Suntai arrives Abuja, assisted out of aircraft
Taraba State Governor Danbaba Danfulani Suntai returned to Nigeria Sunday afternoon after 10 months medical sojourn to Germany.
The governor, who looked palpably unstable, was shielded from reporters who were anxious to interview him.
Suntai travelled from the Republic Airport on Long Island, New York aboard a chartered Gulf Stream jet with registration number N388CA belonging to Shelt Air. The plane left at exactly 7.43pm, New York time, about 1am in Nigeria.
He was escorted to the the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja by Nigeria's New York Consul-General, Amb. Habib Habu, close relations and friends.
The governor flew a Cessna 208 aircraft which clashed at the Yola International Airport as it made to land on October 25, last year.
Onboard with Suntai were his Aide-de-camp (ADC) Iliya Dasat, Chief Detail Joel Danladi and Chief Security officer (CSO) Tino Dangana. They were all injured. They have all returned home after receiving treatment.\
The governor, who left Nigeria for Germany in October, was supported on his right and left arms by aides while disembarking from a chartered Gulfstream aircraft with registration number G4 at the domestic wing of the airport.
The aircraft touched down on the tarmac at about 12.41pm and the governor was immediately driven to the VIP lounge of the airport in a Toyota Land Cruiser.
At the lounge, he sat between two men before he proceeded to Jalingo, the Taraba State capital where two advance aircraft marked N224BA and 5NBMR were already on the ground.
At the airport yesterday, Suntai raised his right hand, as if to wave, but he was not really doing that. His face was expressionless, contrary to the excitment of the moment. He winced occasionally - as if in pains.
The governor was aided out of the aircraft at about 1.05pm by three men.
His handlers allowed photographers to take shots of him just for about two minutes.
Dressed in blue-black suit with a light blue shirt, Suntai was assisted by the men into a black Sport Utility Vehicle with registration number, Lagos-SC 989AAA and taken straight from the tarmac to the VIP wing of the Presidential Lounge.
His arrival formalties were restricted to the tarmac. The reception lasted between four and five minutes.
Those who received the governor at the tarmac were a former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana (who led the delegation); a former Minister of Sports, Mr. Damisi Sango; the Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Darius Dickson Ishaku; Mr. Damian Dodo (SAN); Senator Emmanuel Bwacha and Chief John Dara, a former Special Adviser to a former Minister of Defence, Gen. Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma.
Gana told reporters: 'We are happy the governor is back. You have seen him and we are all elated that after the crash and the treatment, he is finally back in the country. He is doing well and, of course, he needs to rest because of the long flight.'
Ishaku, said: 'We are glad; you can see he is back. We thank God for his life.'
Dara, who spoke outside the tarmac, said: 'As we saw, the governor had some pains in his legs and the rest. Oh yes! That is understandable. He is obviously recuperating.
' We were really excited to see the governor. What is clear is that after the long journey from America, he was obviously weak and tired.'
Asked what will become of the Personnel changes made by acting Governor Garba Umar in Suntai absence, Dara said: 'Those were minor administrative issues.
'If somebody was sacked and if he as the governor is convinced the person should be reinstated, he is reinstated. If the governor is convinced they were fairly treated when the facts are presented to him, it is up to him.'
But a personal friend to Suntai, Mr. John Dara, said, 'I am fully in the picture in all the arrangements for his return and we are really excited to see him back. What is clear is that after the long haul flight from the US, he is obviously weak and tired.
'But we are thrilled by the fact that he recognised each of us and called us by our names. This shows that he is mentally alert and this is an indication that he is capable of running the affairs of the state as governor.'
On why he was prevented from speaking with journalists, Dara said, 'Normally, talking to press can be spontaneous and can be organised; but we felt that when he has rested well, it will be easier for him to address the press logically.'
Another associate of the governor and a former of member Niger Delta Development Commission board , Mr. Rima Shawulu, said that Suntai would commence work in earnest.
He said, 'We have no doubt in our minds that when he gets to Jalingo later today (Sunday), it will be whether he will resume today or in a couple of days from now. But he is clearly okay and able to function.
'It is what the doctors report says about him that should be followed. When I met him in Germany in February, he did not look like somebody that had lost his senses. We discussed. He told me things and asked me to do some things for him which I did.'
A human Rights group, the Committee for Democracy and Rights of the People (CDRP) said ailing Suntai should declare his state of health.
The National Co-ordinator of the group, Comrade Saka Waheed, at a news conference in Osogbo yesterday said 'The illegality of Suntai's politics of absence is synonymous with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which we experienced during the last days of the Late President Umar Yar'Adua.
'The trend of events in Taraba State in the past few months have been of tremendous concern to all progressive elements in Taraba and Nigeria. Since the unfortunate plane crash involving Suntai, the executive has been a toy in the hands of a cabal, which believes that the fate of the State and its residents must be theirs in fee simple to determine as they wish.'