By Andrew Ojih, SOLOMON AYADO and Kauthar Anumba-Khaleel,
Former governor of Taraba State, Pharm Danbaba Suntai, is dead. Suntai who survived an air crash at the Yola Airport in 2012 died at home yesterday.
He is reported to have brain injuries arising from the plane accident. The former governor who flew the light plane himself crashed in October 2012 and had not recovered fully since then.
Mr. Emmanuel Bello, a former commissioner for Information in the state, broke the news of his death.
Suntai became governor of Taraba State in 2007 and was sworn in again on May 29, 2011 for a second term. 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.
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.
On his return from Germany, Suntai spoke at the opening of a three-day regional convention of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International in Jalingo, where he said his meal was actually poisoned.
He had had several successful flights with his private aircraft even while piloting the affairs of Taraba State as governor.
But the travails which remained with him till he breath his last 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.
After 10 months of medical sojourn overseas, the Late Suntai finally returned to the country on August 23, 2013.
After weeks of political intrigues in the North-East state based on claims and counter-claims 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.
The Late Suntai Left Indelible Footprints In Taraba – Dogara
In a condolence message, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara expressed sadness, noting that Suntai left indelible footprints.
Dogara, in a statement signed by his special adviser on media and public affairs, Mr Turaki Hassan, Dogara prayed Almighty God to comfort Suntai’s immediate family.
The Speaker who also commiserated with the government and people of Taraba State said the former governor’s death is particularly painful because he was a dedicated and purpose driven leader who had the interest of his people at heart, adding that the deceased left indelible footprints on the development landscape of the state.
He said, “I received the news of the death of former governor Suntai with a deep feeling of sadness but God is the author of life, from Him we came and to Him we will return.
“To the government and people of Taraba State, I extend my heartfelt condolences, and to his immediate family members who are the ones who will feel the pain more deeply. I pray God comforts you and gives you the fortitude to bear the loss”.
…His Death Incalculable Loss To The Nation – Ekweremadu
Also, the deputy president of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, mourned the death of former governor of Taraba State, Danbaba Suntai, describing it as an incalculable loss to the nation.
Ekweremadu, while reacting to the sad news of the demise of the former governor, said he (Suntai) gave a good account of himself as a politician, a public administrator and party man.
This was contained in a statement signed by Uche Anichukwu, special adviser to the deputy Senate president on media and made available to LEADESHIP in Abuja yesterday.
Ekweremadu said, “This is an incalculable loss not only to the people of Taraba State, but also to the Peoples Democratic Party family, and the nation in general. We had all prayed for his full recovery following the air mishap of October 2012.
“This is a very sad news, for he was a leader that loved his people, for he gave a good account of himself as a politician, public administrator, man of peace, a patriot, party man, and nation builder. He will be sorely missed, but like all great men, he is immortalised by his selfless service to God and humanity”.
He condoled with the family of the late astute politician, the government and people of Taraba State as well as the entire nation, even as he prayed for the peaceful repose of the soul of the deceased.
His Life And Times
The late Danbaba Danfulani Suntai was born on the June 30, 1961 at Suntai Town in Bali local government area of Taraba State.
He attended Federal Government College, Kano between 1975 and 1980, as well as the School of Basic Studies at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria between1980 to 1981.
He was admitted to Ahmadu Bello University where he read Pharmacy and graduated in 1984.
He did his internship at Yola Specialist Hospital and his National Youth Service at the State Hospital, Ijaiye, Abeokuta, Ogun State between 1985 and1986 respectively.
He then worked at the General Hospital, Ganye in old Gongola State until 1991 when Taraba State was created. He joined the Taraba State civil service as director-general of the state ministry of Agriculture and National Resources from 1994 to 1996.
He was elected chairman of Bali local government area of Taraba State where he held sway between 1989 and 1993.
During the 1999 general election, he was the state chairman of the All People’s Party (APP) when the PDP narrowly defeated the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP). In 2000, he became chairman of Taraba State Investment and Properties Ltd.
He was appointed commissioner for Education in 2001. He worked at the ministry of Health from 2003 to 2005 before becoming Secretary to the Taraba State Government under former governor Jolly Nyame’s administration in between 2005 and 2007.
In the run-up to the 2007 elections, Danladi Baido won the PDP gubernatorial primaries but was later disqualified. Two months before the election, the PDP national secretariat replaced Baido with Suntai who did not contest in the party primaries. Baido lent his support to Suntai and in April 2007, Suntai won election as governor of Taraba State.
During his tenure as governor of Taraba State, Suntai made efforts to fight corruption, crime and lack of discipline, while delegating authority and providing funds to the local government areas.
After governing for six years, the late Suntai and three of his aides were in October 2012 involved in an air crash after their private plane, Cessna 208 aircraft marked 5N-BMJ, crashed in Yola, the Adamawa State capital.
The plane which he piloted hit the ground behind the NNPC depot, along Yola-Numan Road at about 7:00pm.
Two week to his plane crash, Suntai appointed Alhaji Garba Umar, a businessman and politician as his new deputy governor of Taraba State.
Umar’s appointment in 2013 followed the impeachment of the former Deputy Governor, Alhaji Sani Abubakar, based on allegations of gross misconduct levelled against him by the state lawmakers.
The late 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 after 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.
Before his death, Suntai was survivor of many critical political battles.