Benue 2023: Tussle for gov ticket heats up state APC

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  • Gemade warns against imposition of candidate  
  • As Rev. Fr Hyacinth Alia faces challenges of mutual distrust

By Our Reporter

The tussle for the governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue State for the 2023 general elections, north central Nigeria, is heating up the state party. About 15 governorship aspirants are in the race for the APC governorship ticket towards the May 26 primaries.

Senator Barnabas Gemade

Some of the APC governorship aspirants for the 2023 elections include Senator Barnabas Gemade, a former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and a minister; Chief Michael Kaase Aondoakaa SAN, former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Prof. Terhemba Shija, a university lecturer, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, Catholic Priest from Vandeikya Local Government; Iorhemen Hembe, a member of the House of Representatives, representing  Konshisha and Vandeikya  Federal Constituency. Others include Terlumun Paul Ikya, Steven Lawani, Dr. Sam Ode, Dr. John Tor Tsuwa, etc.

Despite being the opposition in Benue State, the APC has highly active governorship aspirants that capable of elevating political activities in the state APC to high altitude.

Two factors are critical in the race for the APC governorship ticket in Benue; they include zoning and proposal for consensus candidate. A third but extraneous issue is the perceived influence of the APC leader in Benue State, Senator George Akume, Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, in the emergence of the party’s governorship candidate.

Senator George Akume

The APC State Secretary, Rt. Hon. Paul Biam, had in a statement clarified the party’s position on zoning. He explained that the State APC governorship zoning committee had recommended that “Jeichina intermediate area and Zone C…has been granted express permission to continue in their pursuit of becoming a candidate of the party.”

He had earlier stated that the Committee recommended that “the Kwande intermediate area in Zone A should shield their ambition in the pursuit a candidate to run the 2023 governorship primary on the platform of the APC.”

The APC leader in Benue State, Senator George Akume, was said to have, at a two-day retreat for governorship aspirants in Abuja, suggested the adoption of a consensus governorship candidate for the 2023 election.

Senator Akume had also acknowledged that he was influential in the nomination of two previous governorship candidates in the state, assuring that this time, there will be transparent process and fair play for all contenders.

The two issues generated controversies, making the APC throw open the contest for the governorship ticket at the May 26 state congress.

Gemade had cautioned against imposing a candidate on party members in Benue State. He insisted that the primary be conducted openly and delegates be allowed to vote for the aspirant of their choice.

Party stakeholders have divergent views of the various aspirants.

For instance, Senator Barnabas Gemade is perceived to have high profile, wealth of experience, and is rich. However, some stakeholders, including Senator Akume, were said to perceive Gemade in different political lenses, like being elitist and unpopular among the grassroot population, having an advanced age, and seemingly undemocratic in decision making.

Mike Aondoakaa (SAN)

The State APC leader and other stakeholders were alleged to perceive Mike Aondoakaa (SAN) to be outside the zoning arrangement, and shares the same constituency with Late Governor Aper Aku.

Prof. Terhemba Shija is widely as an intellectual but may not have the financial muscle to fund a governorship election.

Hon. Iorhemen Hembe is perceived to have done well in the Konshisha and Vandeikya Constituency he represents in the National Assembly. There is, however, concerns that the lawmaker needs more time to mature into that level of leadership.

In the course of consultations and horse trading, the various aspirants have reached out to various groups and stakeholders across the state.

One governorship aspirant whose candidature appears to be sounding so loud is Rev. Hyacinth Alia, a Catholic Priest, an economist, and a dynamic young man in the 40s. At prima facie perception, Rev. Alia seems to represent a generational leadership transition in Benue State, a seeming ambassador of new generation leaders, and a likely representative of the grassroot population.

However, some stakeholders in the state express some concerns about the aspirant’s commitment to representing the interest of Benue people.

Certain stakeholders expressed concerns that the State APC leader, Senator Akume, may be supporting Rev. Alia as APC candidate in the governorship election.  The stakeholders alleged that the Minister may be supporting Rev. Alia so as to use him to mobilize the Church in Benue and secure victory for the APC in 2023.

