'SUNTAI SHOULD BE ALLOWED TAKE A DIGNIFIED EXIT FROM POWER' - by: Mary Wilson
Mary Wilson, a public affairs commentator and medical doctor in the United States, in this piece, argues that Taraba State Governor Danbaba Suntai deserves his rest outside of power
No greater disservice could have been done to Governor Danbaba Suntai than the poorly choreographed, C-rated movie of his return to work than what we saw at the weekend. First, let me commend the wife for a job well done. She must have been through emotional hell and back on account of the man’s air accident and of course the touch-and-go health crisis for a while. From Jalingo to Abuja to Germany and then the USA, Mrs Suntai ought to be commended.
Any woman, who has been through the hell of caring for a terminally or critically ill spouse, will be able to identify with this woman. The emotional toll is beyond description. The fear, the uncertainty, the trauma of watching one’s husband slip in and out of coma is not what anyone should trivialise. I am sure Mrs Turai Yar’adua knows what I am talking about.
It throws a woman into grief, fear of the unknown, pain of loss. Stages of grief are not what any sane or normal human being wants to deal with. I went through it five years ago when my husband was in stage 4 of congenital heart failure. I got stuck in stage 2, stage of denial. Even when I knew that we were counting down, when ejection fraction was less than 20 per cent, I still refused to accept it was over. I tried to play God. I was not willing to accept the inevitable. And guess what, I practise medicine in the best part of the world. It was just human!
So, in a way, I empathise with Mrs Suntai. However, that is where it ends. I was not and still not the spouse of a high profile public official, so when my spouse finally slipped away while I was not looking, I calmly walked away without playing Hercules. In my case, I walked into the Emergency room with a heart rate of more than 180/min. I ended up in ICU a few days later. I was inconsolable. I was afraid of being alone. I was distraught beyond words.
So, when I saw pictures of Suntai as he de-planed in Abuja, I knew someone was being mischievous, insane and indecent. The pictures of him as he alighted from the plane did more damage to him than whatever they meant to achieve. For four years, I was a trauma person. I cared for those boys from the fields of Iraq and Afghanistan, and those demons were awakened as I saw Suntai. His gaze into space, his look of a deer in a headlight, showed a man who was struggling with post-traumatic brain injury (PTBI) The fact that he needed two to three people to coordinate his gait was a damning evidence against him, evidence that he was not ready to be a state chief executive.
So, what is Post TBI? They are symptoms patients experience for weeks, months, years at times; post traumatic brain injury is secondary to brain injury. Simple. Some of these symptoms may have manifested, others will present over the years. Post-TBI causes a variety of symptoms beginning with cognitive deficiency as we saw in Suntai in Abuja. His handler was obviously whispering to him, as he de-planed, trying to re- orient him as to where he was.
The man was definitely not cognizant of his location. He stared into space, he looked surprised, and he had the look of a deer in a headlight. He was wondering where he was. He exhibited cognitive deficit. Indeed, if compelled to do more, he would not have been able to do so. Indeed, his wave was something that must have been practised severally while in rehab in preparation for the charade that they put up in Abuja. These people could not go lower than that even if they tried.
PTBI will present with sudden irritability, mood swings, sudden outburst of speech, sometimes inappropriate, memory loss, disjointed speech. Hopefully, this man, who is obviously not part of this caper, will not be subjected to public humiliation while his handlers are trying to prove a sick macabre point. He will be thoroughly embarrassed in public and will make him slide into deeper depression which is one of the signs of PTBI.
Mood swing, fatigue, seizure, incontinence of bladder and bowel is not uncommon in PTBI. Seizure, both grand and petit may present. Perceptual motor disorder, somatosensory disorder is not uncommon in PTBI patients. No matter how we may want to slice it, this man has no capacity to occupy the office of governor any longer. His pictures on arrival in Nigeria totally nailed him. Unfortunately, there is no established cure for PTBI.
There are treatments to alleviate some of the effects of PTBI. Because they are not able to articulate their own needs or symptoms, medicine has a tough time managing them sometimes. PTBI patients suffer confusion, they are tongue tied as Suntai is presenting. Because, the public does not have access to his medical profile, we can only safe guess that he is in the sub acute stage of his TBI. His neurologic presentation, gait, albeit unsteady and ocular motor presentation amongst other things, are the parameters used for putting him in the sub acute stage of PTBI.
Because of his extended hospital stay, it is obvious he suffered severe closed diffuse axonal injury. Symptomatology associated with such injuries was what we saw on his return drama to Nigeria. Needed rest, isolation from his welcoming crowd, close gait and speech monitoring indicated ataxia, (movement disorder) speech disorder (fluent and non fluent) which his handlers were trying to hide, Aphasia which he no doubt suffers will certainly prevent him from addressing his State House of Assembly and was why he did not address the press nor take questions from them at the airport. I feel like screaming stop this mess at his handlers.
The way it is, this man is being manipulated. He is like a puppet on a string manipulated by evil puppeteers. The right thing to do is to leave him alone to conclude or rather continue with his medical therapy. He has made history as a governor and until the end of the world, his name will be in our history books as being the governor of Taraba State at one time. There is no need forcing this unwilling, unconscious horse to the stream. Being alert with poor neuro score is not enough criterions to manage a state as the chief executive.
Hopefully, that will register with Prof. Jerry Gana. Suntai has no capacity or capability to rule a state anymore. It is painful, it is difficult, but it is the truth. His handlers and the evil people in the PDP can deny it all they like, but that is the truth. It has nothing to do with politics. It does not matter who rules the state. What matters is probity. We have obviously not learnt anything from the Yar’adua debacle.
It is only in Nigeria where people are free to be off shore governors and presidents. The crude nature with which we lust for power is beyond human comprehension.
Power belongs to God alone, and it is given to people to hold in sacred trust. Nothing more. But because access to power translates to grand scale theft of public funds in Nigeria, it becomes a do-or-die affair.
Suntai should be allowed to take a dignified exit from power for his sake, that of his family and most of all Taraba State.
This piece first appeared in The Nation newspaper on Wednesday, August 28, 2013