Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Cabals in Taraba, who they are and what they want

Rather than lessen tension, Governor Danbaba Suntai's return last Sunday, August 25 has tended to further accelerate the worsening the political situation in Taraba state over the physical and mental fitness of the governor to govern the state. It seems a replay of the 2009/2010 episode over the assumption, in acting capacity, of Goodluck Jonathan following late Umar Musa Yar'Adua's health challenges which was manipulated by some cabal desperate to cling to power.

Similar intrigues, shenanigans, political theatrics and plottings  have become the order of the day in Taraba. Gov Suntai has sacked the cabinet, but that has been countered by the state House of Assembly which directed him to return to the US for medical treatment while it wants the acting governor to hold forth until he recovers fully and is fit.  

In this report our Correspondent, Ayodele Samuel attempts an expose of the cabals, their plots and intrigues and the mudslinging playing out in Taraba. There are additional reports from Patrick Andrew, Assistant Editor and Senior Reporter Muhammed Puma.

Former Speaker Taraba state House of Assembly, Istifanus Haruna Gbana, who is one of the eight members of the House backing ailing Governor Danbaba Suntai in the ongoing power tussle in the state, was instrumental to the removal of the Suntai's former Deputy Governor, Abubakar Danladi.

Gbana has always played a key role in Governor Suntai's camp. Initially, as Speaker he had manipulated events to delay the confirmation of the then Deputy Governor Umar the acting governor of the state several months after Suntai was taken to Germany for medical attention following the fatal plane crash, last November.

Umar was to profit from the ripple effect of the misappropriation of the federal government flood funds which swept off Gbana along with several others. In fact, Umar had eagerly supervised Gbana's impeachment when he eventually battled his way through to become the Acting Governor. Gbana suffered no little hurt and is seething with rage that he was not protected. He too does not feel it necessary to lend a shoulder to the acting governor.

Also in the same boat is the Majority Leader of the House, Joseph Albasu Kunini, who at present leads the pro-Suntai lawmakers in the house. Kunini, who is representing Lau Constituency in the chamber, together with Charles Maijankai (Karim Constituency) and Ishaya Gani, is at the vanguard against Umar remaining the acting governor of the state, not minding that the governor's health is suspect.

The majority leader has insisted in spite of obvious doubt that Suntai is physically and mentally fit to govern the state. As such, it is claimed that he dramatically told the acting governor to his face that his time was up. Besides, he has not only refuted the allegation that the signature on Suntai's letter to the Assembly was forged, but described any such claim as mischievous.

According to him, if the governor so desires he could thump-print on any letter provided forensic test shows the thump print belongs to him. "We saw Governor Suntai in New York, United States and now that he has returned, and judging from the conversation we had with him, the governor is sound to resume work," Kunini said.

Another arrowhead in the campaign for Suntai's resumption of office is Victor Bala Kona, Chairman of the state PDP, who was handpicked by the governor.

Kona is believed to have muted the idea of dissolution of the state executive council to pave way for 'core' loyalists of Suntai to take over the system without any impediment from opposing members of the executive. And with his influence in the state Exco of the party, Kona would ensure only loyalists are in positions of influence to take decision which will not be countered by opposing elements. 

This much was confirmed by the State Publicity Secretary of the PDP Napoleon Adamu who stated that the party is divided over the matter. "I can authoritatively tell you that we are divided on the issue of Suntai, the Chairman is on one side and all other members of the working committee are on another side. We believe that everything about the health of his Excellency is public deceit. The people are being deceived about the governor's true state of health.

"We have rejected any sentiment brought into the matter. But it's still difficult for the party to take a stand on it because we are divided, our chairman is part of the people deceiving the public on Suntai's health."

Peoples Daily Weekend's efforts to reach the party chairman failed as he was said to be on his way to Abuja for the PDP national convention holding today (Saturday).

