By Joe Igbokwe
The circumstances surrounding the health of Governor Danbaba Suntai, Governor of Taraba State, Nigeria, has been deliberately shrouded in secrecy in the last ten months after an air crash that left him hospitalized in the United States. I thank God Governor Suntai is still alive. It could have been worse.
But impunity, greed, lies, deceit, dishonesty, breach of contract etc have been the hallmarks of the leadership in Taraba. Associates of Suntai, including his wife, have been deceiving Nigerians and the people of Taraba State for ten months now and this must stop. The Suntai I saw on television on his return cannot continue to remain Governor of Taraba State until he gets back his health.
I am not a lawyer but the 1999 Constitution 191 (1) gives five grounds under which a deputy can become a governor. These are on the ground of death, resignation, impeachment, permanent incapacity or removal of a Governor from office for any other reason in accordance with section 188 or 189 of the constitution. The Deputy Governor could become a governor if the State executive council decided to give effect to section 189 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
That section says that the governor or deputy governor of a state shall cease to hold office if by a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of all members of the Executive Council of the state that is, the body of commissioners of the Government of the State) it is declared that the governor or deputy governor is incapable of discharging the functions of his office.
This declaration has to, however, be verified by a medical panel of five (one of who must be the personal physician of the holder of the office concerned) to be appointed by the Speaker of the State House of Assembly.
The arrival of Governor Suntai at Abuja Airport and what I saw on TV and the read in the newspapers, speak volumes of the state of the Governor’s health. His frail look suggest that he is far from recovering. His eyes were expressionless. It tells a bigger story that all is not well with the governor.
The physical state of the governor gives the inescapable conclusion that he is not physically fit to continue to govern Taraba State, at least for now. The attitude of his aides suggests a despicable desperation to remain in power by all means. The idea of bringing a sick man home even when it is obvious to the world that all is not well, suggests the way we are.
Because of greed we have all become a slave to public office. I guess some people are feeding on the governor’s predicament. I guess that billions would have been stolen using his name. That would be a shame! But we have seen it before in the days of late President Yar’Adua. A day will come when people who know what transpired in the last days of President Yar’Adua will speak the truth. It is only then that Nigerians will know the level of our depravity, wickedness and greed.
The late former president of United States, Ronald Reagan had cause to undergo a surgical operation few years back. What did he do? He signed off his office as the President of the United States, went into the hospital for the operation. After a successful operation and recovery, he went back to work. This is what civilized people do. But America is not Nigeria. Nigerians and Tarabans deserve to know the true situation of governor Suntai’s health. It is an outright wickedness to deny this humble man a deserved time to fully recover, his exalted office notwithstanding. His health is what matters now. We must grow up in this country.
Governor Suntai’s case has become an embarrassment to Nigerians and democracy. Handlers of the governor have mismanaged his recovery.
The State House of Assembly must do its work. The Deputy Governor of Taraba is now going through what President Jonathan went through in the hands of Yar’Adua’s men. They have kept the man in the dark for fear of losing power.
Let the lawmakers of Taraba State raise a team of five competent medical doctors to ascertain the true state of the governor’s health and have the courage and the political will to do what needs to be done in the overall interest of the people of Taraba State. Governor Suntai has not recovered and let no one play politics with this man’s health and life.
ν Igbokwe writes from Lagos