Chime served as the governor of Enugu State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party from 2007 to 2015.
The former governor has made few public appearances since he handed over to his successor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, also of the PDP, but it was learnt that he has now decided to follow the footsteps of prominent Enugu politicians by moving to the APC.
Chime’s move to the APC was disclosed by the spokesman of the APC in the South-East, Mr Hyacinth Ngwu, in a post on his Facebook page, late on Thursday night.
“Breaking News: Today, His Excellency Barr. Sullivan Iheanacho Chime, immediate past governor of Enugu State, joins APC”, Ngwu wrote on his timeline.
Ngwu went ahead to defend Chime’s move to the APC, after some Facebook users, who commented on the post, insinuated that Chime’s defection was informed by a desire to escape prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The former governor had been linked to the N23bn campaign fund money involving former Petroleum Resources minister, Mrs Dieziani Alison-Madueke.
Defending Chime’s defection to the APC, Ngwu, again posted on his timeline, “I wonder how some of the opposite politicians talk. If their member is questioned by EFCC or ICPC or invited by the Police, they will shout to the heavens, ‘victimisation, oppression of political opponents’.
“But when the same person defects to (APC), a better party with vision for Nigeria, they roar that the same defected to avoid interrogation by EFCC, ICPC or the Police. Haba, which way my people?”
However, when contacted by our correspondent on Friday, Ngwu gave indications that Chime has yet to finalise his defection to the APC.
But he noted that the former governor had reached out to the party and that consultations are ongoing on the matter.
Ngwu said an official statement would be issued on the defection when Chime completes the formalities involved in the switch to the APC.
“He has started discussions with us, whenever he is going to declare, I will let you know.
“Consultations are still going on,” he told our correspondent on the telephone.
Sources in Chime’s camp suggested on Friday that the former governor intends to seek the realisation of his ambition to go to the Senate on the platform of the APC in 2019.
The development will pitch him against Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, for the ticket to represent Enugu West Senatorial Zone in the National Assembly.
Chime had nursed hopes of proceeding to the Senate at the expiration of his tenure as governor in 2015, but his moves to unseat Ekweremadu failed.
In what was then seen as a face-saving move, Chime had to withdraw from the Senatorial race after it became apparent that Ekweremadu has an upper hand in the contest.
It’s is believed that the move to the APC would set the stage for another political war between the former governor and the Deputy Senate President in 2019.
But, in the same vein, there were insinuations in Enugu on Friday that the former governor was moving to the APC in order to ‘escape’ prosecution by the EFCC.
Allegations that Chime had received N450m out of the N23bn disbursed by Dieziani Alison-Madueke is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the EFCC.
The anti-graft agency had already quizzed Chime over the matter.
Also, some Enugu State Government officials, who also served during Chime’s administration, were arrested by the EFCC in connection with the investigations.
The officials are Commissioner for Water Resources, Chief Charles Egumgbe, who was the chairman of the PDP campaign office in the state during the 2015 polls, Commissioner for Tourism, Rita Mba, who served as the Secretary, and Chief Ikeje Asogwa, Chairman of the Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board, who was PDP state chairman during the 2015 polls.
When he was initially quizzed by the EFCC over the campaign fund, Chime reportedly told detectives that he handed over the money to the secretary of the campaign office, Mba, who was also the state’s Commissioner for Special Duties and Inter-Government Affairs at the time.
Chime allegedly explained that the money was brought by two of his former commissioners, Joe Nmamnel and Mba, in company with Asogwa and a PDP chieftain, Prof. Osita Ogbu.
The former governor was said to have stated that he gave the money to his orderly for safe keep, with instructions that only Mba should have access to it to facilitate her work as secretary of the campaign office.
Although the EFCC zonal head, South-East zone, Mr Johnson Babalola, had in October 2016 disclosed that the anti-graft agency was investigating the matter, Chime and the concerned officials are yet to be charged to court.
Also, EFCC is yet to prosecute Chime over a litany of allegations bordering on official corruption contained in a petition by a former PDP National Auditor, Barrister Ray Nnaji, who had gone to court to compel the anti-graft agency to investigate the claims.
Reacting to Chime’s move to the APC in a chat on Friday, Nnaji said the former governor was trying to evade prosecution.
Speaking on the telephone, Nnaji said, “Hearing that Sullivan Chime is joining APC is not surprising because the EFCC is seriously investigating his criminal activities in the state.
“So he is looking for shelter to take cover from prosecution, which others had done in the past. But joining APC will not save him from prosecution.
“PDP will not miss him; he has nothing to offer.”
Efforts to get Chime’s reaction were not successful, as at the time of filing this report.
Chime’s impending move to the APC follows a prevailing trend, which has seen some leading Enugu politicians defecting from PDP to the APC.
Already, a former governor and information minister, Chief Jim Nwobodo, and a former Senate President, Chief Ken Nnamani, had registered as members of the APC, after dumping the PDP.
Also, a former Speaker of the Enugu State House of Assembly, Mr Eugene Odo, has joined the APC, alongside several other prominent politicians.
Having been dominated by the PDP with little or no opposition since 1999, Enugu was regarded as a ‘PDP state’, but the prevailing, mass defection to the APC suggests that future elections in the state would not be business as usual for the PDP.