A Legal Practitioner, George Ekeh, believes that the interpretation of ‘permanent incapacitation’ as suggested by the an aide of Taraba State Governor, Danbaba Suntai, to justify his stay in office is not realistic.
“If we start looking at permanent incapacitation, that section of the constitution can never be invoked. It cannot be because if you start looking at when someone is permanently incapacitated, the person would have been dead.”
Ekeh said that from all indication, Governor Suntai has lost his fitness to cope with the demands of the office of a Governor.
He demanded a contextual interpretation of the constitutional provision on permanent incapacitation as this would be necessary in resolving the matter.
Ekeh also maintained, contrary to Bello’s submission, that the Suntai case is very similar to what was experienced during late President Yar’adua’s illness.
He stated that some level of political morality crept into the unfortunate incident and this is what the Governor’s loyalists are basing their acts on – to keep the Governor in office and help him run the affairs of the state.
He said that the medical panel recently set up by the State Assembly should have been set up long ago as verifying the state of the Governor’s fitness and capacity to run the office would have saved the state all the trouble.
On the need not to portray insensitivity to the leadership capacity of people living with disability through the Suntai matter, Ekeh noted that this should not be offensive as a crippled man with a sound mind can run any office but Governor Suntai, by his observation, has also “lost orientation with regards to time and place – where he was, where he is and where he possibly would be going to.
“On the surface he may look healthy but we are now talking about if he is fit to run and take the demands of that office.”
He maintained that physical and mental fitness make up the capacity of the Governor to remain in office.
Mr Ekeh also said that having waited for about two years for the Governor to recover and he seems not to have achieved the level of fitness expected of a man in the very demanding office of the Governor, the constitution recommends that he should be led out of the office.
A Political Scientist, Kabiru Mato, has described the political logjam between the Taraba State Governor, Danbaba Suntai, and his deputy, Garba Umar, as one of the most unfortunate political scenarios Nigeria has faced since 1999.
Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, he likened the issue to the situation experienced during the illness of late President Umar Yar’adua in 2009, when according to him, some people within the President’s cabinet decided to shield the true picture of issues.
While he expressed his sympathy for Governor Suntai, he said that a lot of political intrigues have been going on the state, with some of his loyalists taking advantage of his condition to hold the state to ransom.
On October 12, 2012, Governor Suntai was involved in a helicopter accident that has kept him in and out of the hospital for two years.
Mato explained that the House of Assembly, after three weeks of the accident, decided that the Deputy Governor should take over as acting governor and the business of the state has been well managed since then.
While saying that this should have been more important to the stakeholders, he alleged that the reason for the deadlock is that some persons who have personal interests to protect were using the Governor as a tool to achieve their aims.
“Did you see him when they brought him to Abuja sometime last week? He did not look well,” Mako said, blaming his loyalists for subjecting him to ridicule for their own selfish interests.
Mako also noted that politics and democracy are all about attitude, as the lack of the right attitude to handle it would not produce the right results. He linked the adamant attitude of Governor Suntai’s loyalists to the closeness of the 2015 general elections.
Using an indisposed Governor as a tool to protect personal interests and fight political battles is “the most immoral, apolitical and disgraceful” act that should not be allowed in any democracy.
On the need to verify if the Governor had truly become permanently incapacitated as recommended by the constitution before he could be removed from office, Mato admitted that it might be scientifically hard to determine if someone is permanently incapacitated but looking at the condition of the Governor, it would be realistic to accept that he lacked the capacity to carry out his usual activities.
He, however, admitted that until May 29, 2015, Governor Suntai remains the Governor of Taraba State as long as he is still in the hospital recuperating.
The State House of Assembly during the week set up a medical panel to resolve the impasse by proving if Governor Suntai is capable of leading the state or not; a decision Mato said was constitutionally wrong but morally right.
On the implication of the political confusion on the security situation of Taraba State, Mako noted that the while there had been some attacks by insurgents in the state in the past, the majority of Taraba’s security challenges are based on ethnic differences.
He, however, admitted that the weakened state of leadership in the state exposes the state to weakened level of security.
Injured Not Permanently Incapacitated
Former Commissioner for Information in Taraba State, Emmanuel Bello, who joined the conversation via the telephone, however, said that there has been a gap in Mako’s views of the Taraba deadlock because he had been observing the Taraba matters from a distance.
After putting his weight behind the capacity of the State Governor, Danbaba Suntai, to remain in office, he said that Nigerians need to understand that the issue had become more complicated with a lot of illegality going on the state.
He stated that Taraba State had become an illegal state at the moment with two governors, two SSGs and in addition an illegal panel set up by the House of Assembly.
He also quoted the Nigerian Constitution which states that a governor could only be removed from office when he is permanently incapacitated and not when he is injured, adding that only doctors can determine that.
He added that there are many seemingly healthy people who are not healthy, including the Deputy Governor who has his own health challenges as well. Therefore, it would be unideal to consider Governor Suntai incapacitated.
Mako agreed with Bello that indeed there were more to the Taraba issue than meets the eye but disagreed on the capacity of the Governor, claiming that incapacitation in the case should be seen as the inability to carry out the regular activities one used to engage in.
