Saturday, January 26, 2013

NIGERIA: Gov Chime’s Return: No Longer A Chimera

An anxious Enugu State revved up to life last week following the visit of three governors to London to see Governor Sullivan Chime, recuperating from a prolonged medical excursion. Even as the pictures of the visit spawned some controversy and dominated media headlines, LOUIS ACHI writes that significant feedbacks point to return of the governor and resumption of duty soon.
Anxious citizens of Enugu State, conspiracy theorists, ambitious opposition, Machiavellian politicians nursing agenda for gubernatorial succession in the state mesh to provide a potent cocktail of quirky plots, sub-plots, reasoned and illogical debate and more - even as the governor’s minders bend over backwards to push their own loyalist case.
In his 140 days absence, last week became something of a high point in the saga of his trip abroad, meant to exploit his accumulated leave and access quality Medicare. As it were, Nollywood could have put out a more gripping script to capture the intense maneuverings and intrigues that has dominated his absence from Lion Building Enugu.
Gung-ho chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) Governor RotimiAmaechi of Rivers State; Governor GodswillAkpabio of AkwaIbom State and Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State constituted the delegation which visited Governor Chime in a London hospital last week. Their visit trail shrill speculations on the state of Chime’s health.
According to Governor Amaechi, reputed to have little time for trifles, “We saw him in an atmosphere of recovery. We were able to go out with him, he is in good shape and is getting ready to come back home very soon. We thank God for what He has done, how He has helped him to recover.”
For Benue’s Governor Suswam, “Chime has been discharged from the hospital. He has recovered fully and is physically okay. I was impressed with what I saw. We walked around together, ate together and he is going about on his own.”
If Amaechi and Suswam stuck to a more level-headed assessment of Chime’s current state of recovery, Governor GodswillAkpabio of AkwaIbom went spiritual, chiding people to desist wishing their leaders evil.  “He has recovered tremendously, I am very happy and I give glory to God. This our visit to him and the fact that he was able to speak with Vanguard has put paid to all the rumours.
Nigerians should learn how to pray for their leaders instead of ganging up through NGOs and groups and wishing them evil. We are all human beings. As humans, we can break down anytime which means we should be sympathetic with our leaders when they face challenges whether health wise or security wise. We should pray for them instead of wishing them bad.”
But if these positives from the governors’ London visit represent by far the most potent proof that Governor Chime was off the medically endangered list, the Save Enugu Group (SEG), a feisty platform that recently sprouted to spearhead the governor’s ouster was not impressed. The group led by Chief Maxi Okwu had in a letter to the Speaker of the state parliament last Monday challenged the lawmakers to adopt the ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ to empower the acting governor of Enugu State, Sunday Onyebuchi, alluding to the case of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
But the Honourable Speaker Eugene Odo would have none of that. He swiftly faulted the position of SEG, saying the lawmakers did not in any way violate the Nigerian constitution in their handling of the issue. Odo, who spoke on the floor of the House at the resumption of debates on the state’s 2013 budget proposal, said by not invoking the Doctrine of Necessity to dislodge Chime on account of his leave, the House had not done anything wrong to warrant any attack as witnessed in the recent past.
“We believe that those demanding that do not actually know what the Doctrine of Necessity is all about. Perhaps, people equate Doctrine of Necessity with a mere jamboree phenomenon,” he proclaimed. Insisting that Governor Chime’s absence was in order and should not be compared with that of late President Yar’Adua, the Speaker restated that the governor transmitted a letter to the House before travelling, and “in the letter he empowered his deputy as the acting governor.
According to him, “And under the 1999 Constitution, section 190, whenever a governor is travelling and he intends to stay for more than 21 days, he should transmit a letter to the House of Assembly, in which case the deputy governor now becomes the acting governor, which Sullivan Chime had done.
“It beats my imagination when some people started to say that the House of Assembly should empower the deputy governor to act. Under our constitution, the power to act has been vested on the deputy governor and the constitution does not provide for double acting capacity as some people are clamouring for.”
Not done, the Speaker held that the Doctrine of Necessity was applied by the National Assembly in the case of late President Yar’Adua when the president traveled without handing over to the vice president which was not the case with Governor Chime.
Dismissing the request that certain individuals be empowered to go and see how the governor was faring overseas as puerile, he stated it was a moral matter.
His words: “That is a mere moral issue. The constitution of Nigeria in Section 189 made it specifically clear that even when the governor is not feeling fine, the only statutory body that can generate a resolution to the House of Assembly is the State Executive Council and even in the House of Assembly, the Speaker has a duty to nominate five medical practitioners including the governor’s doctor for that purpose. In other words, those listed by the group did not meet the constitutional requirements; none of them is a medical practitioner.”
The state chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, Engr. Vita Abba had also spoken strongly on the matter, insisting that the governor would soon be back to resume the responsibility of his office.
From what has transpired thus far, especially the visit of three governors to Governor Chime in London, the emerging consensus is that the bases of the earlier fears being expressed by genuinely concerned Enugu folks has been sufficiently diffused. At press time, a noticeable change of gear is observable, an indication that the health saga involving the state’s First Citizen is finally coming to an end.

------Louis Achi, Leadership, Sunday, January 27, 2013
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