THE build-up to the 2023 general elections on the Benue State landscape was characterised by all-time trepidation, outpouring of invective and skewed commentaries. New words like contumacy, renegade, suspended priest, otiose, found their way into the Benue political lexicon as opposition parties went all out to de-market the APC.
Fr. Alia was entangled in a fierce battle of court cases both from his party, APC, and the top opposition parties, PDP and Labour Party. On overcoming one hurdle, Alia moved on to face another obstacle and while these were ongoing, the social media space was inundated with insults on Alia’s candidacy from the opposition as his supporters responded with the “Yes Father” slogan.
In the end, Fr. Alia did not only win all his court cases but also emerged as the governor-elect in Benue as the Benue populace resoundingly voted for him in protest against the heavy, hardship-laden administration of the current PDP leadership in the state.
Fr. Alia’s victory at the polls brings back memories of 2 January, 1992, which birthed the election of a Catholic-ordained priest on the political platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) as governor of Benue State, Very Rev. Fr. Moses Orshio Adasu. Fr. Adasu, from Konshisha LGA of Benue State, was the second democratically elected governor of the state. As with Fr. Alia’s emergence, the late Fr. Adasu’s attempt at politics was greeted by a plethora of vicissitudes, mudslinging and invective to hound and cow him from rearing his head to seek for the number one position in the state.
Almost 31 years later, another priest, troubled about the inability of Benue State to raise its head among its equals as occasioned by bad governance and corruption, with its attendant hardship on the people with majority wallowing in abject poverty, Fr. Alia, a priest of the Gboko Catholic Diocese, undertook this venture and has emerged victorious.
Before venturing into politics, Fr. Alia conducted healing Masses as a Catholic Priest of Gboko Diocese. Those yoked with illnesses and other spiritual bondages received relief under the influence of his prayers. This spiritual liberation ministry may have contributed in endearing Fr. Alia to the people hence the overwhelming support at the polls.
The time might be different but the issues still remain the same – deficit in infrastructural development, salary malaise, pension and gratuity challenges, moribund and strangulated private sector suffocating from very unfriendly tax regime, and crude agricultural practices.
These factors gave inspiration to the Rev. Gentleman to offer himself to remedy the ailing situation. If Fr. Adasu’s regime is anything to refer to, one can safely conclude that a new Benue is about to break forth to change the sore narrative that has been the lot of the state. The Benue State University, College of Education, Oju, the Beach Road project, J. S. Tarka Foundation and a host of other projects were the dividends derivable from Fr. Adasu’s short time in government.
Having received their wish with the declaration of Fr. Alia as governor-elect by INEC, the Benue masses across the state and beyond, within the rural and urban areas rolled out their drums in celebration of his victory.
With the level of celebration accorded Fr. Alia’s victory, analysts reckon that there are high expectations from him in terms of payment of many months’ salary arrears, restoring security and resettling of internally displaced persons (IDPs), boosting the state’s economy, infrastructural development and generally improving the quality of life of Benue people among others.
Whether Fr. Alia will be able to maintain the legacy once set by Fr. Adasu, raise it higher or destroy the legacy is what remains to be determined as he mounts the saddle in two months’ time.
Our prayers remain with Fr. Alia that the hope of the Benue people may not be dashed.
Tiav, writes from Makurdi.