141 days after Governor Sullivan Chime left the Enugu State Government House for what government officials term 'consolidated leave', the governor yesterday returned to the country through Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Though throughout the period the governor stayed away his aides had insisted that he was on vacation, recent developments revealed that the governor was actually ill as attested to by governors Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers) and Gabriel Suswan (Benue), who visited him in London to wish him quick recovery. True to the claims by the three colleagues of Chime that he would soon return, he touched down in Abuja yesterday and is expected in Enugu today, where a reception would be staged for him in late afternoon.
A reliable government source confided that the governor, having been away for some time would need to use the opportunity of his return through Abuja to meet some of his people in the National Assembly, and possibly visit Aso Rock.
As the governor was expected in Enugu today, a principal officer of the state House of Assembly, who craved anonymity, said yesterday that the House was in contact with him and expected him to write them officially to intimate the lawmakers that he was back. According to the source, the House would on Tuesday next week sit to deliberate on the Chime's letter telling them that he was back and ready to return to his desk.
When Chime travelled out, the state Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr. Eugene Odoh said he transmitted a letter to the House, declaring his intention to be away more than 21 days and thus handed over to his Deputy, Mr Sunday Onyebuchi in acting capacity.
However, with the passage of time and when it appeared that Chime was not in a hurry to return, the Save Enugu Group (SEG) led by Chief Maxi Okwu sprang up, demanding his whereabouts, as well as urging the house and the acting governor to declare him incapacitated and unable to again carry out his functions as governor.
The group had given the acting governor a seven-day ultimatum to disclose where Chime was or face legal action, when the governor returned.
Yesterday, when the news filtered into town that Chime was back, the group through one of its members, Mr. Igbonekwu Ogazimorah, in a statement said they were happy over his return. "Save Enugu Group received with joy the informal news of the return of Governor Sullivan Chime, into Nigeria, in the wee hours of this morning.
"We are reliably informed that Governor Chime arrived Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on a British Airways flight from London Heathrow and moved to the Enugu Lodge in Abuja. We note that this event is taking place exactly one month after we first sounded the alarm of prolonged and unexplained absence.
"We acclaimed this as falling within desired responsive action of leaders in a democracy.
"If the further information on the frail condition of the governor is reliable, we wish to state that Governor Chime did not deserve being hustled out of 'gainful stay' in good health institutions, if the right things were done first and before questions arose. In that respect, we, as other good people of Enugu State, stand to hold those responsible for primitive lies and needless cover ups responsible. We wish our Governor Sullivan I. Chime well and full recovery," the group said.
But when contacted, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the governor, Mr Chukwudi Achife, confirmed that the governor would land in Enugu today, saying those who had carried various rumours about the governor, particularly the Save Enugu Group should now go to bury their heads in shame.