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Taraba: The Heat In Suntai's Absence- Journalists At It Again

07 November 2012

By Babayola M. Toungo


Our journalists and political jobbers are at it again. In 2010 when the late President Umaru ‘Yar Adua was on his dying bed in Saudi Arabia, the vultures began circling and so much unwanted acrimony was generated which we are yet to overcome as a nation. Danbaba Danfulani Suntai, Taraba State governor had an accident in a plane he was flying himself and his condition is still unknown. We all pray for his recovery soonest. But the signals emanating from the state portends danger for all the citizens of the state and all those who love the state. I see some people trying to recreate what happened during the dying days of the ‘Yar Adua presidency. The alleged sacking of the Deputy Governor by thugs said to be sponsored by a sitting Senator while security men attached to the Deputy Governor averted their gaze, says much about what to expect in the near future. While the Deputy Governor was issuing press statements with a view to dousing the tension generated by the accident and its aftermath, I read a feature in the Daily Trust of November 1st, 2012 by its Taraba State Correspondents Messrs. Andrew Agbese & Terkula Igidi with the above caption. I felt scandalised. Despite what transpired in the run-up to Jonathan taking over from ‘Yar Adua and the attendant friction it created in our society, some people are still ready to take us down that road again.

The feature was nothing but a subtle way of turning one segment of the society against the other. Otherwise, what is the use of amending the said section 190 of the Constitution, which they copiously quoted? I thought the section was amended to take care of such eventualities and prevent the recurrence of the unnecessary situation that arose in the ‘Yar Adua case. If I understand the quoted section of the Constitution very well, the question of which Senatorial Zone or which religion one professes doesn't arise. A Deputy Governor / Vice President is picked precisely for what the duo of Agbese and Igidi are now trying to use to ‘disqualify' Alhaji Umar Garba, the Taraba State Deputy Governor. When those calling for Goodluck Jonathan to take over were in their elements, nobody brought up the issue of his faith or Zone and when ‘Yar Adua's handlers resisted the move, the Senate passed what it called the "doctrine of necessity", something alien to our laws. We all accepted the Senate's wisdom. For the duo to imply that Patrick Yakowa was opposed because of his faith in Kaduna is a blatant lie with a mischievous intent. He was the Deputy Governor and there wasn't any ambiguity in our Constitution as who shall take over once there is a vacancy in the Government House so long as the tenure the Governor and his Deputy for which they were elected has not expired.

No one opposed the take-over by both Goodluck Jonathan and Patrick Yakowa at the time the conditions of vacancies emerged in their respective political spheres. As far as I am concerned, Jonathan and his group created a panicky scenario where northern politicians, depicted as desperately attempting to cling to power by all means, fair or foul, were trying to deny him his right to "ascend" the throne. My take then was that it was indecent for us to be fighting over ephemeral things like the presidency while the holder of that office was lying prostrate before His maker, waiting for Him to do as He decreed. It was disrespectful to his family and friends that we could be so heartless as to start "sharing" his inheritance while he was still alive and kicking. But I know that every living soul must taste death. Do we have guarantees that Danbaba will not outlive Alhaji Garba Umar or any of his plethora of loyalists who wanted to be identified as those who protected the realm in the emperor's absence?

If it were alright for both Jonathan and Yakowa to succeed their bosses when vacancies existed, then equity demands that Alhaji Umar shall also take-over – it is just a matter of time. Endangering hatred between and among the disparate ethnic groups in the state will not help anyone bar the merchants of hate. The writers' resort to this underhand way of giving credence to those who want section 190 of the Constitution be interpreted to reflect their narrow prisms and horizons, makes them more guilty than the purported thugs who invaded the government house while the security operatives deployed to protect the Deputy Governor looked the other way. Sub-section (2) of section 190 clearly spells what ought to happen in the case of Taraba State. The section states unequivocally that "In the event that the governor is unable to transmit the written declaration mentioned in sub-section (1) of this section within 21 days, the House of Assembly shall, by a resolution made by a simple majority of the vote of the House, mandate the Deputy Governor to perform the functions of the Governor as Acting Governor, until the Governor transmits a letter to the Speaker that he is now available to resume his functions as a Governor. So said the Nigerian Constitution and concurred by our duo.

As things stand today, Alhaji Umar Garba is the Deputy Governor of Taraba, and until such a time as he is impeached, he remains the Deputy Governor. We will wait and see if Danbaba may stay beyond the stipulated 21 days or not outside the state. We will also not relent in our prayers for his recovery. Morbid as it may sound, I had been looking forward to such a scenario where a principal is indisposed for one reason or the other and a deputy may be compelled to act. It may appear we have not learnt any lesson from the ‘Yar Adu'a case. For (un)biased journalists to take such a route portends so much danger for the populace – but more dangerous is for such a paper as the Daily Trust to publish such without minding its ramifications.

For the information of Agbese and Igidi, Muslim political leaders promoted Yakowa's candidature in the main and he wasn't "opposed" to step up to the governor's office – it was just a matter of taking over and appointing another deputy governor. Same applied to the presidency when ‘Yar Adu'a died. If the "odds do not favour a Muslim becoming a governor in Taraba State", in this case, we have to resort to the Constitution and wait till election time and reject a ‘Muslim' candidate. But as it was with Jonathan, so it should be with Alhaji Garba Umar. This does not mean I have written off Danbaba, God forbid.


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