Nigeria: Vital questions as ailing governor Danbaba Suntai return
By Olanrewaju Suraju
Being the text of a press parley by civil society network against corruption on Monday 26th, august, 2013, on the melodrama surroundiong the return of governor Suntai Danbaba to the Nigeria Gentlemen. According to news reports Governor of Taraba State, Danbaba Suntai, returned to Nigeria yesterday. Ordinarily, this should be a charming development
for the entire nation. Mrs. Suntai reportedly expressed the family’s appreciation to all who had in many ways supported the family throughout their trying moment.
Some Nigerians living in New York also, reportedly, volunteered to accompany the governor home. The electorate who voted Gov. Suntai into the position obviously would be particularly more excited as the campaign promises that may have suffered non-implementation since his absence may now be revived. The rest citizens may also share from this excitement as the nation is spared another tragedy after the Governor had been away for no fewer than ten months, first in Germany and much later in the United States from where he reportedly returned from. As citizens of this country, we equally welcome this development and indeed wish Governor Suntai well as much as his family does.
We deem it necessary to quickly remind Nigerians of the circumstances of Governor Suntai as the number one citizen of his state, Taraba, even as some may readily dismiss this as unnecessary because history hurts liars.
So suddenly, the matter of Governor Suntai has become the concern of the bickering and confused leadership of Suntai’s party men in Abuja not of his people in Taraba. On August 3, members of the PDP Fact-finding Committee on the Taraba political situation, led by its chairman, Senator Hope Uzodinma, paid solidarity visit to the governor at SeaView Hospital Rehabilitation Centre and Home in New York
Mr. Uzodinma was accompanied by the Special Adviser to the PDP National Chairman on INEC and Inter-party Affairs, Shittu Mohammed, the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Ahmed Gulak, Abubakar Gada and the Consul-General of Nigeria in New York, Habib Habu. This is not the first of media exhibitions to convince Nigerians that all is well with the ailing governor.
During a similar visit in the past, an obviously hastily arranged photograph of the governor, his wife and their newly born babies was touted across the media. Since then, the office of the governor has mustered persistent efforts to assure the people that the governor’s health has remarkably improved.
However, reports by a section of the media says Governor Suntai, following his transfer from the German hospital was moved to an undisclosed hospital in the United States and much later to the prestigious John Hopkins Hospital, located in Baltimore, in the US state of Maryland.
This is contrary to the repeated claims by the governor’s office indulging in the familiar pattern of propaganda and outright falsehood characteristic of Nigerian public officials about the true health conditions of their principals in such situations.
It is important to note that the nation had travelled this road before. Until the defunct Next newspaper dared whatever consequence may befall it, no news medium could tell the world about the true situation with late President Yar’Adua. That paper reported against all political propaganda that the President was “brain dead”. And even at that, it took weeks before the political gangsters and opportunists could tell the truth.
Last February, Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State returned to Nigeria after months away from the country battling a health condition that was never officially revealed to the public. In his case, he was actually away from the country for weeks before questions arose over his whereabouts, prompting his office to issue repeated unconvincing assurances. The governor, upon his return, arrogantly announced that he did not owe anyone an explanation on his health situation.
Perhaps the most prominent recent case was that of First Lady Patience Jonathan, whose disappearance aroused public curiosity to a fever pitch. Mrs. Jonathan’s aides denied outright that the first lady had any health condition, stating that she was only taking a well-deserved rest far away in Germany after a busy schedule.
President Jonathan’s office eventually stepped-in to say that Mrs. Jonathan was indeed convalescing in a hospital in Germany. The president’s office also released a grainy photo of the first lady and the president to assure the public that she was alive and well.
Mrs. Jonathan of course returned to Nigeria to hold a thanksgiving ceremony in which she acknowledged, though after an outright denial of any sickness on her arrival into the country, that she was seriously ill to the point of death, expressing gratitude to God that she made it back alive after being under the surgeon’s scalpel several times.
Contrary to the scripted deceit of the public by national leadership of Peoples Democratic Party, the wife of Gov. Danbaba and his political aides, Saharareporters, an online news medium revealed details of the ailing Governor’s health and condition right from when he was undergoing treatment in Germany till finally flown to the United States of America. A critical review of the report clearly tells the incapacity of Mr. Suntai to function in office as a governor. This clearly tells history is about repeating itself in Nigeria as farce.
As the chief executive of his state, Governor Suntai, swore to defend the Constitution on assumption of office but the extent of his faithfulness to this today after a long period of self-inflicted fate leaves a lot to be desired. Not only has he denied the state the leadership he promised, the character of the leadership he was even able to offer will hardly qualify as a model for anyone. Governor Suntai acquired three aircrafts following his assumption of office as the governor in a state without an airport. The implication of this is clear: He is an absentee governor and got his absenteeism prolonged even if unwillingly by the sickness. He fulfilled the Shakespearean prophesy to the effect that “things bad begun make strong themselves by ill”.
We wish to deplore strongly, attempts at personalizing political offices by Nigeria’s ruling elites. Failure or inability to function in offices, either by cause of nature or self affliction should not be at such huge cost to the electorate as experienced in this country. Governor Suntai and the PDP should save this country a repeat of the ignominious experience of the Yar’adua saga and odious breakdown of law and order perpetuated in Rivers State.
Transparency and Accountability
Governor Suntai’s friends and spin doctors have been relentless in rationalising the urgent return of the ailing Governor. Taraba state electorates and Nigerians in general are not informed of the cost of this shenanigan. How much does it cost the state to Charter and ambulance private jet and the allied expenses such as this? There is no doubting the fact that the Suntai propagandists would not deem it an obligation to offer any explanation to the world and offer apologies until there are speculations in these directions. Unfortunately, the posturing of the anti-corruption agencies and Code of Conduct Bureau so far on this matter is such that they do not have enough reason to begin to act.
Suntai’s Flight Victims
Since the tragedy of the flight, very little has been heard of the governor’s aides who shared the unfortunate fate with him. Only the governor has been reportedly moved from hospitals in Nigeria to Germany and later to the United States. The media have not assisted with investigations on the less fortunate victims. Nigerians deserve to know. If getting information about these victims of Suntai has been deliberately shielded, Suntai himself owes the nation a lot of explanation before uninformed citizens begin to attribute the blood of these innocent people to him. And the reality is that even if Suntai can use the might of his influence to suppress the news about this, he can hardly avert rumour from circulating.
Governor Suntai should immediately speak to the world and declare the true state of his health rather than continuing to depend on party and family propagandists to continue misinforming and misleading the populace;
The Taraba State House of Assembly should rise up to the political challenge by commencing the process of ascertaining the health status of Mr. Suntai to determine his capacity to continue in office as a Governor or otherwise.
Political aides and political jobbers in Taraba state should refrain of employing governor by proxy to precipate crisis in the State;
The National leadership of PDP must safe the country another international embarrassment by ensuring the rule of law is strictly preached and adhered to in resolving the Taraba issues; and
Nigerians should rise in unison to condenm any attempt by the ruling class at taking us through the familiar perilious path of governance by proxy.
The PDP leadership under President Goodluck Jonathan has failed to stem the tide of corruption since assumption office. Petty thieves are summarily convicted and penalized while politically exposed persons caught continue to enjoy proceeds of their criminal acts and remain in office under the guise of trial. These were the cases of the police man caught on tape soliciting bribe and the case of Honourable Farouk Lawan, a serving member of the Federal House of Representatives.
Aluta continua! Victoria Ascerta!
Olanrewaju Suraju. Ugochi Okpe