Rev. Alia is conceived as a new entrance into the politics of Benue State with “no experience in governance or the public service.”

Like several other political actors in the APC, the minister was purported to have made efforts to allegedly present Rev. Alia to President Muhammadu Buhari as prospective governorship candidate in Benue but is yet to get audience with the President.

He was, however, purported to have had audience with the Chief Staff to the President, the APC National Chairman, and others party leaders. The State party leader was said to have purportedly explained, during the consultation with the Chief of Staff and the national chairman, that Rev. Alia could be a huge asset for the APC in Benue to mobilize the massive support of the Catholic Church in the state for the party to defeat the PDP in 2023.

However, President Buhari is widely conceived to have insisted on non-interference with the party primaries at any level.

Rev. Alia was said to have extended his consultations and horse trading to a former governorship candidate in Benue, Rt. Hon. Emmanuel Jime, seeking his total support.

The aspirant was also purported to have further extended his consultations to Benue indigenes resident in Lagos, hosting the Benue community to a consultative meeting in Lagos.

Rev. Alia

At the consultation with Jime, Rev. Alia was alleged to have traded off ‘nominating the former Speaker for ministerial appointment’ after victory.

Furthermore, stakeholders in the state expressed fear that Rev. Alia may have purportedly further extended his consultation to the leaders of Miyetti Allah, in the overtures to various stakeholders in Benie.

In the purported consultation and horse trading, the Miyetti Allah leaders were alleged to have consented to support the candidate but purportedly requested the repeal of Benue State Anti-Open Grazing law enacted by the Ortom administration, and a probe of the administration of Governor Samuel Ortom.

Rev. Alia was alleged to have noted that repealing the Anti Grazing Law would be difficult, though, may consider approval Grazing Reserves for herders to minimize conflicts in the State.

Sone stakeholders expressed concerns that areas purportedly being considered may include Ikyogen Cattle Ranch in Kwande Local Government, Umenger-Utyondu and Udei-Isherev areas, bordering Nasarawa in Guma Local Government; Agagbe-Gwer West, Jewende, Gwer-East Local Government, and areas bordering Idoma land and Tiv.

Our head office made a telephone call to Rev Alia seeking his audience to clarify the issues raised by Benue stakeholders on the alleged consultations with certain stakeholders like the Miyetti Allah leaders, and the purported support of the APC leader in the state, Senator Akume, but he declined comment referring the caller to his media aides for approval before he speaks, or for the media aides to respond to the inquiries. He was requested to assist the caller with the contacts of any of his media aides, again, he declined. Later SMSs were sent to him on the issues that needed his response, after efforts to contact his media aides failed, but there were no responses.

Meanwhile, Alia submitted his Expression of Interest and Nomination forms to contest for the APC governorship ticket at the May 26 primary the previous Friday with fanfare on the streets of Makurdi. Thousands of supporters accompanied the aspirant to the party office to submit his forms in a carnival display. Rev. Alia is joining the governorship race in the state many years after Rev. Moses Adasu was there in 1992.

Having submitted his forms, Rev. Alia unveiled his seven points agenda for the development of Benue State. He stated that his mission is – to ensure government continues to prioritise the needs of residents and the people of the state; promising he will ensure government serves the people.

Rev. Alia promised to stop land grabbers in Benue State. According to him, “I will provide leadership that will restore “our values, pride in dignity.”

He also promised to create jobs, promote massive industrial development, and tackle corruption and other malpractice in the state, including enhancing educational and healthcare.

In spite of the concerns of certain stakeholders, Rev. Alia appears to have grassroots appeals, he appears to be the cynosure of the various stakeholders in the state.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Some aspirants are so popular and liked by their sponsors and admirers yet they are afraid of confronting the benue populace according to the guidelines of the contest. They are either tampering with the delegate lists, changing the election mode 24 hours to the contest, not abiding by the requirements of even their preferred mode etc. And they claim they want to win the general elections. How can an election be won after most party members are alienated. How? In magic ways? If some entrenched powers don’t want benue state to grow except their pockets are full and worst of all that the Idomaman won’t be governor of the state then woe to them and their cohorts.

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