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Benue Guber: Pitfalls Fr. Alia Must Be Wary About



It has come to pass exactly the way many of us predicted. We knew that Rev. Fr. Iormem Hyacinth Alia of the All Progressives Congress…

It has come to pass exactly the way many of us predicted. We knew that Rev. Fr. Iormem Hyacinth Alia of the All Progressives Congress (APC) would knock down the main challenger in the governorship election, Mr. Titus Uba of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in a neat and incontestable manner. The cleric polled 473,933 votes to defeat his closest rival from the PDP who got 233,913. It is what former President of the United States, Barrack Obama would have called a “shellacking” and dubbed “walloping” by sports writers in Nigeria.

Indeed, the Benue State governorship election presented one of the most interesting stories in the 2023 general elections. It was quite contentious. To produce a flagbearer alone, the APC had to repeat the primary election twice as some party apparatchiks wanted a different outcome. For Fr. Alia, it was a long, grueling, tortuous mountain road marked by numerous hairpins. It was tension-soaked, nerve-wracking with long vigils intertwined.

Now, it seems to be all over. But is it? The real thing begins now. The people showed Fr. Alia massive love and he must give something in return and quickly too, or else, that sweet love will go sour. The reality of Fr. Alia’s moving stories which endeared him to the people must be seen.

So, how can he actualise his vision? Methinks it is by taking the right steps at the right time. He must avoid the pitfalls on the way as there are many of them.

One, those who voted for him and are so much in love with him and will virtually see nothing wrong with whatever he does. These are the so-called diehards. For such people, it is always Yes Father! The danger with this group of followers is that they overlook the fallibility of the master who is a mere mortal.

Efforts to correct what is wrong are interpreted as opposition or rebellion that must be quashed. This is certainly not good for democracy and modern-day leadership. It must be avoided at all costs. Absolute power has a huge negative impact.

Closely related to the above are the dye-in-the-wool political elements. All that is in their head is politics and more politics. They can hardly see the dividing line between politicking and governance. Once elections are won, they start hatching plans for the next elections. For this kind of people, governance is nothing.

Then some political opportunists can read the political barometer anytime and swim with the tide. They knew that the priest would emerge victorious so they quickly left their places and jumped on the bandwagon claiming they were doing so for the good of the people. Many of them are unscrupulous political merchants—all they want is to be in their comfort zone.

For these reasons, the priest governor must look beyond his political supporters and engage those who have the wherewithal to help him actualise the vision and mission of his administration.

Some didn’t vote for Fr. Alia and will never believe he is governor even if he is sworn in on May 29. To this set of people, whatever Fr. Alia will do will be wrong. Just like they attempted to thwart the electoral process, they will still do all they can to discomfit him.

Of course, there are those who strongly feel that it should be a theocracy. Coming from a religious background, they believe that Fr. Alia’s administration is for clerics and that all policies must be theocentric. This tendency can create discrimination and narrow down governance to the dissatisfaction of many. Fr. Alia must open his hands and embrace people of all kinds irrespective of religion, tribe or creed. There should be no discrimination between the teetotalers and beer guzzlers who may have to work with him.

Religion is a very sensitive thing and so must be handled with care. Showing bias for one religion against another can be dangerous. For instance, one thing that always confounds me is the use of state resources to send believers of religion on pilgrimage when the same is not done for others. This can be a problem even among adherents of the favoured religion. After all, many Christian groups do not subscribe to pilgrimage.

Benue State, for instance, has a huge Christian population so I always ask, how many people can go to Jerusalem? Why won’t pilgrims pay their way? Amid low resources for state development, why must individuals be given state funds to go pray in foreign lands? Benue State is a free, egalitarian and secular society so everyone there must be accorded equal rights and privileges.

This is the time government should be sapient and frugal. People with means should pay for their journeys to the holy lands.

Then the First Lady thing. Gender activists and probably ill-wishers may latch onto Fr. Alia’s administration not having a First Lady to launch attacks and score cheap political points. He must find ingenious ways to tackle this. There are no constitutional provisions for the office of the First Lady, but some persons may wish to campaign against the administration as it may suit them.

Another pitfall is the briefcase contractors. They can come with their clever snares and sweet nothings only to hook the government and milk the state. They present proposals that have never worked anywhere, yet they brandish fake records. Fr. Alia must be wary of them.

What about the civil servants? They have been there for decades, so they know all the intrigues of government and governance. Working with them can be tricky just as overlooking them can be dangerous. Fr. Alia must find a way to navigate this in the best interest of the state.

And there are those I consider the most dangerous — the talebearers. They come with well-cooked stories to achieve hidden desires. They would not mind bringing down the whole government just to get what they want. If they have an axe to grind with an appointee of government, they can do anything to discredit the appointee and even undo the administration. There are always two sides to the coin. Fr. Alia must see not only the two sides but the edges of the coin as well!

The days of the locust are gone. Now is the time to look at the worth of every kobo that enters the coffers of Benue State. It is time for transparency, accountability, prudence, good governance, progress and development. Fr. Alia, being a philosopher, himself knows much more than this. The support he needs to do the job is available. Time is of the essence. By now, his shadow cabinet should be in place and working.

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