By CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, Deputy Political
EXACTLY 10 months after he went out of ‘circulation’ on account of an air crash, Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State, yesterday, returned to Nigeria amid wide ululation in Jalingo, the Taraba State capital.
Beyond the excitement trailing his return, Suntai, who was piloting the crashed helicopter, will be welcomed by the politically unstable polity that Taraba has morphed into during his absence.
On the eve of the crash on October 25, 2012, Taraba appeared a united state without any shadow of doubt over who was in-charge. However, Suntai’s 10-month absence has led to the emergence of a new and polarised Taraba.
His absence has also raised an avalanche of questions he must begin to answer in words and actions urgently, to prove his critics wrong and douse rising political tension in the state.
One of the big questions is whether or not Suntai, who was aided to alight from the aircraft yesterday, is physically and mentally fit to carry on with his duties as governor? Another question is how will he handle the dichotomy in the State Executive Council, SEC, and House of Assembly. Both had been divided along pro-Suntai and anti-Suntai camps?
What kind of relations will he have with his deputy, whom his supporters have branded disloyal and plotting to take over from him? Will he reverse the ‘unpopular’ appointments and decisions taken by his deputy?
After several failed promises about Suntai’s return, indications that he would ‘actually’ return, yesterday, emerged when the state acting Governor, Garba Umar confirmed the development on Friday.
“His Excellency, the acting governor of Taraba State, Alhaji Garba Umar, is pleased to announce that the executive Governor, Danbaba Suntai, has recovered from the injuries he sustained during the air mishap of October 25, 2012,” a statement by Umar’s Chief Press Secretary, Kefas Sule said.
Until now, the issue of Suntai’s return was a controversial one in Taraba. His supporters in the cabinet, who felt that the acting governor, Umar, was strategising to retain the seat on account of the recovering governor’s incapacitation, were said to have made plans to bring Suntai back in the state to check the deputy governor’s alleged ambition.
Now regarded as the Suntai Cabal, the group is expected to ‘lobby’ Suntai to restore all the pre-October 25, 2012 political structures that the acting governor ‘tampered’ with.
The affected structures include the G-7 loyalists of Suntai in the House of Assembly and principal officers, who were impeached last April, a move allegedly hatched by Umar’s faithful, to entrench him in governance.
Another attempt was made to impeach the current leadership of the House last week, following plans of the governor’s return.
Will Suntai’s return end or increase the boiling hostilities in the House?
How Suntai handles this delicate issue will go a long way in determining the political future of Taraba ahead 2015 elections, when he is expected to quit the governorship seat after eight years and hand over to a successor.
Will Suntai also reverse the sack of some commissioners and the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, who were relieved of their jobs over alleged misappropriation of N400 million released by the Federal Government to cater for flood victims in the state?
The affected persons, who were appointed by Suntai, have alleged that they were victimised because they refused to go along with plots to initiate impeachment proceedings against Suntai.
Will Suntai be comfortable to work with Umar in spite speculated loyalty gulf created between by their warring supporters and fall for the trap to back impeachment of his deputy?
Acting Taraba Governor, Umar, had repeatedly pledged his loyalty to Suntai and dismissed as unfounded and baseless allegations that he was eyeing Suntai’s seat.