Posted by Editor on January 28, 2013.
The Action Congress of Nigeria, human rights lawyer Femi Falana (SAN), and civil society groups have slammed the Nigeria Governors’ Forum for sending a delegation to visit Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State, who is reportedly receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness, in London.
According to them, the governors are helping Chime to perpetuate has hold on power by all means.
Chime has been away from the country for over four months and with the nature of his illness shrouded in secrecy, there have been questions about his fitness to govern the state.
Last week, after months of questions and criticisms of the governor’s health and the manner in which his absence was being handled, a group picture of Chime with governors Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, Gabriel Suswam of Benue, and Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers states, said to have been taken in London, went viral on the Internet and in newspapers.
However, in a statement in Lagos on Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Ahaji Lai Mohammed, the ACN criticised the Nigeria Governors’ Forum for the “choreographed visit”, saying it was designed to reinforce the line being peddled by Chime’s supporters rather than keep the people of the state informed of the true situation.
While the Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Mr. Debo Adeniran, accused the governors of hypocrisy, Falana said it was a mere solidarity visit which failed to satisfy constitutional provisions.
For his part, the Secretary, Joint Action Force, Mr. Abiodun Aremu, who agreed that it was a solidarity visit, said the governors went with the hope that the visit would be reciprocated if such a fate befell them in the future.
According to the ACN, the poor handling of Chime’s reported illness fits into the growing pattern of shrouding the health problems of elected officials in secrecy.
It said, “There is no doubt that that the reason behind all the shenanigans is the desperation by public office holders to hold on to power at all costs, even when it is clear that their health has failed to such a level that they are better off stepping down so they can attend to their health problems.”
The party explained that its main concern was that the conspiracy of silence being perpetrated by the state governors who were reported to have taken ill and abandoned their duty posts, as well as their supporters especially the NGF, did not serve the interest of the country’s democracy.
It added, ‘’In the case of Governor Chime, how can a man who is purportedly on vacation disappear for over 135 days and the people who voted him into office are not expected to ask questions?
“Does the constitution provide for such a long ‘vacation’ without consequences? Is Governor Chime’s deputy, whom he reportedly handed over to, given enough latitude to adequately preside over the affairs of the state? If not, how has this affected governance in the state?
“And to what extent have the people of the state been denied the dividends of democracy by this unnecessary controversy?”
According to Falana, the right thing to do is for the House of Assembly of Enugu State – and other states where governors have been absent – to constitute a five-man panel of medical experts who will determine the governor’s fitness to continue to govern.
He said, “It is that panel that will submit a report after examining the governors involved to determine whether they are fit to remain in office. It is not (determined following) a mere visit by non-qualified medical personnel. That does not satisfy the provisions of the constitution.”
While calling on the governors to condemn the situation in the state and call for the deputy governor to be sworn in, Adeniran stressed that the secrecy surrounding the governor’s health was being motivated by President Goodluck Jonathan, who had also refused to disclose details about his wife’s health.
He said, “People should be able to disclose their state of health, especially when they are at the helm of affair in any political entity. The present President doesn’t also help matters by the way he handles the condition of his wife’s health.”
Where the House of Assembly fails to do the right thing, Aremu said it was up to the people “to rise in unison and demand for a leadership that can serve them”.
The ACN, which also accused the governors of frittering away taxpayers’ money on the trip to London and creating more controversy by releasing a picture instead of providing needed details about Chime’s condition, urged public office-holders to be more open about their illness and, if necessary, cede full power to those constitutionally empowered to take over.
“It is time we stopped this practice that only serves the purpose of those who are hell bent on clinging to power, not considering the interest of the people who voted them into office,’’ it said.