|Gov. Chime and wife Clara|
• Enugu governor may divorce spouse
• Community insists on proper dissolution of marriage
• Onwenu, Okei-Odumakin seek probe, protection of victim
• Groups petition United Nations, urge her releaseONCE upon a time in the not-too-distant past, the wife of a state governor somewhere in the old Eastern Region took ill, reportedly of depression.
Her once-loving husband, rather than show her the care that could have helped her recover, shipped her off to a United States (U.S.) hospital. .
Not much was heard of her, and till date, not much is known of what befell the lady. .
Now, also in the East, specifically in Enugu State, another script with similarities to the earlier incident is allegedly being acted out.
Clara, the wife of Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State, had written the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), accusing her husband of subjecting her to horrific and intolerable conditions, including house arrest.
She had told the commission that their union had broken down irretrievably in the past couple of years. “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. In effect, I am locked up in my bedroom, without access to anybody,” her letter read in part. Apparently in reaction to her petition, the NHRC last week visited Enugu with a team of investigators, where they had a series of meetings with all the parties concerned: Chime; his wife; the governor’s sibling, Dr. Jide Chime; Mrs. Chime’s doctor, Dr. Aham Agumoh; her elder brother, Tony Igwe and the complainant’s preferred London-based consultant psychiatrist, Dr. A. Uzegu.
The commission had on Friday, after concluding investigations told journalists in Abuja that all parties agreed that Mrs. Chime had medical challenges but had disagreed over how to handle her medical condition. The Executive Secretary of the commission, Prof. Ben Angwe, said: “The complainant told the commission that she has lost confidence in the physician at present handling her condition and no longer wants him to treat her.
“She further requested to have a medical opinion of other medical doctors acceptable to her,” Angwe had said.
There were strong indications last night that the marriage between Chime and Clara may officially be called off any moment from now.
This followed a meeting summoned by the governor on Saturday evening at the Governor’s Lodge, Enugu, where he reportedly asked Clara’s family to take back their daughter.
The Guardian learnt that at the meeting, held around 5.00 p.m., and attended by about 10 relatives of the governor from Udi, and about six from Clara’s side, both parties disagreed on the modality for Clara to return to her people.
A source at the meeting who sought anonymity said: “The governor pointedly asked her people to take her back on the grounds that he was no longer interested in the marriage. But her people refused and demanded to know why and on what condition. This almost resulted in a fight. In the end, however, Clara’s people left, apparently to go and consult with their people.”
Clara’s mother left Enugu yesterday to brief her people of Ozuluobu in Amuda, Umunneoche on the turn of events.
Confirming the story to The Guardian yesterday evening, the traditional ruler of Ozuluobu Community, Umunneoche, Abia State, His Royal Highness, Eze Bob I. A. Ogbenna, said the family had formerly informed him about the development.
He said: “She came in this evening to brief me. I am already making consultations and we are going to organise some people to meet with the Enugu State governor. Clara’s mother was in my place this afternoon and informed me about their meeting with the governor. We are not fighting but we need to hear from him. Since they want scandal, we will be ready to give it to them. We will be in Enugu or Udi soon,” he said.
Eze Ogbenna, who said he handed over Clara to Chime when he came for her marriage some years ago, told The Guardian on phone: “That is not how to return somebody’s daughter whose dowry was paid in Igboland. She was never a slave.” .
He, however, expressed surprise over the attitude of Clara’s brother, Tony, whom he said was allegedly backing the governor against his sister.
“I don’t know why he should support the position of the governor against his sister. Anyhow, they will hear from us after our consultations,” he said. .
Meanwhile, in reaction to the conclusion of the NHRC, Mrs. Chime had expressed her disappointment at its role.
Writing a confidant, she stated: “I am very disappointed to read what has been narrated by the National Human Rights Commission. Apart from the fact that the information was largely false, it showed lack of sensitivity in publishing sensitive medical detail.
“This has the effect of tarnishing and damaging my reputation. It is as though the commission set out to ridicule me.
“I made it clear to them that I had a nervous breakdown and found it inexplicable as to how hallucination featured as part of my symptoms. It is important to make this clear so that the public should be made aware of this and that the commission should recognise part of her ethos in protecting human dignity.
“It has been suggested by some quarters that the commission appears biased already because of the profile of the person whose reputation is at stake. I want to believe that the commission would approach my case with open mind and in particular recognise me as a victim of crime. I hope that common sense would prevail and that the commission should now retract the damaging publication and stop stigmatising me,” she stated.
She had, in fact, written to the NHRC complaining that they were insensitive to her plight: “You have published medical information which is sensitive and not true and hereby request you to retract same immediately. I regret that failure to do so will result in not granting you further audience. Thanks.”
Speaking with The Guardian on the plight of Mrs. Chime, the Director-General of the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD), Onyeka Onwenu, said her detention was a violation of her rights as a woman and human being. .Onwenu said: “My heart goes out to her as a woman. This is a very sensitive situation because, oftentimes and in situation like this, you do not have all the information.
