SILENCE, they say, is sometimes golden. Over the past few months, both the regular and social media have been inundated with stories, rumours, conjectures, speculations and outright lies concerning the absence of Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State.
In all of this, one fact has remained glaring: The response from the Enugu State Government, particularly Governor Chime’s media team, has been mostly subdued. Initially, I was inclined to think that either the team was out of its depths in handling the matter or that it was hiding something. But today, it is clear to me and amillions of other Nigerians that the government was adopting the far more superior strategy of restraint in its approach to the matter than most people are willing to acknowledge.
To a discerning mind, the fact that the pattern of media representation of the matter has been so lopsided and often times speculative and incoherent, readily suggests the presence of a smudge campaign, a death wish or something of that nature against the Governor and his government from hostile quarters.
The first time the story broke about the Governor’s alleged ill health, he was barely one week out of the country after transmitting a letter to the State House of Assembly in which he told the lawmakers that he was proceeding on vacation and was thus handing over the reins of power to his Deputy, Mr Sunday Onyebuchi to act on his behalf until he returned.
A story had then appeared on the front page of a national daily stating that the Governor had taken the trip out of health concerns. An attempt by the Enugu State Commissioner of Information, Mr Chuks Ugwoke, to clarify the issue was greeted with a barrage of similar stories from other dailies with one of them – a highly respected one unfortunately – even venturing to declare that the Governor was undergoing treatment for a yet to be disclosed ailment in India.
From that point, it seemed that all hell had broken loose. As if previously primed, the full force of the Nigerian media was unleashed against the Governor with all manner of writers and columnists getting involved, on few occasions involving newspaper editorials. Some curiously called for outright declaration of incapacitation or impeachment by the State House of Assembly.
Then came the death rumour. A simple, anonymous, uncredited, unconfirmed posting on the social media was taken up by the Nigerian press and trumpeted across the world with such panache as would have shamed even Count Dracula, the famed king of vampires. At the end of the day, it turned out to be an embarrassing hoax. But this did not stop the campaign. Attacks were directed at the Enugu House of Assembly and Enugu people for not taking steps to remove Chime and stories which turned out to be bogus were told in the press about how a cabal had taken over the leadership of the state and restricting the Acting Governor to a figurehead to the extent that his approval limit has been restricted to a mere N500,000. Yet, the writers could not, however, explain how if this was true, it came to be that contractors handling the various projects in the state were receiving their due payments running into hundreds of millions of naira and that civil servants have continued to receive their salaries.
Many writers with real or pen names, operating on the same suspect thoroughfare, tried albeit in vain to whip up anti-Chime sentiments among Enugu citizenry, urging them to take up arms against the government until they were intimated of his whereabouts. Others went to the extreme length of painting a false picture of tension and disquiet in Enugu over Chime’s condition. One of the papers falsely but boldly reported that Chime’s wife and children had flown abroad to be with him on his sickbed.
Consistency and spread
The consistency and spread of these stories and articles across the Nigerian media certainly lent much credence to the conspiracy theory and smacked somewhat of desperation among in the rank of their sponsors. Some writers could barely hide their prejudice and all but gave away the fact of having been suborned to do a job.
Indeed, it was when the press lavishly published a letter purportedly written by a group claiming to go by the name “Save Enugu Group” to the Acting Governor, giving him two weeks to address it on the whereabouts of Governor Chime or face consequences, that a lot of people came to know the identities of the merchants of falsehood.
It has turned out that the promoters of such lies are simply aides and associates of Chime’s old and well known political enemy with huge access to ill-acquired funds. The identities of Chime’s death wishers and impeachment campaigners were revealed by their own very hand. What a war there was!
On seeing those names, I couldn’t agree more with Chime’s media aides who had promptly dubbed them“attention seekers” because if they are not, what possibly could they be saving Enugu from? Could it be from the remarkable and widely acclaimed transformation that Chime brought to bear on Enugu State? Or perhaps they wish to save Enugu from themselves ( i.e the so called savers)?
In launching this campaign, these people actually acted like the man who upon consulting a native doctor to kill someone, went to town with the news that the man was already dead or dying even before any such thing happened, consequently and unwittingly alerting that person that someone is after him.
Whatever the case may be, one should ask these characters to drop their campaign of hate. It is now obvious that Chime is neither dead nor dying and we should have our peace and await his return. The advice proffered by Enugu traditional rulers that peace should be allowed to reign should be germane here. As they pointed out, Governor Chime has done so well that any genuine Enugu man should support him and that it “will be bad to give any impression that there is trouble in our state because there is none, moreso as we know that the governor will soon return to his desk.”