Nigeria News

Suntai: Wanted dead or alive

SuntaiFootball is like politics in the sense that everyone knows it all, everyone is an expert. So, hours after Danbaba Danfulani Suntai surged on our television sets, in newspaper pictures, in the viral fidelity of the internet, every Nigerian became a Suntai expert.

Just as many Chelsea fans can tell why the Only One Jose Mourinho lost the thriller to the mechanical virtuoso team called Bayern Munich at the weekend, some people already know the state of things in Taraba State, a vortex of intriguers, egotists, leeches, warmongers, court jesters and opportunists. They know the man is not well. They know he can sign signature. They know he cannot. They know he can dissolve a cabinet, they know he cannot. They know his speech cannot last an hour. They know he can go on forever in the manner Hitler gave extempore speeches for three hours without interruption. They can swear he will slump after thirty minutes. They know he is dying. They know he can live forever. They know…

It is what United States sports pundits call Monday morning quarterbacking, the ability to coach a game after the sweat is dry and the green turf empty as a church on Monday morning. The average Nigerian pundit, politician, human rights votary, democracy hustler, lawmaker, party apparatchik, newspaper reader is everything in the matter – a lawyer who understands the legal merits and nuances; a doctor who knows he is fit and unfit; a psychologist who knows what he is thinking and who is thinking for him; a prophet who knows what will or will not happen; a masseur who knows where aches and not; an acoustic expert who can analyse whether he sounds healthy or sick; and sovereignty because they know what the people think as though they have conducted a poll as “impeccable” as the Gallup.

With no consensus now over anything in Taraba State, we have a Hobbesian turf, what the English philosopher called the war of all against all. Those who want him say he is healthy. Evidence? None. Those who want him out, say he is not healthy. Evidence? Nada. The spectre of impeachment has overshadowed the state house, and fear of a possible state of emergency reproaches our ability to think well.

We must understand that eyes cannot always tell the healthy from the sick. Former U.S. President Franklyn Roosevelt conducted the Second World War on wheelchair as a polio patient. His lifeless legs did not cripple his mental powers. Josip Bros Tito held together Yugoslavia and the non-aligned movement until he died without his legs. The Suntai story is also a contest of science versus intuition, each party to the conflict politicising both. Each party believes in its imagination. Although Einstein says imagination is more important than knowledge, he did not have in mind what novelist Henry James designates as the imagination of disaster, which is what this crisis portends.

Those who back Suntai want his deputy or acting governor Garba Umar impeached. The 26 members of the state house of assembly have rejected his letter of return, saying he did not write it. Some analysts say there are three parties at war: the lawmakers, the deputy governor and Suntai’s people. But they are wrong, there are only two: the deputy versus his boss or former boss. Those in the house who rejected his letter are playing the same script with Umar who claimed that the governor did not dissolve the cabinet.

Basic to all these is the constitutional status of the office of governor. If the position was not this powerful, this magnificent, so flush with security votes and other aces, the battle would not be pulling down the heavens.

The governor in Nigeria is like a monarch, just as the president is like an emperor. The powers are immense. It does not matter who occupies it, he is no more than a label. The power on the throne, the capacity to turn a pauper into a prince is in the hand of a governor or president. This power obfuscates how we define truth or integrity.

Suntai left for ten months, and Umar took charge. Within that period, the loyal lawmakers have become ‘forsakers’ of oaths of fidelity. The deputy governor who bowed and trembled before him now feels not only an equal but a superior. The cabinet, whose commissioners must have groveled and lobbied desperately before and after they secured their appointments, no longer confer on him the lofty look of a god. What happened in between? The acting governor became a temporary god, decided who had contracts, who earned esta-codes in the law chamber, whose vote was fat or lean, who was happy or unhappy. The new holder of the purse string and infrastructure of power determined who to love and who to hate, and the people of Suntai now understand that. The former god Suntai who wants to be in charge of all the incantations and modes of worship now finds himself being banished from the holy of holies.

So he cannot trust, like God cannot trust Lucifer, the one he put in charge of the kingdom. That was why the cabinet had to be dissolved whether it was by him or by his.

Yet, it is obvious that while every Nigerian seems to know what the truth is, the man Suntai holds the key to life and death in this grueling drama. His is the omniscient god, who knows if he can do the job well or not. Or he knows if he can cool tempers by simply making his medical records a public matter, and let the experts come around and determine whether he should remain governor.

His medical records do not belong to the privacy of his bedroom. He was voted into power for transparency, not to lock his strength or fragility in the dark. The job of a governor is immense. He takes care of the destinies of millions, he cannot enfeeble the destinies of the many with the selfishness of a single destiny.

What is at stake is not Suntai’s wellbeing but that of the people, and the integrity of this democracy. Those who love him must show the love of the majority. If he clings to this silence, he indulges in what the constitution calls gross misconduct.

What if he does not have complete control of his mental faculties? It brings us back to the Yar’Adua syndrome. The former president received lashes for insensitivity but it turned out it was his so-called kitchen cabinet that presented a false sense of the man’s wellbeing and triggered a meaningless call for impeachment.

The gridlock is underlined by the fact that it is hard to prove that Suntai did not write the letter to the House about his return. But if he is fit to write the letter, it means he is fit enough to determine whether he can perform his duties. Consequently, he is alert enough to understand that he should make public his medical records. If he doesn’t, an impeachment proceeding is in order.

His wife has been shielding him, a la Turai, from the public. This only makes her a Jezebel of this theatre. She ought to tell her husband the truth and encourage him to unveil his records for all.

He cannot trifle with the destiny of his people and democracy. His party, the PDP, ought to insist on this. Similar arguments empowered the rise of Jonathan as president, and President Jonathan would have violated the principle on which he soared if he does not bring the majesty of his office to direct the affairs along the path of honour. Or else, it will be clear that Jonathan wants victory more than justice in this matter. And it will negate everything that made him president. What everyone needs is what writer Tolstoy calls the pride of sacrifice, which refers to a sublime state of satisfaction in sacrificing what is needed for the joy of all, an Abraham who gave Isaac. But that pride only derives from the sacrifice of pride. That is the real meaning of patriotism.

Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC and CEO of Portia Web Solutions. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websits. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.

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