Silvanus Giwa, the Senior Special Assistant on Media to Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State, in this interview, denies allegations that former Governor Danbaba Suntai, who was involved in an air crash, has been abandoned by the state government. He disclosed that Suntai is currently at a USA-based rehab centre and insists that government is footing the bills. Excerpts.
After a long legal battle following the 2015 governorship election in Taraba State, the Supreme Court eventually ruled in favour of your boss; how did he receive the judgment?
He received the judgment with great joy. This was because the legal tussle lasted about six to eight months, during which time my principal felt he would have done one or two things for the state. He had said he was on a rescue mission, so after the Supreme Court judgment he said it was time to shed our garments of war and embrace peace in order to turn the state around. He has extended an olive branch to his opponents; especially the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Aisha Alhassan, asking her to close ranks with him for the overall development of the state.
The APC governorship candidate appears to believe that she won that election, the Supreme Court verdict notwithstanding; she believes it was a stolen mandate…
With due respect to Senator Alhassan, I beg to disagree that the mandate of my principal was a stolen one. This was an election that was not contested once but twice, and twice it was won by Architect Darius Ishaku. It was a litmus test to prove to the world that my principal won that election. She said she was the actual winner but if she was indeed the actual winner she would have won in the re-run election. She still lost and Darius Ishaku’s votes this time around were even higher. She only won in five local governments while my principal had majority of the votes in the sixteen local government areas. So how could she claim that she won the election? Nevertheless we don’t want to join issues now that my principal has told the world that everybody should forget about individual differences and come together to ensure the development of Taraba State. The governor even enjoined her, as a minister from the state, to partner with the government to ensure that Taraba State moves forward. In any contest there must be a winner and a loser; now that the Supreme Court has declared her a loser I think the good thing to do is to accept it in good faith.
A major bone of contention in that election was the primary election. Although the Supreme Court had ruled that Senator Aisha Alhassan lacked the locus standi to challenge the PDP governorship primary, other aspirants under the aegis of 2015 Taraba aspirants Forum have vowed to challenge the other elections…
I am sure you are referring to the forum headed by Rimande Bitrus. As far as we are concerned, he is not a member of the Peoples Democratic Party. In 2007, he contested election on the platform of the defunct CPC. After four years, he claimed to be governorship candidate of the defunct AD, then he eventually came to the APC. Even in the APC, we didn’t see his poster but rather saw them on PDM as a senatorial candidate. As you can see, he has been junketing from one party to another and we don’t take that kind of a person seriously. He was never a stable member of the PDP; in fact we don’t know him as an aspirant or somebody who contested on the platform of the PDP.
What specific measures have your boss taken to reconcile aggrieved parties in the 2015 elections in Taraba State?
He has made a lot of moves at reconciling aggrieved parties. As we speak, he is very ready to receive anybody from the opposition. He said rather than turn Taraba into a theatre of war, it is better to put heads together and make Taraba a better place. Therefore his doors are wide open to any member of the opposition who provides constructive criticisms; not those based on personal aggrandizement.
Not much has been heard about the former governor, Danbaba Suntai, who was involved in an air crash. Some people are alleging that he was used by the so called Taraba cabal and dumped after the 2015 elections; what is the current status of the former governor?
For the benefit of those who may wish to know, Danbaba Danfulani Suntai is in a rehabilitation centre in the USA and reports made available to us indicate that there is remarkable improvement in his health condition. He is not a vegetable as some people are alleging. He recognizes his people; he speaks with them and reads newspapers. Remember I was part and parcel of his government and I can confirm that he has tremendously improved. He is just resting and very soon he will come home.
What about allegations that the Taraba State government has abandoned him?
How can they say Danbaba has been abandoned? The state government is taking care of his medical bills. It is therefore wrong for anybody to say he has been abandoned. There are some family issues government is involved in that are not for public consumption. As far as my boss is concerned Danbaba’s health is being taken care of and none of his family members has complained.
Do you know how much the state government has so far expended on Danbaba’s health?
I don’t have the records but I do know that the governor is committed to his welfare.
So much has been said about the Taraba cabal; are you aware of the cabal?
I don’t believe in it. Any politician that finds himself in another place can easily say there is a cabal. We know people in APC who have decided to come to PDP and vice versa. This so called cabal you are talking about is one family. The moment somebody feels offended he raises alarm that there is a cabal here. I feel that those who talk about a cabal in Taraba are people who have decided to leave PDP for greener pastures in another party; they stand aside and say those people in the PDP are a cabal.
Recently, there were reports that your state government suspended some traditional rulers for allegedly allocating parcels of land to strangers to settle; what is the true story?
The true story is that a lot of misconceptions arose as a result of the action of my principal. There were security reports that some people were migrating to Taraba and occupying lands that belong to IDPs. Even a serving senator also raised an alarm. My principal was saddened that while he was busy encouraging the IDPs to come back home, some people were busy coming with trailer loads of cattle to settle on the land that originally belonged to others. The original owners of the land cannot continue to stay elsewhere as IDPs; definitely they would return home one day. My principal only raised concerns that some traditional rulers were trying to encourage migrants to come and occupy lands that belong to our people. Even our Fulani were affected; some of their cattle were rustled. There was no religious undertone in his concerns.
What is the current situation of IDPs in Taraba?
The IDP situation in Taraba is worrisome, which was why my principal called on the federal government to assist. The percentage of IDPs in Taraba is higher than that of other states and they should be given more attention so that at the end of the day they can conveniently go back to their different states of origin.