Former Secretary to the State Government, SSG Ambassador Emmanuel Njiwah, who was sacked by the acting governor along with five commissioners for alleged corruption, is also on a vengeance mission. 

Njiwah, who is the right hand man of governor Suntai, had always told whoever cared to listen that they were thrown out of office for refusing to support the plot to remove the governor while he was receiving treatment in the US.

The Suntai's camp was said to have felt betrayed by the "injustice" meted on a key and loyal member of their caucus by the state government under Ag. governor Umar.

Dependable sources say that Njiwah was initially to be returned as the SSG as earlier promised by the governor's wife when Suntai resumed. However after some consultation, the decision was dropped to forestall likely criticism that could trail Njiwah's re-appointment. Njiwah sees the return of Suntai as ample opportunity to get back at Umar.  

Babangida Suntai, the governor's younger sibling, rose to prominence in the state following his older brother's plane crash. He suddenly came to public limelight when he became the contact person between the ailing governor and whoever had wanted to reach Suntai while he was in foreign hospitals.

Though not confirmed, he was alleged to have called President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Nnamadi Sambo from the US in the guise of governor Suntai. Using his sudden political relevance to advantage, Babangida got the camp of the Acting Governor to agree to name him the Deputy Governor to the Umar if Suntai eventually got impeached by the House of Assembly or he resigned voluntarily.

That agreement was reneged by the Umar, who showed no interest in having him as his deputy, a development that made Babangida angry. Umar it was said relied on his boss' earlier caution of his cabinet members against having dealings with his younger sibling because of the latter's penchant to drop his name for political favours.

Another powerful element in the Suntai- must- stay saga is Hajiya Hauwa Suntai, wife of the ailing governor and mother of five.  She's in control of affairs: decides who sees the governor, when and for how long. Hauwa, like Turai Yar'Adua, enjoys the position of authority entrusted on her as it were by fate.

Hitherto inconsequential, she took over governance making policy statements without recourse to the constituted and elected authorities. For instance, she announced the date of Suntai's return 24 hours before the Acting Governor had to confirm it on behalf of the government. 

Before then, Hauwa was cautioned by General TY Danjuma because she was said to have declined to release the governor's passport to enable him be flown to Nigeria. One would hardly fault her for taking crucial decisions especially on who should see her husband.  

However, as the governor of Taraba, Suntai's health matters cease to be her sole concern, but that all Tarabans. Granted, every Tarabans may not have access to the governor, but that shouldn't be applicable to the representatives of the people. 

Sadly though, Hauwa chose to play god. She denied even the leadership of the state House of Assembly access to the governor. That includes the Speaker and even the Acting Governor, who were prevented from having audience with the governor until last Wednesday.

Besides, rather allow the Acting Governor to function in his official capacity, Hauwa assumed state responsibilities: she has been receiving top government functionaries at the State house. 

Even then, it was out of regard for their offices that she eventually granted them access to and audience with the governor. It was simply because she got wind of planned impeachment of Suntai that forced her to quickly arrange for the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Haruna Tsokwa, and a few other legislators to visit the governor, where she appealed to the legislators not to impeach her husband. Like Turai, she's using her husband's health as bargain chip.

She is presently said to be consulting with the First Lady, Dame Patient Jonathan, to intervene in the crisis and save her husband's job. 

Also aligning with the cabals in the fight for Suntai to govern the people irrespective of his mental and physical state is Ali Sani Kona. The former chairman of Jalingo Local Government Area and immediate past Special Adviser to the governor on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, was initially tipped for the post of the Deputy Governor when Abubakar Danladi was impeached.

However, saner political calculations worked against his eventual nomination. Certain interests were responsible, including Garba Umar's factor, and Kona, who played a very prominent role in Suntai's re-election, had never forgiven them. 

Kona is, therefore, said to be using his tremendous goodwill at the grassroots and traditional institutions in the state in support for Governor Suntai as well to subtly payback for Umar. 

