Governor, Sullivan Chime,
Although, the Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime, duly transmitted a letter to the state House of Assembly for a consolidated leave which had commenced since September 19, the cause of his elongated leave has been shrouded in mystery, thus leading to various speculations. But much as Chime may have satisfied constitutional requirements, the people also reserve the right to know the whereabouts of their governor, writes Olawale Olaleye
Today makes it the 70th day that the Enugu State Governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime, has been out of the state on the pretext of going on a consolidated leave. The governor who reportedly left the shores of the country on September 19, transmitted a letter to the state House of Assembly through the Speaker, Eugene Odoh, wherein he properly handed over power to his deputy, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, as required of him by the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The first phase of the leave, which commenced on September 19, was later extended when it was clear the governor could not make it back on the initial due date. And since then, the state government had remained silent on the development even as the deputy governor is said to have carried on with the demeanour that “all is well.” But all is not well. The governor, the man re-elected into office in 2011, is missing without any explanation whatsoever from those who should know his whereabouts.
No doubt, the constitution is clear on this. Section 190 (1)(2) of the constitution, as amended, stipulates that the deputy governor should take over if the governor is on leave or is unable to discharge the function of his office. Sub-section 1 reads: “Whenever the Governor is proceeding on vacation or is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, he shall transmit a written declaration to the Speaker of the House of Assembly to that effect, and until he transmits to the Speaker of the House of Assembly a written declaration to the contrary, the Deputy Governor shall perform the functions of the Governor as Acting Governor.”
Subsection 2 reads further: “In the event that the Governor is unable or fails to transmit the written declaration mentioned in sub-section (1) of this section within 21 days, the House of Assembly shall, by a resolution made by a simple majority of the vote of the House, mandate the Deputy Governor to perform the functions of the office of the Governor as Acting Governor, until the Governor transmits a letter to the Speaker that he is now available to resume his functions as Governor.”
In the same vein, Section 145 Sub-section II of the constitution as amended stipulates that the Vice-President becomes acting president if the President is not available for 21 days.
Sadly, what is currently playing out in the coal city looks like a story line in an American blockbuster- Dave- by Kevin Kline. A 1993 comedy-drama, Dave, was directed by Ivan Reitman, written by Gary Ross, and starred Kevin Klineand Sigourney Weaver. Other Hollywood acts like Frank Langella, Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, and Ben Kingsley, also appeared in supporting roles.
According to the plot, Dave Kovic (Kline), ran a temporary employment agency in Georgetown, and had a rather weird side job which was, impersonating the US President, Bill Mitchell (also Kline). He was the president’s exceptional look-alike. Suddenly, he was requested by Secret Service agent Duane Stevensen (Rhames) to make an appearance as the president at a hotel. Dave assumed it was a matter of security, but it really was a ploy to cover up Mitchell’s extramarital affair with a White House member of staff (Linney).
In addition to that, the president also wanted him to be representing him at some occasions that were merely ceremonial but not as just a representative but as the US president since the public could not really distinguish between both of them- not even the First Lady – Ellen Mitchell (Weaver). That was also easy because she lived a separate life and rarely saw her husband. It thus remained a security secret.
Unfortunately, Mitchell soon suffered a severe stroke during the liaison, leaving him in a coma. White House Chief of Staff, Bob Alexander (Langella) and Communications Director, Alan Reed (Dunn), convinced Dave to continue impersonating the president, obviously for selfish political motive and kept the real picture away from the public and other stakeholders. Only Alexander, Reed, the Secret Service, and the medical staff knew of the switch. They lied to Dave that the Vice President, Gary Nance (Kingsley), who should have naturally taken over was mentally unbalanced and had been sent on a tour of some African countries.
But there was more to the dangerous game. Alexander had planned that with time, the public would be notified that Mitchell had a “minor circulatory problem of the head” and Nance who had been sent on a goodwill tour of Africa would be implicated in a savings and loan fraud that Alexander and Mitchell perpetrated. Thus, once Nance is forced to resign, Alexander promised to nominate Dave as veepee, because with Mitchell declared incapacitated from a more serious stroke and Nance gone, Alexander would automatically ascend the presidency. He had that much influence and desperately sought to rule the most powerful nation in the world.
