What Sullivan Chime Should Do

by Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

The first time I heard the name of the current Governor of Enugu State, Mr. Sullivan Chime, and that, I think, was after he was declared winner of the governorship election in the state by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), the first thing that struck me was the exotic nature of the name – Sullivan. For someone who had served as both Special Adviser and Commissioner for Justice under ex-Governor Chimaroke Nnamani (a man noted for his prodigious appetite for the limelight), it was not surprising that I was hearing Mr. Chime’s name for the first time. Certainly, Nnamani’s over-blown image had eclipsed virtually everyone that worked under him.

Nnamani was one of the high-profile governors of the last dispensation. He was mainly known for the countless lectures he gave here and there where he advocated what he neither believed in nor practiced, and his ability to package his modest accomplishments in office with intimidating pomp and fanfare.

Enugu is working!” he screamed at Nigerians in his countless, expensive promotional adverts on TV, radio, billboards and newspapers.

But while Nnamani used whatever was available to him to capture the public space and boost his image, the people who worked in the various parastatals in Enugu State groaned under the crushing yoke of many months of unpaid salaries. This is saddening and most unfortunate. Indeed, any leader who sees the people as mere statistics on his planning sheets whose well-being does not qualify to be factored into his so-called grand designs will never be my friend.

Let the people survive first. Their welfare must first be taken care of before anything else. Of what use is the government if it lacks the capacity or willingness, or both, to improve the lives of the people? Government is about service to the people, and not about sweet, tantalizing melodies and high-sounding slogans that would never be able lift the people out of their suffering.

Perhaps, I may also ask: Of what significance is the Ebeano Tunnel in Enugu, constructed, advertised and promoted with billions of naira, to the thousands of the employees of these government corporations and parastatals who have been tormented by hunger and deprivation for several months now? Those of them who have been rendered homeless because of their inability to pay house rents, and those whose famished children have since dropped out school because they couldn’t afford school fees, were they ever able to join Chimaroke to chorus: To God be the Glory? Is God really glorified by their horrible, manmade condition? What are we really talking about?

I am glad that Gov Chime has, reportedly, promised to pay these workers and illumine their faces with broad smiles. I urge him to expedite action on this and halt the pain and anguish they are presently undergoing. Nobody should give the impression that these workers have committed any crime by working for the Enugu State Government. Their sad condition, each time I think of it, makes my heart to bleed. It must be clear to the new Governor that he cannot afford to prolong their agony any further.

Many of them are being owed more than fourteen months salary arrears? It sounds incredible, but it is true. Take, for instance, the Enugu State Water Corporation whose workers are being owed about fourteen months arrears of salaries or the employees of Enugu State Waste Management Authority (ESWAMA), who are hoping that their own fourteen months unpaid salaries would be cleared.

What name can any one give to this kind of depressing situation? Yet, that is not all. The list is benumbing. The last time I enquired, and that was last weekend, workers at the Enugu State Transport Company (ENTRACO) topped this list of shame and agony with about eighteen months unpaid salaries; Enugu State Broadcasting Service (ESBS), about seven months; Enugu State Library Board, not less than nine months; Enugu State Council for Arts and Culture, about nine; Tractor Hiring Company, twelve; Daily Star Newspaper, about ten; Sports Council, about ten; Enugu State Agricultural Development Programme (ENEDEB), twelve months; and several other parastatals, all left to pine away in hunger and impoverishment.

How have they been coping, I am often forced to ask? Somebody told me last weekend that many of them live on the goodwill of friends and relatives. Many have had to borrow to pay house rents and hospital bills. And the debts are mounting. Many have practically become beggars, calling up anyone they had known for assistance from time to time. Many who have no one to turn to may have simply sunk into the dark chasm of despair and are withering away with each passing day. Some others may have even given up the fight and died. Who cared? It is that bad.

