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Benue 2023: Strength of contenders, weaknesses of pretenders

From Makurdi, JOHN SHIAONDO reports that the political atmosphere in Benue state is getting charged as the electorate and politicians seem to be in dilemma over who to support ahead of the March 11 governorship polls.

The candidates at a glance

At least sixteen (16) political parties are fielding candidates for the Benue number one seat. Those contesting the governorship of the state are Oyigeya Matthias of Accord, Dabu Mathew Asemayina Action Alliance, Obe Ewaoche Benjamin Africa Action Congress (AAC), Tilley Gyado Terhemen, African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chenge Roseline Ada African Democratic Party (ADP), Alia Hycinth Iormem All Progressives Congress (APC), Waya Joseph All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and Kwadzah Terrumun Kenneth for Action People’s Party (APP).

Others are Hembe Herman Iorwase Labour Party (LP), Angwe Bem Reuben New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), Abah Sam Inalegwu National Rescue Movement (NRM), Uba Tyoapine Titus Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)

Icheen Levi Lumun Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Mede James Bemgbator Social Democratic Party (SDP), Orya Ungwaga Roberts Young Progressive Party (YPP), and Dabo Adzuana Aondona

Sharon Funmi Catherine, Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).

Although there are 16 political parties contesting for the governorship, only three seems to be dominating the political sphere in the state. All the three dominant political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are seriously devising strategies to either consolidate or take over the affairs of governance in the food basket state.

Emergence of Father Hycinth Iormem (APC)

There is a new emergence in the Benue political scene Reverend Father Hycinth Iormem Alia who is being fielded by the APC.

Reverend Alia, a Catholic priest, who had served in various parishes and was known for his healing powers decided to take the bull by the horn when he joined the governorship race.

Though a political neophyte, Alia may be a force to reckon with considering the background which he is coming from.

There are speculations that the Catholic community in the state  may be fronting him to achieve the desired change they yearn for.

The reverend gentleman has been able to bring significant change where he had presided as a priest and many other places he had served.

His candidature may enjoy support owning to the fact that the Christian community will file behind him. Because of the healing ministry he had operated, he had been very popular across Benue, and many had known or heard about him long before he ventured into politics

Rev Alia also seems to be enjoying the sympathy of the Benue people irrespective of their political affiliation.

To analysts, the growing support being enjoyed by the priest could also be premised on the fact that a cleric, Rev father Moses Orshior Adasu, in botched third republic, was able to provide, within the short time he stayed in office as governor, some life-changing projects which till date have impacted positively on the lives of Benue people.

However, some other observers  were of the opinion that Benue state, has been ruled by the PDP, for about 22 years since the advent of democracy in 1999, but have denied the state of the needed development.

They underscored the need for an alternative party to also taste the reins of power in Benue. 

A Business man Terkaa Mfaga, said “Alia can make good governor for Benue. Father Alia may be a God sent to Benue since the previous leaders have failed the state.

“Since Aper Aku left office as governor of Benue state, no governor has done anything tangible to improve the state. Apart from Aper Aku, the former governor Rev Fr. Adasu could have performed well, however, his administration was truncated by the military. Despite that, Adasu was able leave outstanding legacies for the state within that short period he stayed on seat as governor.

“It is our belief that Alia as a man of God will have fear of God and change Benue for the better,” he said 

Nonetheless, others also argue that Father Alia might have his challenges, considering the fact that he is venturing into elective political position for the first time.

Those who belong to the school of thought said “since he has never occupied a political position before, it will be difficult for him to operate if he is made governor”.

Furthermore, a bigger challenge before the Alia and the APC is the numerous court cases against them which are actually taking a toll on the candidate.

Just Monday 23rd January, 2023 the Appeal Court sitting in Makurdi, nullified his election as candidate and ordered conduct of  the primary in 11 local government areas of the state within 14 days. 

Terhemba Shija, one of the aspirants in the APC had challenged the election of Alia as candidate of the party.

Though Shija lost the case at the lower court, the Appeal Court favoured him and annulled the election of Alia and ordered conduct of fresh primaries within 14 days in eleven Local government areas of the state. 

These, according to some persons, would pose a major challenge to the aspirations of the party to rule Benue in 2023.

There are also allegations that the opposition political parties may have a hand in the sponsorship of the court battle against Alia, in order to clip his wings and stop him from getting the ticket.

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