Unforgettable Danbaba Suntai: Tribute To The Pharmacist, The Politician, The Pilot

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By Prof Ahmed Mora

The barrage of encomiums and eulogy from far and nearby many upon hearing the passing away of His Excellency, the late Pharmacist Danbaba Suntai were as many as the ingredients needed to prepare a cocktail of liquid pharmaceutical preparation; pharmacy being the deceased’s first love.

Hear Professor Gabriel E. Osuide, FPSN, FAS Professor of Pharmacology and the foundation Dean, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, ABU, Zaria, as well as pioneer DG and CEO of NAFDAC, when he learnt of the death of his former student, Pharm. Suntai as the Prof. is presently in London where he and his amiable wife,Mama Clementia are holidaying.

Our dear Ahmed Mora, Thank you for your information on the passing of our dear Governor Danbaba Suntai. May his soul rest in perfect peace. Ahmadu Bello University and pharmacy will never forget him. For me, it is a devastating blow as he was one of those determined to push pharmacy to greatest heights with funds, personal energy, exemplary character and his characteristic humility and professionalism now taken away too soon before most could learn, imbibe or emulate him maximally; May his soul rest in peace and May Almighty God comfort his family and encourage our pharmaceutical communities to always emulate his exemplary rules. Gabriel Ediale Osuide, FPSN, FAS.

In quick succession, Professor Festus Adio Ogunbona, FPSN, the former Chairman, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (2003 – 2007) and one time Deputy Vice Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, stated through whattsap to me with the following:-

May his sweet soul rest in perfect peace. Please pass our condolences to his wife and the family. We thank almighty Allah for giving him to us in the pharmacy profession.

The above tributes from these two erudite academics in pharmacy and also in the practice, one in NAFDAC and the other at the PCN says it all about the pharmacy professional that His Excellency, Pharm. Danbaba Suntai was. A 1984 graduate of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences of the great Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, the former Governor cut his teeth into politics and conquered wherever he planted his feet politically.

He was a local Government Chairman in Taraba State; a Chairman of a State parastatal; Honourable Commissioner for Health; Secretary to the State Government and eventually elected the Governor of Taraba State and was sworn in on 29th May, 2007 in Jalingo the State Capital, amidst many people from all walks of life.

The author of this tribute was privileged to witness the swearing-in of the first pharmacist in Nigeria’s history to be elected a Governor of a State and it pleases almighty God that the pharmacist was a product of the famous ABU, Zaria and from the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. His Excellency, Pharm. Danbaba Suntai never forgot his profession of pharmacy even after having attained his many political appointments.

This writer, then as the National Chairman of the Ahmadu Bello University Pharmacy Alumni Association (ABUPAA) led other members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Association to the “T.Y. Danjuma House”, the Taraba State Governor’s Lodge located in Asokoro, Abuja on Saturday, 18th August, 2007 to congratulate and rejoice with His Excellency, Governor Danbaba Suntai on having won the election as the Governor of Taraba State and his subsequent swearing-in. The Governor indicated the following in respect of the visit in the “ABUPAA News Magazine” a publication of the Ahmadu Bello University Alumni Association (October, 2011 edition): –

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“… when the National Executive Committee (NEC) members of the Ahmadu Bello University Pharmacy Alumni Association (ABUPAA) led by its Chairman, Pharm. A.T. Mora paid a courtesy visit on me at the Taraba Lodge, Asokoro on Saturday, 18th August, 2007, I was left with no doubt that we indeed have a vibrant Association. My feeling was later confirmed when I discovered through a publication by Professor Abdullahi Mahadi, a one-time Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria that the ABUPAA is the best and the most prominent of Faculty based Alumni Associations in the University …”

Indeed, the best was yet to come from the former Governor. On Saturday, 29th May, 2008, the ABUPAA organized the 2008 Homecoming Fund Raising and the 2nd Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Association at the Pa Ishaku Lecture Theatre, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, ABU, Zaria and His Excellency, Pharm. Suntai was invited as the Special Guest of Honour. Professor Gabriel E. Osuide was the Chairman of the occasion.

Out of the four (4) projects carefully selected by the NEC of the ABUPAA and laid on the table during the Opening Ceremony for funding, His Excellency, Governor Suntai picked the twin 250-Seater Lecture Theatre project for implementing and said it should be named after Professor Gabriel Osuide, the foundation Dean of the Faculty and a father to all pharmacy graduates in the North. Professor Gabriel E. Osuide was to later serve ABU, Zaria as Dean, Postgraduate School; Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) and Acting Vice Chancellor during his 18 year serve in the great University from 1970 to 1988.

