The Chimes’ controversy By Dele Agekameh


clara_chime_0Wonders will never cease! Every other day, Nigerians are treated to different dimensions of news emanating from virtually everywhere – in the polity, on the economic sphere, in religious circles, market environment, beer parlours and other innocuous places. The government houses scattered all over the 36 states of the federation, where the almighty governors hold sway, are also not immune to shocking revelations. Usually, the items of news coming from these government houses are stories about extravaganzas, arbitrary use of power and other forms of recklessness.

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Today, there is a novel dimension to the news oozing out from the Government House in Enugu, South-east of Nigeria. Here, the news borders on man’s inhumanity to a woman. And the dramatis personae in this melodrama are no other persons than the Number One citizen of the state, Sullivan Chime, and Clara, his wife of five years. Since the news broke out about a fortnight ago, it has continued to spread like a festering sore.

The kernel of the story, which is now in public domain, is the call by Chime’s wife to be rescued from detention right inside the Government House, Enugu. The wife had, through a petition to the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, cried out to be saved from her husband. She accused the governor of an abusive relationship that has led to her suffering from depression. The governor, she added, has locked her up in a room and denied her access to her four-year-old son and visitors. In the same vein, Femi Falana, her lawyer, also sent a letter to the Inspector General of Police, demanding the immediate release of Mrs. Chime from unlawful custody.

According to the petitions, the governor’s wife said though she had been married for five years, “it has been a somewhat tempestuous relationship, which has virtually irretrievably broken down in the past couple of years”. She said, “We do not have a relationship anymore and the situation inevitably led to my nervous breakdown. I have been diagnosed with severe depression and at some point, was quite suicidal. The strategy of my estranged husband is to subject me to the most horrific and intolerable of conditions to cause my demise but my strength and will to live has kept me alive”.

The governor’s wife went on to enumerate the major issues as follows: “Not had sexual relationship with my husband for four years; deprived of all my responsibilities as a wife; prevented from bonding with my four-year-old son; barred me from receiving visitors, whether family or friends; in the last three weeks, a lady friend who visited me was stopped from seeing me and the result is now complete incarceration from the outside world; in effect, I am locked up in my bedroom, without access to anybody; I am only allowed food but no access to fresh air; I have been locked up because I demanded to leave, even without my son; Governor Chime recently revoked my land allocation; the governor is doing everything possible to break my will”.

Furthermore, the estranged woman said: “All I want and demand is to be allowed to leave; if I have committed any crime, I request that due process should be followed; I am falsely being imprisoned; all my rights are being violated; I have tried to leave and was pushed back by the security agents; and it is clear I am unable to do so except through other intermediaries; my passionate plea is to be allowed to leave peacefully as I no more wish to exist under this prevailing state. In the event that I die, please note that this must have been brought about by my husband. I wish to make it categorically clear that I have no intention of taking my own life. I have completely lost trust in my estranged husband; the possibility of the doctor injecting me with a lethal substance must never be underestimated; I am begging you to help facilitate my release and bring my suffering and ordeal to an end.”

She claimed that even President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Patience, have intervened in the matter without convincing her husband to make life easier for her. She continued: “My father is late, my mom and few of my siblings are confused and have done all kinds of prayers they know of; three of my siblings prefer me dead than to see me leave the Government House.  He treats my mom and my siblings bad.”

In his own reaction, an unperturbed Chime has vowed to continue to protect the integrity of his wife. According to him, “well, my wife has some medical challenges and it would be very unkind for me to talk about her condition on the pages of newspapers. I have done everything to protect her integrity and I am not now going to expose her to ridicule because some people want to exploit her situation to drag me into a needless war of words”.

The controversy between Chime and his wife seems to have become an open-ended war between the couple on the one hand, Chime and Falana on the other hand, as well as, Chime’s wife and the NHRC. While Chime, who is also a lawyer, is contesting that his wife never contacted Falana for help, Falana has maintained that he has the woman’s brief to act on her behalf. Also, Chime’s wife has kicked against a recent report which was attributed to the NHRC to the effect that she was indeed suffering from “depression and hallucination”. This has prompted the human rights body to dissociate itself from the report at the last minute although the body did not refute the story when it first broke out.

All indications point to the fact that there is more to this story than meets the eye. It is clear that Chime’s wife has been passing through unpleasant moments in her chequered relationship with her governor-husband. She has bared it all. What I think the husband has been trying to do is to embark on frenetic damage control to save his battered public image. For one, assuming the wife is actually depressed or having some psychological nightmares, the best place to treat a patient, whether of malaria or any other illness, is the hospital purposely built for such, and not the Government House. And the fact that some doctors allegedly connived with the governor to put the woman in ‘detention’ in the Government House smacks of suspicion and other ulterior motives.

From the little information I was able to piece together from Enugu, the governor may have been economical with the truth. His lifestyle, which is said to be less than honourable and perhaps, unbecoming of a person occupying such a sensitive position, may have, in one way or another, contributed to his wife’s state of the mind. The governor is rumoured to have an insatiable appetite for frolicking with women and drinking in hotels in the coal city. He is said to be gifted with excellent dancing steps so much that, on a good day, he provides enough fun whenever he takes to the floor doing yahooze, azonto or skelewu dancing steps. This, they say, he relishes doing sometimes with six, eight or more girls in tow.

If this is true, what follows each session of wining, erotic dance steps with women and all that, is a matter of conjecture. And the wife could easily be turned into a punching bag thereafter.  Here lies the crux of the matter. Therefore, there is the urgent need to get to the root of this problem. The talk about divorcing the woman, which is now uppermost in the mind of Chime and his collaborators, cannot provide a safety valve to wriggle out of this embarrassment. At any rate, Chime should not only toe the path of honour by taking his wife to any good hospital for adequate treatment, he should also do a comprehensive self-appraisal to see if there are some of his actions that may have caused the woman severe depression. This remains a shameful and condemnable act!

Babatunde Akinsola
Babatunde Akinsola
Babatunde Akinsola is aNaija247news' Southwest editor. He's based in Lagos and writes on the Yoruba Nation political issues, news and investigative reports

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