Political stalemate in Taraba: Security Chiefs shun meeting called by Acting Governor
Worried that the reported refusal of members of the Taraba State House of Assembly to accord due recognition to the letter transmitted to the House by Governor Danbaba Suntai might further polarise the already tension-soaked state, several prominent indigenes of the state have asked the state Assembly to take the necessary steps to enable the governor resume his duties officially.
Suntai is seeking to resume as the governor after a 10-month medical treatment abroad, following a plane crash last year.
But 16 members of the House, who constitute a majority, are opposed to his move on the grounds that 'he is not fit.'
To that effect, they directed the Acting Governor, Alhaji Garba Umar, to continue in that capacity while the governor should go back to the United States (US) to continue with his medical treatment.
Umar, apparently acting on that directive, urged the state to ignore the 'purported' sack of the cabinet by Suntai.
But, the acting governor's directive failed the test of authority yesterday in Jalingo, the state capital, when all the security chiefs in the state shunned an earlier security meeting he had convened.
Umar and his team, which includes the sacked Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and the Chief of Staff, Ahmed Yusuf, who were in the executive chamber of the Government House, were disappointed when all the security chief failed to turn up for the meeting.
Reacting to the lawmakers' action, former attorney general and commissioner for justice in the state, Gebon Timothy Kataps, said their position on the governor's letter was unconstitutional, insisting that they had no legal right to prevent the governor from resuming office 'since he has transmitted the necessary letter to them.'
Speaking in the same vein, an aide to the governor said as far as the state was concerned, the governor had assumed duty, irrespective of the position of the House 'because the steps needed to be taken by him had been made through the letter he forwarded to the state Assembly.'
Some medical officers in the state, who would not like to be quoted, said: 'What they are doing in the House is not the right thing.
'Though I am not a lawyer, but I think before taking such decision, they ought to have reached out to his medical personnel, a step I reliably gathered they never took,' one of the officers told The Guardian in Jalingo.
'It is only his doctors that have the right to declare him unfit and not the lawmakers,' he stated, while accusing some people of toying with the peace of the state 'due to personal reasons.'
Another medical expert added: 'I have never met the governor since I have being working as a medical practitioner in this hospital (Specialist Hospital). I am not a politician and I am not seeking for any political appointment, God forbid that.
'But why I am arguing in favour of the governor is because what these so-called representatives have done is wrong.
'Their action, if not urgently addressed, could set this state on fire.
'Already, they have made the people believe that it is because the acting governor is a Muslim that he appears opposed to Suntai resuming duties as governor.
'So, you can see that they have succeeded in polarising the state along religious divide.'
A prominent lawyer in the state, who would also not want his name in print, said: 'The position of the law, as regards this issue is very clear. It is not something that should have factionalised the House.
'We expected them to first of all seek proper interpretation of the law as it concerns the transmission of letter by the governor to them.
Unfortunately, instead of taking such steps, they went ahead to do the wrong thing.'
He Stressed: 'I said 'wrong thing,' because what they have done or what they are doing is capable of throwing this state into crisis.
'Constitutionally, they have no right to prevent the governor, who claimed that he is strong enough to resume his work, from doing that.
'Are they his doctors? If his doctors who are with him every time did not advise him to stay away from office, who are they to now come out and declare him unfit.
'That statement alone is enough for our courts to punish such persons, because they have no single medical documents with them that stated that the governor is not strong or fit enough to govern.'
For his own part, the member representing Wukari 11 Constituency in the House of Assembly and Chairman of its Committee on Information, Ishaya Gani, warned that the steps being taking by some of his colleagues were capable of throwing the state 'into anarchy.'
Accusing the Speaker, Haruna Tsokwa, of allowing himself to be used to 'destabilise the state,' the lawmaker urged the PDP leadership and the Presidency to urgently intervene to save 'the poor people of Taraba State' from unnecessary distress by politicians.
However, Mr. Danjuma Munga, a renowned politician, has thrown his weight behind the action of the 16 lawmakers, who he said had done the right thing.
He argued: 'It is only when you are physically fit that you can carry out your legitimate duty.
'I think Suntai should even be grateful to those members, because they only asked him to go for further treatment; they did not remove him as governor…'
Munga added: 'If you weigh the two sides of the coin properly, you would discover that those claiming that they love the governor don't even love him as much as those 16 members who decided to excuse him, pending when he is hale and healthy.
'As far as I am concerned, these members have done nothing wrong. After all they did not impeach the governor. If they had wanted him impeached, I believe they would have gone ahead and done that and nobody would have made noise.
'So, what is the all noise about?'
A medical officer in support of the action of the 16 lawmakers, noted that to 'some extent, they may be right, because they have met with him and seen his physical appearance, which must have shown that he is not yet fit.
'All we are praying for now is for the relevant authority to step in and resolve the crisis, because if it finally erupts, I don't think the security operatives here can contain it.
'So, let us stop shifting blames and look for a lasting solution,' he surmised.
Security has been beefed up in various parts of the state capital, following the tension that has been generated by the raging controversy.
Some of the security agents told The Guardian that they were on high alert to deal with any security situation in the state.
'We have been placed on red alert. All our outposts in the entire axis of the state have been intimated on the need to be on red alert too, because the information filtering into the state shows that some persons from other states are making moves to come in and take advantage of the situation and foment trouble,' one of them, a police inspector said.
A senior police officer at the command headquarters said: 'The commissioner has just briefed us and we are battle-ready,' assuring that there were enough policemen on ground to contain any situation.
Even though all roads in the state now lead to Abuja for today's PDP convention, some top government officials were still seen around at the time of this report.
As one of them put it: 'We have been directed to be on ground to monitor development.'
With the lingering crisis, two parallel governments are on the verge of being formed in the state, as the acting governor continues to recognize and deal with the cabinet members 'sacked' on Tuesday by Suntai.
A source told The Guardian that Umar may have made up his mind not to recognise the newly appointed SSG and the Chief of Staff.
It was further observed that a watertight security has been put in place at the entrance gate of the Government House, as persons, including some top security personnel, who were on their way to the security meeting, were prevented from gaining access to the venue.
'What you heard was nothing, but the truth. So, you won't blame us for taking such action, because we are taking directives from the Number One citizen of the state, who is very much on ground,' one of the security men said.
The Guardian also gathered that the 'former' SSG was also stopped from entering his former office by the Government House security operatives.
It was further observed that Suntai, whom many people thought had travelled out of the state, was very much around.
One of the House staff members told our reporter that 'oga is around and as I am talking to you now, he is indoor, carrying out some exercise, as directed by his doctors.'
Some top government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, wondered why the security chiefs deliberately refused to turn up for the meeting.
According to one of them: 'It is true that the meeting did not hold, because all the security chiefs and those that should have attended the meeting failed to come around.
'I am also aware that a directive was given to the security men at the Government House gate to prevent them from entering.
'But I don't know how true that is, because I don't know if they have the power to stop their bosses from entering the Government House.'
In the same vein, another top aide to one of the 'former' cabinet members, said: 'What you are asking is not too far from the truth.
'I was not there, but I also got the information that none of them came around for the meeting.'
A senior security personnel who also spoke on the issue said: 'How can the acting or deputy governor call for a security meeting when the governor is on ground? It is never done.'
He added that if the security chiefs had attended the meeting, 'they would have found themselves out of this state, because you cannot have two governments in a state.' The Guardian