How Hyacinth Alia became second Catholic priest elected Benue State governor

Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia has become the second Catholic priest elected Benue State governor following his victory at the March 18 polls.

The late Very Rev. Fr. Moses Adasu was the state’s first Catholic priest governor. He was elected on January 2, 1992, on the Social Democratic Party (SDP) platform. He left office after the military coup in November 1993 in which General Sani Abacha came to power.

Alia, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, polled 473,933 votes while his main rival Titus Uba of the Peoples Democratic Party scored 223,914 votes.

According to the INEC returning officer Prof. Faruk Kuta, the Labour Party’s candidate Hemma Hembe polled 41,841 votes to come a distant third.

The APC governorship candidate won in 17 LGAs, PDP won in four LGAs and Labour Party won in one LGA.

The governorship election did not hold in Kwande Local Government Area due to print errors in ballot papers meant for the council.

Justifying the commission’s decision, the INEC resident electoral commissioner, Prof. Sam Egwu, said when the margin of lead is more than registered voters in the local government, the commission would declare a winner.

Kwande LGA with 15 registration areas has 172,294 registered voters while the margin of lead stands at 250,020 votes.

Alia had fought a hard battle in emerging as the APC governorship candidate.

The Appeal Court sitting in Markurdi had in January 2023 ordered a rerun primary in 11 of the 23 local government areas of the state to determine the authentic candidate of the party.

The Appeal Court made the order while giving judgment on the case brought before it by one of the aspirants, Prof. Terhemba Shija, and added that result from the rerun be added to the existing result of the 12 local government areas.

The appellate court on the same day dismissed another appeal brought before it by another governorship aspirant, Senator Barnabas Gemade, as statute barred.

However, the Catholic priest was declared the winner of the rescheduled governorship primary election of the APC in February.