According to holy scriptures in the gospel of Luke 16:10-14 “Whoever can be trusted with small things can also be trusted with big things. Whoever is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in big things too.” This summarizes the core of seeking leadership responsibilities.
Whenever I reflect on the above scripture passage, I think of people seeking to govern my home state of Benue, come 2023, most particularly, the suspended priest Hyacinth Alia, who is currently aspiring to the political office of Governor on the APC platform. I think about Alia particularly because, my expectation has been that as a Priest, he should have proved himself worthy to be trusted with the leadership of Benue State. Sadly however, the man has not shown any sign to earn public trust. I keep wondering how a man who flagrantly disobeys his sacred vows of holy orders can enter into a covenant with citizens in a socio-political complex setting and keep such a contract.
I remember profoundly, while as an undergraduate student at the Benue State University, Makurdi, I used to worship at the Saint Thomas Catholic Church, Anum opposite the BSU First Gate. As an active member of the Church, I knew the fundraising efforts that were being made to build a new Church auditorium. However, what was lacking for the progress was the honesty of Fr Alia the then Parish Priest in utilization of the monies realized for the Church project.
For instance, I knew that the then Auditor General of the Federation, Mr Samuel Ukura who with his family were also active members of the Church contributed significantly to the project. The man particularly donated trailer loads of bags of cement for the Church’s work. However, the cement was never used for the Church project. It was an open subject of discussion amongst Church members how Fr. Alia, who was the Parish Priest, diverted the trailers of cement that were donated. The building materials were not accounted for to the disappointment of the donor and his family who felt discouraged. This may partly be the reason for the long delay in completing the Church project until another priest took over.
As a Benue indigene who resides here in Abuja, I am genuinely concerned about the progress of my home State to have leaders who will move the state forward. Benue deserves forthright and honest leaders, but I must say that Alia is not anything close to being an honest person who should be entrusted with political leadership. If as a priest, Alia diverted trailers of cement meant for Church work, one can only imagine what such a person would do if trusted with the common patrimony of the people. In truth, this and other scandalous issues surrounding the man have really disenchanted some of us about his so-called gubernatorial candidacy. A priest with a known record of dishonesty and fraudulent practices will never make a good leader in political circles. He doesn’t have what it takes; neither has he proven it in his priesthood.
It happened that even after graduation from BSU and after doing my National Youth Service, because I came back and temporarily resided in Makurdi around the University community, I continued worshipping at Saint Thomas Catholic Church Anum where Fr Alia was still the Parish Priest with no commensurate progress on the Church building structure.
Later on, while worshipping there at the Church this time, Fr Alia was under controversial circumstances, sent packing from the Church. The suspicious aspect was that Fr Alia never told us parishioners why he was sent out of the Parish. I would later find out from some parishioners that the priest committed a scandal which required serious sanction from the Church authority. Till now, I am curious to know exactly why Fr Alia left Saint Thomas Catholic Church, Anum in such an unceremonious manner! Whatever the circumstances were, his departure was a source of relief to many parishioners who no longer had confidence in him.
My curiosity is however proven that, even while as a priest at the said Church, Alia appeared to me like a man who had eyes on material things and accumulation of wealth. He used to drive big and flashy cars, so many controversial stories were told of his priesthood since his ordination but I waved most of them away at that time. In any case, since he eventually dumped the priestly vocation to join partisan politics against the sacred laws of the Church, I have now come to truly appreciate the enormity of the awful stories that were told concerning the man. Indeed, he is a conman who was only hiding under priestly garments to deceive the people. No Catholic priest, in the true sense of his calling, will brazenly rubbish the hallowed priestly vocation the way Fr Alia does in the name of politics.
When I saw pictures of Alia openly fraternizing with Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, I shook my head and said to myself in disappointment that the desperation of this supposed priest has reached an all time high. Otherwise, who doesn’t know the religious fanaticism of El-Rufai in this country? Is this the kind of person a priest who claims to be on a mission to salvage the state will openly be aligning with? In whose interest, if I may ask? This is really strange. Is it not glaring that this man is indulging in deceitful deals to trade the dignity of the people?
Little wonder, it is alleged that during Alia’s visit to Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, he signed an agreement with the Kaduna State Governor and other Islamic fundamentalists who gave terms and conditions to offer him the financial support he requested from them to help run his campaign. One of the terms of the agreement was that he will permit the Emirate system in Benue state and to allow Fulani cattle herders free access to grazing fields in all the 23 local government areas of the state. Whether this is true or not, it calls to question the dishonest and desperate moves of Hyacinth Alia in seeking political power.
At a sit-out with some of my Benue friends last week at a popular joint here in Abuja, I told them that for me, I am really not keen about who governs Benue State come next year’s general election, but I don’t see Alia as that kind of leader with the magic wand or integrity he is been touted for by uninformed persons. What kind of integrity could he go as low as diverting cement meant for Church work to go build his private mansions? I told them this was the same way President Muhammadu Buhari was touted as “Mai Gaskiya” and “Mr Integrity” but has ended up as a national disaster to the country. A catastrophe we brought on ourselves as citizens.
Benue people must beware of this Alia of a man, his deceitful conduct over time speaks volumes!
By Samson Ochono, Abuja