The continuing absence of Enugu state governor Sullivan Chime leaves a sour taste in my mouth, but it is not for the reasons you might think.
I am from Enugu state and the present state of affairs falls, as they say, on my doorsteps. It is unprecedented in Enugu history for a governor to—if we are to believe the official statement—be on accumulated leave for this long. Despite all the political and constitutional rules this lengthy absence is said to be breaching, I do not intend to dwell on what laws has been broken or how that will impact the polity. Rather, I want to dwell on how much the man’s tenure has affected my community and what his absence means to my constituency and me.
I am from the hills of Anike. My ancestral home is the hilltop town of Nkwe: one of those places that development seems to ignore perpetually, until recently that is. This lack of development may, or may not, have something to do with the fact that aside from meagre cassava, vegetable and palm produce that our women take to the markets in Awgu—where our LGA headquarters is situated—and neighbouring towns, we appear, on the surface, to largely lack much to offer in terms of commerce. This argument, that we don’t contribute much to the state to warrant attention, was used to justify the lack of government presence in the villages that make up Anike for decades by successive governments.
In truth, my village, located within the hills of Anike—where terraced farmlands, beautiful hills and valleys, forests, meandering rivers and other gifts of nature are readymade for tourism, where an abundance of that particular type of stone used for building in the south east meant quarrying would take off once big trucks could make it into the hills, where the highland climate calls for a different kind of agriculture, the kind that makes South Africa billions in wine sales—has more potential than any myopic minded government would see even if you place the evidence right under their nose.
The thoughts of tourism and its associated economic empowerment have always being on the mind of my people, but devoid of effective representation for years and lacking the economic power to begin the required transformation from rustic rural settings to a town with enough modern amenities to draw the potential tourist, we could only do so much. If you don’t believe the tourism potentials of the hills of Anike, think of a more accessible Obudu, rolling hills and all; think ancient hill terraces that are hundreds of years old; think fauna protected by ancient gods and flora that produces the freshest air you can dream of.
Like what obtains in many communities in the south east, social and infrastructure development in my village has been based on the communal self-help system for years. My people carved their own roads from the slopes, built their own schools, began building their own health centre, before the intervention of a son of the soil, Uche Uzochukwu, drew government’s attention to a land too far off the beaten track for anyone to take notice.
Government completed the health centre and the secondary school, all built within the last ten years, and we celebrated what was an unprecedented feat in our eyes: government providing infrastructure to us, the usual rejects. This was in the days of Chimaroke Nnamani, who despite his regrettable lack of ambition actually had some spark of grassroots development, in his first term that is.
If you know my village, or similar villages in Nigeria, you would understand when I say that I never expected to see a paved road snaking towards it in my lifetime. If you’ve ever been to my village, you would not be amazed when I say thoughts of pipes bearing water to homes in the village was as improbable as Nigeria putting a man on the moon in the next decade. Public power supply was something we spied from across the hills when we look towards Mbana in Isioche LGA of Imo state, we dreamt of it but for sure weren’t expecting to see those cables crisscrossing our hamlets any time soon.
The summary of it is that within the last 4 years all these farfetched dreams came to pass.
I had returned home earlier in the year and beheld a scene that appeared surreal: a very big water storage tank in front of my father’s stone and brick house, with public taps located by our entrance, one of several in the village; just behind the fetching point is a big PHCN transformer, one of two in the village. Now my trusty generator rests when it should be doing its duty of powering our house. However, the wonder of public power supply and pipe borne water from the two water schemes in the village diminished when I got home for the Christmas celebrations—in the face of black tar climbing the hills towards my village to transform what naturally is the remotest place in Enugu state into 21st century compliant village.
I do not give in to praise singing easily and I still hold that much of our leaders are rouges who are raping us ceaselessly, but in Chime, I have found a man, who though operates from a deeply flawed system, delivers the promised good governance to the people.
The story of Nkwe is not peculiar, a one off, it is something Enugu state holds in common, the story of a silent, but hard working governor.
It will be very sad if Chime is not able to complete his tenure, or if his illness takes much away from a man that feels the pulse of the grassroots and is willing to do the right thing in a region where democracy does not exist.
Enugu state is dragging, every facet feels the absence of the governor, and something needs to be done soonest. While I hope his return happens soon, it may be wise for the man to look at himself well and speak truth, to himself. Even if he can’t go on, his legacy is assured.
Governor Sullivan Chime has done well, but he needs to watch it less he gets carried away with his achievements and sense of importance and fall into the trap that ate his predecessor: overblown sense of self worth, that disease that afflicts politicians and makes them think they alone have all the right answers.