It was a moment of jubilation for the people of Benue as the All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate, Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia was announced Governor-elect. In this report, Daily Trust Saturday details Alia’s journey to victory.
Last Saturday, the people of Benue State spoke clearly with their ballots during the Governorship and House of Assembly election which had already produced winners and losers.
Expectedly, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia, was declared winner of the Benue State governorship election after scoring the highest votes to beat his closest rival, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Engr. Titus Uba.
Alia led in the race with a margin of 251,020 votes.
Returning Officer for the governorship election in Benue, Prof. Adamu Farouk Kuta, who is Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, announced that Alia polled a total of 473,933 to lead Uba who had 223,913 while Labour Party’s Heman Hembe trailed with a total of 41,881 votes.
Our correspondent reports that results collated from the 23 LGAs of the state indicated that APC’s Alia won majority of the votes in 17 LGAs while Uba won in four LGAs and the LP won one local government area, leaving other parties without winning in any of the LGAs of the state.
Alia’s win did not come to many as a surprise because of his popularity from the onset of the contest. It would have rather been shocking to the citizens if he had lost the election.
The Catholic priest, who’s popular for his weekly healing masses in the parishes he shepherded before joining politics, defeated a total of 16 contestants in the March 18 Governorship election in the state.
Among the contestants are; Dr. Mathias Oyigeya of Accord party; Dr. Roseline Ada Chenge of the ADP; Joseph Waya of APGA; Labour Party’s Herman Hembe; Dr. Sam Abah of NRM; Engr Titus Uba of the PDP; James Mede of the SDP; Dr. Roberts Orya, YPP; and Aondona Sharon Dabo-Fiase of the ZLP.
It’s needless to say that none of the cleric’s opponents stood a chance better than him owing to his towering popularity among people of the state, especially those at the grassroots and those familiar with his healing masses.
Little wonder, the PDP felt unease after Alia clinched the APC ticket. Despite emerging under the platform of the APC which was not so formidable among the Benue people before now, Alia still bulldozed his way to win the number one seat in the state.
This was so, firstly because the ruling PDP fielded Uba, the incumbent Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly who commanded no political clouts across the three major ethnicity of the state.
His choice no doubt stirred up dissenters in the party which was however, the beginning of PDP’s failed outing in the 2023 elections in the state. Before then, the party seemed united to retain the seat of power even after the exit of the present administration but things fell apart subsequently.
Uba was said to be the sole choice of the PDP’s National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, who also hails from the state and backed by Governor Samuel Ortom as a reward for being a ‘good boy’ in the House of Assembly.
Secondly, the protracted crisis between the Group of five governors (G-5) and the party’s national chairman, Ayu, which also involved Ortom as an active member of the supposed rebels added to tearing the party apart in the state as those who took sides with the national leadership secretly plotted Ortom and his anointed candidate’s fall.
Meanwhile, the governor-elect, Alia, had initially sought to actualise his dream under the PDP platform but was not given the opportunity by stakeholders who argued that some people had worked tirelessly for the party and should enjoy such benefits. It was then, the priest who had no party resorted to join the APC which offered him their platform, however not without a big fight from the front runners at the time.
Alia became the governorship candidate of the APC against all odds and gained the rave of the moment occasioned by his massive followership in both urban and rural areas of the state who christened his movement, “Yes father”.
To this end, pundits had concluded that PDP was gone and APC on its way to reclaim the state.
More so, many had predicted Alia would win big because the PDP administration owed teachers, pensioners and civil servants lots of salaries. Most of the owed workers and electorate vowed not to vote Uba, a supposed stooge of the Ortom’s administration but would help bring in Alia whom they believed will come to liberate the state from the harsh economic situation.
On the other hand, the PDP had relied heavily on its spread in the state with its nine House of Representatives members out of 11, three senators, 26 House of Assembly members out of 30 and 23 Local Government Area chairmen – including elected councillors in the 276 wards in the state to force Uba’s win.
But, all of that did not translate into the party winning as the PDP faced the worst humiliation ever in the history of the state’s governorship elections with an opposition party defeating the ruling party with a margin of 251,020.
