By Daniel Kanu
Former Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, is the Senator representing Benue South Senatorial District in the upper legislative chamber. A grassroots politician and former local government chairman, Moro has been a strong voice for the people of Benue South since he became their representative in the Senate in June 2019.
He is currently, leading a strong campaign and agitation for power to shift to Benue South popularly known as Zone C in 2023.
In this interview with some select journalists, the lawmaker made a startling revelation that after 45 years of Benue State creation, Zone C has always been politically schemed out from taking the number one seat despite very competent personalities that abound.
Moro said that now is the time for the other two zones ( A and B) that have been governing Benue to allow a candidate of Benue South extraction to be governor.
He also spoke on the nation’s security challenges, among other issues. Excerpt:
You are one of those in the frontline advocating for power to shift to Benue South (Zone C) in 2023 which is believed not to have been given the opportunity to hold sway as far as the governance of Benue State is concerned since the creation of the state. How has the agitation been?
Well, so far, so good, we are moving in the right direction. We have requested support for power to shift to Zone C of Benue State popularly known as Benue South this time around. And as you rightly pointed out I fired the first shot at the state congress of the PDP in 2020. I pleaded with our brothers and sisters in Zones A and B to support a candidate of Benue South extraction. It resonated with some people. It didn’t resonate with some people. And it is in tandem with my promise to my people, the electorate, when I was campaigning to become their senator that I was going to be their spokesperson; that I was going to be their messenger. And that I was going to advocate for them; that I was going to push their aspirations and expectations in the National Assembly and in Nigeria. And so, I will continue to do that. Part of the fallout of the agitation is the springing up of various platforms – Benue South for Governor, Benue Rebirth Movement, Benue South Caucus, Benue South Elders. Many of them like that are advocating for power shift and quite frankly some of them have even led movements to communities and individuals that are critical stakeholders in Benue politics. And personally too, I have gone round some critical stakeholders advocating for power shift, not necessarily a power shift to Abba Moro. No! That is not what I am asking for. I am speaking for my people. I am speaking for the people that I represent in the National Assembly. And I have convinced myself that this is the right time for Benue people to support somebody from Zone C to become the governor against the backdrop of the fact that since the creation of Benue State no person from that side had become governor. And apparently all the kindred houses in the Tiv-speaking area in Zones A and B have become governor. One person in each of the kindred – five of them – has become governor. So, in 2023 we expect that if we believe sincerely in the corporate existence of Benue State somebody from Benue South should be supported to become governor. We are not all made up of mediocre. We have meritable, very competent individuals. We have people who have the intelligence, the educational qualification, the acumen, all the qualities that a governor should possess. Therefore, this time around we are insisting that we should be supported. And I am saying personally that this time around we must talk. The people of Benue must talk. We must debate. We must negotiate. And if somebody from Benue South is not going to be governor, I will insist that our brothers should give us reasons, because we are part and parcel of Benue State. We have been supporting our brothers from Zones A and B to become governors without questions. In the last election, for instance, nobody from Benue South contested against the governor for his second term. And so, I think that the message is sinking. The advocacy is becoming more intense and aggressive because the awareness is there already that this is the time – like an idea whose time has come. I will continue to talk to our brothers and sisters and other stakeholders too will continue to talk. And at the end of the day, we expect that the people of Benue will see reasons to support Zone C.
So far what level of response are you getting from the people of the other two senatorial districts – the zones you are pleading with to allow Benue South produce the next governor of the state?
Frankly, and to be fair to them, a sizeable number of persons in Zones A and B agreed that this is the time to shift power to Benue South. Even within Zones A and B, there are advocacy groups now that are springing up – the Benue Patriot, for instance. The Benue Patriot is made up essentially of very prominent Benue sons and daughters – former House of Reps members, former House of Assembly members, former Commissioners, former advisers, former special assistants to the government of Benue State – all of them are there from across the three zones of Benue. That is to tell you the level of acceptance or resonation that has taken place since the advocacy started. So, this is a Benue project. It is not just about Zone C. Power shift to Zone C, Benue South is now a Benue project embraced by a sizeable number of Benue citizens. Even current members of the National Assembly, the majority of them are in agreement in principle that this is the right thing to do in 2023. And in the Benue State House of Assembly you can find a sizeable number of them. Therefore, I think that the agitation for power shift to Benue South is on course. And as the senator representing the Benue South people, I am at the forefront.
