Since the inception of the fourth republic in 1999, Governors have been the subject of intense speculation and debate whenever they disappear from official and other public functions. As the year tails to an end, a serious call for concern is the plight of some state governors that have been missing in action for the past few months.
Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua spent most of his tenure governing Katsina state from various hospital beds in Europe, unknown to people of Katsina, till he was foisted on Nigerians by Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007 as President. He lost his battle with his health in 2010. Crisis was averted when Goodluck Jonathan was eventually sworn in as acting and much later, substantive President. Two-term governor of Edo State, Lucky Igbinedion also had his own share of health challenges, which he tacitly managed and kept away from public knowledge.
Kogi State Governor, Idris Wada, on friday December 28, was involved in an auto crash with his convoy when his Lexus SUV tyre burst, causing it to somersault three times into an uncompleted building by the road side. Multiple crashes ensued as other vehicles were in his motorcade. His driver escaped unhurt, but the governor’s Aide-de-Camp, ASP Idris Mohammed, died instantly, while others in his motorcade sustained varying degree of injury.
Wada was quickly evacuated by his officials to Kogi Specialist Hospital in Lokoja from where he was transferred to the National Hospital, Abuja for further treatment.
The governor was returning from the annual Igala Education Summit which he declared opened at the Kogi State University in Anyigba when his convoy was involved in the crash on Lokoja-Ajaokuta Road.
The speculation surrounding the health of Sullivan Chime, the Enugu State governor, has become intense in recent weeks as officials of the state continue to vehemently refute rumours of his absence, refusing to disclose his whereabouts or state of health. News of his ailment has been misconstrued as death in some parts of the state. Former minister of state for foreign affairs Dubem Onyia had to calm frayed nerves by stating the governor is alive and kicking.
Sullivan’s last public appearance was at the meeting of South-East Governors Forum on September 9, 2012 in Enugu, since then he has been conspicuously missing in public functions. An investigation revealed that the governor made only 17 public appearances from a possible 111 in 2012. To underscore his frail heath, he collapsed in Nsukka in 2011, and relapsed twice in Enugu, in 2008 and 2009.
However, an aide of the governor, who regrets the entire saga, recently told some journalists that Chime was in "a bad shape before he left the country for London. We noticed it."
The aide explained further "for some time now, we noticed that the governor has not been his usual bubbling self. You may not easily know this because he carries himself well and hardly talks, but some of us knew that the man was down. From what we heard, he is no longer in London; he was flown to India last week because his health condition wasn’t getting better. As I speak to you right now, he is in a hospital in India."
Concern, apprehension and anxiety can best describe the mood in Enugu, particularly Udi where Governor Chime hails from.
In November, former Federal Minister of Power and Steel, now Governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke had announced that he was taking time off to attend to his medical condition without disclosing the problem he had with his health. He wrote a letter to the state House of Assembly that he had handed over to his deputy, Efiok Cobham, so as to enable him proceed on an accumulated leave.
Reports say the governor’s health condition has to do with his kidney. Government house sources said Liyel is on life support and undergoing regular dialyses.
Similar to other ailing governors, aides and protocol-men are having a busy time deflating rumours of the governor’s deteriorating health. The pace of development has been reduced to snail’s pace as the Deputy Governor, Efiok Cobham, like his counterpart in Enugu state, Sunday Onyebuchi, cannot approve more than N500, 000 for any project regardless of how pressing it is, rather attention have now been channelled to gull the people of the states.
Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State met his untimely death on his way to Port Harcourt from Bayelsa after he attended the funeral of late Mr Tamunoobebara Douglas, the father of the Presidential adviser on Research, Documentation and Strategy, Mr Oronto Douglas, when the Nigerian Navy Augusta 109 helicopter conveying himself, the erstwhile National Security Adviser, General Owoye Azazi and four others, burst into flames and crashed at Okoroba village in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
They were said to have been badly burnt and only identified by the shreds of their clothes.
Yakowa has since been buried and Kaduna state has moved on with the swearing in of his deputy Mukhtar Yero as the new governor and former Peoples Democratic Party chairman in the state, Mr. Nuhu Bajoga, his deputy.
Very little has been heard of Taraba State Governor, Dambaba Danfulani Suntai, since the head injuries he sustained after his Cessna 208 private jet, piloted by him in company of five of his aides, crashed on October 25 in Yola, capital of Adamawa State.
He initially received treatment at the Abuja National Hospital before he was eventually flown to Germany for "proper medical attention".
A presidential delegation, led by Senate President David Mark, embarked on a clandestine journey to see the governor on his sick bed in Germany en route their official destination of the Vatican City to witness the consecration of Archbishop John Onaiyekan as Cardinal of the Catholic Church, disclosed that apart from the fact that he is bedridden, he could not recognize members of the delegation.
The silence on Governor Suntai’s health status is considered by many as a scheme to delay the swearing in of the deputy governor as the substantive governor, despite prove beyond reasonable doubt that Suntai might not be able to fully recover from the crash to govern Taraba again.
In similar manner to the propaganda by other state governors on ‘vacation,’ the deceit and lies by media aides to the governor continued unabated without recourse to his prolonged absence from the country. This has stalled governance in Taraba as there was no official handover to his deputy to take charge of day-to-day administration of the state.
The polity of the affected states have being heated unnecessarily as a result of prolonged absence of these governors fuelled by persistent denials by their aides who are not bothered that the people they govern deserve to know the whereabouts and medical condition of their Governors.
It would be safe to conclude that a lot of them are aware of their fragile health before aspiring for political office which they thereafter shield and employ state resources to keep going. These Governors, like every other human being, can succumb to illness, but it is the secrecy that it is shrouded, the leadership vacuum created and the attendant dislocation in the workings of government when they periodically break down that is a source of worry.