Benue State, Governor Hyacinth Alia


By Samson Ochono

In February this year, the Governor of Benue State, Hyacinth Alia set up two commissions of inquiry to probe his predecessor, Samuel Ortom, over the management of state finances during Ortom’s time as governor from 2015 to 2023. It must be emphasized that this move by the governor is a blatant witch-hunt and vendetta against a political opponent, rather than a genuine pursuit of justice and accountability.

I am happy that the courts are already looking into the matter, and I expect them to deliver justice without the fear of intimidation.

Governor Alia’s decision to delve into the past actions of Ortom appears to be driven by personal animosity and political persecution, rather than a sincere commitment to upholding transparency and good governance in the state. By targeting Ortom in this manner, Governor Alia risks tarnishing the reputation of the office he holds and undermining the credibility of his administration.

Alia displayed his hatred for Ortom right from the minute he was sworn-in as governor. The first action he took was to set up a kangaroo Assets Recovery Committee headed by Ortom’s kinsman Hinga Biem in a move that rather revealed his real motive of resentment towards MINDA people. Alia personally supervised activities of the committee which went after Ortom and harassed him and members of his family including innocent people who took their cars to a popular public automobile workshop in Makurdi for maintenance. The committee impounded more than 30 vehicles, most of which were private vehicles belonging to other members of the public.

Alia went berserk, leveling all manner of accusations against Ortom all of which were lies motivated by vengeful hatred aimed at bringing down the former Benue State Governor and making him look bad in the eyes of the public. Alia even lied that the reason he sealed all bank accounts of the state government was because Ortom had given some individuals cheques to cash out.

Alia went on to contradict himself on the issue of debts by initially agreeing that Ortom left behind N187 billion debts but a few weeks later making a u-turn saying that the debts were over N350 billion. But Ortom maintained a dignified silence in the face of all the persecution and resisted the temptation to return fire in equal measure towards his successor. He only responded calmly to clarify the issues when it became necessary.

It is deeply concerning and unfortunate that Governor Alia, in his zeal to crucify his predecessor, has overlooked his own responsibility to govern with integrity, transparency, and accountability. The lack of transparency surrounding the current administration’s management of state resources raises serious questions about Governor Alia’s commitment to good governance and the welfare of the people of Benue State.

Let Governor Alia publish all the funds he has received from the federation’s account as monthly allocations, palliatives, wage award, Benue’s share of the N50 billion security support and all the funds that Ortom worked tirelessly to secure for the state which he Alia has received.

The reason Ortom was denied all those funds by the Buhari administration was because of his dogged stand against the Fulani agenda to take over Benue State and occupy. He was vilified and even profiled for elimination. Alia came and struck a deal with those who wanted to annex the state as their property and they supported him with billions during campaigns and he emerged as governor. He has collected all those funds that Ortom was denied. He is now romancing with Fulani, that’s why they have returned with thousands of cattle and are attacking people. He is keeping mute because it is the reason he was sponsored to win. He has compromised.

Governor Alia has claimed that his government has removed thousands of ghost workers and ghost schools from the payroll and reduced the wage bill, but he has refused to disclose what the current wage bill is. With the big increase in federal allocations, Alia is among state governors who are protesting against the proposed national minimum wage. What a shame!

Governor Ortom, despite facing numerous economic and security challenges during his tenure among which were two major recessions that Nigeria plunged into, is praised for his transparent governance and efforts to navigate the complexities of governing a state like Benue. His administration’s commitment to openness and accountability stands in stark contrast to the opacity that now shrouds Governor Alia’s actions.

During Ortom’s time, Benue people knew how much the state was receiving from the Federal Government. The people knew what the wage bill was and also knew what the internally generated revenue (IGR) was. Today under Alia, everything is in “voicemail” as our people call it. No one knows how the state resources are being spent. Alia awards contracts alone like a parish priest does in a church. No one dares question his dictatorial policies.

It is imperative that Governor Alia should reconsider his persecution of political opponents and instead focus on fulfilling his campaign promises to the people of Benue State. Governance should be about serving the interests of the people, not settling political scores or harassing perceived opponents.

Governor Alia must prioritize the well-being of the people of Benue State, uphold the principles of justice and fairness, and demonstrate a genuine commitment to transparency and accountability in governance. It is only through such actions that he can earn the trust and respect of the people he was elected to serve.

He should retrace his steps, abandon this ill-conceived probe, and focus on governing with integrity, transparency, and a genuine commitment to the welfare of the people of Benue State. Anything less would be a disservice to the voters who placed their trust in him as their leader.

Ochono writes from Apo, Abuja.

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