Governor Danbaba Suntai: There We Go Again!

(By Adewale Kupoluyi) 

With the shenanigans and the secrecy, many people have certainly begun to believe that for now, Suntai is not just healthy to resume work. He should allow his deputy to continue as acting governor while he pays attention to his health. There has been disturbing resistance on the part of his supporters spurning the invitation by the Nigerian Medical Association to set up a medical board to ascertain the true state of health of the embattled governor. Yet only a sincere, credible and thorough medical examination will unravel this mystery.

 THE latest scenario in Taraba State has, once again, left a sour taste in the mouth that our self-acclaimed adulation of a full-fledged democracy is nothing but a mere fluke.

   The problem has always been the inordinate ambition of politicians to hold unto power at all cost. To them, political power is the quickest route to riches, opulence and influence, forgetting the general interest of the people, who should really be the centerpiece of governance.

  The way and manner political tussle was played out in recent years in the nation is a pointer to the fact that our political class has not learnt any lessons from the unfortunate leadership crisis of the Yar’Adua era. We recall that ugly episode when the late Yar’Adua should have transferred power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan in an acting capacity during his protracted illness but never did.

  Due to the power vacuum and its avoidable resultant tension that ensued in the nation, in January 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that the Federal Executive Council had 14 days to decide a resolution on whether Yar’Adua was “incapable” of discharging the functions of his office as President.

  That ruling also stated that the Federal Executive Council should hear testimony of five doctors, one of whom should be Yar’Adua’s personal physician.

  As a follow-up, the Senate, in February 2010, agreed that presidential power should be transferred to Jonathan, who should serve as Acting President, with all the accompanying powers, until Yar’Adua returned to full health. At the end, that could not be as we all knew what happened when Yar’Adua eventually died.

  Before the intervention of the Senator Hope Uzodinma-led seven-man fact-finding committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – which directed the Acting Governor, Garba Umar, to consult Governor Danbaba Suntai on major issues – the situation in Taraba was precarious.

  Uzodinma had said that there was no crisis in Taraba State, and that what transpired in the last couple of days was rather a ‘mere disagreement’ between two families; the administration of Suntai should not be seen as different from that of his deputy; the acting governor and so the deputy should continue to act, pending when Suntai would fully recover from his infirmity to take over as governor of the state.

   Last year’s involvement of Suntai in an air crash that nearly cost him his life has spurred the complex tussle and power play. The governor eventually returned home from overseas last month after about 10 months of medical treatment.

   His deputy has been the acting as governor, courtesy of the State House of Assembly whose resolution – though legitimate under the laws of the land – culminated in a serious tension and power contestation.

  While the supporters of the governor are saying all is well, available information on the other hand has revealed otherwise. He can neither speak, walk unaided nor recognise anyone around him.

   With the shenanigans and the secrecy, many people have certainly begun to believe that for now, Suntai is not just healthy to resume work. He should allow his deputy to continue as acting governor while he pays attention to his health. There has been disturbing resistance on the part of his supporters spurning the invitation by the Nigerian Medical Association to set up a medical board to ascertain the true state of health of the embattled governor. Yet only a sincere, credible and thorough medical examination will unravel this mystery.

  If the magnanimity of the NMA eventually sails through, as many Nigerians desire, then the highest level of transparency would have been deployed in carrying out this all important assignment, using proven experts who have built their names on integrity and sound professional ethics above primordial and political sentiments.

  However, the team of medical experts can only record a breakthrough if the government of Taraba as well as members of the governor’s immediate family are committed to ‘saying it the way it is’. But will they? The House of Assembly, to which he purportedly transmitted his letter of resumption, has expressed misgivings about the authorship of the letter.

  Consequently, two indigenes of the state had sought the intervention of the court to grant them an order of mandamus to cause a detailed investigation into the circumstances and the authenticity of the said letter.

  What all the major actors should realise is that the continued political turmoil is antithetical to building a society of our dream and this will do nobody any good. The fragile peace in the region, worsened by the sectarian crises and Boko Haram onslaught calls for extra caution as this rat race is bound to further cripple the socio-economic life of the people. We cannot afford to continue this way.

   And for the Uzodinma committee, its recommendation that says the acting governor should consult with the ailing governor before taking important decision appears to be double standard. It is flawed because it makes the governor to remain the real chief executive even when his health is so obviously impaired a mere ceremonial head of government. This is not only confusing; it is also at variance with the spirit and letter of the constitution. Suntai should be discouraged from ruling behind the door. It would amount to his supporters ruling by proxy, exactly as it happened in Yar Adua’s case. The decent thing is that he should resume when he is certified medically fit to do so. The demands of such an exalted office require high physical and mental energy.

• Kupoluyi is of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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