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Gov Alia, Akume on collision course over cabinet appointments

About 60 days into the administration of Governor Hyacinth Alia of Benue State, there are yet no nominations for cabinet appointments, Daily Trust Saturday reports.…

About 60 days into the administration of Governor Hyacinth Alia of Benue State, there are yet no nominations for cabinet appointments, Daily Trust Saturday reports.

Alia’s delay in forwarding any list of commissioner nominees to the State House of Assembly for confirmation has been raising dust among the people.

While some argue that the delay in releasing the commissioner’s list might not be unconnected with Alia allegedly heading on a collision course with the All Progressives Congress (APC) leader in the state, Senator George Akume, others think the governor is taking his time to ensure best hands in his cabinet.

Akume, who is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), is the APC leader in Benue and is perceived to be Alia’s godfather; hence it is believed that he wants to exert influence over the formation of the governor’s cabinet and other key appointments at all cost.

On the other hand, Governor Alia’s body language suggests that he wants to exercise independence in his cabinet formation; hence the perceived disagreement among supporters of the duo.

An insider in the APC who didn’t want his name mentioned, told our correspondent that the governor had asked stakeholders from each of the 23 local government areas of the state to nominate three names each from their areas, from which he would pick one out of each list to make up his cabinet.

The idea, according to the insider, has, however, not gone down well with some party stalwarts, who believe that Akume should be allowed to make huge input in the nomination of the commissioners.

Daily Trust Saturday reports that cracks in the state APC became noticeable when Akume’s chances of installing his preferred candidate as the Speaker of the House of Assembly failed due to the insistence of the governor on having his way.

It was to this end that all key appointments made so far had been viewed as Alia’s sole decision against an attempted influence by Akume to ensure the appointment of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), the Chief of Staff, and even the Speaker of the State Assembly.

For instance, the appointment of the SSG, Prof Joseph Alkali, the CoS, Paul Biam and Speaker, Hyacinth Dajoh, were purely the choice of the governor.

Akume’s loyalists  are, therefore, quick to blame Alia for asserting his independence too early in his four-year mandate as they contended that his insistence on having his way was a signal for a crack in the relationship between him and his ‘godfather’.

However, the governor’s spokesman, Tersoo Kula, has dismissed the insinuations, saying there was neither rift nor any crack between his principal and the SGF as far as the commissioners’ nomination is concerned.

Kula, in a telephone conversation with our correspondent in Makurdi, noted that “The commissioners’ list will be forwarded to the state Assembly for screening as soon as it is ready. I don’t know about any disagreement between the governor and Akume. There is no such thing; I am not aware. But both of them are always meeting.”

On whether the SGF would be making any input into the commissioners’ list, Kula replied that his principal would meet with all the stakeholders, including Akume, for their input, but he does not know the exact time for the expected meeting.

“That’s what I don’t know, but certainly, he (Akume) is a stakeholder. Stakeholders normally come together to make inputs. So, I know that when the time is right, the governor will meet with stakeholders, he told the party the last time they met. So, once the due consultations are done with stakeholders, the list would be out,” Kula said.

In the same vein, the state’s APC publicity secretary, Daniel Ihomun said, “There is no crack. There is no crack at all.”

Ihomun had announced the decision of the State Working Committee of the APC, before the inauguration of the 10th Assembly to support, Mrs Becky Orpin (the SGF’s choice) as the preferred Speaker of the House.

The decision was taken precisely on June 4 after the APC summoned a stakeholders meeting, during which the party’s chairman, Comrade Austin Agada, warned against anti-party activities.

A statement to that effect signed by Ihomun shortly after the meeting indicated that Mrs Orpin was the chosen one for the position, a decision that divided the party’s lawmakers into two factions.

It would be recalled that on the day of the inauguration/election of the Speaker, the APC chairman, with his supporters, was on one side to watch the event from the gallery of the Assembly complex while the governor and those on his side, including his newly appointed chief of staff, a former lawmaker, Paul Biam, also observed the situation.

Dajoh, who represents Gboko West, had the backing of the governor while Orpin was the real deal for Akume and the APC in the state.

A few days after the emergence of the Speaker and other key appointments made by the governor, there appeared to be a faceoff between the SGF and Alia’s men as both parties developed cold feet towards each other.

But the event of the past few days suggests that the governor and Akume may mend their fences in order to achieve a common goal for the development of the state.

To this end, on July 16, the State Working Committee of the APC interacted with Governor Alia at the Government House in Makurdi through a delegation led by the party chairman, Agada.

Ihomun also noted in a statement that Agada extolled the leadership qualities of the governor, adding that the leadership of the party in the state had been praying for the success of his administration, and sued for unity of purpose among party leaders to achieve greater success.

“While welcoming the party executives, the governor appreciated their visit and prayers. He solicited the support of the party and all stakeholders in the state to enable him succeed, and commended the APC leadership for standing by him during the 2023 elections.

“The governor promised to work hard to cement his relationship with the party, promising that the APC remained a united family and would not be divided. He told the party delegation that those who were bent on causing disaffection in the APC did not mean well for the party and the state.

“The governor informed the state officials of his harmonious relationship with the leader of the APC in the State and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sen George Akume, describing the former governor as the most easygoing, accommodating and humble leader in Benue State, who has always made himself available to the people.

“The governor, who promised a robust reward system for party supporters in the state also sued for their continued support and prayers for Benue State, which he said he was rebuilding from ground zero,” Ihomun’s statement read.

To some watchers, the newfound love between the party’s executive, those believed to be Akume’s men, and the governor indicates a departure from an antagonist posture by the duo since after winning election in the state.

For instance, they cited an earlier statement by the same Ihomun after the emergence of the Speaker, which they said was threatening.

Observers said the threat was meant to dissuade loyalists of the governor from further supporting nominations for appointments without the inputs of the SGF, who had made sacrifices for the party to take over the state.

The statement indicated that the party was aware that some stakeholders had scheduled meetings in their local governments for zoning positions without recourse to its leadership.

Ihomun had stated, “Whereas the APC empowers only party chairmen at all levels to convene such meetings, these perfidious persons have rather called meetings without involving the leadership of the party.

“The party strongly frowns at this act of insubordination and usurpation of party duties, and hereby, states clearly that such meetings are illegal, unauthorised, and decisions taken at such meetings would have no binding effect on the party.

“The governor of Benue State, The Rev. Fr. Dr Hyacinth Iormem Alia, has not communicated to the party the need for zoning of positions; therefore, those hastily convening these meetings are on their own.

“All faithful party members are advised to dissociate themselves from such unlawful assemblies and patiently wait for official directives on the matter.

“The party shall henceforth, apply punitive measures on those disobeying the order of the State Working Committee that has already banned all unauthorised meetings and events in the state.

“Party officials and all critical stakeholders are advised to stay away from these meetings that do not represent the interest of the state and the party.”

Political observers and analysts are, therefore, watching with keen interest to see what becomes of the relationship between Governor Alia and Akume in the coming days and weeks.

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