Fr. Alia And The Audacity Of Courage To Rescue Benue From ‘Hawks’
By Lubem Gena
Benue state has been one of the states in the north-central geo-political zone in Nigeria whose developmental efforts have appeared to yield just but marginal results. This has made the state grapple with a monumental issue of development due to the gargantuan underdevelopment that has permeated the length and breadth of the state.
The abysmal progress that the state made since the return of democratic governance to Nigeria in 1999 has been compromised and rubbished due to the inability of the past administrations to generate wealth for the people and lift them out of poverty even as Benue is endowed with abundant human and material resources that the state is endowed with.
Gradually but steadily, Benue state slid into a situation likened to the years of the locust, during which unimaginable hunger, abject poverty, lack of basic sources of livelihood, and death reigned absolute in the land. Benue was treated with scorn and disdain among the comity of its contemporaries. Redeeming it from the hands of those who brought the state to her kneels requires an audacity of courage to clean the Aegean’s table.
In my earlier piece which was widely published on 23rd June 2023, titled “Why Fr. Alia Mandate Must Not Be Compromised”, I emphasized that, His Excellency, Rev. Fr. Dr. Hyacinth Iormem Alia’s appearance on the political scene was divine and backed with a messianic touch. It was a well-articulated mission, matched with thorough planning, strategic thinking, and building bridges of understanding across the political landscape. While yielding to the demands of the enthusiastic Benue populace, he promised to run a transparent government that will rekindle the hopes of the indigenes of the state and all those who reside therein.
However beautiful his plans are and genuine his ideas aimed at redeeming the people from the shackles of debilitating and all-consuming poverty as well as maladministration, the situation requires a diagnostic approach, and in most specific cases, there is an urgent need to embark on a surgical exercise to salvage the situation. In this process, even the stick should not be spared.
It needs to be stated clearly that, in the history of Benue state, it has never been as bad as was experienced in the immediate past years. Salaries of workers were owed recklessly. Pensioners cried to high heavens for remediation of their plight but no hope was on the horizon. Insecurity got to its zenith. Healthcare delivery was next to zero. Education slumped into comatose. Unemployment became draconian as most of the graduates and other able-bodied young people took to ‘okada’ riding, just to make ends meet. In general, the state was always in the news for negative reasons. The civil service which is the engine room of growth became so demoralized and unproductive that it could hardly perform. Put together, Benue State went through an intractable phase of bad governance.
My utmost belief is that with the new sheriff in town and properly mounting the saddle, the conversation is gradually shifting from lamentation to hope and assurances of better days ahead. I recall my encounter with Rev. Fr. Alia in late 2021 when he was still an aspirant. There and then, I formed my own unflinching opinion about the Reverend gentleman.
Now as Governor, Fr. Alia appears to me as someone who was well-prepared for the task ahead. Backed with a clear-cut vision of turning tears into joy, the leader personifies courage. Efforts so far injected into governance indicate a strong commitment to delivering on campaign promises, quality leadership, and determination to bring positive change to the state.
One of the key aspects of Governor Alia’s courage to rule is his ability to make tough decisions for the betterment of our state, though very cautious not to hurt the sensibilities of the electorates and the entire Benue architecture. Governor Alia is not afraid to take bold steps and implement policies that may initially face opposition in some undiscerning quarters but ultimately make for a peaceful, united, progressive, and prosperous state. This boldness and courageous disposition are crucial elements in a leader as they allow for necessary changes to be made. A leader takes his subjects not only where they want to be but where they ought to be.
In the twilight of the immediate past administration, the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) unto which Governor Alia rose to power pronounced publicly, to the consternation of those who cared to listen that, booby traps were set on their way. Landmines were planted that had devastating explosive tendencies. As such, these were deliberate efforts to place clogs in the wheel of progress of Benue state.
As glaring as it was, the beneficiaries of the defective system believed it is a regular alibi taken by successive administrations. Alas, they were proved wrong as the new administration of Governor Alia proved beyond reasonable doubt that the state was severally stripped naked, raped, left in the cold, and roundly hijacked by the hawks.
