Hauwa, Suntai, Victor Bala Kona and Babangida, Suntai's brother
Wole Ayodele, in Jalingo, looks at the controversy that followed the recent release of photographs of the Taraba State governor, allegedly, taken at a German hospital
When the picture of Taraba State Governor Danbaba Suntai, who is currently recuperating in Germany after surviving a plane crash, was published on the internet and some national dailies on January 2, it elicited varying reactions from Nigerians both at home and abroad. In the photograph, Suntai, clad in a suit and flanked by his wife, Hauwa, and a friend, Prince Tita Nbalam, was carrying one of the twins delivered by his wife days after he was flown to Germany for medical treatment after the crash on October 25 last year.
Since the publication of the picture, controversy has raged over the true health of Suntai. While some analysts hold that the picture was a computer or technological creation, some are of the opinion that Suntai’s outlook in the picture is a confirmation of earlier reports that he was brain-damaged. Yet there are some who feel excited by the sight of the governor alive, seat and without artificial support. To this last group, the picture doused fears that Suntai may be declared incapacitated and unable to carry out his functions as governor of the state.
The skepticism generated by the picture was occasioned by an online report which was replicated in some dailies in which the governor was said to be brain-damaged and suffering a spinal cord injury and, therefore, would no longer be able to function in his office.
In a report posted on January 3 by a United States-based Certified Advance Trauma Specialist, Stella Oritsejemite, titled “Governor Suntai And Traumatic Brain Injury,” she held that the governor was starring into space in the said picture due to the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) he suffered as a result of the accident, adding that it may take him months or years to fully recover.
“I suspect the governor suffered DAI (Diffuse Axonal Injury) looking at the pictures posted on Sahara Reporters. It may take weeks, months or years even for this man to come back to his pre-accident state. It may take quite long for the brain to resolve its chemical imbalance as a result of the TBI. The good news, however, is that as the chemistry of the brain improves, so can the ability of the patient to function independently,” she revealed.
But in his reaction to the report, Taraba State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Emmanuel Bello, said Sahara Reporters had a reputation for publishing false reports about Suntai, which has gone a long way to erode the credibility of the medium and its patrons. He added that the state government might drag the online publication to court.
Chronicling what he termed a series of false reports by Sahara Reporters, Bello recalled that it was the same online publication that reported that the governor had died in the plane crash that occurred few Kilometers to the Yola airport before retracting the report and eventually sending its apologies to the government and people of the state.
According to him, “Sahara Reporters started their misadventure by saying that the governor was dead; they now say they were sorry after that and actually reverted themselves. They now say the governor was brain-damaged, he is a vegetable, he cannot move, he cannot do anything. The picture that we saw is all over the world now. It shows that this governor is far from being in a vegetative state. Anybody seeing that picture saw a man who survived a traumatic, life threatening accident, such as a plane crash. Anybody seeing that picture would know that the man did not suffer any brain damage.”
Urging Nigerians and the people of the state to disregard the report, Bello hinted that the governor would soon return to the country to continue his service to the state and Nigeria, just as he revealed that the political landscape in the state was already being primed to receive the governor back to the state.
Bello said a carnival like reception was being planned to welcome Suntai.
Notwithstanding Bello’s explanation and appeal to Nigerians to disregard the report, not a few people remain pessimistic, as public commentaries on the said picture show. Many are certainly not convinced by the claims of government functionaries in Taraba State that Suntai’s health has improved tremendously and he would soon return to the country to resume duties as governor.
But despite the pessimism, a civil servant in the state, Mr. Tyson G. Samuel, while reacting to the published pictures said the pictures have proved critics wrong and confirmed the promise of God that He would provide for his people according to his riches in glory.
Waxing philosophical, Samuel, who is also the caretaker chairman of the Civil Service Union in Taraba State, stated, “He is God of yesterday, today and tomorrow. People are entitled to their opinion but it is unfortunate that people can rejoice over the death or fall of a fellow human being, even God did not rejoice in the death of a sinner, talk less of a God-fearing man like Governor Suntai.
“Irrespective of our status, it is appointed for a man to die once and after that is judgment. So what will it profit a man created by God to rejoice over the downfall of a fellow human being, knowing full well that we’ll all give account of our stewardship. As for me, while awaiting the arrival of our governor, let’s continue to pray for him and Taraba state in general.”
But reacting to the controversy generated by the posted picture, Deputy Speaker, Taraba State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Abel Peter Diah, said the House of Assembly and the acting governor of the state, Alhaji Garba Umar, would not be distracted by the insinuations and controversy surrounding the pictures. He said whatever anybody felt or said about the issue, the path of constitutionalism must be followed.
“As far as I am concerned, all those insinuations and speculations have no impact because only a medical report can determine whether somebody is brain-damaged or incapacitated. To me and the other honourable members of the House, we are not bothered or distracted about all the insinuations and speculations,” Diah declared.
Urging the people of the state and well meaning Nigerians to shun the negative propaganda about Suntai and continue to pray for him, Diah stated, “Though I’m not a medical practitioner and I cannot tell you that he would return on so and so date, I can assure Tarabians that the governor has improved tremendously and would return to the country very soon.”
Out of Intensive Care
THISDAY gathered that Suntai had been discharged from the intensive care unit of Hannover Hospital and he was receiving physiotherapy treatment as an out-patient in another hospital still in Germany.
In fact, the controversial picture and several others were said to have been taken on the day he was discharged from the intensive care unit. An eyewitness who was present on the occasion but does not want to be publicised, told THISDAY that whoever insinuated that the pictures were a computer creation was only being mischievous and seeking undue political advantage from the issue.
According to the eyewitness, “I was with the governor from the very first day the crash occurred. In fact, I followed the ambulance to the hospital in Yola and then to National Hospital in Abuja and I was with him up till he was admitted at Germany and I was present when those pictures were being taken. The truth of the matter is that the grace of God has been on the governor because his rate of recovery has been phenomenal and all things being equal, he would return to the country very soon.”