The Pa Ishaku Lecture Theatre jammed packed with members of the ABUPAA from all parts of the country erupted into frenzy. Some shed tears for a well deserved immortalization for Professor Osuide by the Governor, Pharm. Danbaba Suntai,

Work began in November 2008 and on Saturday, 15th October, 2011, the twin 250 – Seater Capacity Lecture Theatre named Gabriel Osuide Lecture Theatre (GOLT I and II) was commissioned by His Excellency, Pharmacist, Danbaba Suntai, the Governor of Tabara State built and donated to the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, by the State Government under the auspices of the ABU Alumni Association (ABUPAA).

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Gabriel Osuide Lecture Theatre (GOLT I and II) build by Danbaba Suntai
Gabriel Osuide Lecture Theatre (GOLT I and II)
Unforgettable Danbaba Suntai: Tribute To The Pharmacist, The Politician, The Pilot 2

The very solid edifice gulfed N300 million (Three hundred Million Naira only) and till date is the largest single intervention initiated and implemented by any Alumnus of ABU, Zaria outside of TETFund, CBN and NNPC interventions. States such as Kebbi, Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara have all initiated one project or the other in different parts of the great University, but none is as big as that by the Taraba State Government in building the GOLT I & II in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

All the former Deans of the Faculty were in attendance including the Vice Chancellor of ABU Professor Abdullahi Mustapha (2010 – 2015) and who served as Dean of the Faculty from 1986 – 1988. Professor Mustapha was a student of Professor Osuide.

Other former Deans, all of whom spoke glowingly about Professor Osuide, who was the Special Guest of Honour were Professor C.O.N Wambebe (1982 – 1986); Professor P.F. Olurinola (1988 – 1992); Professor J.A. Onaolapo (1994 – 1997); Professor E.M. Abdurahman (1997 – 2001 and 2006 to 2007);Professor Haruna A. Kaita (2001 – 2006); Professor Mohammed Ibrahim Sule (2007 – 2011) and Professor Magaji Garba (2011 – 2015). Only Dr. Amos Bangudu, who was the Dean from 1992 – 1994 was absent as he had relocated to the USA long ago after his tenure as Dean. ABU, Zaria and essecially Faculty cannot forget His Excellency, Pharm. Danbaba Suntai for his passion to his Faculty and the University generally.

During the commissioning it would be recalled His Excellency, Pharm. Danbaba Suntai came with a retinue of officials from the Taraba State and Local Government establishments for them to witness the biggest intervention initiated and completed in the largest University in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa by any Alumnus on behalf of a State Government. Taraba is in the North, and ABU, Zaria was built by the Premier of Northern Region, the late Sir Ahmadu Bello (Sardaunan Sokoto) of blessed memory for the North and the World.

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It was during a visit to Jalingo, the Capital of Taraba State when the Governor informed this author that he had always wanted to be a pilot since his days as a student in ABU, Zaria. The Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Palladan, Zaria was the most obvious institution for the former Governor to enroll, which he did, and in record time he obtained a Licence to pilot an aircraft from the College.

It was while flying into Yola on 25th October, 2012 that his airplane crashed near the airport. He survived the crash, but became incapacitated due to the headinjuries he sustained during the crash. The former Governor battled and finally passed on in far away Orlando, Florida, USA where he was receiving treatment leaving behind his wife, the former First Lady of Taraba State (2007 – 2015), Mrs. Hauwa D. Suntai and children.

In officially announcing the death of the former Governor of Taraba State, His Excellency Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku, the present Governor, and also a distinguished Alumnus of the great ABU, Zaria had this to say:-

The immediate past Governor contributed immensely to the growth and development of Taraba State.He transformed Taraba significantly, from its hitherto rural status to modern day Taraba, with infrastructural development. He created the framework that made it possible for us to continue to provide the best for our people. His candour and decisiveness are still fresh in the minds of most Tarabans. Making Taraba great was his mission and mission.

As we continue to mourn this great Nigerian, a distinguished Pharmacist, astute politician and a pilot, we are consoled for what he’s done to the Nation, in Taraba State, in ABU, Zaria and especially in touching the lives of many people wherever he went.

Pharmacists in Nigeria have lost an Icon, a dogged politician like no other before him; a man of God who believed in destiny, a soft spoken and ever smiling personality. We thank almighty God for giving him to the pharmacy profession and essentially as a graduate of the great ABU Zaria and may the gentle soul of His Excellency, Pharmacist Danbaba Danfulani Suntai rest in perfect peace, Amen.

Ahmed Mora is a pharmacist, and the National President of the ABU Alumni Association; as well as the Chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Ahmadu Bello University Pharmacy Alumni Association (ABUPAA); and presently Professor of Pharmacy Practice at the Dora Akunyili College of Pharmacy, Igbinedion University, Okada (IUO), Okada, Edo State.

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Chila Andrew Aondofa

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