Benue: Gov Alia’s Holy Communion

What began like a word on the street has suddenly metamorphosed into a full-blown war between the Benue State Governor, Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia, and some critical stakeholders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.

As the crisis continues to eat deeper into the heart and soul of the party in the state, accusing fingers are pointing at the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator George Akume as one of the big masquerades behind it.

Early signs of the cold war between the SGF and the governor manifested with insinuations and innuendoes in the build-up to elect the Speaker of the House of Assembly.

While the SGF supported one of his former aides, Mrs Becky Orpin, Governor Alia, deployed the state machinery for Aondona Dajoh, who eventually won the speakership.

During that election, the state chairman of the Benue APC, Austin Agada led Akume’s team which included Senator Titus Zam, Terhemen Tarzoor, Mike Msuuan, and others to give solidarity to Becky Orpin.

But at the end of the election, none of Akume’s nominees emerged as a principal officer of the House of Assembly.

Besides, Governor Alia was alleged to have further disagreed with the choice of Akume to make Steve Ugbah the Secretary to the State Government.

Furthermore, the appointment of Paul Biam as his Chief of Staff was said to be against Akume’s advice.

Again, the governor was said to have sacked Akume’s sister-in-law, Mimi Orubibi as chairman of the Benue Inland Revenue Service (BIRS) and appointed an acting chairman for the Board.

These acts by the governor, according to political observers in the state, further amplified the cold war by opening the door for other chieftains of the party like Senator Jack Gyado, Chief Simon Shango, and Abua Chagba, a former of Gboko Local Government Area, who were abinitio, against the emergence of the governor as the party’s candidate, to take advantage by escalating the crisis.

As of today, the party in the state is divided among supporters of the SGF, who is the APC leader in Benue, and those loyal to Governor Hyacinth Alia.

Despite the frosty relationship, the two leaders had dismissed the issue of the rift between them, describing it as the handiwork of political jobbers.

Senator Akume speaking through his representative at a stakeholder meeting of the party held at the Government House, Makurdi said he remained a faithful servant and ambassador of the state at the federal level.

On his part, Governor Alia, who appreciated the party for reposing confidence in him, promised that he would struggle hard to restore all the glories of the state.

But current happenings in the state chapter of the APC are clear evidence that all is not well between the two leaders.

The recent suspension of all the 23 elected local government chairmen and their councilors in the state, based on the recommendation of the House of Assembly and the appointment of a caretakers committee in the third-tier government, is seen as the climax of the Cold War.

This was quickly followed by the suspension of four members of the House known as leaders of the Group of 22 or G-22, who allegedly kicked against the inauguration of the LG Caretaker Committees for the 21 LGA.

The House Majority Leader, Saater Tiseer, said the suspended lawmakers were engaged in acts of sabotage against the House.

They are Solomon Gyila, representing Gwer West State Constituency; Douglass Akya, representing Makurdi South; Dyako Ashwa, representing Konshisha State Constituency, and Anthony Agom, representing Okpokwu State Constituency.

The decision to suspend the local government chairmen followed a letter from Gov Hyacinth Alia, dated June 14, 2023, requesting the House to investigate the incomes and expenditures of the 23 LG chairmen of the state.

In the letter, Governor Alia informed the House that he had received a report on the incomes and expenditures of the LG chairmen from February to April 2023, as submitted by themselves, and wished the House to investigate it for necessary recommendations.

The suspension of the LG chairmen triggered reactions at the federal level where an opposition Senator, Abba Moro representing Benue South senatorial district on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), moved the Senate to stop the allocations accrued to the 23 LG.

Moro had tabled the issue at the Senate, accusing the governor Alia-led administration of illegally dissolving the elected councils and replacing them with caretaker committees.

The Senate had based on Moro’s motion, urged the Federal Government to withhold federal allocations for the state’s 23 LGs until the elected local government councils were restored.

This was quickly followed by the dishonourable and disgusting act of a House of Representatives member from the state, Philip Agbese,  who removed Governor Alia’s portrait from his office.

