Alia’s Birthday feast and the abandoned Benue IDPs

Alia’s Birthday feast and the abandoned Benue IDPs

By Peter Awunah, PhD
awunahpeter@gmail.com

Last night, Governor Hyacinth Alia of Benue State assembled his friends and supporters at an elaborate and extravagant event and dinner estimated to have cost the state hundreds of millions. The occasion was his 58th birthday. But while Governor Alia and his friends were lavishly enjoying themselves, the thousands of internally displaced people whom he has abandoned in several camps across the state had no food to eat or water to drink. Their children are still dying of minor illnesses and starvation.

Amidst the glitz and glamour of that lavish birthday dinner, no one gave a thought to the displaced people! The ostentatious display of wealth and privilege stands in stark contrast to the grim reality faced by the very people Alia was elected to serve. There seems to be no hope in sight for their return to their ancestral homes. But during the campaigns, Fr Alia promised to return the IDPs to their homes within his first 100 days in office. Today, that promise has become a ponzi scam.

 

To add insult to the injury of the victims, yesterday at the dinner, Governor Alia was heard saying that peace has returned to the state! When I watched the live streaming of the event on Facebook and I saw the governor say this, I could not believe my ears. Where is the peace in Benue State?

Blood is flowing uncontrollably on Benue’s farmlands and in homes across the communities! The state has become a killing field since the year started! The merchants of death are back and they have told anyone who wants to listen that Governor Alia promised to create an enabling environment for them in the spirit of “reconciliation and coexistence”.

Cries of helpless and vulnerable people – women, children and the elderly who have nowhere to run to are being heard daily across the state. They cry without any help coming until the killers slit their throats.

The man who is supposed to lead the action to protect the people does not bother. His multi-million birthday celebration yesterday meant much more to him than worrying about the plight of the thousands of Benue children whose future looks bleak in the IDP camps. He has never visited them to know how life is unfair to them.

The IDPs have protested many times since January 2024 to no avail. The State Emergency Management Agency has stopped supplying food to the IDP camps.

I was told yesterday by a friend back in Makurdi that the man who is heading SEMA now was the biggest donor for the birthday celebration of the governor. That was money meant for catering for the IDPs. Governor Alia, his principal, did not ask where a man who less than 10 months ago could not afford a tokumbo car is now donating over N50 million for the Governor’s birthday party.

Benue is bleeding with innocent blood, but Governor Alia is on top doing nothing. But he doesn’t miss collecting security votes. A governor who is worried about the security situation in his state would have held a low key birthday, not a bash. He should have been seen visiting places worst hit by the terrorist herder attacks and mobilizing troops to prevent further bloodshed. But the only time we see Governor Alia is when he is alighting from a private jet. He is saying nothing and doing nothing to stop herdsmen attacks and killing of people in the state.

The contrast between Governor Alia’s opulent celebration and the suffering of the IDPs is a stark reminder of the chasm that can exist between political rhetoric and reality. It is a painful illustration of insensitivity and a lack of empathy that should have no place in leadership. When those who have been entrusted with power and responsibility choose to indulge in extravagance while their people endure unimaginable hardships, it signals a profound moral failing.

A Message to Gov Alia

Governor Hyacinth Alia, the people of Benue State did not vote for you to host lavish parties. They voted for you because they believed in your promises of change, of a better future, and of a return to normalcy for those displaced. Your celebration, funded by resources that could have provided relief to suffering families, is a betrayal of that trust.

True leadership demands not only vision and ambition but also compassion and humility. It requires a commitment to the well-being of all citizens, especially the most vulnerable. The lavish expenditure on your birthday celebration sends a message that is both disheartening and divisive. It suggests that the suffering of the IDPs is a secondary concern, that their cries for help are less important than personal milestones and celebrations.

As the governor of Benue State, you have the power and the responsibility to effect real change. It is imperative that you refocus your efforts on addressing the urgent needs of the IDPs. Allocate resources to ensure they have access to food, clean water, and medical care. Develop and implement a concrete plan to facilitate their safe return to their homes. Engage with the affected communities, listen to their concerns, and act with the urgency and compassion that their plight demands.

Mr. Governor, it is not too late to demonstrate the kind of leadership that inspires confidence and respect. Refrain from acts of irresponsibility and extravagant displays of wealth. Lead with conscience, empathy, and a genuine commitment to the well-being of all your people. Let your actions reflect the promises you made and the trust that the people of Benue State have placed in you.

Your legacy will be defined not by the grandeur of your celebrations, but by the positive impact you will have on the lives of the people you serve.

Awunah writes from Durumi, Abuja

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