Taraba State Governor Danbaba Suntai
By Tokunbo Adedoja, Damilola Oyedele, Adebiyi Adedapo and Wole Ayodele
Taraba State Governor Danbaba Suntai, who sustained serious injuries when his plane crashed, last Thursday at a Yola suburb, was Saturday flown to Germany for medical treatment.
The state's Commissioner for Information, Mr. Emmanuel Bello, who confirmed this in a telephone interview, said the governor was flown out of the country about 3pm Saturday.
Suntai was moved from the Federal Medical Centre, Yola, where he had been treated after the crash, Friday afternoon in an air ambulance to the National Hospital, Abuja. He was visited in Abuja by President Goodluck Jonathan who the governor was in a stable condition.
Bello also said the governor was stable and responding to treatment, adding that there was hope that he would soon return to the country.
“The governor was flown to Germany this afternoon for further treatment. His condition remains stable as confirmed by President Jonathan and we’re very hopeful that he would soon return to the country hale and hearty,” he stated.
The Swiss Air ambulance, a Challenger 604 with registration number HB JRC, in which the governor was conveyed, took off from the International Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, about 3pm.
Suntai, a pharmacist by profession and also a qualified pilot, who personally flew the Cessna 208, 5N-BMJ jet that crashed in Yola, was taken out of the National Hospital premises at 1:56pm in a State House ambulance with registration number SH 557, the same ambulance that had brought him to the hospital on Friday.
There was heavy security presence at the National Hospital at the time of the governor's evacuation, which prevented people from getting close to the ICU. But THISDAY can confirm that the governor was stretchered into the ambulance with his body covered with a white cloth.
This lends credence to the suspicion that Suntai may still be in a critical condition, contrary to reports that he had been stabilised. Also, the fact that the whole area was cordoned off to human and vehicular movements, further raised concerns about the state of the governor's health.
No official of the hospital was willing to speak on the governor's condition, but an unofficial source said the governor was still in a bad shape.
Suntai was driven out of the premises of the National Hospital in a convoy of nine vehicles, led by a green BMW salon car with registration number NPF 45839 BMW, followed by a Toyota Prado SUV with registration number BS 677 RSH. In the SUV was a middle-aged woman, whose identity could not be determined, a police officer and two other men.
Also in the convoy were police operation vehicles, and private vehicles with registration numbers Abuja CZ 724 RBC, Abuja CU 184 RSH, and a government vehicle with registration number FG AD82A01.
Jonathan had dropped hints that Suntai would likely to flown abroad when the president told a delegation of Muslims led by Vice President Namadi Sambo that the federal government would do everything possible to ensure that the governor got the best medical attention even if it meant flying him abroad.
Officials disclosed that the governor, who was brought unconscious from the crash scene to the German unit of the Specialist Hospital, Yola, along with three of his security aides, had a broken shoulder and limbs as well as lacerations on his face. They were there for a while before been transferred to the Federal Medical Centre, Yola.
The other victims of the crash were Suntai’s Chief Security Officer (CSO) Dangana Tino; the Chief Detail, Joel Danladi; and his Aide-de-camp (ADC), DSP Iliya Dasat.
THISDAY gathered that plans had been concluded to move them from the Federal Medical Centre, Yola, to the National Hospital, Abuja.
'I Remain Deputy Governor'
Meanwhile, the Taraba State deputy governor, Alhaji Garba Umar, has made a public broadcast to clear the air on a rumoured power tussle and controversy around the governorship stool, which will be vacant for the period of Suntai’s medical treatment.
There were unconfirmed reports about a botched attempt by the deputy governor to assume the positing of acting governor.
But Umar denied the reports, saying he remains deputy governor since his boss is only sick and not incapacitated.
Fielding questions from newsmen Saturday at his official residence in Jalingo, after the state broadcast on the crash and the state of the governor, Umar stated, “I was sworn-in as deputy governor of the state. The governor is only sick and not dead. He is in a stable condition, as confirmed by Mr. President and the Chief Medical Director of National Hospital, Abuja. I remain the deputy governor of the state.”
Umar called on the people of the state to continue to pray for the speedy recovery of the governor and his affected aides just as he called on the people to rededicate themselves to the ideals and values that unite them as a people.
“We are known to be a peace loving people, law abiding and very patriotic. These are the values that have helped us to grow as a state. As friends and brethren, I enjoin us to continue to uphold these cherished values of our people,” he stated.