In a Press briefing with reporters at the Governor’s lodge in Enugu State, Governor Sullivan Chime narrated his ordeal to newsmen, how he plagued with cancer of the nose, and what he passed through for four months. He also noted his displeasure at critics and detractors who tried to fuel the situation negatively on the basis of ignorance. Here is what he said:
“Let me say first and foremost that it is heart-warming to be in your midst today after exactly four and a half months outside the country.
I decided to call this meeting for us to have the opportunity to clarify a few issues because while I was away, I read so many embarrassing publications from the print media. Most of them conflicting, almost all of them false and it was so embarrassing not to my person, personally, but for those of you who know me, such things don’t embarrass me, I am not interested, you can write anything provided it doesn’t bother on defamation.
“But I decided to call this (media briefing) may be to clear the air for the interest of our people because I noticed that it generated a lot of interests. So many people became interested.
People who did not know of my existence; when I came back I got all sorts of text messages from strange people thanking God for my return. Because of the interest it generated, I felt there is need for us to come together in the hope that after today we will put to rest everything that bothers on rumour and falsehood regarding my leave.
“I don’t know whether I should just tell a smooth story of how I proceeded on leave before the barrage of publications started coming or I should go ahead and attempt to address some of the issues that I felt should be addressed in the sense that some bothered on constitutionality, others bothered on morality and so many things. I think I will go for the first one – let me tell the story of what actually happened. ”
“Late August or early September, last year, I am not sure again of the dates, but it is about that time. I was privileged to be one of those nominated by the Nigeria Governors Forum to go to Germany to understudy their federal system. A Governor was picked from each of the six geo-political zones. I represented the South-East and of course, we were led by our Chairman, Rotimi Amaechi.
“On our way to Germany, I decided to go a little bit earlier, passing through London to do my medicals because of what I will call lack of our time. We do not have time here. So, I decided to take that opportunity, got to London and did my medicals and was certified fit. I was given a clean bill of health. But I had a little growth here (pointing at the right side of his neck) that was not visible to anybody. I am a very observant person. I noticed it, showed it to my doctor and he touched it and said he didn’t feel it is anything serious, that I should just try and forget it.
“So, I thought they would have seen anything if there was anything wrong when they were doing the general scanning and screening, but nothing was found. So, I just singled it and said, please, this particular thing, I will like it to be investigated. I was referred to GB who after examining me and asking me questions, because I told him, no symptoms, no pains, no discomfort from anywhere. He said as far as he was concerned, there was nothing wrong but as a professional advised me to investigate it further because I was almost running out of time, short of time.
“I made arrangements with them to help me set up appointments for closer examination of the growth. So the next day I left for Germany to join my colleagues. On that trip was my Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Dr. Jude Akubuilo and my SSA Investment. They were already in Germany waiting for me and so, I joined them. At the end of the day, about a week after they had set up the arrangement, I left Germany. I left my colleagues. I told them where I was going, went back to London and did the proper screening of that particular growth. They did biopsies and all that. So, in the process it was discovered that it was cancerous. The growth was cancerous.”
“Further investigation revealed that the main tumour, because this actually turned out to be the lymph node, but the main tumour was behind my nose. It actually turned out to be what they called nasopharyngeal cancer- that is cancer of the nose. At that stage when you hear cancer, you will declare yourself dead before any further examination. Then I asked them what should be done, they told me straight away that they will subject me to further screening to know if it had spread. So luckily it hadn’t spread, it is just only in those two places.
“They said the good news is that it was curable and not manageable. It was curable, that was when I became interested. And they said as soon as I was ready, they would commence treatment. Originally we had planned to go from Germany to Lebanon on our way back to Nigeria but I cancelled that trip, went back to Germany, informed my people I went with, came down to London with the Commissioner. The SSA hadn’t UK Visa then, so he travelled back to Nigeria from Germany. In London we made arrangement and agreed on when to come.
