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As Benue APC crisis deepens



The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue State is now torn by internal crisis, thus threatening the peace and tranquility of the entire state. Two rival groups belonging to Governor Hyacinth Alia and the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), George Akume, are battling for its soul. This has also taken its toll on the state House of Assembly as the lawmakers have also taken sides. KENNETH DARENG examines the factors that led to the crises and the efforts being made by stakeholders to bring the situation under control.

THE crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue State has assumed dangerous proportions as it is now factionalised with each of them running its own secretariat.

The state governor, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, his cabinet and supporters are pitted against the APC’s state structure led by the Chairman, Austin Agada, who is considered a staunch loyalist of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Senator George Akume.

However, according to the Saturday PUNCH, Agada was purportedly removed as the party chairman by his Ehaje council ward and subsequently restrained from parading himself as such.

Following court injunctions, the State Executive Committee of the APC, led by the governor, appointed Benjamin Omakolo as the acting chairman. However, Omakolo was later sacked by the state’s chief judge, Justice Maurice Ikpampese, after vacating the order restraining Agada.

However, the party secretariat located at J.S. Tarka Road was being occupied by the Agada-led state working committee. The other factional office had been opened by the Omakolo-led team close to the Government House, Makurdi.

As is to be expected, the division within the APC in the state has spilled over into the state House of Assembly where some of the law makers have decided to pitch their tent with the George Akume camp.

They accuse Mr. Alia of marginalising APC members and exhibiting “dictatorial” tendencies in running the affairs of the state.

These myriads of crises recently took a new turn when members of the party in the National Assembly called for the intervention of President Bola Tinubu. Their caucus, led by Titus Zam, the senator representing Benue North-West, made the appeal during a press briefing at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja.

The lawmakers who attended the briefing were Senator Emmanuel Udende, representing Benue North-East and members of the House of Representatives – Dickson Tarkighir, Makurdi/Guma Federal Constituency; Philip Agbese, Ado/Ogbadibo, Okpoku Federal Constituency; Terseer Ugbor, Kwande/Ushongo Federal Constituency; Austin Achado, Gwer-East/Gwer-West Federal Constituency; and Sekav Iyortyom, Buruku and Sesoo Ikpagher, Konshisha/ Vandeikya Federal Constituency.

They claimed to be staunch loyalists of the SGF, George Akume.

Mr. Zam, flanked by members of the caucus, also accused the governor of marginalising members of the ruling party in the state.

“Having watched with apprehension the absence of democratic leadership in Benue State in the last six months exemplified by the arrogant and egocentric conduct of Governor Hyacinth Alia, we have decided to draw the attention of Mr. President and other leaders of APC in Nigeria to seek their immediate intervention before the fortunes of APC in Benue State are totally destroyed,” he said.

In a public statement made available to the media, the parliamentarian added that the Mr. Alia had not been picking the calls of members of the National Assembly since his emergence as governor.

The statement read in part: “It is necessary to state from the onset that, we have collectively and individually drawn the attention of the leader of the APC in Benue, Sen. Dr. George Akume Secretary to the Government of the Federation who has on several occasions pleaded for patience from us in the anticipation of a possible change of attitude from His Excellency Governor Hyacinth Alia.

 “Rather than change for the better, Governor Alia has become more emboldened and has continued to treat us and the party in general in the most disgusting disrespectful and disingenuous manner.”

The lawmakers also alleged that the governor erred in the appointment of his commissioners. They claimed that the appointments were made without consulting members of the party.

Likewise, the nomination of caretaker committees for local governments in the state.

However, Mr. Zam praised the SGF for continuously pleading with party members to stay calm. But, according to him, they had finally lost patience and wanted the president to intervene.

“Governor Hyacinth Alia since assumption of duty has not held any meeting with NASS members of Benue State who were elected on the same APC platform with him neither does he pick or return their telephone calls not to talk of consulting them on political matters in the state.

“He has assumed the posture of a conqueror who does not care about the welfare, nor status of National Assembly members in his leadership of Benue State. In every state of the federation members of NASS are working in synergy with their governors to attract development from the centre to their State of origin,” he said.

