Why she wrote Oprah Winfrey for help By CHIKA ABANOBI The letter from Ms Chioma Ogbu, the 31-year-old Nigerian lady, born with cerebral palsy (the congenital lifelong motor neuron disease said to have no cure), to Oprah Winfrey, the world-acclaimed TV talk show host, philanthropist, film actress and anchor of the popular “The Oprah Winfrey…
I am told that our great party, the largest party in Africa, has split. They say there is now a New PDP. That some seven governors are already in, with some eight others sitting on the fence. That National Chairman Bamanga Tukur (and by extension, President Goodluck Jonathan) is holding unto a shell while Atiku and the renegades are jealously holding unto the soul.
Now, they are running from pillar to post, trying to reunite body and soul of PDP. And who else to do it, but Obasanjo – the old fox who, incidentally, has been fingered as playing both sides. It is another dizzying twist to the curious family we have entrusted with our national lot since 1999. Some family! Yes, the only family where it is okay to kill your brother or sister and readmitted with a half-hearted apology – only to do it again at the slightest provocation. Needless to ask: with a family and friends like the PDP, do we really need any more enemies in Nigeria?
That is why I don’t want to waste my time with PDP. By this time next week, the worst would have been over. They would probably have sacrificed Tukur, or be preparing him for the sacrifice (because this is one crisis that the usual fowl and goat sacrifice would not do. Only human sacrifice would suffice and the PDP chairman is increasingly looking like the sacrificial object).
But, like I said, I want to leave PDP to sort itself out with its family affair while I go on the trail of the dreaded ‘cabal’ that appears to have relocated to Jalingo, with the usual suspects: wife, aides, commissioners and the kitchen cabinet of a dying regime. Just like was the case in Abuja a few years ago.
Family and aides of Danbaba Suntai say he is fit again to continue to pilot the affairs of Taraba State. This is irrespective of the fact that the last thing Suntai ever piloted was an aircraft that ended up in crash, leaving the hitherto lively Suntai permanently staring into space with a blank expression and barely hanging on to life.
But his handlers insist he is fit enough to rule. They have neither shown us any doctor’s clean bill of health on the governor to confirm this claim, or even let Suntai to publicly proclaim so himself. They have returned us to the era of Oga-talk-say (even when ‘Oga’ did not ‘talk’ anything).
Even though the state’s lawmakers are insisting that the Suntai they saw is not yet fit to return to his job, or even write or sign any letter to that effect, the new Taraba cabal would not give let. They have foisted a circus whereby governance is now by video. With that arrangement, they have sacked cabinet, appointed aides and all. The result is that Taraba is now one running circus, at some point operating with only seven commissioners – with each commissioner overseeing at least one other ministry apart from his original ministry. Of course, the state of the state’s treasury under this arrangement can be best imagined. That explains why some N400 million allocated to the state to address problems created by last year’s flood in the state eventually got swept away by another flood that hit the treasury.
Now, I can almost imagine what has been happening to the governor’s security vote, for instance.
If Suntai has become incapacitated as we have seen, why can’t they let him, go? He has to be aware of himself (and even his environment) to enjoy the perks that come with hanging on to power. Now, I doubt if he is aware that he is still governor of any state. Meaning: other people are enjoying these perks on his behalf and are only propping him up to serve as a façade while they do the looting behind the scene.
Of course, it was this desperation to continue to sustain a lie that made them forget that it is not actually criminal for the governor to alight from the plane in a wheelchair. But for the fact that they had to create the impression that Suntai walked out from the plane (when they actually packed him out like an unsteady bag of bones), I would have believed the lie that the man is really okay. But for them, being okay is purely and strictly a physical thing. So, they had to disgrace the man by showing to the world that he was ‘strong’ enough to return to office.
Let no one get me wrong; you do not have to be standing on your feet to be able to perform in public office. But for eternal electoral shenanigans, somebody like Cosmas Okoli would be in the legislature by now. And I can’t think of many more sound minds than Cosmas’. Yet, he is permanently on wheelchair, but many of us physically more able compatriots queued behind him to get him into the legislature. So, even on wheelchair, Suntai would still be governor.
But I am more interested in his mental fitness than physical fitness. As a student of history, I came across a certain FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States of America and arguably the strongest of America’s ‘strong’ presidents.
FDR remains the only U.S. president to have been elected into office for more than two terms; in fact, he did four terms (12 years). Incidentally, he ran a large chunk of his tenure from the wheelchair – where he was partially confined to by polio. But, the progressive paralysis notwithstanding, FDR led U.S. out of economic depression and through the ‘total war’ that was the Second World War. Today, he ranks with founding President George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as America’s best presidents ever.
Of course, a lot of wrong sentiments may have crept into the Taraba case, but one thing I can bet my last kobo on is that Suntai is not responsible for anything currently going on there. I suspect that he is aware of the fact that he is now back to Jalingo from his medical treatment abroad, but that seems to be as far as it goes. He probably does not even know that he did all of 10 months away from Nigeria. I also suspect he has not written or signed anything in the last 10 months – of course, that is not to say that some smart alec would not come up with a document purportedly signed by Suntai.
I listened to the video of his address posted on YouTube, but could only see his lips moving. Thinking it was because of environmental noise, I waited till about 2:00am when everywhere was quiet, to look at the video again. But again, I only heard barely audible rasping of someone totally out of breath (and strength) labouring to pronounce a few words. I came away with the impression of a poorly synchronized video editing – with the lips moving faster than the background voice.
Of course, I also saw a Suntai, with a plastic smile plastered on his face, barely managed to lift his hand from the desk it was resting on to shake hands with the officer whom he was alleged to have just sworn into office. And so I wonder, if all is well, why would a governor, a politician for that matter, who should always grab the limelight with both hands suddenly be shying away from it? Why would he, instead of attending public functions to slap backs and pump hands to confirm he is back, resort to clandestine videos like a certain Abu Shekau, and Osama bin Laden before him?
Did he not see the publicity blitz that followed the return of Sullivan Chime and Liyel Imoke, his Enugu and Cross River counterparts respectively, on their return to Nigeria? Are we still discussing them today? Is anyone in doubt, for instance, that Chime is still taking treatment? Now we know that he is human and is, therefore, susceptible to falling sick from time to time? Have all those curious ’Save Enugu’ groups which sprang up to make political capital of Chime’s medical trip abroad not suddenly died a natural death?
Truth is, Suntai and his handlers should be busy thanking God for keeping him alive after a plane crash. That thanksgiving should keep them busy for the rest of their lives – so busy that they should normally have no time for the kind of political schemings going on in Taraba today. What they are doing today is an insulting throw-back to what we say in the last days of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. And if Nigerians saw through the deceit then, why would the people in Taraba think that we have suddenly taken leave of our senses three years later?
It is therefore, heartwarming, to hear that Suntai has now agreed to let Deputy Governor Garba Umar to continue as Acting Governor. I’m just curious that all these announcements and proclamations are made by people, who go to see the governor; this fit and strong governor never seems to say anything himself these days.