By Terna Gundu
Barely two days after the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared Rev Fr. Hyacinth Alia as the winner of the governorship election in Benue state, the social media became awash with the picture of a car with a special plate bearing the inscription “Governor-Elect of Benue state”. That was arguably, the first of such recklessness in the history of Nigerian democracy. One would have ordinarily expected a man not given to desperation to exercise some restraint and wait for his inauguration before parading himself as the man in-charge when there is an existing leadership.
As if that was not enough, the suspended Catholic Priest has embarked on a journey to topple the current administration of Governor Samuel Ortom which is to last till May 29, 2023. Alia’s brazen and callous desire to have government agencies and their heads operate according to his instructions clearly portrays him as one overambitious man whose indiscretion has blindfolded him.
It is no longer news too that Fr. Alia had in a communication to the Managing Director, Benue Investment and Property Company Limited instructed the MD to stop being answerable to Governor Ortom who is not just his (the MD) appointor, but his boss at least till May 29, 2023. This is in addition to several other calls and comments by the governor-elect who seems to have suspended the constitution and stripped the incumbent of his powers to give directives and run the government.
Alia and his sponsors have never hidden their hatred for Governor Ortom who they are eagerly waiting to crush with vendetta after he serves out his tenure of office. But sitting the constitution on its head when the governor is yet to complete his stewardship at the helm is quite unfortunate and uncalled for.
Surprisingly, some supposedly discerning minds have attempted rationalizing and even justifying Alia’s undemocratic and unconstitutional moves to stage a coup to remove Ortom when he (Alia) has just a little more time to take over and execute whatever is the hatchet plan they – he and his benefactor-godfather, Senator George Akume – have against Ortom.
It is common knowledge that the governor-elect is a novice in public administration and a political neophyte who has no idea of the terrain he has strayed into. That makes it imperative for him to be more interested in watching things carefully and selecting a team that shall help him deliver on his monumental political promises. But he is rather more interested in going into office to fight his godfather’s battle with Ortom and nail the governor for personal, but unnecessary grudges he (Alia) holds against Ortom.
History is replete with leaders who assumed office with the best of intentions to serve the people, but veered off and performed so abysmally even when they didn’t dedicate their energy to fighting others albeit avoidable. One then imagines what shall become of an inexperienced leader of Alia’s stature whose major intention is to come into office for a fight and not to fulfill his ambitious and apparently unachievable campaign promises. The haste for a fight is clearly the rationale behind the incoming governor’s desperation to have Ortom out of office before May 29.
Sadly, the man who has shown inordinate ambition to take office at all cost as seen in the questionable manner he got the governorship ticket of the APC and how his party militarized the polls to catapult him to victory is still campaigning after the election. Fr. Alia has not told the Benue people anything new after the election; rather, he keeps making those unrealistic promises which public affairs analysts have observed that would set him up against the people early in his administration.
One would have expected Alia who is on an unfamiliar turf to calm down and take up the mantle of leadership before saying more; but he prefers to continue in his usual false rating of himself by attempting to snatch power illegally from the existing constitutionally recognised government in the state. He probably wants to enjoy little authority before May 29, as reports indicate that his godfather has already made all appointments and has positioned himself (the godfather) to run the government by proxy while Alia operates as a ceremonial figurehead with no real power.
If even Senator Gabriel Suswam, an astute politician and intelligent administrator needed wisdom to shove George Akume aside to achieve anything during his days as Benue state governor, and the incumbent Governor Ortom had to practically run out of the APC, due to Akume’s overbearing desire for total control to be able to deliver on his (Ortom’s) campaign promises, it leaves no one in doubt that Alia has the trappings of becoming the worst Governor Benue would ever have if he is coming to hold power in trust for Akume and not the people.
It is indeed sad that Alia stole his party’s governorship ticket, told lies during campaigns as it is reminiscent of his days as a fake miracle worker, and is aloof while the list of possible appointees into his own government is being compiled. That is enough to say Benue people are in for it because the man they think they have elected won’t be the one executing the mandate.
It is however, instructive for the priest-turned-politician to know that his contract with the people is to serve them, and not to fight the real or imaginary political enemies of his benefactor, the owner of Benue APC. No one stops him from asking Ortom questions about the state finances and how they were deployed in the past eight years. But he has no power to ask questions now that he is yet to assume office. He also lacks any authority to direct any governmental institution(s) on what to do or what not to do for now.
Alia needs to be told that even his godfather, George Akume sent a supplementary budget of two billion naira to the state House of Assembly barely 48 hours to the expiration of his tenure in 2007. The money was approved and then withdrawn on the eve of his exit from office. Anyone could guess where the money went. The records are still there for verification in the State Assembly and Ministry of Finance.
Usually, people have very high hopes whenever a new administration is about to come on board. But the spirit of an average Benue man or woman is neither here nor there, especially as the post-election missteps of Fr. Alia have left the people wondering if they truly made the right choice on March 18, 2023. But the die is cast. The stage is set. The days are approaching and the time is almost here.
The wait for the “messiah” who has promised to “bring heaven on earth” in Benue is over. The messiah has arrived! He has promised to clear the backlog of salaries, pensions and gratuities and also end insecurity once and for all. He has also promised to return the thousands of displaced Benue people to their ancestral homes within a very short time. Impressive promises!
Alia has enjoyed an over bloated image of himself and what he has to offer. But he should be ready to contend with Benue people. They may have shouted “hosanna, the messiah has come” from the days of campaigns to the day of inauguration. But they won’t hesitate to shout “crucify him, crucify him” when they finally realize that they were scammed into buying a fake product partly due to their naivety and gullibility.
Once again, Governor Ortom has until May 29 to leave the stage. He is in charge till his tenure elapses. And he calls the shots before that day. No desperate opportunist can change the situation for now. Alia and his band of warriors should hang on for a while. The Benue treasury will soon be thrown open to them for the long-awaited party by the banks of River Benue.
* Gundu, a Benue indigene writes from Lugbe in Abuja.