Though aides of Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State denied that he was ill while he was away from the state, the Governor has officially disclosed that he was kept away from his seat for 140 days as he battled cancer. The Governor made the disclosure while briefing journalists on Monday at the Enugu State Government House.
The Governor said “in August last year, I was privileged to be one of those nominated by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to go to Germany to study their federalism, I was to represent the South East zone; I had to use the opportunity of the trip to pass through London to do my medicals since it was the only opportunity I had to do that. After my medicals, I was certified fit by the Doctors, but I noticed that I had a little growth beneath my jaw. Ordinarily, nobody could see it but I felt it seriously and asked the doctors to do further investigation on it.
I was later referred to a GP who after examining me said there was nothing wrong with me. I still asked for further investigation. I even made arrangement with them to help me set appointment for closer investigation. I left for Germany and had to still return to London to keep the appointment for proper screening of the growth. It was after the screening that it was discovered that the growth in question was cancerous. It was also discovered that the main tumour was behind my nose; it was simply called cancer of the nose.
Cancer is such thing that when you hear it, the person involved will even declare himself dead instantly. I was subjected to further scanning at the nose and neck and was told that it was curable, not manageable. When I asked how to go about it, I was told it has to be as early as possible before it spreads to other areas. Accordingly I arranged for it to be done. I had to cancel further trips and agreed to be back to London in two weeks. Within the period, I came back to Nigeria and made arrangement for transmission. I wrote a letter to the Speaker, informing him of my decision to proceed on leave and sought his cooperation to work with my Deputy who will act as Governor’
Speaking further, the Governor said “we even held two executive council meetings within the period where I informed members of my exco that I was proceeding on a long vacation. I left for Abuja the next day and attended the Governors’ Forum meeting and the next day I left for London, settled in and saw the oncologist the next day. By Monday, I commenced treatment. Cancer is a deadly disease and the cure is also deadly. It’s not like Panadol, not drugs we buy off the counter. You go through different stages. The treatment altogether lasted for 12 weeks and throughout the treatment, I was an out-patient. I was never admitted in any hospital in London. During the period of the treatment, I had challenges and these are challenges I will not even wish my enemy to go through; it’s not easy to imagine.
When I read in the papers that I had died in India, it was a source of entertainment; each time we wanted to laugh, we looked for Nigeria papers online but what became worrisome, was the deliberate and sustained attempt to undermine the government of Enugu state. If you’ve been following events, over the years, we’ve invested a lot on infrastructure but I’ve always said that one thing I would like to leave behind is a workable system. When we came in, there was no system in place and I felt there was indeed to build one in order to encourage continuity. This was therefore an opportunity to test the system we had put in place. You must have observed that we have something resembling a system in place now. While I was away, the government kept on functioning, everything kept on moving as if I was around. Nobody talked about strike over non-payment of salaries, no contractor complained that he was not paid. We even had increased activities in my absence.
I can beat my chest that the Deputy Governor who led the team indeed ensured that the system worked in my absence. I’m happy we’ve almost reached that height, it gladdened my heart. Of course, we were in close contact and we didn’t have problems in spite of attempts by some of our brothers and sisters who live in the Diaspora to undermine the system and were publishing all sorts of nonsense. Our local media even joined in spreading the falsehood but in a nutshell, the Enugu State Government under my administration has come to stay. The treatment ended on December 14 and the period of recovery commenced”.
On how long it would take to recover, the Governor said “I was asked to stay away from office for six months but by late January when we went to review my state, they were shocked with my recovery rate which showed that the tumour had gone. I was almost declared cancer free. I will be required to be going there from time to time, but I can assure you that they succeeded in curing the disease.
I can tell you that I was officially discharged that’s why I had to return. I’m still in the process of recovery and as such you don’t expect me to start running tomorrow but I’m free to resume duties to ensure that activities are running on full speed.
Let me also make it clear that when I was leaving for London, I left a healthy man. I voluntarily submitted myself to have the tumour removed. To further buttress this point, I left the shores of this country without a single aide. Most times, cancer kills because of late discovery; it’s curable. Anybody that discovers that he has cancer should go and treat it and not allow the opinions of people to dissuade him or her.
The people that ought to know about my predicament actually knew. Let me make it clear to you that there is hardly any public officer that travels out on vacation only to go and rest. Most of them go out to attend to health challenges. I didn’t travel sick, it was a tumour. I wasn’t grounded. I decided to nip it in the bud. I actually chose that period to do it because that was the only window of opportunity that I had. That was the first time I was spending four months together outside Enugu since maybe after the war. It was never an emergency and it can never be likened to that of Yar’Adua. While Yar’Adua travelled out sick, I travelled out a healthy man and let me also tell you that the attacks started about two weeks after I left”.