Daily Trust (Abuja)

25 January 2014

Nigeria: Taraba and the Unending Drama

opinion

Since the unfortunate air crash involving Taraba State Governor Danbaba Danfulani Suntai in late 2012 near the Yola airport in Adamawa State, Nigerians have been treated to very funny political dramas by different actors both within and outside the state.

Suntai, a pilot by share interest, survived that crash by the Grace of God. He was flown to Europe and later the United States of Americas for treatment. The crash occurred a few weeks after the governor had led the Taraba State House of Assembly in impeaching his deputy and subsequently appointed Garba Umar as the new deputy governor.

The selection of the new deputy was to many of us outsiders a development that probably only Mr. Suntai himself could explain. But, whatever the case was, there was an appointment and, supposedly, such appointment was often made only when the nominee is certified to be loyal to the boss.

The constitution of Nigeria, as amended, has thus provided that there are certain number of days within which a governor or chairman of local government or president cannot be out of duty post resulting in which the deputy or vice must be sworn in to act pending the return of the substantive holder of that office.

The peculiarity of the case in Taraba is that Nigerians have been told that the governor sustained some serious injuries relating to his brain and thus making recovery painstakingly slow and gradual. I am of the view that all right thinking people are sympathetic to the Suntai situation and grateful to God that he survived an air crash, a development that is very rare.

Unfortunately, and after having travelled similar path just few years earlier during the Yar'adua ailment, certain forces that I prefer to see as a cabal within the power equation in the state have again exposed Nigeria's democracy to yet another difficult times which in my view is simple and ordinary but if care is not taken may lead to unfortunate development.

From the manner in which the treatment, health and especially the actual state of health of Governor Suntai and his eventual return to Nigeria are being handled by some elements, it is clear that if Nigerians of good conscience do not rise in unison, the possibilities of endangering the peace in our polity looms large in the horizon and thus could cause severe injury to the nation's body politics.

Yes, the nation's body politics because a sensitive part of the general whole seems to be perpetuating in injustice arising from the greed of very few members of the society. What has become very open to all Nigerians today is that politics in Taraba State has taken a sectarian dimension with the various faith groups and political actors making every effort to ensure that it is either 'our own' or nothing else.

Let me begin from the very manner the ailing governor was smuggled into the country without, according to public opinion, properly briefing the government of the state where Mr. Suntai is the CEO, to the claims by people who in the ordinary present themselves as men of God that the governor was hale and hearty and therefore ready to resume work when every Nigerian saw in reality how the governor was apparently incapable of freely alighting from the aircraft that brought him to Abuja.

Nigerians also saw how the governor was said to be in good health and fully recuperated was shielded even from the principal officers of his government in the state capital and the stage-managed courtesy visits by select groups and individuals within and outside the state for reasons that are obvious. The implication of this is that the Yar'adua saga didn't teach us any lesson and those who do not learn from history are bound to be condemned by it.

The role played by people like Professor Jerry Gana, whose state of origin Niger shares no boundary or even history with Taraba apart from the fact that the two states are both within the geographical entity called North or Nigeria, in my view, is the overt foundation that was laid by certain power groups who are bent on either ensuring that a Muslim does not become the substantive governor of the state or to say the least create a scenario where by the government of the state is run by proxies.

The latest of the drama was the reported bundling of the yet to be sound Mr. Suntai to the governor's office in Jalingo and to Abuja to meet with President Jonathan. I think there is a cloud of desperation somewhere by some people who possibly desire to put the state in perpetual confusion and crisis.

The Taraba matter, to me, is as simple as a, b, c, d. We all pray for the governor to be well and as soon as possible so that he can live a normal life. In my view, the constitution of the country is very simple and clear on this matter. All that Nigerians in general and the people of the state would expect is that anytime the governor is sound, he simply walks back to his office, address the state and the entire nation that has been praying for his recovery would know that the gentleman is fit to resume.

I wonder why such a desperation. Who says a Muslim cannot be the governor of Taraba state? Those who erroneously think that way should go to Kaduna for an immediate and urgent lesson in history. Muslims and Christians are all capable as long as they possess the necessary constitutional requirements.

I think it is important that people of good minds must come out and speak on top of their voices against what some few elites are bent on doing in Taraba and by implication setting the state and the nation in avoidable flames.

I feel concerned about the development and I'm worried that Taraba is one of the backward states in the country in terms of education and infrastructure. Instead of the elite to pay premium on how to build a better tomorrow through human capacity development and provision of infrastructure as well as the enabling environment for the people of the state to exist and compete favorably within the Nigerian nation and even outside, a few elites most of whom are on their ways out of this life are drawing both the state and the nation backward.

This is unfortunate and those who are responsible must realize that such antics could jeopardies the peace in the society and result in rancor whose impact is better imagined. I am of the view that Nigerians and especially the people of the state must be their brothers' keepers. Nobody can lay claim to what is a collective ownership than others.

In Kaduna we have since passed that stage of primitive ignorance that a specific category cannot be governor. Some thought like that in the past but they were proved wrong. I believe that those merchants of hate and division in Taraba would also fall like a pack of cards.

God can make anybody anything when He desires and at the right time and any attempt by anyone who is imaginary to challenge such desires is merely a fallacy and failure right from the start.

The people of Taraba state regardless of their religious beliefs and ethnic origin must come to terms with the objective realities of their being and face the common enemies of poverty, illiteracy and backwardness which are unfortunately the hallmarks of our own part of Nigeria.

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