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‘Governor Suntai can’t contemplate anti-party activities in Taraba’

Anyone who knows the state very well would agree that the PDP has never had it so well in the state as now. Gov. Danbaba…

Anyone who knows the state very well would agree that the PDP has never had it so well in the state as now. Gov. Danbaba Danfulani Suntai has demonstrated that he is a true party leader. You know he is the father of the party in the state and has played that role well. It is on record that he is the one who physically moved the party from its former filthy office building to the edifice it is now occupying. In fact, when the former national chairman of the party came to commission the building he enthused that it was one of the best in the country. And he said he hasn’t yet seen any governor who had done more for the party than Suntai. It is interesting to note that the building was purchased from one of those senators who are making that wild allegation. How can you accuse someone of neglecting the party and not showing concern when he buys a property from you? You accepted the cash and turn around to say he is not a good leader. That is absurd and unkind. In that same building, the governor has a personal office where he sits from time to time to meet the needs of the party.

But that is just one of the things he has done. Not many people know that the governor personally pays allowances to the top staff of the party. Even the least staff goes home with something good. He ensures that their welfare in terms of health and others are well taken care of. I know of a certain lady – a top official of the party – who practically owes her life today to Gov. Suntai. She was sent to India for treatment when her life was in danger. You know our governor does not joke about people’s health. I recall an opposition politician during the campaigns making a joke of this. He was asked if he thinks the governor was getting at least one thing right. He said, “Well the governor is doing one thing well. He is behaving like a good pharmacist. If he finds you sick, he immediately plans for your trip abroad or deal with it here at home.” So it is not just party stalwarts who enjoy this. Almost everyone in the state has this access to good health. During last year’s campaign, the governor personally participated and helped to facilitate funding for all the party flag bearers at every elective position. Today, the governor is helping to facilitate funding to defray cost of litigations arising from the polls, including that of one of the senators who is currently badmouthing the governor.

And if you look at it, you would see that records don’t lie. The PDP swept almost every elective position at both the state and the national level. All our senators are from the PDP. At the House of Reps, the party is also dominating. Now, how can the structure that produced all of these results be said to be weak? It is laughable. If anything, the party has become stronger under the current leader- Gov. Suntai. And he has enhanced internal democracy in the party. Generally, Suntai has helped in building democratic ideals in the state. He is the governor who entrenched the culture of non-violence by always insisting that his opponents should not be harassed by state apparatus. So for instance during the campaigns he forbid anyone from tearing down opponents’ posters. He taught us the principles of Kingdom Politics. That is a certain kind of politics that is centred on godly principles like honesty, sincerity and lack of aggression. You know, politics doesn’t have to be a dirty game as most people say.

What about the charge that he engaged in anti-party activities by supporting candidates of other parties in elections?

That is mere allegation…

No, like the case of Anthony Jellason. The man was in Labour Party but he is in your cabinet today as commissioner.

What happened was that Jellason was in Labour Party running for senate quite rightly. He is from Zing and he is a leader of note in that area. Now, there is no evidence that my governor sponsored him. But it is obvious to everyone that Jellason eventually moved to the PDP. I mean even if he is still in Labour and he is in the cabinet today what is wrong with that? Our governor is always stressing the need for all of us to build Taraba together. It doesn’t matter what party you belong- Taraba should come first. In any case, Jellason is in PDP today and is contributing his quota to developing the state. So which one is anti party here? After all, Labour Party actually voted enmasse for President Goodluck Jonathan everywhere. I don’t think anyone can substantiate that accusation that Gov. Suntai sponsored Jellason but one fact is clear- Jellason is today in the PDP and he is helping the governor advance Taraba. Instead of castigating the governor, we salute his ability at wooing stalwarts of other parties to the mainstream.

How true is the accusation that Gov. Suntai is a very hard person and that he is dictatorial?

That again is the stuff of rumours. One of the senators who said Gov. Suntai is dictatorial actually served as a Secretary to the State Government under Suntai. He was also a commissioner under Suntai. So when did he suddenly realise that Suntai is dictatorial? He didn’t sense this tendency when he was busy becoming influential under Suntai. It is amazing therefore that he could suddenly accuse the governor of dictatorial tendencies. But to answer the question, it is not true. The fact is that Gov. Suntai is a very principled person; some will say unbending. Whatever you call it, he is one of the most forthright people around. Of course, most people are intimidated by this and they find his way disconcerting. Any politician who shuns praise singing and is always insisting on truth is bound to scare ordinary minds. He is an iconoclast. But these traits of his are supposed to build confidences and not doubts. He is a man of his words. And I think most people will agree to that. He is not flippant or frivolous. For those not accustomed to this, it is easy to think Suntai is haughty or aloof. He despises any form sycophancy. His attitude towards life is that God will always have His was and we are mere instruments in his hands. So he takes no praise for anything. In fact, if I go on now, it would appear I’m also praise singing. So I will stop there but let me clarify that he has not pocketed the party in a dictatorial manner.

What can you say about the biggest rice farm coming up in Taraba?

Well, we are so excited about the possibilities and various opportunities that would come with it. Clearly, there would be more jobs for our people. But beyond that Taraba would be the answer to rice sufficiency in Nigeria. It is good to know that we would be helping stop the massive importation of rice that the country is currently witnessing. Taraba is not just about rice. It is also about the generation of power. The Mambilla Hydro-Electric project is our state. So somehow, the state would be contributing to also solve the power challenges of Nigeria. In tourism too, Taraba is hoping to take the lead in that sector. In our last World Tourism Day, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Chief Edem Duke, said that he believes that Taraba would soon start earning millions from tourism. The Mambilla Plateau is arguably one of the most beautiful places in Africa. Our fishing festival is one of the best on the continent.

But on top of all this is that our state is one of the most peaceful in Nigeria today. That is why our universities are expanding in terms of students’ intake. Many businesses are relocating to Taraba as a result of the peace and security. The effect is that the state is fast becoming an investor haven.