After speculating for over three months and running the whole gamut of pathology, the media have suddenly come to a crushing anti-climax with the release by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) of a photograph showing a “great, very great,” but mildly pensive Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State in company with three other Nigerian governors in London. The visitors were Governors Gabriel Suswan of Benue, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers and Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom. And the visit was presumed to have taken place on Tuesday, though the photo caption did not indicate where in London Chime received his visitors. Apparently, the photograph was meant to convey a picture of general wellness than to answer the equally important question of where the picture was taken.
The pointed message the news, which seems so affected, and photograph, which is so impersonal and yet familiar and puzzling, sought to convey is that the governor is as fit as a fiddle, is solidly on his feet, and will be back home very soon. The three visiting governors – they would gladly spend so much more of taxpayers’ money to show empathy – were quoted to have said a word or two underscoring Chime’s clean bill of health. One was reported to have said the Enugu governor had made full recovery; another said he was in good shape; and the third, before berating the public for ganging up to wish their leaders evil, claimed Chime had recovered tremendously.
It is clear that neither Chime nor any of his three august visitors understood the issues involved, and indeed it is no surprise that most Nigerian governors are simply incapable of adapting to the governmental needs of the modern era. If Chime and his fanatical supporters had come clean on his health, regularly updated the public with news of the governor’s health condition, and not take the same electorate for granted, would there be speculations, let alone a wish for some hypothetical evil to befall him? The problem with Chime’s long absence is not whether the constitution had been breached or not; the problem is lack of good faith, disrespect for Enugu people, childish contrivances, and now additional verbal indiscretions from the visiting governors.
But we have the three governors visiting Chime in London to thank for inspiring reports expected to dispel all rumours about the ailing or fully recovered governor’s health. It would have been unnecessary to look forward to any governor’s reports, not to talk of doubting them, had the state and its hospitalised governor done the commonsensical thing in the circumstance. It is truly dismaying that three governors believed to be incapable of exaggerations of any sort – Chime is no longer a reliable witness in his own health story – had to struggle to tell what they swore was the truth. Yet, the story is much simpler than they have made it.
If, as they say, Chime has made “full and tremendous recovery, and is in good shape,” what on earth is he still doing in London? They say he’ll be home soon. This column wishes him safe journey. But it is a pity the constitution does not permit impeachment on the grounds of poor judgement, which Chime is exhibiting copiously. Nothing so degrades governance and retards progress as poor judgement, a vice most African governments, by their incompetence, haughtiness and insensitivity, revel in. And nothing has been so appallingly sentimentalised in Nigeria as when its leaders fall ill, as Chime, a few other governors, and at least two Nigerian presidents have shown.
This Op-ed piece was originally published in The Nation.