The father of the ‘Rainbow’ nation, Nelson Mandela, now in his early 90s, was hospitalised late last year in Jo’burg where he spent the Christmas. He spent weeks receiving quality treatment for a lung infection and gallstones as his nation and his people were united in prayers and good wishes for his speedy recovery. The President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez, who recently won yet another landslide presidential poll in his rich oil-producing country, is still recuperating in Cuba after undergoing yet another cancer surgery. According to reports from Caracas he is doing well and his country is not doing badly either as she is being ably administered by the Vice President Nicolas Maduro. In both cases the people were taken along as the popular state figures took ill and went for treatment.
Whilst ex-President Mandela has since retired from active politics the leaders of South Africa and South Africans still hold him in high esteem for his legendary anti-apartheid struggles culminating in absolute freedom for the majority black population. So it is normal that whenever he is reported to be indisposed genuine solidarity flows from ordinary South Africans who want him to live longer. Before the populist Chavez took his medical leave of absence formally handing over power to his trusted deputy he had passionately asked fellow Venezuelans to elect Maduro in the event of another presidential election happening “if something were to happen that would incapacitate me”.
The lesson from the above illustration is that as human beings (whether powerful or powerless, rich or poor) we are bound to fall sick at anytime in our lifespan. Since sickness is a human problem there should be no shame associated with it. In Nigeria those in authority often ‘hide’ their infirmity for reasons best known to them. Apart from Gen. Ibrahim Babangida who was gracious enough to announce his ‘radiculopathy’ challenge to Nigerians upon seizing power through the barrel of the gun in the 80s no one else has had the courage to openly declare his health profile for fear of losing relevance, reverence or whatever.
Aside the huge security challenges Nigeria is faced with a leadership conundrum decades old, something that makes it difficult for her to rise to the top. When it comes to politics our politicians are bad examples; we have a lot of criminals in the system masquerading themselves as ‘leaders’. If the corrupt system could produce a Governor like James Onanefe Ibori then even Lucifer himself could have been ‘elected’ if he ever sought to ‘belong’ to the kleptocratic class! Governance from Abuja to the states’ capitals has been reduced to the management of personal ‘estates’ and fiefdoms from where the lucky “thief-executives” transform themselves into gods whose word is law and whose actions are left unchallenged because of the constitutional immunity.
It is the impunity and lawlessness in the system that make it possible for a President, his wife, a Governor or a legislator to act illegally believing that they are above the law of the land. There is no area this illegality is more manifest than when a politician falls sick or becomes a victim of an accident. How we die is beyond the control of man; even money, sometimes, cannot buy life when death comes visiting. We are all ‘equal’ before death and no matter our mundane possessions when it strikes we go six feet below, oblivious of our riches and turning to dust the same way we were made!
When the rich and powerful suffer from an ailment they invest everything to get well including travelling overseas to get the best there is in medical intervention by the best doctors and surgeons but when the poor is afflicted by little disease or sickness they seek for easy solution by traditional means since the ‘mere consulting clinics’ have been abandoned by the elite to rot away in executive criminal negligence. Whilst the resources are there to upgrade or construct new hospitals our leaders prefer buying more jets, patronising good hospitals abroad and playing ‘poker’ with the lives of millions they swore to make better.
When the late President Umaru Yar’Adua was being ‘tormented’ in Aso Rock by the Churg–Strauss syndrome only God knows how much of our state funds that was ‘invested’ in treating the untreatable disease from Germany to Saudi Arabia to Allah-knows-where. Only Hajia Turai Yar’Adua is in a position to tell us how the cabal she led succeeded in ‘killing’ the President even before his real death by medical pressure and political mischief. It is only in Nigeria that the depreciating health status of a chief executive could be kept tightly secret until he passes on without consequent sanctions and calls for account.
President Goodluck Jonathan is enjoying a relatively sound health but his wife isn’t. She has jetted out once again to Germany for some “check-up” following her controversial months-long disappearance from public view late last year on health grounds. Speculations abound about the health challenge she is facing and the secrecy behind it all does not help matters. Patience Jonathan has abandoned her duties as the First Lady and the Permanent Secretary in Bayelsa State for Germany to take good care of her health yet again, yet she lives in self-denial as regards this very personal problem that concerns us all as citizens.
