For 15 years, Nigerians have struggled to understand the meaning of “gross misconduct” enshrined in the 1999 Constitution without success. Now, the Enugu State House of Assembly has solved the riddle. “Gross misconduct” – the crime behind almost all impeachments of state governors and deputy governors in the Fourth Republic – is no longer the nebulous term many had presumed.
According to the honourable lawmakers of Enugu, it is gross misconduct for a deputy governor to raise chickens inside a residential plot. The offending deputy governor, Mr Sunday Onyebuchi, was found guilty of this grievous crime by both a panel set up to try him and the honourable House, hence his impeachment this Tuesday. The other major act of gross misconduct he allegedly committed was his failure to attend two ceremonies as Governor Sullivan Chime’s representative.
We have no difficulty in agreeing with the Enugu House that Onyebuchi had committed a grievous evil. Did he even understand his status in the state? When agric ministers and commissioners preach the gospel of farming, they do not have highly placed government functionaries in mind. If a deputy governor should busy himself with keeping a poultry, what would illiterate market women and jobless school dropouts be doing? Methinks, Onyebuchi must have left the business of governance to suffer while caring for his chickens.
As if he had not committed enough sin, Onyebuchi had the effrontery to raise his chickens near the Government House, the seat of government in the Igbo heartland. Is it not the Government House once occupied by the great Zik of Africa, Michael Okpara, Akanu Ibiam, Ukpabi Asika, Anthony Ochefu, John Atom Kpera, Jim Nwobodo, CC Onoh and several others starting from the pre-independence era? That he allowed the stench of chicken droppings to worry Governor Chime and other Government House workers shows the regards he had for his boss and other co-workers.
Who knows, the deputy governor could have been plotting to stage a coup to overthrow the government of Chime and establish a chicken republic in Enugu. Was it the reason some MASSOB fighters invaded the Enugu Government House one early morning? There is more than meets the eye in this chicken business!
To worsen matters, Onyebuchi claimed that he inherited his chicken farm from a former occupant of the office of governor. He even had the audacity to point fingers at Governor Chime as having kept poultry. Even if those charges were true, he should have known that the birds in the governor’s farm were raised only for food, not for carrying out coups. One can only imagine the commotion that could have been unleashed by a swarm of birds flying all around the Government House.
Indeed, we appreciate the governor’s perseverance in the face of this provocation from his deputy. He tolerated this chicken inconvenience for well over seven years. The crowing of cocks at dawn, the clucking of hens at dusk and the raucous voices of broilers at every hour are enough to make a hardworking governor fail in his duty.
Thank God and the Enugu State House of Assembly, this source of trouble has been removed once and for all. The framers of the 1999 Constitution really had the foresight of preventing coups executed through chicken farms.