“Having said that, there is something that is fundamental and that is the rights of human beings, which include freedom of movement and association. .
“Even if she has mental illness, that does not abridge her human rights. I think this is a case that should be taken seriously; all freedom-loving Nigerians should do everything to ensure that her rights are protected and that she has medical treatment, psychiatric treatment of her own choosing because I understand she does not want the doctor chosen by her husband. .
“She must have unfettered rights to her son because that is her right as a woman and human being,” Onwenu said.
Former Nigerian Envoy to Ethiopia and member of the House of Representatives, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo, added that there was the need to be cautious while interfering in the affairs and the nature of the problem had not been disclosed. “The reason is, we do not know the real situation of her illness. It will be difficult to say exactly whether it was violation of her rights as a woman or due to mental issues. We must be careful here,” Toyo said. .
President, Campaign for Democracy, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, described the detention of Clara Chime as “crude and barbaric”, considering the fact that her husband occupies an exalted position of a governor. .
She said: “The attitude is unbecoming of a governor, that is why we have always said people occupying such positions should be checked. We want a full investigation to be conducted into this issue to ascertain the culpability of the governor. If found guilty, he should be brought to book in order to serve as a deterrent to others,” Okei-Odumakin said. .
Two civil society groups, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), have petitioned Mr. El Hadji Malick Sow, Chair/Rapporteur of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, “to urgently investigate allegations of arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mrs. Clara Chime by her husband, Mr. Sullivan Chime, who is the governor of Enugu State of Nigeria.”
The groups requested the chair/rapporteur to “issue an urgent appeal to the governor and the Nigerian government to release her from unlawful detention without further delay.” .
According to the groups: “The continuing restriction and violation of Mrs. Chime’s rights also constitute violence against women, especially given the physical and psychological suffering she is currently facing.”
The petition, dated November 8, 2013 and sent through the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Office, Mrs. Navi Pillay, stated: “Mrs. Chime is not known to have committed any criminal offence, and the deprivation of her liberty has continued to affect her physically and emotionally as well as seriously undermine her other internationally-recognised human rights. This deprivation and compulsory confinement is not in conformity with international human rights standards, and cannot be justified under any circumstances whatsoever.” .
Mrs. Chime had recently raised the alarm that she was “locked up” at the Governor’s Lodge, Enugu, allegedly on the orders of her husband, thereby restricting her access to relatives, friends and family. .
She was also said to have complained to prominent human rights’ lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), over her incarceration and pleaded with them to rescue her from her confinement. But Governor Chime had denied the allegation, stressing that his wife has “health challenges” and that her restriction was based on her “doctor’s advice.”
Explaining that she was being treated privately, he stated that he would do everything to protect her integrity as well not to expose her to public ridicule.
One source said Governor Chime tried to justify his wife’s confinement as well as the high security presence around her as measures designed to protect her privacy and to help her deal with certain health challenges.
A source revealed that the governor told members of the NHRC that his wife had to be confined in order to curtail her violent tendencies.
In a report published on its website, the commission stated that the issue was a disagreement between the governor and his wife “over the procedure for the treatment of her health challenges, which border on occasional hallucinations and depression.”
The commission’s report confirmed that Mrs. Chime had for the past two weeks been confined to her apartment on medical advice for purposes of medical maintenance and security, adding that the governor’s wife admitted that she was in possession and control of keys to her apartment. Angwe added that the commission’s five-person team of investigators had inspected the apartment. .
But in an angry reaction to the commission’s report, Mrs. Chime accused its members of accepting a bribe from the governor in order to portray her as mentally disturbed, according to a source close to her.
In an e-mail to a close confidant, she wrote: “What you read in the newspaper is a complete farce and fabrication,” adding: “The truth is that I am severely depressed because of the inhuman suffering and atrocious conditions I have been subjected to for some years now.” She said that she had “been bearing the burden hoping that this ordeal would come to an end somehow but the end seems endless, hence my crying out.” .Mrs. Chime described her husband’s reported “protection” of her as “all window dressing.” She stated that she was “only suffering from depression because of all that I have been subjected to,” adding, “I am not mad as he seems to convey. There is no family history of serious mental illness in my family and would challenge him by bringing an independent psychiatrist to assess or evaluate my mental state to prove my point.” .
Reacting to Mrs. Chime’s claims, the NHRC said it was not compromised on its report about the alleged illegal detention of Mrs. Chime by her husband. .
In a statement by Chairman, Governing Council of NHRC, Chidi Odinkalu, on Saturday, the commission said that the allegations against the commission were “both factually inaccurate and manifestly unfounded.” .
“Having carefully reviewed the work so far undertaken by members of staff of the commission, I find no basis in them for the claims or speculation widely circulated in the media, that the commission has pronounced on the state of health, physical or mental, of the complainant or indeed any other party in this case,” Odinkalu said.
CALLED FROM THE GUARDIAN