>From the states the news is not any better. Late last year the jet-loving Governor of Taraba State, Danbaba Suntai was involved in a ghastly plane crash that nearly claimed his life and those of his aides. Now recuperating in a German hospital Mr Suntai was once reported to have suffered “brain damage” and therefore unable to carry out his duty as Chief Executive. While spin doctors and desperate aides at home were struggling to manipulate the public opinion by engaging in propaganda and outright mendacity Suntai remains ‘alive’ today at the mercy of huge dose of medication that is costing the tax-payers huge sums of money! While his state is being administered by his deputy the otiosity of authority is evident enough.
In Cross Rivers State Governor Liyel Imoke is still ailing and hospitalised in a hospital abroad. He did the right thing however by intimating the state House of Assembly of his intention to proceed on an accumulated leave delegating power to his deputy. Though there is no semblance of otiosity of authority in Calabar Imoke’s shadow looms large daily as loyalists of the incumbent Governor and the Acting Governor’s entourage engage in monkey business. In Nigeria the man that wields power, be it in Aso Rock or elsewhere, enjoys huge reverence because through him flows good things of life money can buy. He acts sometimes as a father Christmas or a godfather with whom insurbodination attracts various sanctions — including imprisonmernt or sack.
But by far there is a story of a governor in the south east who disappeared since September on an “accummulated leave” leaving his state with an otiosity of authority that seems deliberate from every indication. Ailing Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State left Enugu unceremoniously in September last year for some vacation abroad. That remains the official version of events till today — four odd months on. But the truth has revealed itself after weeks and months of deliberate falsehood by aides and paid agents. While Sunday Onyebuchi is “acting” as Governor the truth is that he was not really empowered to fully assume that function in the strict sense of the word.
What we hear and believe is that Governor Chime’s sister and siblings and minions are calling the shot in the Coal City state abusing the gubernatorial brief in Chime’s forced absence. Sullivan Chime, the cerebral lawyer, is reportedly recuperating from a heart disease which was diagnosed when he was working as Commissioner to the former indicted Governor Chimaroke Nnamani. Nnamani reportedly bankrolled his surgery operation then but today the two men have become sworn enemies in a typical case of the ‘godson’ transforming himself to the godfa
ther while rubbishing the godfather through whom he got where he is. Nnamani himself did the same thing to ex-Governor Jim Nwobodo so the ‘Ebeano’ exponent cannot complain since what you wish for others or do to others shall be done to you!
The same scenario played itself out in Abia state between former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu and the incumbent Theodore Orji. Kalu, the charismatic politician east of the Niger, did everything within his power to get the jailed Orji ‘elected’ even in absentia! But today Gov. Orji is doing everything to rubbish Kalu just to be his own ‘godfather’ — ruling his state with his wife and son in a bizzare family power sharing formula. While Theodore Orji is clueless and ineffective he uses the anti-Kalu rhetorics to try to climb to popular rating but it is not working. Kalu is infinitely greater than Orji politically and his organisation and network remain unmatched!
Gov. Sullivan Chime, the disappeared Governor, must appear now if indeed he is still alive; he can however elect to continue keeping mum wherever he is convalescing in hiding (whether in London, India or his village) but the “Acting Governor” Onyebuchi must open up and shed light on the ailment afflicting Chime and his present condition and location. If he is not in a position to do that then it can only mean two things: either he is playing the script of the local cabal abusing power in Enugu as a conniving top member or he is being kept in the dark as the rest of us.
That is the primary demand of the “Save Enugu Group” and that is in order. The Enugu people deserve to know what is wrong with their Governor and where he is presently (whether alive or dead!). Playing the ‘monkey game’ with the destiny of the electorate cannot be allowed to stand in a democracy. Enugu state does not belong to any individual or family. And no one has the right to hold her captive for whatever reason.
The Yar’Adua saga has opened our eyes to the executive chicanery of those in power and the Chime saga in Enugu is not any different from every stretch of imagination. Against this backdrop, therefore, we concur with the SEG for openness, responsibility and full disclosure. You cannot possibly fool all the people all the time! If Gov. Sullivan Chime is dead as being maliciously speculated then may his soul rest in peace but if he is still alive then he must signal his presence by speaking up and breaking his troubling silence. The truth, however bitter, remains a healthy and liberating act.