- Ishaku, Ekweremadu, Obi mourn
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja and Wole Ayodele in Jalingo
After a five-year battle with the injuries he sustained in a plane crash, former Taraba State governor, Mr. Dambaba Danfulani Suntai, died wednesday at his home in Orlando, Florida in the United States, where he was undergoing rehabilitation.
The former governor, who flew the light plane that crashed on October 25, 2012, never fully recovered from the accident.
Mr. Emmanuel Bello, a former Commissioner for Information in the state, broke the news of the death.
He 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 to become a pilot at the Nigerian College of Aviation in Zaria in 2010 and was licensed to fly, a passion he was reported to have enjoyed immensely.
He had flown several successful flights with his private aircraft even while piloting the affairs of Taraba as governor.
Prior to his plane crash in 2012, Suntai had been flown to Germany for medical treatment 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.
However, he was to survive a more life-threatening incident, when a private plane he was piloting crashed in Yola, the Adamawa State capital.
After receiving initial treatment at the Adamawa Standard German Hospital in Yola, he was 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 treatment.
After 10 months of treatment overseas, Suntai finally returned to the country on August 23, 2013, with his aides claiming that he was well enough to run the affairs of the state.
After weeks of political intrigues in Taraba over his health status, it was revealed that the former governor was not healthy enough to live in Nigeria without adequate treatment, much less govern the state.
He was subsequently flown abroad again for further treatment, even as his then deputy, Garba Umar, was empowered by the Taraba State House of Assembly to 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.
Suntai was born on June 10, 1961 in Suntai village in Bali Local Government Area of the state.
He attended Federal Government College, Kano, between 1975 and1980, from which he proceeded to the School of Basic Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and was later admitted to study Pharmacy in the same institution, graduating in 1984.
The news of his death threw Jalingo, the Taraba capital, and the rest of the state into mourning, as people gathered in groups to discuss his death and found it difficult to face the reality of his passing.
He was regarded as the architect of the modern Taraba due to his focus on infrastructure development, which changed the face of the state from a rural to a fledging state.
Governor Darius Ishaku, in a press statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Hassan Mijinyawa said he received the news of his death with great shock.
He commiserated with the Suntai family and the entire people of the state over the loss and prayed to God to grant them the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
Ishaku described Suntai as a great gift and asset who contributed immensely to the development of the state by creating the framework that made it possible for him to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people of the state.
He noted that his predecessor’s candour and decisiveness were still fresh in the minds of the people, particularly the love he displayed to all manner of men in the state.
In the same vein, Senate Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha expressed deep shock over the death of Suntai, saying it was a rude shock.
Also reacting to the death of his erstwhile colleague, the former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi said Suntai’s death was painful and prayed to God to grant him eternal rest, and to grant to his family and the people of Taraba State the fortitude to accept His will.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, described as an incalculable loss to the nation, the death of the former governor of Taraba State.
Ekweremadu said Suntai gave a good account of himself as a politician, public administrator and party man.
He 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 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, a man of peace, 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.”
Ekweremadu condoled with the family of the late politician, government and the people of Taraba State, as well as the entire nation.
He also prayed for the peaceful repose of the soul of the deceased.