Thursday morning aboard an early morning British Airways flight from London.
Until his return to Enugu last Friday, many people, especially members of the opposition, dismissed the news of his earlier arrival in Abuja on the grounds that he did not speak with journalists Abuja.
Before leaving the country, Chime had transmitted a letter to the Speaker, Enugu state House of Assembly, a development that empowered his deputy, Sunday Onyebuchi, to assume the position of acting governor of the state.
However, despite the upgrading of Onyebuchi as acting governor, some anxious citizens of the state continued to query the whereabouts of Chime and even went ahead to declare him incapacitated, while some even declared him dead.
While some rumoured that the governor had died, others concluded that he could no longer discharge his official duties following being struck by a strange ailment.
Reacting to Chime’s long absence, some concerned citizens of Enugu State under the auspices of Save Enugu Group, forwarded a letter to the Speaker of the Enugu State House of Assembly, Eugene Odoh, requesting him to make public the certified true copy of the letter which the governor reportedly transmitted to the state legislature before leaving the country.
And apparently irked by the refusal of the speaker to unveil the letter several days after he received it, the group threatened to approach the court to compel him to make available to the public the true certified copy of the letter.
In the letter titled “Re: Prolonged and Unexplained absence of His Excellency, Sullivan Iheanacho Chime, Governor of Enugu state,” the group expressed regret that the Speaker was yet to answer the questions they raised in the first letter forwarded to him.
“We had written to you on 21 January, 2013, a letter titled as above of which the tenor was clear as simple English. The three point demand we made in that letter was essentially for you to make public, or show evidence of having done so, the contents of the letter purportedly served on you by His Excellency, Sullivan Iheanacho Chime our Governor, pursuant to section 190 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“On the floor of the hallowed chambers of the State Assembly on 22nd January 2013, rather than answer the specific questions we had raised, you inter alia went on a voyage of discovery and manufactured a curious ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ which we never mentioned in our letter and answered the examination you set for yourself.
“We hereby formally demand that you make available to us, a CERTIFIED TRUE COPY (CTC) of the said letter which you claim was addressed to you by H.E. Governor Chime before he proceeded on leave/vacation.
“TAKE FURTHER NOTICE that should you not make available to us the CTC of the said letter SEVEN DAYS from the receipt of this notice, we shall be left with no other option but to seek remedies from an appropriate High Court to compel you to do so,” the letter signed by Chief Maxi Okwu stated.
But against the backdrop of the governor’s return to the state last week, the arguments about his long absence from the state, his whereabouts and health status, have now become history.
Governor Chime arrived the Akanu Ibiam international airport, Enugu, aboard a chartered flight precisely at 3.05pm last Friday, and was given a heroic welcome by family members, friends and officials of his administration who thronged the airport to receive him.
The governor was later escorted to Government House, Enugu, in a long motorcade, where he was received by several groups. The reception was a carnival of sorts as gaily dressed women sang and danced in turns, praising God for the governor’s safe return to the state.
Expectations that the governor would seize the opportunity offered by the generous reception organized for him to address both anxious journalists and the people of the state were dashed as he remained indoors to receive some dignitaries who succeeded amid tight security to gain access to his expansive office.
A lawyer by profession, Chime served as attorney general and commissioner of justice in the then administration of Governor Chimaroke Nnamani before he was elected governor of the state in 2007, on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
It was said that Nnamani chose him as successor on the basis that unlike other PDP stalwarts in the state, including the then deputy governor, Okechukwu Itanyi, Chime never showed any interest to run for the exalted position.
Nnamani had assumed then that with the likes of Chime as governor, he could still control the levers of power in the state even when he was no longer governor.
But he was soon disappointed. Once he was sworn-in as governor, Chime distanced his administration from his political mentor, choosing rather to call the shots himself.
He has since then succeeded in transforming the state capital to a modern city by building durable roads, providing street lights, attracting investors, and beyond that, ensuring the security of lives and property in a state hitherto known to be the den of criminal gangs.
Educated at the College of Immaculate Conception, CIC, Enugu, and the Enugu Campus of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, governor Chime is married and has children.