The people of Taraba State are in for a shocker on Sunday afternoon when their brain-damaged governor, Danbaba Suntai, will be flown into the capital in a private jet being paid for by the government of the state.
Mr. Suntai, who suffered extensive head injuries in October 2012 after a Cessna light aircraft he was flying crashed near Yola airport, has been in rehabilitation at a trauma and brain injury center near New York City.
According to press reports attributed to his wife, Mr. Suntai is billed to be flown to Nigeria on Saturday. He will arrive in Abuja’s Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport on Sunday from where the state government will fly him to Jalingo, the capital of Taraba State.
SaharaReporters sources both in New York and Taraba State said that Mr. Suntai’s condition remains serious. Suffering memory loss, he is unable to hold a normal conversation or remember either things or people, and often just laughs out loud.
The last time the acting Governor of the state visited him in New York, both men only posed for pictures, SaharaReporters was told.
People who accompanied the acting governor said there was no discussion allowed between Suntai and his Acting Governor before the man returned to Taraba.
Worried that the Acting Governor might decide to take over power, Mr. Suntai’s wife, brother, and some commissioners loyal to him in Taraba approached Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State to bankroll the return of Suntai in a grand style that would be designed to hoodwink the public.
According to the plan, Suntai will make a brief appearance and wave to the crowd. He will then be quickly whisked away to safety.
His arrival may also be delayed into the late evening so that some arrangements can be executed under cover of darkness, much like that of President Umaru Yar’Adua when he returned from Saudi Arabia, months before he died.
With Suntai in town, his supporters will keep asking for calm and prayers for his full recovery until the governorship elections are held in the state.
A source at the Presidency said Mr. Jang has appealed to President Jonathan that if Suntai is completely removed from power the number of Christian governors in the country will dwindle, leaving just himself and Benue State Governor Gabriel Suswam as the only Christian governors left in the entire north. Late Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State and Suntai were the two other governors in the north who were Christians.
Sources at the Taraba State government house said the government was only notified a few days ago of by Mr. Suntai’s ambitious wife of her husband’s impending return.
The source told SaharaReporters that although the state has been paying the governor’s huge medical bills, first in Germany and later in the United States, the government has never been briefed about his condition.
Asked if Mr. Suntai has spoken by telephone with the governor since the plane crash, the source said no.
Suntai’s camp is taking a significant gamble. With his arrival now just days away, there is anxiety in that camp that the return to Jalingo could totally expose the governor’s fragile state of health and further embolden those who want to see him impeached as governor once and for all.