On March 20, Hyacinth Alia, a Catholic priest and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was declared winner of the governorship election in Benue State.
Announcing the result, Prof. Faruq Kuta, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s returning officer in the state, said Alia polled 473,933 votes to defeat Titus Uba of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who came second with 223,913 votes.
While giving his acceptance speech, Alia told Benue State indigenes that he was not the most qualified candidate to lead as governor.
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“I recognise what an enormous privilege and honour it is to be trusted with the government of the State, especially at this time, and Im deeply conscious of it. I would like to say that God does not call the qualified! He qualifies the called,” Alia stated.
“I may not be the most qualified Benue son to lead the state at this time but the Good Lord who has called me will qualify me.”
Who exactly is Reverend Fr. Alia, the Catholic priest cum governor-elect of Benue State?
BIRTH, EDUCATION AND SEMINARY JOURNEY
Alia was Born on May 14, 1966, in Mbangur, Mbadede, Vandeikya Local Government Area of Benue State. After attending St. Francis Primary School, Agidi, Mbatiav, Gboko, in 1983, he proceeded to St. James Minor Seminary in Makurdi to begin his religious career.
Alia got a degree in religious study from St. Augustine’s Major Seminary in Jos, Plateau State. While in the same school, Alia also studied theology.
In 1999, he obtained a Master of Religious Education at Fordham University in New York, United States of America.
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A CATHOLIC PRIEST THAT HEALS
Alia was ordained a Catholic priest on July 7, 1990, in Makurdi. Right after his ordination, the priest introduced a unique programme to his congregation — healing masses.
During the specially held masses, Alia would always pray for members of his congregation, especially “the sick and afflicted”. What began as a small congregational gathering would soon metamorphose into massive service sessions, as thousands of parishioners seeking miracles flooded Alia’s church regularly.
With time, the holy water the priest sprinkled on the “mentally ill, the physically challenged and members suffering from spiritual attacks” was called ‘Alia’s water’.
After a while, the Catholic Church in Benue State questioned the source of Alia’s special powers. To make the “unwelcomed publicity” that the priest’s special masses were beginning to generate go away, he was sent to the Vatican for the confirmation of his healing powers.
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On completing its investigation, the Vatican confirmed that Alia’s powers were indeed a special gift from God.
SUSPENSION AFTER VENTURING INTO POLITICS
In May, 2022, Alia joined Benue State’s gubernatorial race, running on the APC platform. While responding to questions on why he decided to join the race, he said it was to rescue the state’s indigenes from the shackles of maladministration.
In a swift reaction, the church hierarchy in the state made it clear that the canon law of the Catholic Church forbids clerics from active participation in politics. After taking a position on the matter, the church suspended Alia for his actions. The priest was also issued a suspension letter to formalise the church’s decision.
Reacting to his suspension, Alia said he was determined to rescue the state from poverty. He said that he was well aware of the sacrifices he would have to make in making his “good plans” for the state become a reality.
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He then vowed to return to the pulpit after serving out his mandate as governor.
PROTESTS, COURT CASE AND DISMISSAL OF COURT CASE
After emerging as the party’s gubernatorial candidate, the priest faced stiff opposition from a group called the All Progressives Congress’ Solidarity Group in June 2022.
The group, in a statement, claimed INEC had revealed that the Vandiekya Local Government chapter of the party, where the suspended Catholic priest hails from, had no record of his membership.
While still contending with the inner rumblings of the APC, the PDP attacked the priest with a lawsuit, accusing him of substituting Isaac Vembe, who was supposed to be his running mate, with Samuel Ode, without duly notifying INEC.
While ruling on the case, a high court sitting in Abuja dismissed the suit. Justice Inyang Ekwo, the presiding judge, held that the PDP’s suit was incompetent on the ground of lack of locus standi (legal right) to institute the case.
HE WON’T HAVE A FIRST LADY
While reacting to the question of never being married as priest on Tuesday, Alia, through Tersoo Kula, his spokesperson, said he did not need a wife to govern Benue State.
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Kula said Alia had worked as a Catholic priest for years without a wife and that his new position as governor would not be an exception.
Alia stated that the country’s constitution does not even recognise the office of the first lady, and that there was no provision for it in his administration.
Alia is the second Catholic priest to become Benue State Governor after Rev. Father Moses Adasu, who was the state’s civilian governor from 1992 to 1993.
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