Suntai: Re-Enacting the Yar’Adua Episode By Toni Kan
This is what is playing out now in Taraba State, where a clearly physically infirm Governor Danbaba Suntai is playing god, sacking his cabinet members – long suffering people who waited for over ten months while the governor recovered from self- inflicted injuries sustained in a plane crash; a plane that was obviously bought with tax payer’s money – and butting heads with his deputy who ‘remained loyal’ for almost one year while he waited for his principal’s return.
The governor’s ten months sojourn in foreign hospitals was presumably bankrolled by tax payers from Taraba State and many would argue that his recovery, however fragile his health may be right now, was in many ways linked to prayers by his people. The same people he is now taking for granted.
There is in the actions of Suntai, or should one say, the machinations of the cabal bent on foisting a sick man on the people of Taraba State, something that stinks of hubris and perverted ambition. Then there is shamelessness too and déjà vu.
The sense of déjà vu in the macabre dance of shame playing out in Taraba is cause for grave concern because it is fast becoming the norm.
President Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and his kitchen cabinet were first to introduce this shameless hold on power to Nigerians even though under Abacha there were always rumours of ill health which a half-stoned and bespectacled Abacha always appeared on television to douse with bad English.
Clearly ill from the moment he was anointed presidential candidate by Olusegun Obasanjo, Yar’Adua stepped into Aso Rock a very sick man but his wife and a power- hungry cabal intent on holding the country hostage managed to hold on to power for months even when it was patently clear that their principal was brain dead in a German hospital.
Many Nigerians would remember OBJ’s infamous phone call on national television during which he asked “Umoru, they say you are dead. Are you dead?”
Nigerians should have taken OBJ’s hint and should not have voted for Yar’Adua but maybe we did not vote for him. Maybe, he was anointed and selected and then foisted on us.
Well, it was a wrong move. Bad calculation. Yar’Adua never really assumed office. He was very sick and spent more time lying in hospital wards than in Aso Rock while the cabal held Nigeria hostage and effectively cut off the Vice President from the affairs of state.
Then after his poor health was finally confirmed, the shameless cabal snuck the brain-damaged president back into the country at midnight after deploying a contingent of soldiers to line the route from the airport to Aso Rock.
But it was all a futile deception. Yar’Adua soon passed on and power changed hands. Today, that Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, is president and one of the architects of that deception is cooling his heels in a German jail.
That long explanation is necessary because we never seem to learn from history. After Yar’Adua, Sullivan Chime of Enugu State was the next chief executive- though of a lower level of government-to vacate his post and spend considerable time abroad fixing his health instead of the gullies in Enugu while his state wondered what the issue was.
Finally, brother governors took a trip to London and wasted huge funds taking out front page spots in major nationally circulating newspapers to assault us with pictures of Sullivan Chime posing with his fellow governors in a London street as if he was the Mayor of London and not governor of Enugu State. Chime is home in Nigeria and back at his desk. No questions asked.
Now, it is Danbaba Suntai who having returned home after a long sojourn abroad is playing God and Emperor in Taraba State.
Hs oft-postponed return finally happened on August 25, 2013 and it was a considerably bewildered, befuddled, totally-out-of-it Governor Suntai who was practically bundled out of a chartered aircraft into a waiting SUV. Suntai did not even utter a word to the phalanx of press men or the teeming throng of Tarabans that had gathered to welcome him and believe me, when a politician passes on an opportunity to address a crowd, that politician is toast.
Days later, instead of letting sleeping dogs lie, Suntai transmitted a letter to the state assembly and then went ahead to sack his cabinet in a clear case of ego begetting hubris.
It was too much. The State Assembly visited the governor, met and resolved that Suntai is not fit for office and should return abroad for further treatment and so we ask in the language of a dead empire where men once played god like Suntai and his ilk, quo vadis?
What next? Nobody knows for sure but these instances of mere men playing God and emperor with their states which they have practically converted into fiefdoms is a worrisome development. State governors are neither God nor Emperor. They are elected officials asked to preside over their states in trust for the people. What they are doing is a travesty, pure and simple.
It is a pity that the constitution allows for a governor to spend so much time outside his state without transmitting a written explanation. The constitution must be amended to forestall such occurrences.
Secondly, what is behind this clinging on to power, this I-must-die-as-governor syndrome? What makes these governors persist in this stupid belief in their power and infallibility? Greed and arrogance. They want the security votes of their states which they do not account for and they want to be god, to be unaccountable and beholden to no one.
But lastly, there are evil men and women, spouses and friends, old mates and family members who having tasted power have developed a taste for it like dogs for shit. They will never stop licking and lapping it up. These are the men we must be afraid of, these Mephistophelean whisperers.
These governors are not gods. The constitution is ‘god’ and these puny characters without shame must learn to abide. They must learn too that power is transient and that no man lives forever.
One of the early Hausa expressions I learnt is Mutuwa dole – Death is sure! Yar’Adua and his cabal learnt that too late but I am sure Suntai still understands enough Hausa to take heed.
•Toni Kan is a Lagos-based writer and PR practitioner. He wrote via email@example.com
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