Governor Sullivan Chime
Chuks Okocha and Christopher Isiguzo
Enugu State Governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime, Thursday returned to the country after being away for about 140 days on medical treatment in a London hospital.
According to a source, the governor flew straight to Abuja from London aboard a British Airways flight. The source said the aircraft touched down at about 5:40am at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chuks Ugwoke, confirmed the governor’s return but refused to give further details.
The governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Chukwudi Achife, told THISDAY that the governor would return to Enugu State today, but he did not give a specific time when he is expected back.
Achife further disclosed that the state government was not planning any elaborate reception for the governor.
“Virtually everybody in the state now knows that the governor is back to the country and would be coming to the state tomorrow (today).
“So, if people decide to troop out to welcome him in a carnival-like manner, there will be nothing wrong with that, but on an official note, we are not planning any reception at least for now,” he added.
Another source said the governor was not disposed to having any loud reception as he returns to the state and may arrive in a chartered flight in order to take everybody by surprise.
“As I am talking to you, we have booked his ticket for tomorrow but in his usual manner, he has warned us against organising any form of reception.
He even threatened to leave us and get a chartered flight if he hears of any such arrangement. So as it stands, we are just looking up to him to decide how we should come back to Enugu tomorrow,” the source stated.
It was learnt that the governor decided to spend the whole of yesterday in Abuja in order to have time to visit some close friends in government.
Although his aides and other government officials declined to say where he was staying in Abuja, THISDAY checks revealed that he lodged at Transcorp Hilton Hotel.
Chime had been away from the state since September 19, 2012 after transmitting a letter to the House of Assembly informing the lawmakers of his intention to begin his annual leave.
The governor, in the letter, said in his absence, his deputy, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, would function as the acting governor.
However, the shroud of secrecy that surrounded his trip triggered speculations about his health status, especially after he had been gone for some months.
While the state government refused to disclose the reason for his prolonged absence, THISDAY gathered that the governor was in London for cancer treatment. The cancer is said to be in remission.
Following agitation from some pressure groups to disclose his whereabouts amid speculations over his health, some government officials said Chime was healthy and had travelled abroad to spend his accumulated leave. But nobody could say when he would return.
The agitation to lift the shroud of secrecy over his trip later threw up a pro-democracy group, Save Enugu Group (SEG), whose membership included National Chairman of the Citizens Popular Party (CPP), Maxi Okwu; National Secretary of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), Willy Ezeugwu; and a former Commissioner for Sports in the state, Ray Nnaji.
The group had threatened to organise a protest in the event the acting governor refused to heed their demand to disclose the whereabouts of the governor.
Amidst the threat, in order to debunk the rumour over his alleged poor health and claims that he had died, a picture of the governor reportedly taken when a delegation of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), which comprised its chairman and Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi; Akwa Ibom State Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio; and Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam, visited the ailing governor in London, was released to the media.
Also in a bid to further douse the tension in the state, Akpabio last week said Chime had recovered and would be back to the state within some days.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has expressed joy over the return of Chime.
In a statement by the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, the party thanked all government functionaries from the state and the state PDP officials for their loyalty and commitment to the ideals of the party and the Chime administration.
The state chapter of the CNPP also expressed delight with the return of the governor.
The CNPP in a statement by its Chairman, Hon Afam Nnaji, and Secretary, Pastor FrankGold Ekwueme, also expressed gratitude to Onyebuchi and others for their support and contributions in keeping Enugu working while the governor was away.