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  • Opinion - Editorial
  • Updated: June 13, 2024

June 12: Democracy critically ill in Benue under Gov Alia

June 12: Democracy critically ill in Benue under Gov Alia

At the occasion of the 2024 Democracy Day Anniversary in Nigeria, it is clear to see that in Benue State the situation best befits what could rightly be described as a vigil over the deteriorating health of democracy as a form of government in the state.

The day June 12 is marked across the country as the day Nigerians, in 1993, exercised the power of their universal adult electoral franchise, in the most determined showing ever to date seen in our history, by voting overwhelmingly in all parts of the country for Bashorun MKO Abiola as President.

The election was eventually annulled by military dictator Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, yet the pulse of that poll has lived on to this day to be remembered as the standard for the democratic aspirations of Nigerians.

In Benue State, as elsewhere in the country, ordinary citizens have continued to yearn that they may not only cast their votes to elect leaders, but also that those leaders so elected will deliver to them the dividends of democracy through good governance.

This was no less the expectation of the people when on 18th March, 2023, they voted for Revd. Fr. Hyacinth Alia to the office of Governor and duly on 29th May, 2023, when he assumed the powers of the office.

By that transaction Governor Alia had entered into a contract with the people of Benue State bound by the offer he made to serve and the consideration the people furnished through the votes they cast in the election.

Yesterday, 12th June, 2024, marked a stock taking of how far Governor Alia has performed his own side of the democracy contract with the people of Benue State. 

What is the state of health of democracy as an institution in Benue State under his watch?

Without fear of contradiction, it can be stated that democracy has gone on a downward spiral in Benue State under Governor Hyacinth Alia and is losing ground and fast too.

Due process and the rule of law have been significantly denigrated, thuggery as an instrument of political coercion is back on the uptick, nepotism, vendetta, witch-hunting, discrimination and politics of bitterness and hatred have gained ascendancy in our polity.

Benue State is polarized sharply and starkly into the governor's men who himself has christened as "The Masses" and those on the other who are labelled rather derisively as "The Stakeholders", and within the context of this division, there is a no-holds-barred struggle being waged with Governor Alia himself directly leading the onslaught against his opponents.

His words have been acidic, baleful and leave no one in doubt that he is ready, willing and decided upon fighting his opponents to any extent as he deems necessary. 

Of course, he is egged on on this path by a number of prominent sons of the state who tell him that he should "not be afraid of making political enemies". that those against him are "enemies of the state", even as himself has infamously labelled his opponents as "Ubokoti Mba'iorov", literally meaning 'Empty vessels' whom he has accused of all sins possible under the sun, including writing a letter and dropping at Nigeria's border with Niger Republic, inviting killer Fulani herdsmen to come into Benue to perpetrate mayhem.

The governor is surrounded by a cohort of 'yes men' who feed him the notion that his actions do not need to conform to the tenets of lawfully prescribed due process in the formation and execution of state policy, but they are justifiable on the maxim that "once the people are happy, the end justifies the means".

Ironically even the so-called happiness of the people is still to be measured by the assumptions of the 'yes men', and so the award of contracts do not need to be filtered through the laid down regulations and guidelines requiring bidding, tenders processing and selection of contractors, or even public knowledge of contract costs for projects.

Under such an arbitrary template, Governor Alia has given out all of the major projects undertaken by his administration so far to contractors outside of the state, with the attendant flight of billions of naira of state funds out of the state, yet there are competent indigenous contractors in Benue State with the capacity to execute such projects equally as well as, if not better than, the foreigners favoured.

Governor Alia has perceptibly embarked on vendetta and witch-hunting of perceived political opponents, including his predecessors and even those within his own political party, with the result as can be seen in a deliberate campaign to denigrate every achievement of his predecessors, including those in the critical sectors such as security.

He has neglected the gains made by his immediate predecessor in securing Benue State against Fulani herdsmen hellbent on violating the ban on open grazing in force in the state, mocking the approach of the immediate past Governor as noisemaking, yet in his time the herdsmen have openly violated the open grazing ban and are all over the state taking over more land and making life hellish for the people.

Under Governor Alia who is a Catholic priest, thugs invaded a Catholic Church in Konshisha Local Government Area of the state during Sunday mass, and under the watch of the council chairman for the area, and a Cabinet Commissioner in the state, violently assaulted the serving House of Representatives member for the area, Hon. Sesoo Gboko, disrupting the Holy Mass on the ostensible grounds of a ban on public gatherings said to be in force.

Under Governor Alia in Benue State, judgments and orders of court have virtually no recognition as they have serially and with disdain been ignored, dismissed and scorned, while impunity reigns, as the word and whim of the governor is more law than what is prescribed in the statues.

At the local government tier of administration, democracy has been put in abeyance under Governor Alia as he illegally sacked the elected councils he met on seat, in brazen disregard of express, lucid and unambiguous orders of court to the contrary, and has to date placed the tier under his jackboot using handpicked cronies as caretaker administrators, with allegations rife in the air and brought before anti graft agencies of corrupt diversion and misappropriation of billions of naira meant for the councils.

The litany is near inexhaustible of the colossal losses being suffered by democracy in Benue State under Governor Hyacinth Alia who prefers to run the state as a maximum ruler through authoritarian fiat rather than through the laid down procedure of due process and the rule of law.

It is, therefore, incumbent on men and women of good conscience to raise their voices in defence of democracy in Benue State for the present and future good of its people.

Bemgba Iortyom writes from Benue State, Nigeria.

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