By Lubem Gena
Since the early 80 when Wantaregh Paul Iyorpuu Unongo challenged then sitting Governor of Benue state, Mr Aper Aku, never again has an individual received the grassroots appeal and political acceptance like Rev. Fr. Dr Hyacinth Iormem Alia. What started as a handful group of individuals appealing to him to jump into the partisanship space soon became the voice of the greater majority of the Benue people. A tsunami of some sort.
There was massive jubilation from the length and breadth of the state, across party lines, and religious, ethnic and social configurations in the entity when Fr. Alia accepted the demands of the populace and earnestly commenced actions and activities that saw him stand tall among the comity of aspirants that jostled to become Benue state gubernatorial candidates on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
What needs to be stressed is that Fr. Alia’s emergence on the political scene is not ordinary. It is divine and backed with a messianic touch. It is a carefully calculated attempt, matched with thorough planning, strategic thinking, the building of bridges of understanding across the divides and above all, a mission backed with God’s anointing.
Virtually, all the politicians who had decided to test their popularity in all the political parties operating in Benue state felt it was incumbent on them to grease the palms of the electorate at every political gathering. This has been the bane of our politics. Surprisingly, Fr. Alia’s case was beamish and different. In several places, the electorate sensing his genuine and holy intentions to redeem them from the shackles of the debilitating yet deliberately created poverty would gather Naira and Kobo to support his transportation cost and other associated logistics line items.
Generally, in political planning especially in the circumstances of our existence in the third-world countries, it is clear that some stumbling blocks and booby traps would have to be effectively navigated around. The Alia team wasn’t and isn’t oblivious of this. Even though as harmless as the dove, some renegade aspirants felt it is Fr. Alia that must be booted and stampeded out of the race. God did not allow this to happen.
As regards the cost of the nomination form for the position which was pegged at N50million, it was believed that the financial hurdle was going to place a permanent wedge on the ambition. God’s will still prevail. A crowdfunder was opened and Benue state indigenes both at home and in the diaspora contributed to having the people’s choicest candidate beat the deadline. Still, in some elements, the doubting Thomases did not believe what was happening. They had no reason to believe hence it was divinely engineered and the Lord’s ways are not those of humans.
During part of the activities preparatory to the proper primaries, the Tiv zoning mechanism favoured Fr. Alia, the Jechira particularly the Vandeikya extraction. Even before getting to this zenith, various forms of endorsement for Fr. Alia permeated and actually saturated the Benue political terrain. The overriding conceptualization is, a time to permanently change the situation for the better has presented itself and must not be allowed to slide.
Fr. Alia in most of his outings informed the electorate of his unquenchable desire to run a system that would comprehensively integrate every section of the society into the scheme of affairs. His is a government that would listen to the yearnings, cravings and aspirations of the people of the state. He equally never minced words in reiterating his commitment towards promoting the ideals of democratic governance in such a manner to assuage the thirst of the civil servants, pensioners, the private sector operators, the informal sector workers and indeed those who have been oppressed, marginalized and downtrodden. These assurances further endeared his visionary mission to the people.
When finally the D-Day arrived for the ballot to be cast, the Benue state APC chapter settled for direct primaries. This is the replica of what was known as Option A-4 in the aborted June 12 1993 elections. This initiative makes electorate to queue behind that candidate of their choice or any of his symbols. The results were amazing and an outright humiliation to the rest of the aspirants. The cache of votes garnered by the Reverend gentlemen succeeded in no small measure in disambiguating the mysteries surrounding those who hitherto believed they could perpetually hold the state by the jugular, using all forms of manipulative tendencies including their financial muscles. Never! Things went the opposite direction to the glory of God.
Afterwards, a gang-up was perfected which sought to upturn the mandate. A coalition of some of the aspirants connived to embark on some nefarious moves to set aside that exercise that produced Fr. Alia as the candidate of the APC for Benue state. Instructively, a con-contestant, Dr. Sam Ode distanced himself from the shameful outing and rather congratulated Fr. Alia on his emergence as candidate, promising to join hands with him to prosecute the last leg of the campaign.
Unfortunately, from the Tiv divide, an exercise which is supposedly and actually a regular democratic ritual and contest by brothers is now conducted badly and its approach made to wear the toga of warfare. This is quite unfortunate. There is time for a rethink and it is now or never. The main driving force must be to salvage the state; rescue it from the jaws of those who engulfed it. Setting the people free is task that must be done.
In the past, draconian political battles between Joseph Sarwuan Tarka and Godwin Daboh, Paul Unongo and Aper Aku and recently Governor Samuel Ortom-George Akume and Gabriel Suswam ushered Benue state on a stage that serves no one any good.
At the present, a cold war is brewing between Fr. Alia and Chief Barnabas Gemade, Mr. Michael Kaase Aondoakaa as well as Terhemba Shija. This does not make for a healthy internal democracy within the APC. Many think it doesn’t matter. It does. To those who think APC is at war with itself, I beg to announce that it is Tiv nation that is dragged to the mud. All well meaning sons and daughters of the land should rise up and activate traditional dispute resolution platforms to ventilate on this grievances. Gone are the days that a destructive tendency of “ka a kperan ikpa i ande” translates in a English language to mean, when people fight over a bag, it must go up in tatters, existed.
Fr. Alia’s mandate deserves to be projected, advanced, deepened, protected and consolidated. It belongs to the people, whether some people like it or not; whether they know or not and even if they choose not to believe so. This is the crux of the matter and nothing else.
Lubem Gen is a free thinker and writes from Abuja. He can be reached via email@example.com