Mr. Zam also announced the “loyalty” of the caucus to Mr. Akume and the state factional chairman, Austine Agada.

Rev. Alia, a Catholic priest, ditched his cassock last year and emerged as the governorship candidate of the APC. He subsequently won the gubernatorial election.

Analysts believe that Mr. Akume, a former governor of the state, provided the political structure that ultimately brought back the APC to power in the state.

However, there have been speculations of a rift between Messrs. Akume and Alia, even though the former has consistently denied such allegations.

With the crisis brewing in the Benue APC, stakeholders are anxiously looking up to President Tinubu for a solution. Just as he has done in other states, they want him to use his good offices to broker peace in the Benue State APC.

It will be recalled that Tinubu had intervened in the crisis in Rivers State between Governor Siminalayi Fubara and his predecessor, Nyesome Wike. This led to the resolution of the conflict in the oil-rich state. The president also intervened in the rift between former Ondo State Governor, late Rotimi Akeredolu, and his deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa.

In the current Benue State stalemate, the Majority Leader of the legislature, Saater Tiseer, has raised an alarm over what he termed the factionalisation of the House. He however maintained that he could not confirm if the division was between the Akume and the Alia factions.

Tiseer, who spoke in Makurdi against the backdrop of the recent three-month suspension slammed on four members said to be leaders of the Group of 22 or G22 in the Assembly, insisted that there was no rift in the House.

Said he: “The House is divided but I do not know whether it is between Senator Akume and the Governor. It is divided because there was a contest on who should be the Speaker and one person emerged that had 17 votes and the other 15 votes.

“The 17 votes of the speaker cut across the APC and the PDP, it was an alliance. On the other hand, out of the 15 votes, 14 are APC, one is Labour Party. So from the APC sometimes they feel disgruntled but nobody is being victimized. They feel that we have collaborated with the PDP to form the leadership and that is why there is tension in the House. For those supporting the Speaker, we believe if he gets the right support and supports the Governor, the state will move forward.”

On the distribution of official vehicles to members, which also sparked controversy in the House, he added: “… we were supposed to be given vehicles, and we are 31 because one of us Dr. Ortese was appointed Commissioner for Health.

“What is supposed to happen is that the leaders of the House were supposed to get more than one car. They are supposed to get two with the Speaker two and other security vehicles. The governor ordered for 32 and the contractor was able to bring only 17.

“Recently, the governor attempted to terminate the contract and asked us to go to the banks to get vehicles but the contractor assured the governor that we would get them this week and so he asked us to go and share the available cars.”

There seems to be no end in sight to the intra-party crises rocking the Benue State APC as policemen were reported to have fired tear gas at an anti-Austin Agada group which attacked him while attempting to access the state secretariat of the party in Makurdi.

The incident followed a letter written by the Chief of Staff to the governor conveying Alia’s instructions to the Commissioner of Police, Emmanuel Adesina, indefinitely banning all political activities in the state. This was said to be over the state of insecurity occasioned by the influx of herders into the state.

In compliance, the police directed the state chapter of the APC group led by Agada not to hold its planned executive committee meeting with some key party officials. However, the Agada group, believed to be loyal to George Akume, went ahead with the meeting but the governor’s supporters blocked the road leading to the venue.

Pandemonium broke out as Agada arrived the party secretariat and the anti-Agada supporters descending on him, prompting the police to shoot into the air and fire tear gas to disperse the crowd.

As a way towards finding a lasting solution to this lingering problem, the Vice President, Shetimma Ibrahim, waded in by undertaking a visit to the state. He was said to have done so at the instance of President Tinubu.

During a meeting with party faithful in Makurdi, the vice president appealed to the warring sides to bury the hatchet for the overall development of the state.

Political observers were hopeful that the president would personally intervene towards a peaceful resolution of the crisis which has polarized the APC in the state. And just like the president’s intervention in the Wike-Fubara feud led to a compromise, a similar intervention could very likely lead to finding a headway towards ending the rivalry and bitter exchanges between loyalists of Governor Hyacinth Alia and those of the SGF, George Akume.


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