SPECIAL REPORT: TARABA – How Clash of Interests Festers a Crisis
LEGISREPORTS NG – The political logjam in Taraba State is nothing more than a clash of political interests which has snowballed into worrisome dimensions. The hasty return of Governor Danbaba Suntai to the state after about ten months of absence due to protracted illness has destabilized the political barometer of the hitherto quiet and rustic North-eastern state.
The governor was flown abroad for medical attention after he miraculously survived a crash of the aircraft he was flying by himself. In his absence, the deputy governor, Mr. Garba Umar, was empowered by the state house of assembly to become acting governor of the state. As weeks rolled into months and many months passed by without clear signals that Mr. Suntai was recovered enough to return to the country and assume his mandate given him by the people of Taraba State, political players drew all manners of permutations and cold calculations involving the governorship of the state.
Matters came to a head when the yet-to-be-recovered governor was airlifted from the United States of America where he was being treated and brought back home in a matter that reduced not only his dignity as a person but cast serious aspersions on the intentions of his handlers. Suntai was assisted out of the plane that brought him. That was how (un)recovered he was.
It was in that state of mind and body that letters and actions purportedly issued from the returnee governor: first went a communication to the state house of assembly that the governor was ready to resume the functions of his office; a sack of the entire state executive council members and advisers; and then appointment of a new Secretary to the State Government and new Chief of Staff.
If these decisions and actions by Suntai were to send a message that he was back and in charge, it hit a wrong button in not a few political quarters within and outside Taraba State as opposition continued to mount against the ailing governor and questions raised about his fitness to govern the state. The deputy governor backed by a majority of members of the Taraba state house of assembly led the pack of political players and observers who insisted that Mr. Suntai should take more time off to get well and fit enough to govern. An unnamed cabal was accused of being behind the scene and purporting to be the elected governor. Accordingly, the assembly members siding with the deputy governor passed a resolution that Mr. Umar continues to act as governor while the latter himself sought to reassert himself by reinstating the sacked exco. The state of affairs had reached a precarious boiling point.
It was at this point that the national leadership of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stepped into the logjam. And many observers heaved a sigh of relief that a resolution of the crisis was in the horizon. A peace committee led by Senator Hope Uzodinma moved in and brokered a truce which unfortunately seems not to have gone down well with all the parties in the crisis. The PDP team recommended that given the health status of Danbaba Suntai, the deputy governor should continue to act as chief executive but must consult with the governor on major decisions.
On arrival into the Taraba state via the Jalingo airport at about 11.55a.m last Tuesday, the Uzodinma team in company of Mr. Umar drove straight to government house where a closed door meeting with some selected stakeholders was held.
In the stakeholders meeting as observed by our reporter were five members of the National Assembly from the state who had earlier in a press conference at Abuja threw their weight behind the decision of the majority sixteen members of the state House of Assembly for the Suntai’s deputy to continue as Acting Governor. The National Assembly members are the Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ishaka Bawa, the senator representing the Central zone, Senator Abubakar Umar Tutare, member representing Gashak, Sardauna and Kurmi federal constituency, Hon. Ibrahim Tukur El-Sudi, member representing Jalingo, Yorro and Zing federal constituency, Hon. Aminu Male as well as the member representing Lau, Karim-Lamido and Ardo-Kola federal constituency, Hon. Jerry Mamwe.
The meeting which the Uzodinma committee claimed was successful has however continued to invite more crisis as some persons have alleged that the mandate of the committee was to play the already written scripts of the party’s national chairman, Mr. Bamanga Tukur, to keep Suntai from office. Eight members of the House of Assembly loyal to Suntai have accused the PDP team of bias and vowed to leave no stone unturned in ensuring that “the right thing is done by allowing the governor to resume office.”
“It is obvious that the PDP fact finding team was only in the state to carry out Alhaji Bamanga Tukur’s hidden agenda which many Tarabans have indicated and called attention to all along,” the members said in a press statement, wondering why the committee deliberately refused to adhere to the appropriate provisions of constitution on the matter. “Uzodinma who should be a promoter of the rule of law as a member of the upper chamber of the parliament went contrary to the provision of the constitution,” they alleged.
Senator Emmanuel Bwacha who also commented on the issue said he has not yet seen the part or section of the constitution that gave members of the assembly the right to prevent the governor from assuming office “since he has transmitted the required letter to the House.” For the members to ask is unconstitutional and is capable of causing crisis in this state. So I think there is urgent need for them to revisit their decisions,” the member of the national assembly said.
In the same vein, the deputy speaker of the Adamawa state House of Assembly, Hon. Laori Kwamoti faulted his counterparts in Taraba state for halting the state governor from resuming office an act which according to him “can end up in putting the whole state on fire.”
On the contrary, the former Minister for Water Resources, Dr. Salome Audu Jankada has applauded the decision of the PDP committee, that of the sixteen members of the House of Assembly and that of the state PDP elders forum for not allowing the governor to assume duty. Jankada who has also served the country as a Minister for Youth Development said women and youths in the state are solidly behind the decisions of the members whom she said have gone a long way to save the state from being plunged into inferno.
The ongoing crisis has not only paralyzed government activities but also factionalized the government down the line. Currently, there are two persons laying claim to the Office of Secretary to the State Government (SSG)- Messrs Gebon Timothy Kataps and Garvey Yaweh.
Both men were appointed by Suntai and Umar respectively. The same was observed in the tussle for the office of the Chief of Sttaff as both Ahmed Yusuf and Aminu Jika are as well laying claim to the seat. Currently, there are also a couple of court cases on the Taraba crisis, including one instituted by Suntai against the assembly. With this rigmarole, there seems to be no end in sight yet to the political imbroglio bedevilling Taraba State.
This report was prepared by our reporter in Jalingo