I find it difficult to believe that an employer would have the heart to owe his workers for all these months. Although, the Chimaroke regime withheld the leave allowances of the workers in the core civil service for five years, he, nevertheless, managed to pay their salaries. Now, I do not know the reasoning behind paying one set of workers and leaving the others to suffer, except that it helped the state government to perfect its divide and rule tactics, because, its continuous announcement that it had paid ALL the workers often led to serious misunderstandings between the unions fighting for the welfare of the parastatals and the other unions.

This is not fair, and Gov Sullivan Chime should step forward immediately and halt this raw advertisement of heartlessness by simply paying these workers. Workers in both the parastatals and core civil service all buy from the same Ogbete market. They all have school fees and house rents to pay, and families to fend for. In some cases, both husbands and wives could be victims of these unpaid salaries. Imagine the agony the family would be going through.

I am waiting to hear that Gov Chime has paid these workers and I am going to thank and celebrate him in my weekly column, SCRUPLES. I just hope he won’t compel me to create a space there weekly where I would be reminding him of the need to discharge the obligation towards these hapless, helpless workers, which he inherited from his predecessor.

Well, something tells me it won’t come to that. In fairness to Mr. Chime, he did not create this problem. It is a live-snake his predecessor handed over to him. He should face it headlong, trash it, lift the gloom it is creating in Enugu State and move on.

Let me close with this….

As a young man, I lived in Enugu, though I am from Imo. My memory of Enugu had remained that of a very clean, orderly and very beautiful city. But, unfortunately, Enugu now makes me sad. It has lost that scenic beauty I have always associated it with.

In those days, one appreciated Enugu’s beauty more on Christmas day and Boxing Day, when the streets are usually deserted (I don’t know what obtains now). If you stood at the Holy Ghost junction in those days and looked straight into Okpara Avenue, what usually greeted you was a most attractive and delicious sight. But all that have gone now. Okpara Avenue now looks as if it was lifted from the very heart of Ajegunle. Dirty and in bad shape! Almost all the major roads in Enugu are in very dilapidated state. Even Bisalla Road which leads to the Government House/Lodge is an eyesore. The once popular and nice Agbani Road, through which those 5k “molue” yellow buses took us to Old Park and New Market in those days, is now almost impassable. Ogui Road and Zik Avenue are just saddening shadows of their former selves. Chimaroke added another lane in New Haven to dualize the road. This would have been nice except that only the added lane is motorable. The other lane (that’s, the old road that was there before the dualisation) is in very horrible state. Enugu is so now dirty and unkempt. Why? Why did somebody decide to kill the joy of all the people that loved Enugu and called the “gentleman city”?

In fact, in Enugu today, pipe-borne water is almost becoming a luxury one imagines in one’s dreams. Gov Sullivan Chime must immediately restore Enugu to its lost glory and become an instant hero of the Enugu “boys and girls” wherever they now reside, especially, each time they make their occasional “pilgrimage” to the city they have always loved with a passion, and now see that it wears new, refreshing look. We are watching and waiting.

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Oliver Kan Chijioke July 30, 2009 - 9:17 am

I am still unable to find the reason[s] why Chimaraoke failed. Seeing that Governor Sullivan Chime has transformed Enugu in all areas within two years which Chimaraoke oversaw its delapidation in eight years. Why did you fail Chima? We all hailed your arrival as our governor in 1999 with joy and great expectation believing that your academic standing and experience in the USA will guide your governance but we were all disappointed. Why did the iroko fall. Iam still baffled. Why?

Enweh Solomon April 12, 2009 - 9:58 pm

It must be our happiness seeing Mr. Sullivan Chime working personally for his nation and state of his origine for all his good work definitly can never

be forgotten it would deeply remain inside the heart of every good citizen of Enugu state of Nigeria. We belive that perhaps with him”Sullivan” Enugu state will begine to make history and the name Sullivan Chime will not only remain in the heart of his people but also in the heart of all Nigerian populations around the world.

However, keep doing the good work for with out any doubt the entire habitat of Enugu had known that you are “the one” and no one else


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