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.
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