Unfortunately for him, Dave’s enthusiasm had revived Mitchell’s popularity in the country. He once visited a homeless shelter with the First Lady, who did not understand why he had suddenly taken an interest. At that point, Alexander became uncomfortable because he did not even want Dave any close to the First Lady, else, his plans might be punctured. He soon falsified Mitchell’s veto of a funding bill that included the shelter, ostensibly for budget reasons. After the First Lady had confronted Dave about the veto, Dave confronted Alexander, who told him that if he could cut $650 million from the budget, he can keep the shelter promise.
Dave, as a result, employed the service of his accountant friend, Murray Blum (Grodin), who helped him rewrite the federal budget so that the project may be reinstated. Suspecting that Dave was not really her husband, the First Lady tricked Dave into revealing the truth. And when she was shown her real Bill on life support in the White House basement, she and Dave decided to leave the White House because of the tide the game had begun to assume.
But after a night out, they realised they could actually work together and that strengthened the morale of Dave who soon forced Alexander to resign, now taking full control of the wheel. He also announced a plan to find a job for every American who wanted one. At this time, the veepee had returned from Africa and of course, confronted Dave about the savings and loan scandal. He also told the President that the jobs initiative was good, but that the scandal would make it difficult for it to be passed.
Determined to fight back, Alexander revealed the President’s involvement in the savings and loan scandal. In a joint session of Congress, Dave admitted to the President’s role in the scandal, but introduced evidence, proving that Alexander was the mastermind and that Nance was not involved in any way. Watching the session on TV with friends, Alexander knew his ally in the White House, Alan, had betrayed him.
Midway in his speech, Dave faked a stroke and a switch was made successfully with the real Mitchell in an ambulance enroute to the hospital. Nance automatically became the acting president and sworn in as President five months after Mitchell died. Alexander and other members of the Mitchell administration were indicted on various charges on the day the jobs initiative passed.
Apart from its corruption undertone, the story also revealed the degree of desperation and high-wire politics that go on behind the corridor of power even in advanced democracies, albeit Dave is pure fiction.
Yet, the Enugu Dave, Ellen, Alexander, Alan and others who are acting out a similar script have not deemed it needful to update the public on the state of Chime’s health because they are not only comfortable, other entrenched interests that could pose problems have also been adequately “contained”.
Thus, since the constitutional aspect has been so fulfilled and government is operating in full swing, those in power in Enugu did not believe the electorate are entitled to full disclosure on the whereabouts of their governor. They do not belong to the school that public officials do not have private lives and as such, issues of health, whether or not they have direct bearing with governance, remain a private thing.
Like in Dave, Onyecbuchi has begun to act true to type, subtly assuming and asserting the authority of his new office. A few weeks ago, he reportedly dissolved the board of the Enugu State Universal Basic Education (ENSUBEB) and also removed the Head of Service in the state, Mr. Dennis Eze. The impression being given now is that the absence of Chime has not in any way affected governance and which should be the primary concern of the people.
Their assumption notwithstanding, the people are worried. While some claimed that the governor had gone for treatment of a yet-to-be identified ailment abroad, others have made some unprintable allegations about his whereabouts. Some residents have even questioned the propriety of the governor’s prolonged absence from the state. This is where the people of Enugu need to cry out and inform the appropriate quarters of the development in the state.
Indeed, informed opinions say they should write a letter to the National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki; State Security Service (SSS) and the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji MD Abubakar, because by virtue of the Freedom of Information Act, they have a right to know and should seek explanation to the subterranean moves to seize power in the state. As far as this matter is concerned, Chime is missing and should be treated as such.
Clearly, there appears to be an underground cover-up on the governor’s whereabouts. It is also clear that some people in the state are up to some political mischief, hence the deafening silence surrounding the development. It is simply inexplicable that a governor has been out of the state for 70 days and no word yet from any quarters. Such an awful disregard for the right of the people to know, observers say, is only feasible in this part of the world. But they are of the opinion that the time has come for such practices to change in the collective drive for a better society.