Consequently, to get a thorough knowledge of the situation, the new Governor embarked on unscheduled visits to some Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs). They include the cabinet office, Benue University Teaching Hospital, the state secretariat, Benue Printing and Publishing Company Ltd (BPPCL), and Radio Benue. The governor was shocked to the marrow at the rot in all these places. Obviously, he might have noted that the task ahead was daunting yet surmountable. Quick-fix solutions were devised to bring the system back on the stream. This necessitated the setting up of specialized committees to advise the government on the most appropriate measures needed to be deployed to eliminate the incoherent practices that led to such horrifying situations.
While the details of the plunder should not detain us here as it is not intended to be a consequence of this writing, a few examples suffice. In a statewide broadcast, the Governor informed a thoroughly oppressed and marginalized people that, almost 15,200 workers were brought in by the past administration in the form of recruitment and replacement submitting that the entire exercise was shrouded in irregularities. As a career handler of evil powers, Governor Alia confronted the monster known as ghost workers syndrome. He tactically weeded out 2,500 ghosts to the admiration of people of goodwill. The state saved N2.5 billion from this single step.
Another problem Fr. Alia has to contend with is the massive corruption and malfeasance occasioned at the local government level, a tier that is the closest to the majority of the people. This needed to be dealt with expeditiously to restore enduring sanity. To the glory of God, efforts in this regard have reached an advanced stage.
Similarly, bare-faced depletion of the value and number of the assets of the state was noticed. Efforts have since gone underway to reverse that sequence.
Governor Alia, within a record time, has set mechanisms, machinery of government, multi-lateral agencies, and mobilized resources to implement workable key changes in governing Benue State in terms of promoting agriculture. So far as he is concerned, “we don’t have oil but have the soil”, he takes this sector as a priority of his administration. Recently, he moved a step further to accentuate this with the distribution of fertilizers at a 50% subsidized rate.
Overall, Governor Alia’s administration has prioritized agriculture, security, education, infrastructure, and youth empowerment as key areas of focus to drive development, improve the lives of Benue State residents, and tackle the challenges faced by the state.
Furthermore, Governor Alia displays courage through his commitment to the welfare of the people in Benue state. There are early signs to indicate that he is set to expeditiously tackle headlong challenging issues such as poverty, insecurity, poor healthcare delivery, an ailing education system, absence of key infrastructure, and unemployment among others. No doubt, understands that these are crucial areas that require bold actions, and immediate, medium, and long-term planning.
Governor Alia also demonstrates courage in his ability to stand up for what is right, even in the face of adversity. Under his watch, there is a tough stand against corruption or injustice. The morality and courage with which he takes decisions are clear longitudinal and latitudinal signals that serve as harbingers to beckon and promote a sustained culture of accountability and fairness against impunity.
With his audacity of courage, he has the potential to bring about an enduring positive change in the state and leave a lasting legacy of impactful and all-encompassing development. By the time his efforts are harmonized, cross-fertilized, understood, and consolidated, those hawks who believe Benue must perpetually be viewed as their enterprise for self-aggrandizement will have no other option than to hide themselves in shame.
Appointees of the government must compliment the gesture extended to them to add value. They must personally and collectively develop Key Performance Indices (KPIs) that are achievable and justify the confidence reposed in them. This is sacrosanct.
Now, that the Governor is willing, ready, capable, shown administrative acumen, and well-positioned to rescue our state, there is a tendency of the hawks to fight back to retain a grip on the collective resources of the state. However, a note of caution must be sounded that, all of us (including the opposition) whether we like it or not Benue state belongs to all of us, and its guaranteed survival behooves us. Any progress in the right direction must be applauded and supported by all and sundry. The people have suffered for far too long. It is now the time for them to take a breath of fresh air. Those who are waiting to see the fall of Benue State under Governor Alia will wait in vain and perpetual shame.
Lubem is a Free Thinker, writes this piece from Abuja, and can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org