Daily Trust (Abuja)

11 August 2009

Nigeria: Suntai Not Ready For Reconciliation- Nyame

analysis

Jalingo — The political feud between the former governor of Taraba State Reverend Jolly Nyame and his successor Danbaba Suntai took a dramatic turn last weekend when a reconciliatory meeting organized by the former at his country home [Zing] was prevented by security agents alleged to be acting on instruction of the state government. Consequently, Nyame accused Governor Suntai of persistently frustrating efforts to setttle political scores among him [Nyame], Suntai and Danladi Baido, the substituted guber candidate of the PDP in 2007.

The meeting in Zing, Daily Trust learnt, was intended to reconcile Nyame with the State Action Congress [AC] gubernatorial candidate in the 2007 elections Ahmed Yusuf. Yusuf, a founding member of the PDP in Taraba State, who held various positions during Nyame's tenure as governor later defected to the Action Congress when things fell apart. Last weekend's proposed meeting was therefore aimed at mending fences between Nyame and Yusuf, Daily Trust learnt.

Among those invited to the reconciliation meeting were Danladi Baido, Senator Joel Danlami Ikenya, a former deputy Governor of the State Uba Maigairi as well as a former Secretary to the State Government.

But on Friday when the stakeholders arrived in Jalingo, the state capital, in preparation for the meeting which was scheduled for the next day, the Taraba State government issued a statement directing that all political meetings, rallies, and religious gatherings be suspended.

The statement signed by Aminu Jika, former Chief of Staff to former Governor Jolly Nyame and currently the Information Commissioner in Suntai's government stated: "In view of the recent religious disturbances in some parts of the Northern States, His Excellency the executive Governor of Taraba State, in his capacity as the chief security officer has directed that all political meetings/rallies and religious gatherings are hereby suspended," the statement said.

Following the advance notice, Nyame suspended the reconciliatory meeting in Zing. Instead, he hosted his guests at his private residence in Jalingo on Saturday morning to deliberate on the matter. At the end of their deliberations, the former governor addressed some journalists in his residence accusing Suntai of frustrating efforts at reconciling with him [Nyame] and Danladi Baido. Our correspondent who was there captured the highlights of the interaction with the pressmen:

On the prevented meeting in Zing:

I decided to host Ahmed Yusuf in my house and the intention is purely social. But it is a pity if anybody is giving it a political interpretation. Everybody in Taraba State knew or thought there was a little bit of dislocation between me and Ahmed Yusuf who happened to be a gubernatorial candidate of the AC in Taraba State. And let me make it very clear that Ahmed Yusuf is still a member of the AC. So whatever is happening between us is purely social.

It should be placed on record that my relationship with Ahmed Yusuf predates politics. If it happens that we sojourned in politics together and succeeded, and for whatever reason we had a crack in relationship, God has made it possible for us to reconcile. We wanted to make the event historic which was why I planned the Zing meeting to bring the two of us together with our supporters to witness our reconciliation. As law abiding citizens, we wrote the state Commissioner of Police. When I was governor and chief security officer of the state, I never used my power recklessly. So there was need for me to write and inform the Commissioner of Police that something was happening that would attract a volume of people in my home in Zing. The police replied that they were overstretched and they may not likely contend the people. We wrote back to the Police Commissioner telling him we would reduce the meeting to a dinner.

But when the circular came from government, being a governor for ten years, I knew that the governor (Suntai) can wake up overnight and use his red biro to execute somebody to death. So to remain loyal Tarabans, we decided to shelve the dinner. But God knows that nobody can stop anybody from coming to my house. I have the right to invite people to my house as people are free to visit me in my house. But at the appropriate time, there is going to be a dinner where we will host people. The essence is to cement relationship across party and religious lines.

Efforts to reconcile Suntai and Baido:

I have been waiting for an opportunity like this for quite some time to address the press since I left government. It is a well known fact that God, through the people of Taraba State, gave me the mandate to govern the state for ten years before I handed over. Before I left the mantle of leadership, the people of Taraba State knew clearly what I did and what I failed to do. The Taraba people are in the best position to judge whether I was fair, just or not; whether I put anything on the ground or not. The dividends of democracy are not just things you can talk about. They are things you will have to see, feel and taste. The difference should be clear and like I earlier said, the people of Taraba are the best judges.

Secondly, I have personally insisted that Danladi should listen to me on the need to reconcile with Danbaba. Against odds, Danladi agreed, albeit in pains. I came to Taraba several times to seek ways of reconciliation myself, Danbaba and Baido. But this has proved abortive and it is neither my fault nor Danladi's. If there is any reason that at my age [54], I should create confusion, then my age is useless. At this point in time I should seek ways to reconcile and this is why I went out of my way to look for Ahmed Yusuf.

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