Taraba: Tension over move to smuggle in Suntai
• Group asks Acting Gov to produce medical report
• Pressure mounts on PDP, Assembly to confirm Umar
Taraba State is on the edge again following an alleged plot to ‘smuggle’ in ailing Governor Danbaba Suntai from his sick bed abroad with a view to stopping the planned confirmation of Alhaji Garba Umar as substantive governor.
Umar has been acting since the October 2012 air crash in Yola, Adamawa State, in which Suntai was injured.
He is currently receiving treatment in the United States of America (USA) following initial medicare in Germany.
The State Executive Council, comprising mostly loyalists of Suntai, is also said to be holding the acting governor to ransom by refusing to raise a Medical Board to advise it on Suntai’s health.
Sources said pressure is mounting on the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the House of Assembly to confirm Umar as substantive governor.
A pressure group, Taraba Justice Forum (TJF), yesterday asked the acting governor to produce an official medical report on Suntai’s state of health to justify why the state would have to await his return.
It was gathered that the governor’s loyalists are resisting moves to confirm Umar by insisting that the governor will soon be back to resume work.
They are pushing for what observers call the “Umaru Yar’Adua” treatment for Suntai while some others want the invocation of Section 189 of the Constitution.
That section says: “The Governor or Deputy Governor of a state shall cease to hold office if (a) by a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of all members of the executive council of the state it is declared that the Governor or Deputy Governor is incapable of discharging the functions of his office; and
“(b) the declaration in paragraph (a) of this subsection is verified, after such medical examination as may be necessary, by a medical panel established under subsection(4) of this section in its report to the Speaker of the House of Assembly.
“Where the medical panel certifies in its report that in its opinion the Governor or Deputy Governor is suffering from such infirmity of body or mind as renders him permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office, a notice thereof signed by the Speaker of the House of Assembly shall be published in the Official Gazette of the Government of the State.
“The Governor or Deputy Governor shall cease to hold office as from the date of publication of the notice of the medical report pursuant to subsection (2) of this section.”
It was gathered that to pave the way for the emergence of the acting governor as governor, the House of Assembly had in April impeached its Speaker, Mr. Istifanus Gbana, his deputy, Peter Abel Diah and the majority leader, Mr. Charles Maijankai.
But enough support could not be mustered to declare Suntai incapacitated by the State Executive Council (SEC).
Worried by the pressure on PDP leadership and the State House of Assembly, Suntai’s loyalists have opted for “Yar’Adua’s treatment.”
A reliable source said: “There are plans to bring the governor back into the country by some of his loyalists. Under the plot, `the governor will be kept in a way that the public will be told the man is still recovering. You remember the dark room Yar`Adua was kept, that is what they are planning. I am making this disclosure because this game is not in the best interest of Suntai.
“The PDP had set up a panel to check the health status of Suntai but loyalists of the governor have obtained court order to stop the panel from sitting.
“Following the stalemate, President Jonathan has been considering Taraba Stakeholders Session to find constitutional and political solutions to the leadership vacuum in the state.
“But Suntai loyalists want to stop such possibility. They want to stop the presidency from intervening.”
Asked why the stakeholders cannot give Suntai some time to recover, the highly-placed source added: ‘‘We heard from the hospital that the governor could not recognise the acting governor when he visited. Umar too did not show any sign of surprise. We heard the governor said some things that made no meanings at all.”
Another source added: “I think some Abuja politicians are just desperate to remove Suntai from office. They know the state of health of Suntai but they are blinded by hate politics. They cannot have their way in the State Executive Council.
“They are also not taking cognisance of the fact that the acting Governor once said that Suntai is recovering.”
It was, however, gathered that the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Taraba State House of Assembly are under pressure to confirm the acting governor.
A party source added: “The presidency is getting security brief on Suntai’s health and at the appropriate time, the PDP leadership will be advised on how to consult with stakeholders and effect change… but a final decision will be taken in a manner that it would not breach the peace of the state.”
The Taraba Justice Forum (TJF) in a statement by its General Secretary, John Ambulus, wondered why Umar is “playing along with those trying to stop the state from moving forward? Why is he joining them in lying to the public? It is time for him to ask for the medical records and let the public know the truth so that we can progress.
“History will not forgive the acting governor if he fails to do the right thing at this critical point of the state history.”