By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North, & John Mkom
ABUJA — Barely 24 hours after Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said it had resolved the political crisis in Taraba State, eight members of the House of Assembly, who are loyal to the ailing governor, have rejected the peace move brokered by the party.
The eight lawmakers, led by the Majority Leader of the Assembly, Mr. Joseph Kunini, met in Jalingo, the state capital, yesterday, and renounced the action of the PDP fact-finding panel, headed by Senator Hope Uzodinma.
They accused him of working in concert with the state deputy governor, Garba Umar, to cause more problems for the state.
The pro-Suntai lawmakers told journalists that they had to openly dissociate themselves with the decisions arrived at by the Uzodinma panel because the team could not provide solutions to the problems plaguing the state.
The lawmakers, in a prepared statement read by Kunini, said: “We are miffed by Senator Uzodinma’s dubious misadventure and his cocktail of contradictions, which he clearly displayed yesterday at the end of the visit of the fact-finding committee.
“Senator Uzodinma’s hurriedly contrived solution to the constitutional crisis in Taraba State turned out not only poisonous but has left the entire state in more confusion than it has been in recent times.
“Well-meaning Nigerians have expressed the fact that the solution to the problems lies in strict adherence to the Constitution.
“Even a member of the PDP panel and Political Adviser to the President, Ahmed Gulak, has quoted the Presidency as saying that the issue is a constitutional matter.”
While accusing Uzodinma of implementing a hidden agenda hatched by the PDP National Chairman, Bamanga Tukur against Suntai, the lawmakers, warned the party to respect a court order that had already restrained the team from going further with its assignment as far as Taraba was concerned.
They said that they were shocked to discover that the Senator still went to the United States to assess the health condition of the governor and came back to Jalingo to give a verdict that Suntai’s deputy should continue to act as governor despite the subsisting court order barring it from working on the Taraba matter.
The lawmakers insisted that Suntai had completed the process of taking over the mantle of leadership with the transmission of the letter of resumption of work and did not need any other steps to fulfill the constitutional provision on the matter.
They accused Tukur of using the Uzodinma Committee to do the bidding of the acting governor, who they claim, wanted to take over through the back door while Suntai was hale and hearty to do his job.
They said: “It is instructive to note that the Deputy Governor, Garba Umar, flew in the Uzodinma team from Abuja. On arrival, they held a closed-door meeting at the airport and later went straight to the exco chambers of the Government House.
“They were about to commence their business when they realised that they should have first of all paid a visit to the Executive Governor, Danbaba Suntai.
“After their visit to Suntai, Uzodinma said that the governor was hale and hearty and did not need to go to the market square for people to know that he was okay.
“But in what is now the most dubious thing to happen to democracy in Nigeria, Uzodinma announced a power-sharing arrangement whereby he gave the deputy governor the task of continuing to run the state, while Suntai remains as the ceremonial head.
“This is totally unconstitutional and designed to benefit Umar in his relentless quest to unseat his boss, Governor Suntai, who was democratically elected by the overwhelming Tarabians.
“It is obvious that Uzodinma was not interested in deep-seated solutions, but mercantile and narrow arrangement capable of leading to a breakdown of law and order. He was clearly not interested in peaceful reconciliation based on party supremacy.
“We want to unequivocally state that the solution to the leadership crisis lies in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria. This is the supreme document, which forms the basis of our common existence and as a nation and guarantees our democracy.
“It portends great danger if a sensitive Constitutional matter of this nature is handled with political manipulation or at whims and caprice of certain individuals and groups.
“We want to believe that there is an agenda beyond our lenses, otherwise other state governors have been away on medical grounds for even longer periods to unknown destinations yet no issues were raised.
‘Due process ignored’
“We viciously reject the verdict of Senator Hope Uzodinma team, assuming but not conceding that there was no court order against the Uzodinma team, the committee ought to have reported back to the party before decisions are taken.
“We want to strongly call on our President Goodluck Jonathan, who himself has shown unprecedented maturity in handling similar situations in the past as deputy governor and Vice President, to use his wealth of experience and authority to ensure the matter is settled as provided by the Constitution.
“We also urge Tarabians and other Nigerians to disregard Senator Uzodinma Committee’s pronouncement on Taraba State as it lacks the power to do so.”
Apart from Kunini, others who signed the document were, Charles Maijankai, Haruna Gbana, Abel Diah, Daniel Gani, Mark Useni, Charles Audu and Gambo Maikudi.
Lending his voice to the state lawmakers, a member of the National Assembly, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, and close ally of Suntai, said that it was wrong for the acting governor, Garba Umar to plan a ‘coup’ against his boss with a view to taking over from him through the backdoor.
Bwacha said Uzodinma’s visit was stage-managed by Umar to enable him actualise his agenda of taking over from Suntai, when he was still alive and able to discharge his duties.
He noted that what Uzodinma did was wrong and unconstitutional and could, therefore, not stand as the position of the party.
‘What we want’
Bwacha said: “What we want is absolute adherence to the constitution and not a stage-managed decision to fit into a hidden agenda by Umar and his group against Suntai.”
It is not clear if Suntai was able to discuss with members of the team, who visited the state on Tuesday, as the visit was restricted to a secret location in his house.
The members later emerged and asked Umar to continue acting based on their assessment of the governor’s health condition.
It was learnt that while the governor was willing to step aside to take care of his health, desperate loyalists led by some close aides were urging him not to surrender his exalted position, as they were ready to rule by proxy, a development that PDP was opposed to.