Benue State has been in existence for over 45 years. What could have been responsible for the marginalization, the inability of Benue South to produce a governor all these years? Could it be based on the mathematics of numbers that these other two zones have been having the grip of power over the Benue South zone?
In politics and in a democracy we call it the tyranny of the majority. Elections are about numbers. As I speak to you Zones A and B made up essentially of the Tiv-speaking people constitute about 70-80 per cent of the voting population of Benue State. And so for as long as they decide to continue to support one of their own for that long they can continue to be governor. As a matter of fact, as I am speaking to you, they can afford to be the governorship candidate and the deputy governorship candidate and still win the election. That is the truth about it and politics and democracy in Benue State and Nigeria. So, I actually ordinarily will not subscribe to the theory of marginalization. It is all about democracy and the game of numbers. The majority always carries the votes. And so, I think that is what is playing out, the dynamics of politics in Benue State. But Benue people are people of conscience. In the past, because elections are about numbers and the Zones A and B have the numbers to always win elections, one Chief Godwin Dabor of blessed memory had postulated that a person or persons of the Benue South Senatorial District will only be supported to become governor after the five kindred houses, royal houses, ruling houses of the Tiv-speaking area become governor. And like I said in my first advocacy, at that time some of us felt it was an eternity. Some of us felt that it was too long away. And that it was never going to come. But it has come. A current governor of Benue State, Governor Samuel Ortom is from the last ruling house of the Tiv-speaking people to become governor. And that is why we find it auspicious at this time to ask to be supported to become governor. Because the five houses that have been the basis for not supporting a person from Benue South has produced a governor. And so, we are saying that we can as well become the sixth ruling house in Benue and be supported to become governor. That is exactly what we are asking for and I think we have every justification. We have every reason to demand that and we expect that our brothers and sisters in the Tiv-speaking area will this time around understand with us and support somebody from Benue South to become governor.
What strategic approach are you applying in this agitation so as to get the desired result?
Well, let me say that Chameleon says that what he uses to survive to live his life is a mistake and is in his mind. At this point in time, I will wish that I remain silent on our strategic approach towards ensuring that we achieve the desired result. We will continue the advocacy. We will continue the contact arrangement approach. We will continue to rely on the appeal approach for now. But I can assure you that now more than ever before a person from the Benue South Senatorial District is determined to ensure that fairness, justice, and equity play out in 2023. But, of course, we’re putting together a strategic committee that will work out the final onslaught in our advocacy for producing the next governor of Benue State.
Though there is no constitutional provision for power rotation, some states have been able to reach a kind of logical understanding that allows power to rotate among the three senatorial districts in the state to entrench peace. Why was it difficult for such an understanding to have been reached in your state?
The reality of it is that all of us have different approaches to life. In some states like you have said, minorities have produced governors for the states. But that is not the case for Benue. And it is because it is not the case that we are now advocating formally. Otherwise, ordinarily, it’s part of the dynamics of politics for stakeholders to work out the arrangements for producing the best from all the sectors and sections of the state. But let me hasten to state here that it has dawned on us that framers of the 1999 constitution as amended didn’t take into cognizance the possibility of the tyranny of the majority in our present democracy. And that is why even though the PDP, for instance, advocates for zoning in terms of its elective and appointive positions, it was not entrenched in the constitution.
So what are you doing as a lawmaker in the highest legislative body for power rotation to be embedded in Nigeria’s constitution?
