Taraba Anniversary : What Gov Suntai Told Me About Thugs – By Emmanuel Bello


I’m probably going to be like this all my life: always reminiscing about the good leadership late Governor Danbaba Suntai provided and the personal training I got from him as his media top man.

And today that Taraba state is 28 years, instead of looking to the future, I find myself sorrowfully looking to the past- the recent past as our people like to say. I find myself wondering what Taraba state would have looked like were Suntai still here.

On a day one should be celebrate his state, you wake up to news of thugs claiming too much closeness to men in power, even alleging sponsorship. For sometime now, Taraba state has become the center of blood letting. Big boys with muscles and thin cruel men with an amazing capacity to cause pains have suddenly become the new face of power in a convoluted development.

Powered by free money from Madrid and muscled by their alleged patrons in government, toughies have suddenly become the new stakeholders. Brutal, small minded but armed by slush funds, these are the new power brokers. You cross their paths at your perils.

They are now the grand custodian of democratic largesse. Dubiously generous , they also have a hold on the local populace who served them with a steady supply of loyalty and information. And, like in the celebrated case of Alhaji Hamisu Wadume, they also enjoy top covers from colluding security agents. Welcome to a state of the Robin Hoods.

Suntai never allowed Taraba to get to this place. As soon as the late urbane pharmacist became governor, he targetted thugs and the cruel hunks. He practically decimated them with even an enabling legislature that banned “praise singing and begging” in the state. Beyond legislation, he eschewed their presence in government fuctions, telling them to their faces that they are criminals and no more.

To set a personal example, he reduced the rascality associated with convoys, charging his outriders to tone down the intimidation associated with their activities. Suntai once famously stopped his convoy, stepped out of his car and gave the team a dressing down. He had been angry that they were over speeding and disturbing residents.

Not for him brutal looking “boys” licencised to kill as a sign of loyalty. He didn’t have a known enforcer prepared to die for him. The government before his had introduced all of that in a sensationally way with one top politicians who is now in the House of Representatives renowned for his brutal cruelity to opponents. Suntai ended the reign of tough men.

Now I was worried during his reelection bid in 2011. The opposition was attacking our campaign, tearing up posters and intimidating people. All the gangster toughies he’d banned got a welcome elsewhere and were now fighting back. At breakfast with the governor one day I muttered that  if he hadn’t banned thugs maybe we would have used them too now. I regretted saying that.

As soon as the words left my mouth, he gently lifted his silent face and gave me one of those his hot-cold looks and said, “I don’t believe in thugs. I have security agencies here and all I do is empower them. They work professionally. As for this election, it is not a do or die thing for me. If God destined me to win, if all the people and don’t want it, I’ll win. If it is not God’s will, it won’t happen should the entire state be singing my praise.” What a man!


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