“So we came back to Nigeria and within the two weeks, I was able to make arrangements for transition. I wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House of Assembly in accordance with the constitution, informing him of my decision to proceed on leave and of course sought his cooperation to work very well with the Deputy Governor, who would work as governor in my absence. Within the two weeks, we held two exco meetings, the last was held on Tuesday, the week I left. After the EXCO meeting, I told my EXCO members that I was proceeding on long vacation which I wouldn’t know how long it would last to treat myself. That was the information they got and of course I told them to cooperate with the acting governor. The following day, I left for Abuja, which was a Wednesday and again attended the meeting of the Governors’ Forum, that night. Then Thursday morning, we had National Economic Council meeting and the Deputy Governor was there to represent me.
“I got to London and settled in and the following day Friday went to see the Oncologist who had already made arrangements for treatments to begin and on Monday, I started treatment. I don’t think any of you has had an experience. Cancer is a deadly disease and the cure is also deadly, the cure for cancer is not Panadol, the cure for cancer is not these drugs you buy off the counter. By the time you go through Chemotherapy and radiotherapy, you will be a changed person. So I started treatment, the treatment altogether lasted for 12 weeks, throughout the period of my treatment, I was an outpatient. I was never admitted in any hospital, all my treatments, I took as an outpatient. During the period of treatment, I personally had challenges with the treatment because like I said, except you see somebody that has taken that kind of treatment, it is not easy to imagine.
“So when I started reading in the papers, how I went to India, how I died at so, so place, to us it was a kind of entertainment. Any time we felt like being entertained, we call up the Nigerian papers online and we will be laughing. So it was a lot of entertainment to us but what became worrisome was the deliberate and sustained attempt to undermine the government of Enugu State. Over the years, if you people have been following events especially when we addressed our people, yes, we have invested a lot of money in infrastructure and other spheres of life but I have always said that one thing we would like to leave behind is a workable system, that had always been topmost on our agenda because when we came in, yes, I was part of the last administration but unfortunately when we came in there was no system in place, not even a bad one. So we felt there was this need to have a system in place because that is the only way you can encourage continuity because in this place, a governor comes and he will want to chart his own course. But if you have a system in place, if a governor comes in, he will build on what is on ground.
“This was a kind of opportunity to put to test the system we have put in place. Everything kept on happening as if the governor was not on leave, nobody talked about strike, nobody talked about non payment of salaries, no contractor agitated over payment of fees, everything and life continued to be normal.
It was like we had increased activities in my absence and I can say that I can beat my chest to thank the Deputy Governor who led the team and who ensured that the system worked in my absence. I am happy that we have almost attained that height and when we will be leaving in a few years time, we will be glad we have built a system and it is a good thing to notice that we didn’t have problems in spite of all attempts made by our brothers and sisters to undermine us. The government of Enugu state has come to stay, the system put by us has come to stay.
“The treatment officially ended on 10th of December and of course when treatment ends, that is when the real thing starts. When I had commenced treatment, what my doctors said was that I should stay off office for six months, that was their recommendation, but by first week of January when we went to review my state, they were shocked at the recovery rate, they were happy with the recovery, the scan they did showed that the tumour and nose fluid had disappeared completely, not even a scar was left behind.
“And I won’t like to use the expression that they have declared me cancer free, but that was exactly what happened. Cancer is cancer and one will be required to go there from time to time for check up to make sure it does not raise its ugly head again. But as things are now, they have succeeded in curing that disease that was detected in September last year.
“Coming to my staff, all attacks on them that they were hoarding information and all that was an unfair attack. First and foremost, they didn’t have all the information, all they knew was that I was going on vacation and I didn’t know it was the business of people to know what my activities will be when I am going on vacation. So I decided to use the period of my vacation to take care of myself I don’t see how it should concern anybody, I don’t see why we should owe anybody any apologies. The important thing is complying with the law, making sure that as governor of the state, you ensured that the ship of governance remained on course and not abandoning your people. So, all those unfair attacks I found a little bit mischievous and actually exposed ignorance of some of our people. I was officially discharged [not on admission] and I am still in the process of recovering, you won’t expect to see me tomorrow running but I am fitter now to resume duties, I am fit enough to ensure that government is on course with the assistance of my co-pilots.