To further deepen the crisis, the Benue State chapter of the APC claimed it had uncovered a plot by some officials of the state government to sponsor a large-scale protest against President Bola Tinubu

The party, in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Daniel Ihomun, alleged the protest is an effort to discourage the president from giving effect to the Senate’s resolution stopping the release of funds to local government caretaker committees in Nigeria.

This plot has been deeply hatched and their first experimental step was the call on the party Chairman, Austin Agada, to resign without advancing any genuine reason.

“The party views this act of sabotage as portending grave danger to the unity of the state and the party of people who claim APC membership and are working under an APC state government would undermine their president, the Senate president, and the SGF in an open protest in their quest to stifle the hands of government on a matter of law.

“Much as the organizers are free to express themselves, taking steps that would embarrass Mr. President and his administration is unacceptable and must be halted,” the party said in the statement.

Worried by this ugly and sad development in the state, selected elders and stakeholders of the party including former Senate President, Ameh Ebute; Senator Barnabas Gemade; Joseph Akagerger; and General Lawrence Onoja among others made unsuccessful attempts to restore sanity.

Meanwhile, Senator Ebute had while expressing his frustration, blamed the crisis on the quest for control of the party structure in the state.

“The aim of our meeting was to broker peace and the people between which we should make peace are adamant and did not accept our decisions.

“I cannot imagine that eminent members of a political party met with the governor and called on people to come to the table for discussion and they refused; I am surprised.

“I want to tell you that the problem of our party, APC, in Benue State is that of leadership of the party. Who is the leader of the party in Benue? That is the main issue.

“The whole issue boils down to who is the leader of the party in Benue State, and I am sure that before the end of the month, the party at the national level will make a pronouncement as to who is the leader of the party in the state.

“But what is the position in other states of the Federation where we have a governor in power? The governor of that state is the leader of the party in the State.”

Unfortunately, this is happening at a time when the state is fairly represented at the federal level with the appointment of Senator George Akume as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), with Benue State’s federal legislators belonging to the majority party in the Federal legislature including a minister.

When this favorable representation at the Federal level complements an incorruptible, trustworthy, focused, progressive-minded, development-oriented Governor at the state level, what more does the state need to move forward?

What is required is for the political leaders in the state to conduct themselves in a way that will be beneficial to the suffering people of the state regardless of their political and personal interests.

They need to complement themselves and develop mutual respect for positions and offices. They need to put egos aside and surrender personal interests to those of the common people.

If Benue State fails to seize this golden opportunity to move to the next level, the world will not only see them as unserious people, but they will also be mocked and laughed at.

So far, the governor has demonstrated within the six months of his administration that he is the man the state has been yearning for.

Although the Rev. Fr. no longer administers holy Communion from the altar of God, he is doing that at the Government House in terms of massive capital and infrastructural development, job creation, and poverty alleviation, which is drawn from his blueprint tagged “Strategic Development Plan for a Greater Benue”, whose seven pillars will serve as the foundation for a more prosperous and equitable society.

Within a short period of his administration, the state has witnessed prompt payment of salaries, pension and gratuities, construction, rehabilitation, and opening up of over 23 notable roads across the state spanning varying degrees of kilometers.

Broad comprehensive and renovation work at the State House of Assembly, the state Secretariat, the Teaching Hospital, training of youths in Information Technology to boost youth creativity and job creation among several other ongoing people-oriented projects in the state.

The question then is, if the governor has achieved these feats within a short period of his administration, then why the fight? Or is anyone in the state afraid of his Holy Communion?

The state political gladiators must realize that as far as the governance of the state is concerned, Governor Alia is the holder of the people’s mandate at the moment. The buck stops at his table and it is he who must take the blame for any wrong decision or action and credit for the positives that come out of his administration.

Governor Alia should, therefore, be accorded the right to breathe and take the final decision in the event of any disagreement or conflict of interest, opinion, choice, or perspective. After all, he is a complete governor like any other governor before him in the state or elsewhere in the country with full powers and authority.

On his part, the governor must give honour and respect to deserving citizens of the state. He must not always dismiss with a wave of the hand the legitimate demands, interests, opinions, and advice of the state’s critical political stakeholders merely to prove that he is in charge.


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