Mako said further that the whole issue in Taraba State was built around religious sentiments as having the Deputy Governor fully take over would amount to a power shift which some persons are not willing to allow.
Bello commended Dr. Mako for his theoretical view of things but maintained that there were major errors in his analysis.
He noted that religion is indeed a strong factor but in Taraba State, the people are more united as most families have a mix of both religions as reflected in his own name – Emmanuel Bello.
He added that the strongest antagonistic to Danbaba’s return has been the Speaker of the House of Assembly who is a Christian like Governor Suntai, likewise many Muslims are in support of the Governor.
He also added that the case of Danbaba and Yar’adua were very different as Danbaba is still very “alive and kicking”.
Mr Bello submitted that the reality was that Taraba has a Deputy Governor who has been trying to tear the state apart along religious and ethnic lines without any regard for the constitution, court injunctions and loyalty to Governor Danbaba whom he owes his political rise to.
He expressed his displeasure at the medical panel set up by the Assembly claiming that the State Executive that set up the panel was illegal based on a court order that barred the Deputy Governor, Garba Umar, from setting up a new executive.
He also said that the Governor’s loyalists were not happy with the make-up of medical doctors in the medical panel set up by the House of Assembly.
He recommended that the first way to find a solution would be to respect all court orders and for the Deputy Governor to stop being in charge since the constitution has said that this should be the case as soon as the Governor returns.
He also called on all Nigerians and the Presidency to condemn the illegalities in the state.
Dr. Mako, however, noted that it remains the duty of the state to solve its own issues, adding that there could be no illegality in the setting up of an Exco.
He had some words for the Governor’s loyalist saying they should be honest to the themselves, the people of Taraba and Nigerians and stop using the amiable Danbaba Suntai as a political guinea pig.
Public affairs analyst, Achike Chude, has said that the long absence of Taraba’s Governor Danbaba Suntai from office, without redress, is evidence of loopholes in the Nigerian constitution as the governor is the one voted to rule and not an ‘acting governor’.
Although, the constitution has made provisions that the deputy governor take over as ‘acting governor’ when the governor is indisposed, Mr Chude argues that “the people who voted for the governor, voted for the governor, they didn’t vote for the acting governor to be governor”.
This he said while reacting to the news of Governor Suntai’s expected return to office after a plane accident which took place in October 2012.
Using former First Lady, Turai Yar’adua, as an example, he highlighted that there was a failure to learn from history whereby “a few people who do not have any legal basis for directing the affairs of state” hold government and the people to ransom.
“That was not resolved right” because the people involved in the various acts were never called to book.
The culture of impunity may be at play in Taraba state even though “it was unfortunate that the governor had an accident. Unfortunate that he was injured” but this is about “a few people who are in power, who have availed themselves with all the trappings of power in a most undemocratic manner.
They do that through subterfuge, intrigue, outright manipulation of the system, corruption, intimidation, and sometimes outright threats against political opponents and at the end of the day, the whole state lie in comatose”.
Arguing that such long absence from office is unacceptable, he said the constitution doesn’t provide adequate instructions on the proper steps to take in such situations.
He also attributed the citizens’ silence regarding the matter to ‘the complacency and docility of the people,” adding that, the ignorance and illiteracy of the people is to be blamed.
He said “all of these things have a role to play when you are talking about effective administration of a people.”
“Our people have been so much marginalised… so they have surrendered their mandate to a few people who has taken it upon themselves to determine the direction of their state”.
Since the unfortunate air crash of governor Suntai the governor of Taraba state in Adamawa State, little has been known or heard concerning the Governor and his health since he was flown out to Germany for medical treatment since October.
Sunrise focuses on the development of Taraba state since the absence of the Governor Suntai from the seat of power.
To analyse the situation in the State, present with anchor kayode Akintemi and Alero edun were the Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism of the state; Emmanuel Bello and Barrister John Okezie.
The Chief Security Officer (CSO) and the Chief Details of Governor, Danbaba Suntai; the Taraba state Governor arrived Nigeria after successfully undergoing medical treatment in Germany sequel to injuries they sustained in the October 25th plane crash.
The plane belonging to the Taraba state government left Jalingo with Governor Danbaba Suntai and three of his aides heading to Yola; the Adamawa state capital when it crashed a few kilometres to the Yola airport.
The Taraba state commissioner of Information, Mr Emmanuel Bello told Channels television from Jalingo that the aides arrived the country via the International wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport; Abuja after a successful treatment in Germany.
The commissioner also said that the Aide de Camp (ADC) will be discharged next week as advised by the doctors.
“I can confirm to you that the Chief security officer of the governor and the chief details have arrived the country as the Aide de camp (ADC) will be arriving next week God willing as he still has little time to be discharge”
On the governor’s condition, Mr Emmanuel Bello says he is recovering speedily and hopes he will also be discharged in no distant time.
He thanked the people for their prayers and support towards the recovery of the governor and his aides.
It would be recalled that two days after the crash, the governor was flown to Germany while the three aides followed few days later for better treatment after a first aid treatment at the Federal Medical Centre Yola.
The Taraba State House of Assembly has recently deliberated and confirmed the state deputy governor in acting capacity following the absence of the governor a decision that was widely applauded as the right steps in the right direction and in line with the tenet of democracy.