By Ben Atonko
THE die is cast! Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Iormem Alia (PhD) is going to be governor of Benue State. The journey to that actualisation is progressing steadily and fast. Indeed, Fr. Alia’s administration is drawing nigh. The signs that Fr. Alia will be governor are crystal clear. Even if one cannot see, one can hear or feel them. No one needs be told.
Being the flagbearer of his party, it is incumbent on Fr. Alia to start behaving as governor for the staff of office is sure to be handled to him. His not grabbing that sceptre is entirely his making for the people of Benue State have passed their verdict – “Fr. Hyacinth Iormem Alia be our governor.” This is a chant we hear every day. If the people’s voice is supreme, then we can say the question – who becomes the next governor in Benue State – is answered.
What does this mean? Fr. Alia should by now wear the toga of governor. It is important he does that so that by the time he takes oath of office on May 29, 2023, he immediately rolls up his sleeves and starts to execute his developmental plan. There is no time to sit back to learn the ropes. This is the time for him to learn the workings of that coveted office.
By now, Fr. Alia should have a blueprint of what to do and who to do what when he is governor. Now is time for him to get the right hands that will help him till the earth.
He has always emphasised the fact that Benue State has the soil. If by now he has not come out with the appropriate way the soil can be ploughed, he should start doing it.
First is security. He must start to look at the entire security system in the state. The police, the army, the local vigilante and others must be critically reviewed vis-à-vis their performances in the recent past in the state. He should think of a security advisor who is not only knowledgeable but with the right character. They should be accessible by the local folks for sharing of vital security information.
I believe he understands the vital role traditional rulers play in this area. He must work with them and time to know them is now.
Second. At different fora, I heard Fr. Alia spoke about displaced persons. The displaced persons have been in camps for many years, yet the government appears to be unmoved by their yucky being.
Fr Alia is pained by the plight of the hapless people. It will, indeed, be one of the greatest things he can do if they are helped. Whatever he comes up with, whether returning them to their ancestral lands or resettling them in places fortified against barbarity and atrocities, will be a very great achievement.
This is a very huge task. I suggest he hold consultations with the government of Borno State that has done so much in this area so he can develop a plan that can work for the people of Benue State.
Third. Fr. Alia should wholly review the workforce in Benue State. By this way, he can ascertain the wage bill of the state. The present administration attempted to do it but ended with nothing. This is very important for the administration so it can know the actual workers in the state and their pay. Yes, Benue State has not many industries so a good number of people are on government pay roll. However, it will be counter-productive if government continues to work with the blurry and nebulous payment structure/system by which the state is badly ripped off.
Fr. Alia should start thinking of the infrastructure stock in Benue State. Already, the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) has produced what it called Infrastructure Scorecard in Nigeria. The engineers can help him do an audit of projects in the state which will be a good guide for him. By this, he can look at projects that are critical to the wellbeing of the populace and be treated with utmost attention.
Fr. Alia has always talked about youth employment. The Benue State economy can be improved only with proper involvement of private investors. The priest should get it well that building industries with public funds is a no-no. It’s an apparent way to failure. Evidence of this abounds. What needs be done is purposeful engagement with the industrial financiers. What is expected from government is conducive business environment – enactment of appropriate laws and their full enforcement. Once this is in place, the business space will become active, businesses will thrive and the much needed jobs will be created.
It is very important that Fr Alia builds a structure for his prospective administration now.
He can do all this with a very minimal cost. For instance, he can turn his campaign office in Wurukum, Makurdi into a quasi-government house. He doesn’t really need to look for a massive structure for this.
It is absolutely necessary he starts getting used to the persons who will work with him so he can gauge their capabilities for appropriate placements. It will equally help those hankering for jobs in a Fr. Alia administration to understand the kind of government they are going to work for. This will curtail working at cross-purposes.
He should remember, those pained by his winning the ballot will never give up. They have a sense of entitlement which won’t allow them to take things as they are.
These people will persistently throw bricks and see nothing good in a Fr. Alia government. That’s why the priest-governor will have to be focused and avoid the temptation of spending much of his time discussing what people are saying about him. Leave the opponents with their claims, for the task at hand is enormous and far more important than their finger-pointing. Benue State people, desirous of making him governor, are not oblivious of the unfair accusations of blame against the cleric.
Of course, Fr. Alia is human and may be troubled. However, he should not forget, attack on people in power is a pastime for many in democracy. Even the military men who usurped power were not free from mordant criticisms, with all their might and repressive laws though.
Time is of great essence. Four years for a government with enormous responsibility on its hands is a short time. As the English say; a stitch in time saves nine. Fr Alia must stitch now!
Atonko, a journalist, writes from Abuja.