Fr. Hyacinth Alia: Putting a Philosopher in Government House; By Ben Atonko

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THE entry of a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Iormem Alia, into the race for the seat of governor in Benue State has indeed excited many. Being a deeply religious society, the Benue State people are optimistic that the cleric will emerge victorious and he will truly turn around the place.

Of course, Fr. Alia is the only odd one among the lot aspiring to be governor. They are all politicians who have tasted one political office or the other except Fr. Alia who is not known for partisan politics. He has spent 30 years in priesthood. He started in the old Makurdi Diocese where his fame went far and wide by his power of healing the sick. He was known as the Lord’s anointed with the powers to retrieve traditional diabolical possessions, heal the afflicted and cleanse the land. The sick, physically and spiritually, were always brought to his abode in Makurdi, the Benue State capital. By his healing powers, he became one of the most popular priests and known to nearly every household in Benue State.
From Makurdi, he took his pastoral work to the US. He returned from the US and is currently serving in Vandeikya. Vandeikya is under the Gboko Catholic Diocese, Benue State.

The question therefore is: what can one without political history bring?
Throughout his years of service, Fr. Alia has been with the afflicted, discomforted, discontented, downtrodden, proletariat. He should know vividly what the pains of the masses are. Of course, with the holy book in his hand, he should have strong compassion for the have-nots for that is the fulcrum of the holy book’s message. With this background therefore, one would want the priest to seek more salvation or let us say bring succour to the discomforted in Benue State. In fact, the Jesus Christ he follows made it profoundly clear that His was for the poor, not the rich. If Fr. Alia’s mission is to feather his nest or politicians’, then he should better remain what he is, a priest.

Anything that makes the public worker not be themselves disrupts a chain of economic activities. It is more so in Benue because civil servants earn more as there are not many industries there. Once workers and pensioners are not paid for many months/years, the economic chain is badly broken. Sadly, the Benue State civil service has remained what it is under different administrations. Past administrations claimed the workforce figures are bogus yet they would not audit and get the accurate numbers. The verification exercises they made ended in sham as they only squandered huge money on cronies to undertake reviews without any good results.

So, how can Fr. Alia be different from the ordinary politician we know? Getting into leadership position is a covenant. We expect Fr. Alia to make lucid his mission to the Benue State people. We would like to hear from him what he can do for the Benue State civil servant, the businessperson, the farmer, the student and others whose means of livelihood is hinged on the local economy.

At this moment, the public worker in Benue State is disillusioned, dissatisfied, frustrated, angry and sad. They are anguished. Yet the civil servant remains one who drives any administration’s policies. Many depend on them for their living – relatives especially. The civil servant, it is that goes to the market to interact with the trader. The farmer waits for the civil servant’s pay day to sell their produce, just as the market person waits for the end of the month when the worker’s pay comes.

Anything that makes the public worker not be themselves disrupts a chain of economic activities. It is more so in Benue because civil servants earn more as there are not many industries there. Once workers and pensioners are not paid for many months/years, the economic chain is badly broken. Sadly, the Benue State civil service has remained what it is under different administrations. Past administrations claimed the workforce figures are bogus yet they would not audit and get the accurate numbers. The verification exercises they made ended in sham as they only squandered huge money on cronies to undertake reviews without any good results.

A serious administration should know what to do and get it quickly and properly done because the civil servants are the actual face of government. The good of a government resonates with the public worker. The sight of a forlorn Benue worker is a clear manifestation of the numerous years of depravity and horrible governance.
Needles to talk about provision of infrastructure and economic growth. A serious government that understands the workings of the local and international economies will leave no stone unturned to engineer a better economy. Good infrastructure and favourable economic policies motivate industrial financiers to put down stakes. Roads for instance will help the rural farmer as moving produce from the rural community to the urban centre will be easier and less costly. Good and friendly economic decisions spur investors to take up business activities in a place.

This can be achieved only by a government that can distinguish party politics from good governance. Such a government knows that it cannot be partisanship all through the years. It will be pretty hard for those deeply immersed in party politics to know this because their living is entirely on politicking. They are only concerned about winning elections – as they win today, they are already obsessed with how they will win tomorrow’s.
The people now earnestly look for who will pull them out of the dungeon and console them. They are no more interested in sweet nothings and flattering of the run-of-the-mill and workaday politician.

This is why the interest in the priest is huge. Benue State wants someone out-of-the-way because the cut-and-dried politician has continually acted with depraved indifference to the people’s unfortunate, difficult and precarious situation.
As we know, Fr. Alia is not the first ecclesiastic to pull off the alb and put on the political gown. The late Fr. Moses Orshio Adasu entered the political turf and he took the oath of office as Governor of Benue State on 2nd January, 1992, having won election on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). He is rated, in performance, next to the first civilian governor of the state, the late Aper Aku.

History is there for us to refer to. It therefore behoves Fr. Alia to explain to the people what he can do for them in the clearest and simplest of terms. His promises should be what are doable. He has no room for failure because the people have decided to move away from the deceitful money bags to a Godly man for no lucre.

A leader with wisdom will not give excuses. A good leader will not be like an old humbug. A good governor will not bore and irritate people with a hollow and mind-numbing incantation. The people want governance raised above the mundane.

Apart from living for the less privileged masses, we know Fr. Alia as a philosopher. He must come with a wealth of wisdom to leadership. Only kings with wisdom have a place in history. Solomon is reputedly the greatest king because he ruled with uncommon wisdom. Like the ancient Greece, Benue people are saying now is time to make leadership an exclusive preserve of philosophers. Fr. Alia himself has said that wisdom will take precedent if he is governor.

A leader with wisdom will not give excuses. A good leader will not be like an old humbug. A good governor will not bore and irritate people with a hollow and mind-numbing incantation. The people want governance raised above the mundane.
Atonko writes in Abuja

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