An Abuja-based political affairs analyst, Samson Ochono has written an open letter to the Archbishop emeritus of Abuja Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan alleging that the Archbishop is working behind the scenes to help the Governor of Benue State, Fr. Hyacinth Alia to get a favourable judgment from the tribunal handling the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP against governor Alia and his deputy Samuel Ode.
The PDP and its 2023 governorship candidate in Benue State, Titus Uba have challenged the qualification of Alia and Ode to contest the election based on the grounds that the governor’s name was submitted to INEC only 44 days to the election instead of the mandatory 180 days. The deputy governor Samuel Ode on the other hand is accused of forging a court affidavit. Both parties filed their final written addresses and the tribunal reserved its judgment which is expected to come any moment from now.
Sensing that the case against him is solid and his chances of winning at the court are slim, Governor Alia is reported to be running from pillar to post seeking the intervention of eminent Nigerians to save him. He has been seen with Archbishop Onaiyekan recently who is believed to be helping to speak to some persons on him. It was on the basis of that suspicion that Ochono wrote the open letter to the bishop.
The letter is as produced below:
“BENUE POLITICS: OPEN LETTER TO BISHOP JOHN ONAIYEKAN
Your Eminence, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, the Archbishop emeritus of Abuja Diocese, I have chosen to write you an open letter on the above topic knowing that you are a man of wisdom who will not only understand the urgency and importance of my message but also act on it to safeguard your hard earned image which someone is trying to bring to disrepute.
Your Eminence, I have always admired your sermons, speeches at public events and in the media. As a member of the Catholic Church, I felt very proud when you spoke vehemently in February 2022 on Arise News against the involvement of Catholic priests in politics. Let me put your words here as a reminder:
“I belong to a church where we work on the basis of the clergy, being people who feel that they have been called by God to serve the community, and because they are so busy helping the community in their religious needs, they don’t have time to start running after politics or running after business. That is why in my church, and my church is not the general church you know. The Catholic Church is specific. The rule in my church is that a clergyman cannot be involved in active politics in a multi party contest…and any Catholic priest, no matter how brilliant he is, who is nursing that same kind of idea will never get our go ahead; will never get our support”.
Your Eminence, those were your words. Despite your strong admonition and that of the Bishop of Gboko Diocese, Williams Avenya, a priest in Benue State known as Hyacinth Alia went ahead to join politics and is today the Governor of the state. Bishop Avenya correctly suspended him as you would also have done if you were the Bishop of Gboko. Your Eminence, have you changed your stand on the matter now? Has the church which you represent amended its rules to support priests who join politics in a multi party system?
The trending story on social and conventional media is that you, Archbishop John Onaiyekan, have offered yourself as an “advocate” for Governor Alia who is facing imminent sack by the tribunal handling the Benue State governorship petition.
Those who have seen you with Governor Alia say that you have literally been taking him by the hand to the houses of people “who can help him to survive at the tribunal”. It has been reported that you led Alia to the house of Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Senator George Akume. When I heard the story, I was hit by shock, confusion and disappointment. I wondered if you are no longer the John Cardinal Onaiyekan whom the people revere. Are you not aware, my Lord, that Senator Akume is the same man whom God used to make Alia Governor? Now, the question which I expected Your Eminence to have asked Governor Alia is, “If Senator Akume is truly the man who made sure that you became the Governor of Benue State, why do I John Onaiyekan now have to be the one to lead you to talk to him about you? Why is Senator Akume angry with you in the first place?”
Your Eminence, if you did not ask Governor Alia the above questions, I think you missed the point.
Another question that I expected you to ask Alia is that there are four Catholic Bishops in Benue State, so why has he not found any of them worthy to lead him to plead with Akume and others? Has it not bothered Your Eminence that none of the four Bishops is making a case for Alia and he had to recruit you from retirement? Or has the Benue State Governor told you that he is not on talking terms with all the four Bishops in the state? Think about this my Lord.
Another story making the rounds which has the potency to damage the reputation you have built over the years is that some people are alleging that Governor Hyacinth Alia has given you a big share of the palliatives which the Federal Government recently sent to Benue like other states. Though the people who are spreading this story have not given any proof, I suspect that the moment you distance yourself from Governor Alia, the speculation will wane.
I will end this letter by appealing to your conscience, Your Eminence. Governor Alia does not deserve your energy, pity and time to the extent of leaving your well deserved retirement to go asking those who trusted him but he ferociously bit their fingers to forgive him. The man does not know how to manage success. A few days after he won the governorship election, Alia shocked his party members and leaders including Senator Akume when he boastfully declared that APC won in Benue State because of him. He told the astonished APC family in the state that without him, PDP would have crushed them at the polls so they should rather be grateful to him for accepting to contest on their platform.
Your Eminence, that’s the man you are wasting your precious time pleading for.
I tell you this Your Eminence, after making a case for Governor Alia, don’t be surprised if you hear one day that he said you went to him unsolicited as he didn’t seek your intervention. He is already boasting with his inner circle of friends that he will use money to get whoever he wants to make the tribunal case a walkover for him. I won’t be surprised if he has already told them how much he has given you to work for him.
May God continue to be with Your Eminence.
Yours faithful son in the Lord,
Samson Ochono from Apo, Abuja.”