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Taraba State ‘House-Boys’

By Tonnie Iredia

Today’s article was originally intended for publication last week but was for sensitivity sake, shelved because of the plane crash involving Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State. Thank God the Governor and his entire entourage survived and are now receiving medical attention. But is it not too early now to put up the same article?

It does not appear so as the law making body of the state has by resolution proclaimed that nothing big happened and that Suntai’s situation does not call for an Acting Governor to continue to coordinate governance in the state. So, here we go.

Taraba State like most Nigerian communities has a below average literacy rate. This is a point which the State Legislature exemplifies with a posture that glaring reflects the fact that the state is not knowledge driven. Indeed, Taraba legislators have a disposition that appears formed from the mentality of over-grown house boys who are pushed here and there and are used at will to do dirty jobs.

This aptly summarizes what happened on Thursday October 4, 2012, when the State legislature impeached the Deputy Governor, Sani Abubakar Danladi. His misconduct which was serious enough to the legislators to warrant his impeachment was that he used his office to attract favours and development to himself and his local community.

In other words, Taraba legislators relied on nepotism, another word for zoning, as an impeachable offence – a rather common short coming of every Nigerian politician. We only hope that legislatures elsewhere would not seek to surpass the feat of Taraba by making the offence retrospective and creating another form of punishment for ‘offenders’ who having left office can no longer be impeached.

If that happens, Nasarawa State for instance may move against their former leader who in his days in office developed Keffi – his locality- better than Lafia, the State Capital.  Instead of using it to compound the Nigerian dilemma, the new Taraba law should operate only in Jalingo.

Legislators representing Taraba State in the National Assembly should therefore not procure binoculars to search for any recent project in Bayelsa State. Rather, they should see the new law as part of Taraba’s home grown democracy and seek to sanitize it from its current crudity.

In earnest, if the Deputy Governor deserved to be impeached for ‘cornering’ goodies to his local area, was his said locality better favoured than Suntai, the Governor’s village? Is it in order for legislators to surreptitiously clamour for contracts in their own localities in the name of constituency projects?

Interestingly, no one gets to hear the value of the projects nor who the contractors are and whether the said projects are ever executed. To arrive at the conclusion that the Deputy Governor was corrupt his income was compared with the quantum of his alleged property but no one told the world if the awesome property of the man was costlier than just one item – the string of aircraft of his principal. Amusingly, our law makers do not ‘know’ their own take-home pay.

Taraba legislators were silent on how exactly the Deputy Governor got his alleged large parcel of land suggesting that the Governor has no supervisory powers over his Deputy. Rather, it looked like every “offence” of the Deputy Governor was committed when he had the uncommon opportunity to act as Governor in the absence of the substantive holder of the position.

In short, it is easy to conclude from the manner of the impeachment that the Governor was unable to call his offending Deputy to order hence the legislators graciously helped to get rid of the irritant. The Assembly did nothing different from what some of their colleagues in other states have done in the past.

The other day, Niger State legislators removed their speaker a few hours after his selection for lack of performance! Thus, the development of Nigeria’s democracy has established the growing expertise of our law makers to operate like touts now and again.

The Taraba legislators for instance were on one of their spurious breaks from where they were summoned together on the night for the impeachment. This leaves us to imagine that they could be ordered about like house boys and that there may be some veracity in the  rumour making the rounds in the wake of the impeachment that each law maker got an incentive of N60 million to do a hatchet job. Thus impeachment – a constitutional penalty for serious misconduct – was as usual domesticated and materialized.

Even the judiciary was not left out of the comedy as the evidence of a bank loan with which the Deputy Governor prosecuted his projects was discountenanced. A team of non-partisan persons of proven integrity empanelled to investigate the allegations contained in the impeachment notice included a person who had earlier been allegedly indicted by a judicial panel in the same State.

We also hear that even the Chief Judge who constituted the panel had remained in office for longer than allowed by law. We can therefore impute that the dramatis personae in the Taraba impeachment saga were compromised. Thus the impeached Deputy Governor was himself naïve to have waited for the impeachment  which even the blind could see coming.

His Akwa Ibom State counterpart has become the wiser for it.

We are however unable to overemphasize the blame worthiness of the Taraba legislators because house boys have no discretion and initiative; they only rationalize what they do with “that is how others use to do it”. In addition, their motivation was so fulfilling that a few days later when their Governor was involved in a plane crash, they remained so loyal that they preferred an injured goal keeper to continue to serve as the captain of their soccer team.

Bad enough but they are not too different from a former Attorney General, who not too long ago, while espousing the law insisted that a sick President could rule Nigeria from anywhere!  While wishing Taraba State the best in the coming years, her legislators are here reminded of the African adage that when a free born is sent the message of a slave, he delivers it not like a slave but as a freeborn.


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