New deputy governor presenting his speech
Wole Ayodele, in Jalingo, looks at the intrigues that surrounded the choice of the new deputy governor of Taraba State from the same community as his sacked predecessor
The swearing-in of Alhaji Umar Garba as deputy governor of Taraba State, recently, finally laid to rest the intense lobbying and intrigues that characterised the appointment of a successor to Alhaji Sani Abubakar, the impeached deputy governor of the state.
Abubakar was impeached by the state House of Assembly on October 4 following the adoption of the report of the seven-man committee set up to investigate allegations of misconduct and abuse of office levelled against him.
‘Guilty as Charged’
The committee found Abubakar guilty of all the three allegations preferred against him while 20 members, representing over two-thirds of the 24-member Assembly, voted in favour of his impeachment at the emergency plenary session held to deliberate the panel’s report.
With Governor Danbaba Suntai’s veiled support for Abubakar’s impeachment, the race to succeed him began in earnest almost as soon as the allegations were raised. Nobody was left in doubt that the days of the embattled deputy governor in office were numbered. And on September 4, exactly one month after he was served with an impeachment notice, Abubakar was impeached, and on same day, Garba was named as his successor.
In a swift move, the House of Assembly, acting on a letter from the governor seeking its confirmation of Garba as deputy governor, unanimously confirmed his nomination the following day, October 5. He was sworn-in on the same day by the state Chief Judge, Justice Josephine Tuktur.
Suntai had in a three-paragraph letter to Speaker of the House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Istifanus Gbana, titled “Re: Nomination of a new Deputy Governor for Taraba State,” sought the confirmation and approval of Garba as the new deputy governor.
Garba’s swearing in as deputy governor was conducted at the dome of Taraba Motel later in the day after his confirmation by the Assembly in line with the provisions of the 1999 constitution.
Speaking on the impeachment of the former deputy governor and the subsequent nomination and swearing-in of Garba, Suntai stated that what took place was the handiwork of the God Almighty. He called on all and sundry to put the past behind them for the state to move forward.
“There are lots of stories, both known and unknown. I want to plead with all of us, let us thank God for a brand new day; let us thank God for a brand new chapter and let us ask him for the grace to push on to the journey of making Taraba a better place for our people that are here today and our people that will come tomorrow,” Suntai declared.
Rationalising the haste with which the impeachment process was commenced and concluded, Chairman, House Committee on Information, Hon Daniel Ishaya Gani, said by its action, the Assembly had demonstrated to the world its commitment towards removing any abnormally in the body politic of the state.
Gani stated that the Assembly was quick to adopt the report of the committee due to the indictment of Abubakar on all the three allegations levelled against him, stressing that there is basically no reason to procrastinate or elongate the matter in the face of the confirmation of his guilt by the investigative panel.
“The House was on recess and members were being recalled from recess to deliberate on the matter. And besides, the report was brought in by the committee and there was no grey area. If there are contradictions on the report, it would have generated arguments and debates that would have prolonged the adoption of the report. But in this case, the report was very clear and explicit and the House has no reason to defer its adoption,” Gani said.
While the impeachment process was on, no fewer than four names featured prominently as likely successors to Abubakar. This led to a lot of intrigues and lobbying by those concerned and their political associates to swing the pendulum in their favour.
Among the names being strongly mentioned as nominees for deputy governor were a former chairman of Jalingo local government and immediate past special adviser to the governor on local government and chieftaincy affairs, Hon. Ali Sani Kona, and Congress for Progressive Change governorship candidate in the last general election, Mr. Ahmed Yusuf, who recently returned to PDP.
Besides Kona and Yusuf, other contenders included Alhaji Kabiru Pitiko, one time Chairman of Karim Lamido Local Government Area and incumbent chairman of Jalingo local government, Alhaji Hassan Bappa, who is also a former member of the state House of Assembly.
Interestingly and against all predictions, Garba, popularly called UTC due to his long years of service with the defunct trading company, whose name was hardly mentioned as a likely successor to Abubakar, was announced as the deputy governor nominee by the governor.
Though, virtually all those mentioned for the post were Suntai’s political associates, some factors were said to have worked against their nomination. Kona, who was a favourite for the position, was allegedly dropped because his cousin, Hon. Victor Bala Kona, is the incumbent chairman of PDP in the state, while THISDAY gathered that Yusuf was not considered because he came back to PDP barely four months before.
Suntai was said to have settled for Garba because, besides being the governor’s long time friend, he is a native of Bachama in Karim-Lamido Local Government Area of the state, where the ousted deputy governor also hails from. The governor was said to have expressed his preference for an experienced person with a strong character, and Garba was said to have fit the bill.
Commenting on the choice of Garba, a civil servant, Comrade Diben Samson Haruna, popularly called ‘Opisco’, said his nomination was the manifestation of a divine arrangement that is beyond human comprehension.
“Alhaji Garba’s nomination and swearing-in as deputy governor has been divinely programmed and what we’re witnessing is just the manifestation of it. His case is like that of Danbaba Suntai who emerged governor against all expectations and this further confirms the fact that only God gives power and He gives whosoever He wishes,” Haruna declared.
Meanwhile, Garba has expressed his readiness to work cordially with Suntai. He said this in an address after his swearing in. Only time can tell how long the affection would last.