For instance, the 2015 election during which Ortom rode on the back of APC (the first time of the party in power in Benue) to become governor, the PDP scored a total of 317,478 votes while APC polled 422,932 votes to emerge winner with a difference of 105,454 votes.
Similarly, in 2019, Ortom having dumped the APC to return to PDP for a second tenure, polled for the PDP 434,473 votes as against APC’s 345,155 votes leaving a difference of 89,318 votes between both parties.
Political pundits argued that Governor Ortom lost his bid to install an anointed candidate for several reasons which may bother on his government’s inability to provide satisfactory dividends of democracy and the in-house fight among party faithful.
One of such political observers, Denen Samuel, opined that “Ortom is a product of a struggle that dates back to the active days of the now late elder statesman, Wantaregh Paul Unongo. He first came to power on the opposition party platform, first time in the history of Benue State. And it was expected that his government would be masses centric, improve welfare and agriculture. But, he never did well. He did little or nothing to improve on the welfare of the people, with poor record of payment of salary, gratuity and pension, in the face of high-profile borrowing. These and the fact that the poverty was on the rise made his government continue to grow unpopular.
“Another reason for his inability to install his successor is the nature of his choice. He picked an unpopular candidate ahead of more suitable aspirants available, when his party had issues of credibility and bad governance. While the debt profile of the state kept rising, one cannot tell with certainty how such monies have been channelled to be ploughed back to pay the debts.
“And all the debts were approved by the assembly, which Speaker is his choice of a successor. Titus Uba, Benue Assembly Speaker could not be trusted to lead; he will be the worse case of Ortom, the people reasoned. It remains to be seen how he arrived at the choice of Uba, who did not come third following internal voting arrangement the governor himself directed at the local level. The situation would be worsened with the health status of his candidate (Uba).
“His case was made worse by the entry of a Catholic priest, Alia of the APC. Alia, prior to his foray into politics, endeared himself to the people through his healing ministry; he was a known name. He did not just come on the stage. The fact that the people appeared to have become disenchanted with the political class and in view of the successes recorded by the second executive governor of Benue State, the late Reverend Father Moses Adasu, made it easier for Alia’s acceptability.
“It was like a hurricane. Unprecedented numbers, both party and people of non-partisan persuasions, enthusiastically “Alialising”, as they say. And the governor picked fights on all fronts so that he became a lone fighter. He was losing men and never cared to look back. And it became late. He was left without ammunition. It is the worse defeat for the PDP in the state, since the return to democracy in 1999.”
Similarly, a political commentator, Tetsea Benga, said, “Ortom’s failure came as a result of poor performance as he deliberately refused to deliver the state through infrastructure and non payment of salary and pension.
“He also failed to carry even his appointees along as he always disregards their views, which makes some of his appointees to secretly work against him. Finally, Ortom shot himself as he was the architect for the state PDP internal crisis close to election which clearly demonstrated his lack of political will.”
For the State Publicity Secretary of APGA, Haruna Moses, Ortom’s disobedience to the party national leadership cost him and his party (PDP) huge loss.
“Let me start by saying the party is supreme; you can’t change that fact. Governor Samuel Ortom thought he’s a game player but the end justifies the means. Secondly, his style of leadership is not correct at all, he makes life difficult for his state executive members and I believe most of them worked against him,” Moses added.
In the same vein, a staunch PDP supporter, Tor Beegu, posited that Governor Ortom could not install his successor mainly due to internal party wranglings as he stressed that the governor being a member of the G-5 governors, brought their message of discord to bear negatively on the chances of the PDP in his home state.
“After working against the interest of PDP’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, during the presidential election, there were no concrete arrangements to heal the wounds of the division before the gubernatorial election, thus hampering the chances of the party.
“Secondly, there were serious misgivings by the working class who were bitter that the governor was owing them backlog of salaries. Consequently, they worked against him and his preferred candidate. Thirdly, the sellability of the APC candidate, Alia, was another huge factor.
“An average Benue population accepted the candidate of the APC as a viable alternative to Governor Ortom’s PDP, who they argued would perform better and deviate majorly from his (Ortom) alleged maladministration,” Beegu maintained.