Open letter to Very Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia, Benue Governor-elect

 Open letter to Very Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia, Benue Governor-elect

His Excellency,

Very Rev. Fr., Dr. Hyacinth Iormem Alia,

Governor-elect, Benue State.

Dear Mr. Governor,

Political ‘othering’ & hatred of foes impale good governance

Sir, like our elders say, a cock that crows in the early hours of the morning may belong to a particular owner but its voice is the benefit of the entire village. As a concerned Benue son, this is a piece of humble appeal. It is a piece of solicitation.

I feel deeply imperative to write to you this open letter. I decided to make it an open letter because the issue is very important to my heart and may be greatly worrisome to all concerned Benue State indigenes and by extension all those resident in Benue State hence of great concern to you. I feel that collective interrogations and dialoguing is the best way of probing the future of the state as a political macrocosm to finding an appropriate and adequate solution to the problem.

This letter, therefore, ought to be available to all those who are likely going to receive spiritual and attitudinal renaissance and partake in effective emotional and psychological solutions for the problem of “othering” and hatred of political foes that might be gathering momentum to rear its ugly head in the land.

Your Excellency, Sir, I deliberately started this letter with a proverb about a cock and I think it will be more pictorial if I cast you in the role of the cock-you were brought onto the political leadership stool by the majority of Benue State electorate as reviewed and confirmed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the just concluded governorship elections that were held across Nigerian States on March 18, 2023. 

While as Benue State Governor you may belong to a particular political party, it will be more democratically friendly that you allow the air of good governance under your dispensation be felt without borders by the indigenes and residents in the state.

The decision that brought you to power was informed by many factors which I might not necessarily recapture here one after the other but what so ever the factors were, the summary is that Benue people deemed you fit for the task of leap-frogging the Agrarian state to a home of agricultural processing industries where creation of employment and by extension boosting of the economy of the state among other democracy dividends would be made a common place.

One thing too close to call is the fact that, like it has been a common reality in many a Nigerian State, right from the build-up to the election throughout the declaration of winners like yourself, political parties’ supporters exhibited sufficient degrees of grand political canyon separating political local strangers from political indigenes as well as tenants from landlords. One may ask, why has this been happening?

The simple reason may be that field supporters usually want to create a notable discrepancy from the other population so that it may be said look, these ones are standing with us and as such only them that are conspicuously chanting support for us would be recognised in all that we would do when we finally get to the office.

In a review of data collected from past elections in Nigeria, people when elected into offices tend to allow sectarianism change the way they should govern. And when leaders allow this to happen, they definitely can’t really do so for all of the constituents anymore, they do so at the peril of the perceived opponents. This however, is what I wish Benue leaders, starting particularly from your administration, will learn to do apparently differently.

Sir, for those that may choose to go against your inclusive leadership when you finally hit the ground running in Benue State, I feel that this open letter may serve as a reference note at the times of anathema that may follow them for persistently refusing to turn back from where they were evidently going to get entangled and keep grappling with challenges that most societies in sub-Saharan Africa have already surmounted in pursuit of progressive politics and good governance.  

Dirty politics may demand that we grapple with every opposition but good governance and progressive politics demand that we antagonise negative oppositions while we take positive opposition as a lesson. Benue State population, for decades now, have been talking about democracy and anarchy. But under your watch no longer should they just talk about it. You could make it unmistakeable that it is no longer a choice between democracy and anarchy but it is no democracy or no existence. That is where we wish to stand in Benue State today.

In my kind appeal your Excellency, Benue belongs to all of us and we all belong to Benue State.  We must not be so deeply immersed in our … side, and that’s how we can get leaders who will say, “We are going to complete or continue with the programmes and projects that the past administration initiated for the benefit of the masses.” 

By that way, we get to see leaders initiating and executing development and growth-oriented projects in locations where they can best serve the interest of the state with no emphasis on political affiliations of the residents’ ethnic backgrounds. That way, we get people appointed into key positions based on credentials against unnecessary compensations as it has been remorselessly advertised and patronised by lovers of mediocrity.

For development and growth to become apparent reality, men must select best brains with intentional hearts to come together and form a common front and pursue mutual values irrespective of their surnames.

Sir, that is the way your government could function, and not by the logical end point of the highly sectarian ideology. Good leaders must not under estimate the punitive consequences of a sectarian political ecosystem on the society where politicians lose the incentive to be responsive to the entire populace. Where they lose the selfless incentive to compromise greed and nepotism, because they are much more likely to get accused of apostasy and lack of sufficient purity by their close allies some of whom are either myopic or indifferent towards development even when no neighbouring society is at standstill but on the jet-speed to growth.

I notice with interest that this phenomenon of sectarianism differs from the familiar divergence each administration in Benue holds on policy issues related to the economy and the general social safety nets in the state.

Good leaders must not under estimate the punitive consequences of a sectarian political ecosystem on the society where politicians lose the incentive to be responsive to the entire populace.

When there is political “othering” where members of one party hold a basic abhorrence for their opponents perceiving them as wholly alien in every way, it affects siting of projects and when possible the employment of personnel into the workforce becomes prejudicial causing conflict between developers and community interests.

In notice with interest too that the toxic sectarianism has fundamentally altered political discourse and public civility in our dear clime. This can be captured in the growing tendency of political groups in the state even the much younger ones viewing opponents during electioneering and politicking as morally repugnant. This level of political divisiveness on both sides creates a feedback loop of long lasting hatred and leaves Benue State open to manipulation by foreign powers that wish to further these internal rifts.

I am not hugely hallucinating about this, but experience has been calling that Benue people should collectively pose themselves in the same posture with a determined leader and take personal sacrifices for the development of the state.

When this happens, there is no longer apathy, half-truth, prejudice or envy. To some degree, each individual person is going to take some amount of responsibility and say, “I’m going to contribute ideas, world views to this administration and I’m going to contribute them in ways that don’t talk about me or us but Benue State as a project.

Mr. Governor Sir, on my horizon, however, there may be a few or no ideas about how to address the social and political bottleneck that rides on the back of  “othering” and hatred of foes but I think my concerned voice on the need to address it would do better than a silence.

Given the fact that you ditched cassock and join the political train that is laden with building blocks for Benue State, it is an article of faith that there is something new about the dispensation at hand.

Yours faithfully, 

Ernen Kaanti

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