Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Taraba Assembly Gives Suntai Conditions to Resume Duties
to Nigeria on Sunday after 10 months in Germany and the United States
where he was receiving medical treatment, may not return to work so
soon as the state House of Assembly is indisposed to grant his request
The governor, in line with Section 190 of the 1999 Constitution, had
written the legislature to inform it of his return and readiness to
resume his official duties.
Already, his attempt to assume executive duties has divided the
leadership of the legislature.
Expressing doubts over the governor's capacity to discharge the
functions of his office as a result of the injuries he sustained in a
plane crash in October 2012, the state assembly Speaker, Hon. Haruna
Tsokwa, told reporters yesterday in Jalingo that Suntai must convince
the lawmakers and the people that he was fit enough to resume work.
The situation in the state has also polarised civil society groups
(CSOs) as some of them yesterday expressed divergent opinions on
whether the governor was fit enough to resume state duties.
Suntai, Tsokwa added, must come out and address the people of the
state before their elected representatives, adding that his failure to
do so means he is not fit to run the affairs of the state and that the
House would not hesitate to grant him leave to go back abroad for
Earlier in the day, Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Joseph Albasu
Kunini, had confirmed to some select journalists that Suntai had
transmitted a letter to the assembly and consequent upon that, he had
resumed as governor.
He said the assembly could not consider the letter because Tsokwa and
his deputy, Hon. Tanko Makarfi, had absconded and gone into hiding,
adding that they mandated him to address the press on the matter.
But debunking Kunini's claim, the speaker, accompanied by the deputy
speaker and the Deputy Majority Leader, Hon Josiah Sabo Kente, and
some other lawmakers, said he did not run away nor had he mandated the
majority leader to address the press on his behalf.
According to him, though the assembly has received the letter
transmitted by the governor, it was yet to deliberate on it and
untilit does so and communicates the outcome to the relevant bodies,
Alhaji Garba Umar would continue to function as the acting governor.
Explaining the rationale behind his call on Suntai to address the
people through the assembly, Tsokwa maintained that in making the
request, the legislature had no other motive other than their love for
Taraba State and the well-being of Suntai and the happiness of his
He explained that throughout the governor's hospitalisation, the
people were united behind Suntai and his family and it was always a
source of relief to them whenever news was received about his
He added that the demonstration of love and solidarity
manifesteditself in the massive turnout by all sections of the
population to welcome him back to the state capital last Sunday, a
turnout that he described as unprecedented.
He said events since Suntai's return had demonstrated the desperation
of a few individuals whose activities, if not checked, could polarise
the state thereby bringing disunity.
Tsokwa accused some people of taking custody of the governor and
giving the impression that he has fully recovered and ready toresume
the onerous task of administering the state, when he has not.
"Since his return, our dear governor has been kept away from public
view and all efforts by the honourable speaker and the House
leadership to formally welcome the governor have been resisted by the
few people that now constitute a cabal around Governor Suntai," he
He described the activities of the cabal as an attempt to re-enact the
late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua saga, which according to him,
nearly tore the nation apart.
Besides the assembly leadership, THISDAY gathered that Umar has not
seen the governor since his arrival on Sunday.
He was said to have been to the Government House to see him butwas
told that the governor was asleep and he would be invited as soon as
Suntai woke up.
Tsokwa however stated that as elected representatives of the people,
the lawmakers would be failing in their duty to the people and God if
they allowed the development to continue.
He said it was in the light of this that they were calling on Suntaito
resist the temptation by those who want to use him for their selfish
ends by coming out to address the people to allay fears over his state
THISDAY also gathered that human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN),
would be visiting the state today as part of efforts to draw attention
to the political situation in Taraba as well as broker peace among the
But rising tensions in the state yesterday caused a sharp disagreement
among civil society groups as they expressed divergent views on the
governor's return and whether or not he was fit to resume state
A coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) under the aegis of
"Say No Campaign" described efforts by Suntai to resume workas a
"social coup d'état" against the 1999 Constitution.
It noted that the return of the governor was reminiscent of the
charade that played out in the days of the late Yar'Adua who
wasbrought back into the country sick.
It accused some influential people in the state of being part of a
plot to keep Suntai in power at all cost.
The coalition's spokesman and Coordinator of United Action for
Democracy, Mr. Jaye Gaskia, said at a press briefing in Abuja that it
had made contact with other CSOs in the country as well as the Open
Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), to mobilise people for a
mass protest against the situation in Taraba.
"Whereas we sympathise with Suntai and the people of Taraba State and
wish him full recovery, we however condemn unequivocally the attempt
by some political vultures within and outside the state that are bent
on holding a whole state to ransom and make effective governance once
"These charlatans have woven plots of deceit meant to hoodwink the
Nigerian public in a manner similar to the unfortunate Turai-Yar'Adua
saga. Deliberately, they continue to feed people with liesabout the
true state of Suntai," he said.
A socio-political group, Taraba Justice Forum, aligned with the
coalition's position, adding that Suntai's return was stage-managed
for political expediency.
It said the governor's health was a vindication of its position that
the situation demanded an inquiry by the state assembly before he
could resume duty.
In a statement by its General Secretary, John Ambulus, the group said
the incapacitation of the governor could no longer be hidden and urged
President Goodluck Jonathan to intervene immediately as a matter of
urgent national importance.
"The president now has a sacred duty to intervene in this matter. The
commander-in-chief should not allow this matter to degenerate. There
is need for intervention as this is ridiculing the ruling party and
the presidency," it added.
Another group, Conscience Nigeria, however called on all stakeholders
in the state to maintain the peace that was in place now that the
governor has returned.
Its Executive Director, Mr. Tosin Adeyanju, at a press conference in
Abuja yesterday said all concerned groups must work together in the
interest of the state.
He said what had happened to Suntai was an accident and since "we all
cannot play God who has preserved him thus far, we shouldbe patient
for him to attain full recovery."
He cited cases of the late President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Fidel
Castro of Cuba and former Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, who
were in comas for long periods without relinquishing power.