Still on the crisis in Taraba State
For the third time in almost eleven years to this month, I wish to write an open letter to you to plead for your intervention on the side of principle on an issue which is a matter of national concern. This, of course, is the serious constitutional crisis in your home state, Taraba, a crisis which has arisen as a result of the serious injuries the state’s governor, Mr Danbaba Danfulani Suntai, suffered when his private aircraft he was flying crashed.
That constitutional crisis has been hanging fire for over three years now and a solution to it does not seem to be in sight, thanks basically to the jostling for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party’s ticket for the state’s governorship election next year
The first time I wrote you an open letter on these pages was on November 19 2003. On that occasion I borrowed the title of an open letter my good friend and cerebral columnist of The Nation, Professor Adebayo Williams, had written to you in Tell newsmagazine (June 1,1998) In that letter he expressed his deep dismay at your silence over moves by General Sani Abacha to shed his khaki for mufti as the country’s leader, a move he almost succeeded in making but for his sudden and mysterious death.
Your silence, Williams said, was eloquent but was certainly not golden as it was likely to have been interpreted as support for Abacha’s sit tight agenda which Williams believed, not without good cause, could lead to the kind of mass killings that had occurred in Rwanda. Hence his title for his open letter to you which I stole, i.e., “The road to Kigali”, Kigali being the capital of Rwanda.
In my own letter, I alluded to William’s and said your long defence of, indeed participation in, President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration until the two of you fell apart, helped Obasanjo in no small measure to successfully carry out his strategy of using religion to further divide the North to rule Nigeria. I said then that by the time you came out late in 2003 and lambasted him for running a regime under what you described as the spell of a cult-like clique, it was too little, too late.
My second open letter to you dated September 4, last year, was to urge you to learn the lesson of your initial support for Obasanjo and speak out and act on principle so that History will not judge you as looking the other way when a cabal was doing all it could to stop Suntai from being replaced by someone as acting governor essentially because of his religion.
The Taraba crisis, I said, may not have been exactly like the crisis of President Goodluck Jonathan’s succession of a very sick President Umaru Yar’adua, but the two were similar; in both cases a clique tried its all to sustain the make-belief that a visibly very ill incumbent was well enough to govern.
In Yar’adua’s case you stood up for principle and called on Yar’adua to resign or be declared unfit to govern. Nigerians applauded your stand even though at the time Yar’adua was in no state of mind to resign even if he was inclined to; such was the gravity of his illness. Some of us who had called on him to resign – I, for one, did so twice on these pages when the man was still in possession of his faculty, first on September 10, 2008 and second on December 2,2009 –joined in the public applause of your principled stand.
“History,” I said in concluding the said open letter to you, “must not judge you to have maintained an eloquent but not golden silence when some power-hungry cabal seem determined to set the state ablaze against the spirit, if not the letter, of our Constitution.”
It’s been over a year since that letter and matters in your home state seem to have only gotten worse not better, thanks to what many see, not merely as your silence but, indeed, as being in the forefront of those implacably opposed to Suntai being replaced by anyone other than a Christian.
I, for one, do not want to believe you hate non-Christians that much because I know many of your closest friends, associates and admirers – the business mogul, Alhaji Ahmadu Chanchangi of Chanchangi Air fame, General Muhammadu Buhari, Malam Abba Kyari whom you put in charge of your billion-Naira donation to the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria foundation last year, and Malam Adamu Adamu, Trust’s ace columnist and our resident Ayatollah at the New Nigerian and the defunct Citizen newsmagazine, to name just a few – are Muslims. There are indeed many of your close Christian confidants who judge Buhari wrongly as a Muslim fundamentalist, in the worst sense of the word. Yet that has not stooped you from supporting his presidential ambition morally or otherwise.
Initially you seemed to have supported Alhaji Garba Umar as Acting Governor. Sources close to you said you changed your mind when Suntai was flown back from his treatment abroad for the first time to resume office and Umar apparently not only refused to let go, but showed a desire for a complete term of his own from next year. From that point on you refused, like so many of those implacably opposed to him, notably Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, to even recognise him as acting governor and always referred to him as Deputy Governor.
Your latter antipathy to Umar was said to have been based on his reneging on an understanding that he was merely to complete Suntai’s second term and give way to a governor from South Taraba which has never produced one and which is mainly Christian.
Sir, I have always been against power rotation in principle but I completely agree with you that the word, even the mere understanding of a gentleman, should be his honour. If Umar gave his word or even merely understood that he was only to complete Suntai’s term, he is honour bound not to contest for the governorship next year.
Problem, however, was that when President Jonathan gave his word in 2011 that he would serve only one term of his own but reneged on it, you did not, sir, speak out in moral outrage at the president’s change of mind. That would not justify Umar’s ambition. But it would make it difficult, if not impossible, for people not to accuse you of double standards.
And now to complicate matters even more, you are said to have single-handedly anointed a successor to Suntai against the decision of the elders of Southern Taraba who in their own wisdom had picked one, Chief David Sabo Kente, out of a list of 13. Since then your alternative choice of Architect Darius Dickson Ishaku, the Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, has led to serious acrimony among your followers and admirers in the state.
Worse still speculations are now rife that should the constitutional step the authorities in the state have taken in setting up a medical panel to confirm Suntai’s state of mind reach the almost certain conclusion that he is not in a fit mind to govern the state you are, to say the least, not averse to moves being made to impeach both Suntai and Umar to stop Umar from realizing his ambition.
Such a move can only provide one more ammunition to those who think you are anti-Muslim, if not anti-Islam, to support their strongly held opinion of you.
Sir, the central principle in all this is simple and clear. As I said in my last letter to you, even a one-eyed man can see that Suntai is not in a fit state of mind to govern his household, never mind a whole state, since his tragic plane crash. As a result many, including newspapers like The Nation (September 19) have called on him to “step aside.”
Such calls are unfair to the man because it is as clear as daylight that he is not a man of his own mind. But then those who choose to pretend otherwise are equally not being fair to the man. Clearly they are merely manipulating his illness to pursue their political agenda to the detriment of his health and his family’s peace of mind.
They say prophets are hardly honoured in their own land. You have been an exception to this axiom not only in Taraba but in the rest of the country. You must not, sir, in the twilight of your life allow the relatively petty politics of state soil your hard-earned reputation of someone who always spoke and stood up for principles no matter when or where.
One of the rudest corporate voice mails in this country must be that of the MTN which tells subscribers they have exhausted their vouchers. Given the vehemence and relish with which the harsh female voice announces that one’s call has been “terminated!” as a result, you’ll be forgiven the conclusion that the management of the company is only too glad to see the back of a subscriber foolish enough to have allowed his voucher to finish before reloading.
I once drew the attention of their PR chap and a friend, Austin Iyashere, to this more than a year ago. He assured me he would get the management to act on it, and knowing him for the meticulous journalist he was before moving on to PR, I am certain he did. It’s past time MTN changed that grating and annoying voice.No tags for this post.