With the 2015 elections over and a new government put in place in Taraba, Suntai’s matter appeared to have gone with the wind. To many analysts, he has been reduced to a song unheard. This has left several questions begging for answers: Where is the ailing former Taraba State governor in the aftermath of the 2015 election? What is his current health status arising from the ill-fated air accident? Has he been abandoned to his fate as is being alleged in some quarters? What is his current status in the scheme of Taraba politics?
Suntai had always had a date with history. Providence beckoned on him when he became governor of Taraba state in 2007 even without aspiring for the coveted office. He was sworn in on May 29, 2011 for a second term upon winning the governorship election for the year. Though a pharmacist by training, Suntai enrolled for training as a pilot at the Nigerian College of Aviation in Zaria in 2010 and was thus licensed, albeit under controversial circumstances, as a qualified pilot.
Prior to his plane crash in 2012, Suntai had been flown to Germany for medication after returning from his annual leave in August 2009, following a sudden ailment that was suspected to have developed from food poisoning.
Upon returning from Germany, Suntai confirmed that his illness was actually as a result of food poisoning. He spoke at the opening ceremony of a three-day regional convention of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International in Jalingo, the Taraba State capital, where he told the congregation that his meal was actually poisoned.
Although he could not give further details of the food poisoning, Suntai, who used the occasion to offer thanksgiving to God for sparing his life, also thanked the people of Taraba State for praying for him during his overseas medical trip.
He had had several successful flights with his private aircraft even while piloting the affairs of Taraba State as governor. But his current travails started precisely on October 25, 2012, when a private plane he piloted crashed in Yola, the Adamawa State capital. After receiving the initial treatment at the Adamawa Standard German Hospital in Yola he was later transferred to the National Hospital Abuja on October 26, 2012. From there he was flown to Germany and was later taken to a rehabilitation centre in the United States for further medication.
Consequently, there was a crescendo of political brouhaha in Taraba state amplified by a ‘conspiracy of silence’ over Suntai’s health status in the aftermath of the accident.
After 10 months of medical sojourn overseas, Danbaba Danfulani Suntai finally returned to the country on August 23, 2013 following claims by his supporters backed by a ‘cabal’ that he was fit to return to Government House, Jalingo.
But after weeks of political intrigues in the North-East state based on claims and counterclaims over his health status, it was revealed that the former Taraba State governor was not healthy enough to live in Nigeria without adequate treatment, or to govern a state.
He was subsequently flown abroad again for treatment, even as his then deputy, Garba Umar, was empowered by the Taraba State House of Assembly to fully take over the ship of the state in acting capacity. He was brought back in the build-up to the 2015 elections and remained confined in Jalingo until after the change of guards on May 29, 2015.
Suntai now in Florida, USA
Following the swearing in of Architect Darius Ishaku as governor of Taraba State on May 29 last year, Danbaba Suntai’s condition was said to have deteriorated prompting, his return back to the United States where he is currently undergoing periodic therapy.
Checks by Daily Trust on Sunday have shown that Suntai was ferried back to the US in June last year and has been living at a private residence in Orlando, Florida. He is said to be living there with his family members, including his wife, Hauwa, who shuttles between US, Dubai and Nigeria.
Mariya, one of the daughters of Suntai got married to Shehu Abdullahi on Friday December 11, 2015 at a colourful ceremony held in Abuja, Nigeria, but Suntai was not present at the wedding ceremony. His wife, Hauwa, was present.
However, he was said to have witnessed the wedding of another of his daughter, Zainab, who got married to a Canadian. Although the traditional marriage rites were said to have taken place in Nigeria, the white wedding took place in Orlando, USA on August 13 this year and was witnessed by Suntai. Photographs of both weddings went viral on the social media.
It was gathered that while he remained on his medical sojourn in the United States, the Taraba State government and close associates of the former governor have abandoned him to his fate even as his health deteriorates. A source said the Taraba State government has been overwhelmed by the cost of catering for Suntai’s family and his medication, especially in the face of the current recession.
Consequently, Adamawa State Governor Bindo Umaru Jibrila, was said to have taken over the task of shouldering part of financial responsibility to Sunai’s family.
Coordinator of the Taraba Peoples’ Assembly, Martins Andekin had, in an article titled, ‘Let’s pray for Governor Danbaba Suntai,’ lamented that those who rode on the former governor’s back to get political offices in the state had abandoned him as his health deteriorates daily.
The article reads in part: “While Governor Danbaba was battling for his life in a German hospital, the group, now widely known as the cabal, spread all forms of lies, falsehoods and propaganda to mislead and hoodwink ordinary people to believe that indeed, Danbaba had miraculously recovered and would return in a matter of days.
“Twice, the cabal abducted Governor Danbaba Suntai from his sick bed in America and Great Britain, claiming that he had recovered. The two incidents ended in total disaster and disgrace for the organizers.
“As soon as Sani Abubakar Danladi was installed, Danbaba Suntai was completely abandoned by these so-called associates and some members of the Christian Association of Nigeria, who claimed to be fighting for him…”
A former commissioner for information in Taraba State, recently appointed senior special assistant on public affairs to Governor Ishaku, Emmanuel Bello, insisted that Suntai had not been abandoned.
Bello, who confirmed that Suntai is currently in Orlando, USA, said he is still recuperating while undergoing physiotherapy.
“He recently had a public function when he gave out his daughter at a small wedding event in the state. He is undergoing a lot of physiotherapy and is doing well. He is surrounded by family and friends,” Bello said.
The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to Taraba State Governor, Sylvanus Giwa, also confirmed that Suntai is currently living in Orlando, USA.
Giwa said Suntai was living at a private residence in Orlando, where a team of doctors come to attend to him occasionally. “His wife, children and family members are there, and he is getting stable everyday,” Giwa said.
Giwa also denied allegations of abandonment, insisting that the state government is still footing Suntai’s medical bills.
Babangida Suntai, younger brother to the ailing former governor, is embittered over the current state of his brother. Asked to comment on Suntai’s current health status, Babangida fumed: “Was it not you people (referring to the media) that were busy claiming that all was well with him; what else do you want to hear from me?’’
With that, Babangida ended the call after telling this reporter never to contact him over Sunta’s ill health again.
The pertinent question is: How long will Suntai remain in Orlando, USA to undergo his physiotherapy, and when will he return back to Nigeria?
Emmanuel Bello and his counterpart on media and publicity, Sylvanus Giwa, said they could not provide an answer to this question.
Read more at http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/general/taraba-where-is-ex-governor-suntai/165841.html#7GDlHgJ23F5Ac3m5.99