Benue: Should all governors be clerics?

Last week, I attended the wedding of a colleague in Makurdi, the Benue state capital. Interestingly, my last visit before this was also for a wedding and that was a decade ago. Beside the now dualised road from Keffi, in Nasarawa state, all the way to Makurdi, not much changed about the journey. Like the previous journey, we passed many trucks leaving the food basket of the nation, the Benue slogan, with assorted fruits which is consistent with the time of the year.

Makurdi itself was as boisterous as ever. People defied the hot temperature to pursue industry and make merry. Everywhere you turn, you are assaulted by all kinds of food and fish and meat. No surprises there, Benue people are suckers for enjoyment. But unlike before, the city was wearing a fresh coat of growth! I don’t know if this was as a result of my one-decade absence from the city, but I saw new roads in many places where hitherto there was only dirt and, as someone addicted to development, I took it all in with hope. Hope that more could be achieved with prudent leadership all over the country.

I didn’t know when my journo curiosity took over and I started asking about the incumbent cleric Governor Hyacinth Alia’s reign so far. The Reverend Father emeritus has been under so much media fire, and it was only natural that I make findings of my own. I took every opportunity between the church, the wedding reception venue, the streets, and many of my contacts in Makurdi and places like Otukpo where I have established networks, and what I found was mind boggling.  

My hosts and Governor Alia’s own Tiv people who are the dominant tribe in the state shocked me as they both seem to agree that Governor Alia has demonstrated a great deal of astute leadership, registering a wonderful showing so far. But that’s not even the best of it, the people are unanimous in their belief that Governor Alia is poised to become the best performing governor of the state.

When pressed to explain why they have such high hopes for their governor, they tell you that he started on a good footing. They go on reeling out project after project and impact after impact that the governor has initiated since taking over office. I tell them that Governor Alia has been accused of inertia in the security front, but they tell you it is all lies, and propaganda sponsored by the governor’s political enemies. From what I gathered, there appears to be a consensus that recent cases of insecurity bedeviling the state may be sponsored by the governor’s political opponents, hell bent on spoiling the man of God’s government. Others with a somewhat deeper reading of the situation went as far as telling me that some politicians believe that by rubbishing Governor Alia, they could finally shut out the clergy from politics. 

Another widespread belief around Makurdi is that there are many anti-democratic forces working hard to bring down Governor Alia, perhaps because they fear he will succeed and thrash their legacy of deceit, mediocrity and lies. However, they tell me Benue people are united in their support of Governor Alia and unanimous in their belief that he will lead them to the promised land. They tell me they are firm in their resolve to resist these enemies of progress and development trying to bring down the one hope Benue has of breaking free from the political hegemony that has held the state to ransom for decades.

I don’t know if this strong conviction around Makurdi about the governor’s predicament, on the one hand, and his suitability for the job, on the other, has something to do with the fact that the people of the state are predominantly Catholics. But one thing is certain, Governor Alia is loved in Makurdi and around Benue state. And this got me wondering where the thick campaign of calumny against the Alia government is emanating from and what could be motivating it? Could the people be right that there is a conspiracy to trash the cleric turned politician’s government? 

If the above is even remotely in the affirmative, then, we can’t but be tempted to ask, to what end? This question is pertinent if one takes into consideration the fact that the governor’s greatest opposition is not coming from opposition parties, but from inside his own party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Shocked! are you? Well, join the queue! With the people revealing that Governor Alia was the goose that laid the APC’s golden egg, it remains to be seen how far the deception could go, especially since virtually everyone appears to agree that without Alia on the ballot flying the APC flag, the party’s chances come 2027 could be as worst as a stillbirth. 

As a wayfarer and inquisitive journo, I have no interest in the internal workings of Governor Alia’s party. I am, however, very interested in development, in respect of the will and wishes of the masses, and the promotion of internal party democracy. On the strength of this, therefore, it is imperative to admonish those opposing the governor only because of his insistence to do right to desist. On the bright side is the fact that Alia has the people of Benue state on his side and that’s all that matters.

Yahaya Kana Usmailia,

Biu, Borno state.