SALLAH TRAGEDY: Taraba Gov, Suntai in plane crash

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By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Umar Yusuf
LAGOS—The Governor of Taraba State, Dambaba Suntai and five of his aides were, yesterday, involved in an air crash after their private plane, Cessna 208 aircraft marked 5N-BMJ, crashed in Yola, Adamawa State capital.

CRASHED—The wreckage of the plane: Inset: Gov. Suntai and parts of the crashed plane.

Governor Suntai, who is now in a critical condition at the German Specialist  Hospital in Yola, was said to be piloting the small aircraft at the time of the incident.  The plane hit the ground behind the NNPC depot, along Yola-Numan Road at about 7 pm.

The secretary to the Taraba State Government,Amb. Emmanuel Njiwah, in a reaction, confirmed that the governor survived the crash, but was in critical condition. The Secretary stated that the injured governor had been conveyed to a hospital in Yola.

Security tightens around hospital

Security was tight at the hospital as all the gates were locked while only few medical staff who were on duty and officials of Yola International Airport were allowed into the hospital.

At the hospital were Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa, Brigade Commander of 23rd Armoured Brigade, Yola, Director of SSS, the state Commissioner of Police and other government officials.

As at last night arrangements were being made to fly him abroad either, yesterday, or today for further treatment.

His many political battles

Governor Danbaba Suntai, aged 51, is a survivor of many critical political battles.

His first casualty was his one time godfather and predecessor in office, Rev. Jolly Nyame, a three time governor of the state.

Nyame, like many outgoing governors in 2007, had shopped and gotten a candidate he believed would safeguard his legacy.

However, not long after he succeeded Nyame, Suntai and Nyame fell out. Nyame who was at one time the father figure of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the state was  forced to leave the party to the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. He became a rallying point for those that were estranged from Suntai in the run up to the 2011 general elections.

It was not surprising that the Suntai administration collaborated very well with the anti-graft agencies in the ongoing prosecution of Nyame in the courts.

Besides Nyame, Suntai also fought, to a standstill, the former Minister of Water Resources, Dr. Obadiah Ando. Though he was nominated to the cabinet by Suntai, but for one reason or the other, the two fell out.

Ando was accused by Suntai’s associates of campaigning against the PDP in Taraba ahead of the 2011 elections essentially because a relation of his was a leading member of the ACN in Taraba State.

When against Suntai’s objections, President Goodluck Jonathan forwarded Ando’s name to the senate for confirmation as a minister in June 2011, Suntai was believed to have mobilized the three senators from the state to stop the nomination.

It was not surprising that Ando was stopped from confirmation following the senate rule which requires nominees for executive positions to get the approval of the majority of senators from their states.

In Obadiah’s case, the three senators stood their groundson the alleged instruction of Suntai and despite what was reported to have been a personal plea from President Jonathan to the governor.

Suntai was to later fall out with two of the senators from the state. At the time of the crash yesterday, only Senator Emmanuel Bwacha of the three senators from the state was known to be still close to him.

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