There’s need to look a little beyond the populism driving the candidacy of the APC gubernatorial candidate in Benue State, writes Sesugh Akume
If the trend as seen from last Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly continues, in another week Benue will be voting Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia by a landslide as governor. Except the miraculous happens, the election next Saturday seems a mere formality.
The people love Fr Alia, as he has been in their faces for the past 3 decades being a priest performing miracles, healing the sick, exorcising demons, solving problems that defied solutions right from his 20s. And even though the Establishment within the Church system fought him hard it never quite succeeded. People love the gallant survivor.
On the other hand, the terribly bad governors Benue has had in the past 24 years by their maladministration did the campaigning for him. The people desperately need to breathe and are eager for a clear departure from the 24 years of slavery. The person who, in their perception, best suits the job is Fr Alia.
Why a priest? First, Fr Alia reminds them of Very Reverend Father Moses Adasu, the trailblazing Third Republic governor of Benue, the first Roman Catholic priest to be so elected in Nigeria and one of the very few to hold electoral office in the world.
Second, being a priest, as governor, he cannot be as greedy, wasteful, callous, insensitive as his predecessor(s), the people reason. Being unmarried, he won’t have an annoying first lady dragging the spotlight with him and creating a parallel administration seeking relevance. For these reasons primarily, they put all their hopes and aspirations on him.
If history is anything to go by, I am sorry my Benue people may be mistaken, and if Fr Alia wins, they may need a reality check and manage their expectations.
First and foremost, the general public perception of Fr Adasu, whom I absolutely adore, is a sanitised, whitewashed version and not based on reality and the complete facts. For instance, the impression that Fr Adasu founded Benue State University (which himself promoted) is not accurate. BSU was established by Lt Col Fidelis Makka, military governor of Benue vide the Benue State University (Establishment) Decree 1 of 27 December 1991, after the steering committee for its establishment had completed and submitted its detailed work. Fr Adasu was sworn in as the second democratically-elected governor of Benue on 2 January 1992. He, therefore, could not have founded the university.
This is by no means meant to take away from the arduous work he put in to translate the law establishing the university on paper, to the university actually opening for business by June 1992 (after 6 months in office). But let the facts the kept sacred.
Fr Adasu had a falling out with virtually all the people he ran for the governorship with, and those who helped him win. He never appreciated them for their help. He rather was sure he saved the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and delivered overwhelming victory to them because the people loved him. This may need to be watched out for as history repeats.
Due to this falling out, a second term was going to be difficult if not nearly impossible. He also had a difficult time with the state assembly that was overwhelmingly SDP as well.
Fr Adasu, unlike Fr Alia was involved in governance issues. He was a vocal member of the Constituent Assembly in 1988, which he attended as a delegate by winning the election. He had written works and opinions on governance and other public issues. I have not seen any such of Fr Alia. Fr Adasu held administrative positions outside the church system as well. In these regards, Fr Alia seems a novice to me.
In summary, the image had of Fr Adasu, to this day, is a sanitised one basing one’s decisions on what isn’t accurate may prove problematic sometimes. Fr Adasu went to Government House Makurdi prepared with a track record of public service and public intellection, unlike Fr Alia.
Second, I don’t believe Fr Alia will be wicked and heartless, but I don’t see him as being principled and resolute in character staying on a narrow path as a man of God either. He seems more like some who lives by ‘The end justifies the means.’
I have seen him make parody of women’s fellowship songs to canvass for votes. Sacred things should be kept sacred. There are many songs out there to convert to political songs. It mustn’t be songs of the Church. A priest who doesn’t appreciate this tells me, in desperation, can do anything to get whatever he wants.
It is always better to not put all hopes in a human. ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.’
For the record, and for purposes of full disclosure, this writer does NOT have a preferred candidate for the governorship in Benue. This opinion expressed is as a public duty and by no means a subtle or covert endorsement of a candidate or agenda.
Sesugh Akume, a public policy analyst writes from Abuja.