Enugu state Governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime flanked by some members of the Governor's forum, Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue state, Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom state (l) and their Rivers state counterpart, Gov. Rotimi Amaechi in London
By Christopher Isiguzo
Following months of absence and speculation over his health, the Governor of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime, made his first public appearance, albeit in a photograph, that showed him with his colleagues, who had gone to visit him in London Tuesday.
Chime was shown in the photograph standing alongside Governors Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), Gabriel Suswam (Benue) and Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom). He appeared to be healthy, with the hint of a smile on his face.
All four men were warmly clothed to protect them from the sub-zero winter temperature in London.
Chime, who left the country ostensibly on a six-week vacation, has not been seen or heard from since his departure in September last year.
Even though he handed over to his deputy, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, before he left, his prolonged absence and silence have led to rumours over his health and whereabouts.
This has been compounded by a leadership crisis in Enugu State, with various groups urging the state House of Assembly to invoke the Doctrine of Necessity to empower the deputy governor to act in Chime’s absence.
But in what might be perceived as a move to stop those agitating to dislodge Chime, a photograph of the governors with his colleagues at an undisclosed location in London Tuesday, was released.
The governors were said to have travelled to London to visit Chime following pressure from unnamed quarters that it was wrong of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) to have remained seemingly unconcerned about the Enugu governor since he embarked on his medical trip abroad.
Though the actual venue of the said meeting was not disclosed, sources said the governors had met with Chime at a private residence where he is presently staying after he returned from a medical check-up on Monday.
The photograph of Chime and other governors, notwithstanding, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Eugene Odoh, Tuesday, stoutly defended the governor, insisting that he had not breached any law even after spending four months away from the state.
Odoh, who faulted the position of the Save Enugu Group (SEG), which emerged following the prolonged absence of the governor, said the legislators had not violated the constitution by refusing to be drawn into the controversy.
In a remark during the resumption of debate on the state’s 2013 Appropriation Bill, the speaker said that by not applying the Doctrine of Necessity to dislodge Chime on account of his absence, the state Assembly had not done anything wrong to warrant any attack as witnessed in the last few days.
The SEG, had in a letter to the Speaker on Monday, asked the lawmakers to invoke the Doctrine of Necessity to empower Onyebuchi to act as the governor of the state.
Citing the case of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, whose illness and absence had compelled the National Assembly to invoke the Doctrine of Necessity, which empower his then deputy, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to act, the SEG urged the Enugu Assembly to do the same due to Chime’s long absence and silence.
However, the speaker said: “We believe that those demanding this do not actually know what the Doctrine of Necessity is all about. Perhaps, people equate the Doctrine of Necessity with a mere jamboree phenomenon.”
Insisting that Chime’s absence was in order and should not be compared with that of the late Yar’Adua, the speaker reiterated that the governor had duly transmitted a letter to the state Assembly before travelling and in the said letter he had empowered his deputy as the acting governor.
“It beats my imagination when some people start to say that the House of Assembly should empower the deputy governor to act. Under our constitution, the power to act has been vested in the deputy governor and the constitution does not provide for double acting capacity as some people are clamouring for,” he said.
The speaker further explained that the Doctrine of Necessity was applied by the National Assembly in the case of the late Yar’Adua when the president travelled without handing over to the vice-president.
He also dismissed the request that certain individuals be assigned to visit the governor overseas to ascertain how he is faring.