Governors, Private Jets and Public Accountability

The plane that crashed and Governor Danbaba Suntai 
Amid widespread speculations of death and a flurry of condolence messages, an official statement  issued by the Special Assistant to the Nigerian Minister of Aviation on Media, Mr. Joe Obi, clarified that no one died in the plane crash involving the Governor of Taraba State, Mr. Danbaba Suntai. The governor and  five other passengers, including the governor’s security detail, survived the crash, though they are reported to be lying in critical condition at a hospital in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city. 

The aircraft, Cessna 208, which belongs to the State Governor departed Jalingo, Taraba State for Yola on Thursday evening and last reported contact with the Yola Control Tower (1720Z) at 38 miles estimating landing at 1730Z. In addition to being a pharmacist, Taraba governor is also a licensed pilot. He got his license from Aviation School, Zaria in 2010.

As soon as news broke out, especially on the social media, that a serving governor had crashed in his private jet, attention instantly shifted from the crash and the likelihood of survival and spiralled to full-blown unsympathetic outrage.  The reason for the outrage is not far-fetched:  Taraba is ranked among the poorest states in Nigeria with a high population of almajiris (child street beggars). The governor is also among the leading voices clamouring for increasing revenue allocation while currrent state resources remain largely unaccounted for. How could it be possible that a pharmacist-trained governor could afford to buy acquire luxury private jets, build private air strips while majority of citizens under his watch live in abjectly poor conditions? 

Here is a random collection of the questions young Nigerians, especially the northern youth, are asking: 

Kuti Sofumade Private jet ownership is not bad, but owning it at the expense of an abject state of a people is evil. I have need to move around Taraba very often in every year…the poverty and decay there is mind-boggling. 

Valentine Uche Chukwuma It didn’t even take 10 minutes for some to start mocking Governor Suntai over his reported tragic death with some even saying that he deserves such a tragic death since he did not travel by road. Someone’s politics should not turn Nigerians into insensitive and inhumane creations. It is not who we are and it is not who we should be. 

Iwongo Suzanne Ode Nigerians are not insensitive. It is not in our DNA to rejoice at someone’s misfortune or pain. It’s just that people are disillusioned with our brand of democracy and leadership “skills” of those charged with responsibilities to lead. And that is what you are reading in comments (on the social media). If you have been to Taraba State, you may understand. He has an aircraft to whisk him here and there..I am sure sometimes for pleasure flying too. I have been to Taraba. I travelled from Jalingo to Mambilla in Gembu, very far and it was horrible. Mambilla is beautiful but no access road to get there. Very narrow bridges, so narrow that two vehicles can’t be on them. One has to wait for the other to crossover. Same story within Jalingo. Bad road. It is sad it happened, but our leaders should know, anything can happen anywhere and anytime.

Shuaibu Mohammed  Considering the poor socio-economic status of most of these Northern states where even basic infrastructure has become elusive, one is bound to ask where did Governor Danbaba Suntai get the money to buy a private jet? Did he inherit it before becoming a governor? If not,  how much has he been earning from his first term tenure to date? Does his earnings during these years equal the amount of an aircraft? Was he a big name in the business circle like Dangote, e.t.c? If this answer could be in the affirmative, then he probably deserves a personal carrier. However, if the answer is the contrary, then it must have been through the usual corrupt enrichment by embezzling public funds(lootocracy as someone once said). 

The perplexing thing about this story is that it is “GOD’s exposure”. The incident has attracted the attention of many Tarabans whose lives have been worsened by unabated official corruption that has gone viral especially in most of the Northern states, other than may be, Kano State. And the docile nature of common citizens has further been holding us back from demanding how public funds have been appropriated by the ruling political class in such underdeveloped states where roads remain dilapidated, heath service not functional, potable drinking water is inadequate and many more. The worst of all is the insecurity situation that has so far, defied every solution including millitary actions in the name JTF every where. 

I believe Boko Haram will never go away easily because this pathetic trend of total neglect, and failure to provide basic needs of the citizens will always serve as a fertile ground for ready-made recruits into dissatisfied groups that now hover everywhere in the North. The Northern commoners’ voices must be heard if we seriously want change for a better tomorrow.

Remi Adeoye That is very tragic. The death of anyone is sad. The death of an elected governor is more poignant because it will affect the lives of millions of citizens one way or the other. …Fact is life has becoming meaningless to many Nigerians. We have lost our sense of humanity. It means nothing to many that a father, husband, bread winner, religious or community leader has died. All people see is if he is a politician he must be a thief!!! in such atmosphere how will good people ever go near that vocation called politics in Nigeria.

Babagana Gashi Mustapha These Governors do not see themselves as accountable to anyone. Did you not read about one Ahmed Abbas who was arrested for posting on Facebook that the Governor of Bauchi spent so much money to give his son a wedding pressumed to be talk of the town and accused the Gov of spending public funds? The poor guy could be spending his Sallah in government custody just for stating the obvious. Those who challenge them end up being jailed. Sule Lamido did the same during the last elections. He sent a father and a son to jail because they stood against him. That is the level of oppression we go through. People are afraid of them, with the level of poverty and illiteracy, how many can stand up to these people? Those who can or should are either tagged BokoHaram or are their cronies. The poor have no chance against these people.

Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri I think northern youths should speak up and challenge the growing oppressive tendencies of their leaders. I notice a strange silence on the part of northerners when issues bordering on governance and accountability are raised. You can’t effectively reverse the situation by keeping quiet! I’m afraid the present crop of northern youths have to do so much more. The silence, the inaction, the apathy are all issues they must overcome and take their destinies in their own hands.

This is 21st century!

Nsikan-George Emana Do you think the northern youth are ready to upset the status quo? Look some people are simply born with a tendency to be in a servitude. some are programmed to be sycophants and dependent for life! Unfortunately, many of them are content with eating the crumbs falling off the tables of political leaders, and that is why we hear banters like “Rankadede”, “carry go”, Its a pity. 

Shuaibu Mohammed The once vigourous farming and artisan/craftmen Northerners have been reduced to bunch of lazy bones all these years because of the erroneous belief that “my brother, my friend, my sister, my uncle, my classmate, e.t.c” syndrome will make them attain their life’s goal(s). Things have now changed from the “brothers keepers” status of the Northern elitists to “perpetual servitude without rewards”, hence the tidal wave of the many undefinable crisis that now transcends everyone’s imagination. The consequence of this is the total disrespect to all leadership forms, including the traditional institutions once revered by all. The reason being the average Northerner does not trust these leadership any more (consider the post election violence where the V.P’s house, Emir of kano’s palace, and many others set on fire apart from the many killed). Indeed, they now view them as not trustworthy, but also not worth their respect any more.

Anita Mute Awuku Please can Nigerians ask where he got private jet from? His wages, abi na inheritance?

Segun Melchizedek Edward II He (Governor Danbaba) and his younger brother, Dauda, at the Protocol Office are unrepentant thieves. He bought that plane from stolen funds when he became governor. they dupe you while praying with you. Very heartless animals.
Uche Oputa He hasn’t seen anything yet.In fact, he is lucky he is alive to tell the story. A big ntooo to him.

Arugha Etuwewe If he survived, he should be visited by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). If he died, the rest of his ill-gotten wealth should be confiscated. He wont need it where he flew to.

 Photo credit: The Punch

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