Taraba Agog, As Suntai Returns Today
The acting governor of Taraba State, Alhaji Garba Umar, other state officials and residents yesterday finalised preparations for giving returning Governor Danbaba Suntai a heroic welcome today.
The traditional institution and various religious organisations also joined in the preparations to receive the governor at the Jalingo Airport, 10 months after he was flown abroad for better medical attention. He was involved in a helicopter crash, which he flew with some of his aides, on October 25, 2012.
After the crash in Adamawa State, the governor was first rushed to the National Hospital, Abuja, where he was stabilised before he was flown to Germany and later the United States of America.
Suntai left New York yesterday for Nigeria.
The commissioner for information, Mr Emmanuel Bello, told LEADERSHIP Sunday last night that Governor Suntai would arrive in Jalingo Airport at 1pm. He said he would be received by the acting governor, state functionaries and traditional rulers from different parts of the state.
Asked whether he would be hosted to a dinner, Bello said, “No. There won’t be any dinner party. We are all thanking God for his recovery.” He added that the governor would immediately head for the Government House and not to his residence.
Bello also disclosed that Suntai spoke with Vice President Namadi Sambo to condole with him over the death of business mogul Alhaji Saleh Jambo. He said Governor Suntai told the vice president that he was eager to return to the country and to meet him.
The commissioner said that Suntai made the call to Sambo in the presence of the Nigerian consul in New York, Alhaji Habib.
Security has been beefed up as military and police officers were seen last night in some strategic locations in Jalingo, the state capital.
Vehicles were seen moving around the town with loud speakers chanting political songs to welcome Governor Suntai while T-shirts and wrappers with the inscription of the governor were distributed to women and youths preparatory to his arrival today.
Umar, in a statement signed by his press secretary, Mr Kefas Sule, on Friday, called on the people to come out en-masse to welcome the governor.
The statement said the governor would arrive at Nmandi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja at 10am today before proceeding to Jalingo.
On the governor’s entourage are his younger brother, Mr. Babangida Suntai and some staff members of the Nigeria Consulate General in New York with two United States doctors that will ensure that nothing goes wrong with him during the flight.
A sister publication, LEADERSHIP, had exclusively reported on Tuesday that Governor Suntai was last week certified fit by his medical team in New York to undergo a long flight back to Nigeria.
Governor Suntai, who departed the JF Kennedy Airport in New York City yesterday afternoon aboard a United States chartered flight, will arrive at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport in Abuja this afternoon before leaving for Jalingo.
In a telephone interview with LEADERSHIP Sunday, his wife, Hajiya Hauwa, who is already in Abuja waiting for her husband, said that there was no iota of truth in the report that she stage-managed his return in collaboration with some loyal commissioners.
She said that Suntai will be fit to address the people on his return to Taraba.
An online journal had on Friday reported that efforts were in place to make the governor wave to the people at the airport without saying a word, but Mrs Suntai said that there was no reason to prevent him from interacting with the people, having spent almost 10 months abroad without being able to speak with his people.
She added that there was no plan to delay the governor’s return till late in the night as claimed by the online outfit.
One of the US consultants who treated Governor Suntai, Dr Andrew Smith, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the governor was discharged by the hospital hale and hearty. He added that all medical examinations were duly carried out on the governor before the decision to allow him return to Nigeria was taken.
Although Smith confirmed that the governor had been asking to be discharged for over three weeks, he said that it was delayed because the medical team wanted to be sure that he was fit to undergo the trip.
The governor had reportedly told the doctors, two weeks ago, when he went for one of his compulsory therapies that he was willing to return to Nigeria immediately, but the health officials told him to wait till the end of last week for further monitoring.
A family source told LEADERSHIP Sunday in New York on Monday that arrangements were in top gear to ensure that the governor’s return was open to all.
Asked why such arrangements were made, the source said that it was to fault insinuations in Nigeria that the governor was going to be smuggled into the country.
Our correspondent visited Suntai’s private residence in New York from where he joined the governor, members of his family, friends and security aides in a trip to Staten Island where the governor’s friend, Ambassador Kennedy Apoe, organised a 52nd birthday party in his honour.
LEADERSHIP had a brief interview with Governor Suntai who faulted the rumours that he was mentally derailed.
He said: “I am fine (smiles). I am very fine.”
When asked if he remembered why he was brought abroad for treatment, he replied: “Yes, a crash. They said I was involved in a plane crash but I don’t want to talk about it now because the memory takes me back. The doctors advised that I should not be made to remember the incident, but I am fine now. I am happy that I am alive to witness today.”
Also, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had set up a fact-finding committee which recently visited the governor in New York in order to clear the air on the true state of his health.
During the visit, the chairman of the committee, Senator Hope Uzodinma, said: “We are impressed with what we have seen and we thank God for that. We will take back home what we have seen and we will inform the leadership of the party. We are impressed; we are also happy that the governor is recovering. We will still go back home and relate what we have seen.”