The Taraba State government announces that Governor Danbaba Suntai, involved in a plane crash last October has been discharged from a German hospital, undergoing restorative therapy and will be back shortly. Here are some insights into the reality and theatrics of a crash.
When conspiracy theorists sync their trade with local Machiavellian political seers and ambitious native doctors, the ensuing heady cocktail will almost certainly put the best of Nollywood’s high-octane scripts to shame. This appears to be the lot of Tarabans in the wake of the crash of a Cessna aircraft piloted by Governor Danbaba Suntai which crashed near Yola last October. But in a rural milieu straddling the past and a tentative future, this quirky scenario has perhaps found fertile territory.
Notwithstanding the rather poor diagnostic record of the local specialist medical community - a key driver of the unflattering, booming medical tourism - many experts have sprung up to deliver successive analysis on the current brain profile of Governor Danbaba. This frenzy, perhaps, feeds on the often mysterious information management preferences of public information minders of states and federal government.
From late President Musa Yar’Adua’s health saga, to that of Enugu State’s Governor, Sullivan Chime, Cross River State’s Governor Liyel Imoke and Governor Wada of Kogi State, the story has been the same. Shrouded by opaque information management, the media and public go into overdrive to generate a compelling mix of wrong information on the travails of these crop of elected executives. From the hare-brained and comical to the barely believable peddlers of half-truths and outright lies, the public has been richly regaled with the "brain damage" of Governor Suntai. Instead of being rested after a recent NAN picture showing the recovering governor flanked by his wife and visiting family friend carrying one of his new-born twin children in Germany, the alternative information channels are abuzz with even more tales.
Against this backdrop, the recent announcement by the Taraba State government that Governor Danbaba Suntai has been discharged from the hospital was received with relief in some quarters and derision in others. Appropriately, the state government also refuted claims that the picture of the governor with his wife, Hauwa and their twins published in the media midweek was doctored, a theory now making the rounds.
In the words of Bello: "Clearly, he is not brain-damaged. He has been taken out of the intensive care unit and now he is recuperating in a private ward. In fact day before yesterday (a fortnight ago), when I called him, his wife took the call and said I should give her a few minutes because he had gone out to take a walk in the garden. So a man, who is standing by himself, means that he is healthy. Honestly we should be having our governor back soon. The mood back in the state is that of expectation. In fact, several local governments have put up bill boards welcoming him home and all that. He is alive, he is kicking, and he is in his sane mind and his full intelligence; so he is coming back to the state to continue his work."
Since his hospital admission in a German hospital, moves have been initiated by shadowy crisis entrepreneurs to rail-road the Taraba parliament to impeach Governor Danbaba to ease the acting Governor, Garba Umar, into the top saddle proper. However, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has debunked the alleged impeachment moves based on the allegation that the governor is incapacitated, saying the 1999 constitution is clear on succession in such a situation.
An obviously miffed Bello suggested that, on the other hand, it was those peddling false reports that his principal is brain-damaged were the brain-damaged group. "It’s not true that he suffered a brain damage. In fact, I would say that some of those reporters are brain damaged themselves. It was the online medium, Sahara Reporters, that reported the governor was dead. And Sahara-Reporters did not even have the common decency to apologize to the world for passing out that kind of comment. Eventually, maybe as a face-saving device, they down-graded this false report to the brain-damage tale-bearing," Bello stated.
But expressing a different perspective, US-based trauma specialist, Stella Oritsejemite, wrote in an online media that, "It may take weeks, months, years even for this man [Governor Suntai], to come back to his pre-accident state. It may take quite long for the brain to resolve its chemical imbalance as a result of the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The good news however, is that as the chemistry of the brain improves, so can the ability of the patient to function independently.
"Because the brain is a dynamic organ with incredible ability to adapt and change with time, the brain is able to set up new connections between the nerves. Plasticity of the brain occurs all through a life cycle. Therefore, it is still possible for it to have an occurrence, neutral system stimulation. Such can and should be encouraged in an atmosphere, which the man is familiar with and with family. Long term rehabilitation will be better in a home environment and not in the cold walls of a hospital."
Bello added, "The pictures that you saw in the newspapers are pictures of a real event. The pictures were never stage-managed. They are pictures of a real event that took place with the wife of the governor."
Is PDP Shopping For Replacement?
There were still more conspiracy scripts put out to raise the political temperature of the state. A key one was the alleged move to remove Suntai on grounds of incapacitation. According to Bello, "People should familiarise themselves with the provisions of the constitution, especially as it relates to this Taraba incident. There is no vacancy in this case; the deputy governor who is now the acting governor is discharging his constitutional duties and there is no inhibition whatsoever. He is loyal to the governor and has not in any way suggested in any manner that he wants to replace the governor."
Backing Bello’s position, PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, stated, "The governor is injured and not incapacitated. Before he was flown out of the country, he was in a stable condition. The House of Assembly has empowered the deputy to act as the governor. So, PDP is not aware of any move to remove Suntai. There is no death here, no resignation or a question of permanent incapacity. The governor was merely involved in an accident and he is receiving treatment and is stable and therefore, there is no question of long absence due to sickness as the case may be."
To shore up his position, he quoted section 191(1) of the 1999 constitution, which reads: "The Deputy Governor of a state shall hold the office of governor of the state, if the office of governor becomes vacant by reason of death, resignation, impeachment, permanent incapacity or removal of the governor from office for any other reason in accordance with section 188 or 189 of this constitution."
With the expected return of Governor Suntai and resumption of duty, it is clear that the entire incident may have re-sculpted Taraba politics in ways that may become obvious in due course.