Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The plot to sack Umar, Taraba Acting Governor his battle with Suntai's Men

From Ayodele Samuel, Lagos, Yushau Alhassan, Jalingo, Ikechukwu Okaforadi and A'isha Biola Raji, in Abuja
The dramatic return of ailing governor of Taraba state, Pharmacist Danbaba Danfulani Suntai into the country at the weekend, has deepened the simmering feud over where power for effective leadership of the state resides. Governor Suntai returned home on Sunday looking pale after 10 months of medical treatment in Germany and the United States of America. The governor has neither spoken with newsmen nor made any public statement almost 40 hours after his return into the country, raising fears over his capacity to discharge his responsibilities as chief executive of the 22-year old state. But while concern grows over Suntai's physical and mental state of health, indications emerged yesterday afternoon in Jalingo that some close associates and aides of the ailing governor were plotting the removal of the Deputy Governor of the state, Alhaji Garba Umar, who has been acting chief executive of Taraba since his boss' accident in October last year.
A source in Jalingo told one of our correspondents that some "hawks" in Governor's Suntai's camp have started hatching a plan for the removal of Umar as deputy governor. When asked to confirm such moves, a close associate of acting Governor Umar said: "We heard there were such moves but we don't know how they would do it.
"But I know the state Assembly will favour my boss, and the plan will meet a brickwall in the House of Assembly; that I can assure you", the associate of Umar who did not wish to be named, affirmed.
Another source in Jalingo told the same correspondent that the plot to remove the deputy governor "is real", as according to him, in the days to come, "a group would begin to demand for the probe of the acting governor for the 10 months he spent in office.
"The plan is to probe the activities of the acting governor while his boss was away. They (Suntai's associates and aides) are compiling some charges against him (Umar) and they will ensure he does not have the governor's ears until he is impeached", the source stressed.
But a member of the cabinet who got angry when asked to react to the alleged plot to remove Umar, said last night that the Suntai "government is intact".
"All I could say is that our government is intact. Anywhere you here such I don't think it would work; but talk to the governor's CPS (chief press secretary) and don't drag my name into the controversy", said the commissioner.
The media aides to both Governor Suntai and the acting governor, Hassan Mijinyawa and Kefas Sule respectively, denied the information, insisting that their principals still have "cordial relationship".
Also, a party source who did not wish to named said "the acting governor has not committed any impeachable offence, and it would be very difficult to hatch such plan.
"The acting governor can't be removed like that; there's a process. The Assembly would set up a penal that would probe him and he would be given enough time for his defence; I think that won't be possible now", the party official said.
Meanwhile, Peoples Daily learnt yesterday that more than 20 hours after the return of Governor Suntai, the state acting governor, Umar, commissioners and leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state were not allowed to have audience with him.
A Government House source said the denial of the acting governor access to his principal showed he has fallen out of favour with Governor Suntai's camp.
"Yes, he has not seen the governor. Not only him, other state officials and mmbers of the PDP leadership in the state are yet to see him since his return.
"We heard the governor would resume office tomorrow (today). But we wonder how he gets briefed of happenings in the state if the person who held forth for him has not been allowed top brief him," the source said.
Umar and others were said to be making efforts to meet their boss, but were turned down by security aides around the governor.
The acting governor, while speaking with news in Jalingo yesterday kept mute to several questions he was asked.
He only commended the people of Taraba for turning out en masse to give Governor Suntai a rousing welcome after 10 months of medical treatment abroad.
But speaking in an interview with the Hausa service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) monitored in Abuja yesterday, wife of ailing Governor Suntai, Hauwa, denied that there was a deliberate attempt to shield some people from meeting her husband.
"Nobody is stopping anyone from seeing him (Suntai). The fact is, after the long journey back home, he needs some rest. But nobody is shielding people from seeing him as alleged", she emphasized, saying that "there's nothing people would not say; but people saw him during his return".