And yet there is Aliyu Umaru, a former Director at the National Boundary Commission, currently based in United State. The fellow is an old time friend of Governor Suntai. He too is allegedly nursing revenge against Umar, who was replaced by Dr. Obadiah Ando, as a minister nominee, back in 2010.

Other members of the cabal are Commissioner for Information, Emanuel Bello, who was alleged to be behind the video footage shown on the state television. 

Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Sylvanus Giwa, who announced the purported dissolution of the state executive council, and former Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General of the State, Mr Timothy Kataps, who was named the new SSG, have dug into the trenches to remain relevant.

All these paled into insignificance when Senator Emmanuel Bwacha is thrown into the mix. Powerful and ambitious, Bwacha wants to be the next governor of Taraba. That of course is a legitimate ambition. But what isn't is the senator's alleged manipulation of the Suntai's health turning it into power tussle, Bwacha, who represents Taraba South is the chief arrowhead of the cabals. He is believed to have spearheaded the return of the ailing Governor Suntai from the US.

The calculation is simple. If Garba Umar remains the acting governor as it is most likely to be, Suntai will lose relevance. It means Bwacha, who intends to profit from Suntai's political structure and the power of incumbency, will lose out since Umar would probably take advantage of his clout as acting governor to realign his camp and strengthen his base for 2015. 

Therefore, Bwacha sees the Ag.Governor's interest as conflicting with his own and in addition could pose a serious threat to his grassroots machinery and command. Thus, he believes allowing Umar to assume office could automatically cost him a chance for a shot at the office. 

Also, it is feared that it could create the vista for the replay of late Umar Yar' Adua and Goodluck Jonathan saga. In essence, Suntai's health hardly matters. What does is political interests and succession arrangement.

Bwacha is a well loved politician at the grassroots level. He had joined forces to mobilize support for Suntai and again was in the fore front to galvanise the people to troop out to give the governor a rousing welcome last Sunday, poltical observers believe he is empty without Suntai's power base.

He also has the ears of many political appointees who see him as the next 'godfather' in waiting. But that won't fall in line if Suntai's is out of office. Bwacha is also the only Senator that belongs to Suntai's camp. His other colleagues in the NASS have sympathy for Umar.

He believes the actions and statements of the 16 members of the House of Assembly are illegal and unconstitutional.

These aside, another matter playing out is the usual ugly religious element. Suntai is a professed Christian while Umar proclaims the Muslim faith. Here is the intrigue. The cabal, most of whom share Suntai's faith believe accepting the acting governor would means conceding the position to a Muslim.

The logic is just as North lost out when Umar Yar' Adua died allowing his deputy to takeover, completed his tenure and then took a shoot on his merit at the presidency, the Christians would lose out and Umar will like Jonathan profit from their loss. All this though depends is predicated on eventuality: if Suntai becomes incapacitated, if he is impeached etc. 

The so-called cabals are also desperate to get Umar out of the way because within the short time that he has presided, he has saved N20 billion for the state. That they say is unprecedented. Besides, he has ensured that outstanding debts owed by the state was paid to the tune of N5 billion thus leaving in excess N15 billion. 

Also in favour of Umar is crusade against corruption which played out when he opted to sack the former Speaker of the House of Assembly plus some other political appointees for allegedly tampering with the flood funds which was an intervention of the federal government for flood victims. 

Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device from MTN

Thursday, August 29, 2013

PEOPLES DAILY EDITORIAL: Save Taraba from Suntai’s cabal

Yesterday Taraba lawmakers rose to the occasion and averted what could have possibly led to chaos in which a scenario of two governors for one state was imminent.But the lawmakers jettisoned political differences and base sentiments, two pervasive ills permeating the politics of that state, by asking ailing governor Danbaba Suntai to return to the United States where he was receiving treatment following a ghastly plane crash nearly a year ago until he is fit to govern.
We commend the lawmakers for nipping in the bud what, to us in Peoples Daily, would have led to chaos and possible subversion of the people's will.The decision by the legislators to halt Suntai from assuming office was the climax of a series of dramatic events that began to unfold last Sunday when the clearly sickly governor was hurriedly ferried home to thwart the installation of his deputy, Alhaji Garba Umar, as constitutionally required.
Suntai's frail appearance, slurred speech and body language from the moment he was assisted out of the aircraft that brought him back home confirmed long held suspicions that he is unfit, for now, to rule and that a cabal intent on re-enacting the familiar late President Umaru Yar'adua saga had taken Taraba and its people hostage.
Any doubt was shredded by what the ailing governor subsequently did.First was the letter he dispatched to the state House of Assembly giving notice of his return and readiness to take charge again; and a cabinet dissolution followed by new appointments in government house. This is an energized governor rearing to go. This should be good news for Tarabans, in particular, and Nigerians generally. Curiously, Suntai rebuffed entreaties to appear before the state Assembly and was inaccessible to even the acting governor who had held the forte for 10 months.
In reality Suntai needs medical attention.The intent of the cabal wanting him to take charge is clearly self serving.The picture Nigerians saw that Sunday afternoon was that of a sick man assisted from the back and by the sides to alight from the chartered plane that brought him.The governor on arrival in Jalingo later that evening was driven straight into government house without so much as a wave of hands to appreciate government officials and well wishers who had turned out to welcome him.Literally locked away behind the high barb-wired fences of the government house, the governor refused to see his deputy, Alhaji Garba Umar, who had been holding the forte in his long absence, and leaders of the state House of Assembly.
The governor failed to honour an "invitation" by the House to address it on his health and how ready he was to return to work. He instead chose to make a broadcast on state television from which Jalingo-based journalists were kept away. Those who watched the broadcast captured by online news media said they saw a truly sick man looking into space and stumbling over words, his voice hardly audible. An apparently forced meeting with the legislators led by House Speaker, Hon. Haruna Tsokwa, only confirmed their fears about the governor's fitness. For the first time, the legislature which had split several times over how to handle the Suntai saga, agreed unanimously that the governor didn't write the letter to the House communicating his return. Sixteen of the 24 members signed a press release given out by the Speaker after the Wednesday meeting with the governor.
This disingenuous contrivance to keep a very sick man in power, clearly without him knowing, is the handiwork of a cabal intent on preserving the status quo.We dare say they dread losing out in a new power equation should Suntai fail to return to his seat and acting governor Umar assumes full powers as governor. Self-preservation has pushed this cabal into desperation to the extent that they made several attempts at smuggling Suntai from his hospital bed and out of Germany and physically propping him up in his seat in government house, Jalingo. They put photos of the man in newspapers showing him receiving visitors who were standing and smiling down at him. This was supposed to be a man recovering from his crash injuries, but clearly he was not. In one particular picture, Suntai was aloof and his face blank. Photos don't lie, do they? They even went so far as to obtain a court injunction stopping the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from investigating the governor's health. The tragedy of the cabal's antics is at two levels: personal because it was prepared to sacrifice Suntai to retain the privileges of their offices; the other level was their determination to make a whole state dysfunctional for as long as their selfish interest was going to be served. And into this dangerous power game the cabal threw anything conceivable, but religion and ethnicity mostly.
Meanwhile, Taraba was going into a spin, a free fall, kind of. That was the circumstance of Suntai's return. Come to think of it, it was good that he did return, after all. It made the scales fall from the eyes of the state's legislators either too naïve to see the script for what it was or too carried away by their self worth. Thankfully, now they are seeing more clearly, and beginning to appreciate the burden of responsibility they owe Taraba state and its ordinary people in crying need of good governance. However, it is one thing to know a problem and another to go about solving it. The problem here is that Suntai is in no position to return to office. He first should save his life. But Suntai won't go further treatment as the House has recommended, it should impeach him and elevate Umar to full governor. This is the much the legislators owe Taraba state.