Governor Danbaba Suntai
Some relief and good news came the way of Tarabans and indeed Nigerians when the Taraba State government Wedbesday announced that the state governor, Mr Danbaba Suntai, who has been receiving treatment in a German hospital as a result of the injuries sustained in a plane crash last October, has been discharged from the hospital. The announcement is coming at a time the rumour mills have continued to buzz concerning the health status of the governor.
The state government, which also refuted claims that the picture of the governor with his wife, Hauwa and their twins published in the media yesterday was doctored, added that Suntai is currently undergoing physiotherapy since he was discharged from the hospital.
The governor was flown to Germany for treatment following life-threatening injuries he sustained when the plane he was flying crashed last October at Yola, the Adamawa State capital.
Since his hospitalisation, moves have been made by some political jobbers to mobilise the state House of Assembly to impeach him so that his deputy, Alhaji Garba Umar, who is now the acting governor, can be confirmed as the substantive governor.
However, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has dismissed the impeachment moves based on the allegation that the governor is incapacitated, saying the 1999 Constitution is clear on succession in such a situation.
In an interview with THISDAY, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Emmanuel Bello, who also refuted claims that Suntai is brain dead, said the governor spoke with some of his aides during the Christmas break.
According to him, Suntai is recuperating and would soon return to his duty post.
He said: “The governor has been discharged from the hospital and he is currently undergoing physiotherapy. It is not true that the governor is brain dead. He spoke to some of his aides, including me on Christmas Day. He is in his right senses and during his discussion with us, it did not suggest in any way of someone whose brain has been damaged.
“The pictures that you saw in the newspapers are pictures of a real event. The pictures were never stage-managed. They are pictures of a real event that took place with the wife of the governor.”
On the move to remove Suntai because of incapacitation, Bello said: “My response is that people should familiarise themselves with the provisions of the constitution, especially as it relates to this Taraba incident.
“There is no vacancy in this case; the deputy governor who is now the acting governor is discharging his constitutional duties and there is no inhibition whatsoever. He is loyal to the governor and has not in any way suggested in any manner that he wants to replace the governor,” he said.
The PDP corroborated Bello’s position on the power play in the state, saying that Suntai has not been declared incapacitated, as he is stable, but only injured and receiving treatment.
The party, through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Olisa Metuh, explained that the deputy governor is already the acting governor and is performing his constitutional duties.
Metuh, who was responding to enquiries by THISDAY on the moves to impeach Suntai, said the 1999 Constitution was clear on how to handle such a situation that Taraba found itself.
“The governor is injured and not incapacitated. Before he was flown out of the country, he was in a stable condition. The House of Assembly has empowered the deputy to act as the governor. So PDP is not aware of any move to remove Suntai,” he stated.
He quoted section 191(1) of the 1999 Constitution, which reads: “The Deputy Governor of a state shall hold the office of Governor of the state if the office of Governor becomes vacant by reason of death, resignation, impeachment, permanent incapacity or removal of the governor from office for any other reason in accordance with section 188 or 189 of this constitution.”
According to him, “There is no death here, no resignation or a question of permanent incapacity. The governor was merely involved in an accident and he is receiving treatment and is stable and therefore there is no question of long absence due to sickness as the case may be.
“Therefore the deputy governor should continue with his duties as acting governor,” the PDP spokesman said.