Asked by the BBC Hausa correspondent, which matters to her family most, Suntai's health or his return to his seat as governor, Hauwa said: "His health matters more than power to us, but he's not in a condition that'll stop him from going back to office".
However, Adamawa state governor, Murtala Nyako, yesterday paid a sympathy visit to Governor Suntai in Jalingo.
Nyako, who was accompanied by his deputy, Bala James Ngillari, was received by the Taraba First Lady, Hauwa and had discussions with the governor for about 20 minutes.
In another development, Governor Suntai yesterday transmitted a letter to the state Assembly informing the legislature of his decision to resume office.
The letter purportedly signed by the governor, followed a late night meeting held with some close associates on Sunday, after he arrived the state.
The letter, according to his CPS, was received by the Speaker of the House of Assembly.
Governor Suntai, in the letter, said that he has fully recovered from injuries he sustained in the October 2012 air mishap, and was fit to resume office.
Several sources in Jalingo told our correspondent that members of the Assembly were divided over the letter.
A faction of the House was insisting that the governor be made to appear in the chamber, where independent medical officials would cross examine him and declare him fit for his office.
The other faction was however said to be harping on the contents of the letter written by the governor. The House is expected to convene today to deliberate on the matter.
But Chairman of the House of Assembly Committee on Information, David Ishaya Gain, speaking to newsmen at the House Complex at about 2.30pm yesterday, said the Assembly was yet to receive communication from Governor Suntai.
The House spokesperson denied rumours that the legislature was divided over Governor Suntai's return, adding that the House has no problems with either the governor or the acting governor.
But while these altercations were going on in Taraba, there was public outrage over the dawdling leadership transition in the state.
The Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL) yesterday joined the club of civil society organisations that have raised concern over possible abuse of the Constitution by some power mongers around the ailing governor.
"His (Suntai's) prolong absence raised, and still raises, questions over the state of his health, the extent of his injuries and the more specific question: is he fit to govern Taraba state?
"The picture of a man being helped by aides down the gangway of an aircraft fuels the speculation that Governor Suntai is gravely ill, incapable of discharging the functions of his office.
"The failure of Governor Suntai to address the media or the people of Taraba state since his arrival in Jalingo appears indicative of a more serious medical case", the PILL said in a statement issued in Abuja yesterday.
The statement signed by the lawyers' league President, Abdul Mahmud, recalled that "We have travelled the beaten path before. Recall President Yar'Adua's saga. As it was then, so it is now: a public servant, feeling very poorly, is corralled by criminal cabal intent on subverting the spirit and letters of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
"Today, like yesteryear, Governor Suntai is imprisoned by his aides and a wife who is more interested in power than that the desire to help her husband deal with his fate, the circumstances he has found himself, away from prying and inquisitive public. Nigerians must help Governor Suntai out of his misery", the group stressed.
While citing the relevant sections of the Constitution to buttress their arguments, the lawyers warned that: "For those who ask: what is it with Taraba state and why Governor Suntai? Our response is that constitutional infractions undermine the integrity of constitutional democracy everywhere. And for a nascent democracy like ours, Taraba state poses a dangerous precedent; and it behoves us as Nigerians to resist this clear abuse and subversion of our Constitution".
Speaking in the same vein, a non-government organisation, Committee for the Defence of Democracy and Rights of the People (CDRP), lamented the continued politicization of the health status of the Governor Suntai.
Addressing journalists at Osogbo, on Sunday, the National Coordinator of the group, Comrade Amitolu Shittu, said the trend of events in Taraba in the past few months have been of tremendous concern to all progressive elements in the state in particular and Nigeria as a whole.
According to him, "Since the unfortunate plane crash involving the Governor of the State, Gov. Suntai Danbaba, the executive administration of the state has been a toy in the hands of a cabal who believes that the fate of the state and its residents must be theirs in fee simple to determine as they wish".
He regretted that the attitude is completely at variance with the letters and spirit of the 1999 Constitution.