Yes, it is part of the proposals that have been made to the constitution review committee and we are following it up, especially those of us from the minority communities in Nigeria. And, of course, there is also a proposal for independent candidacy. I don’t know how far that can go. But the reality is that there are people of minority status in their various states that are popular enough to be able to garner support from all the sectors of the states to become governors of their states. And so if you provide for an independent platform that is unattached to any political party, those with such muscle to come out as an independent candidates, will be supported by people who are also concerned about the political survival and development of the state. Thus, I think that either way – by power rotation or by independent candidacy, if not now later somebody from the Benue South Senatorial District can become governor.
There are those who have argued against power rotation, insisting that what should be paramount is getting a citizen of the state that can govern the state and give the people true dividends of democracy regardless of his zone. Don’t you think they are making good sense in their argument?
Yes, of course, they made a lot of sense. But power rotation is not an invitation to mediocrity. Power rotation is not an insistence on getting anyhow person to become governor of a state. For the Benue South Senatorial District, for instance, and our advocacy we are saying that in the over one million people or so in the Benue South Senatorial District, we have an abundance of people that have the requisite qualifications to govern and develop Benue State. That is what we are saying. On the balance of all permutation, we also insist that from wherever the governorship candidate is emerging he should be somebody who can govern the state with the fear of God in his heart and concern for the generality of the people of Benue State. And furthermore, we are much more concerned about the development of Benue State. Benue State is just one out of the 36 states in Nigeria. And definitely, there should be some level of competition of ideas among the states and we should get people who are concerned about properly situating Benue State such that our state should occupy its rightful place in the politics of Nigeria. Benue State is regarded generally as the food basket of Nigeria. So, if that is what we are best at doing, then, let’s aspire to feed Nigeria and the world. And only good governance can produce that.
Are you also looking at the option of state creation, that is, demanding the carving out of Benue South to stand as a state on its own? Former Senate President, Senator David Mark, your predecessor, made a lot of efforts in that area?
Certainly, and we are making much more efforts. Don’t forget that I told you in the beginning that I was going to continue from where the former Senate President, Distinguished Senator David Mark stopped. That is exactly what we are doing. The agitation for the creation of Apa State is still on the front burner of national discourse. And as I am talking to you it is one of the proposals before the constitutional review conference – the creation of Apa State. Not necessarily because of our experience in Benue State, but because of the reason of self-determination – that a community of people wants to take their own destinies in their hands. So, I can assure you that at every turn of events, until we realize our dream for Apa State, the agitation will continue. And I hope that one day we will achieve our dream of having our state.
In Benue South, though the Idomas are the majority, we also have the Igedes, what is the level of cooperation between the Idomas and Igedes in terms of having a common front in this battle?
Well, it is just a matter of semantics when it comes to issues of differences. Of course, the Igedes are a distinct community in the Idoma nation – just like the Akweyas of Otukpo Local Government and the Uffia in Ado Local Government. They are a distinct community. But we are all Idomas. Of course, modernity has thrown up some spanners in the cordial relationship and existence of the Idoma people such that the Igedes or some Igedes think that they are distinct and they are not Idomas. Very unfortunate indeed because the irony of it is that for over 30 years an Igede person, Ajene Okpabi, was the paramount ruler of the Idoma nation. And so we cannot wake up and rewrite history that we are not one. However, in this drive towards achieving the common purpose of producing the governor of Benue State, we are one. And we have advised ourselves to de-emphasize those things that divide us and emphasize only those things that unite us. And that is the message to the people of Benue State at this critical moment, at this defining moment of our life. We must agree to only emphasize those things that unite us as a people because it is not by accident that God has put us together as one people in one state. Therefore, we must do God’s bidding by accepting to live together, to work together for the common good of our people.
There are indications that by virtue of your leading role in the current struggle for power shift to Benue South, some persons are pressurizing you to join the race for the governorship seat in 2023, if eventually Zone C is given the chance to produce the governor, are you going to yield to such pressure?
I am a politician and in politics anything is possible. But quite frankly at this moment, I am a senator representing the good people of Benue South Senatorial District. I have not spent up to two years yet. I am privileged to be in the custody of the collective mandate for the people of the Benue South Senatorial District to be their senator. And so, all my advocacy of power shift is essentially in tandem with my mandate to speak for the people, to espouse their collective expectations and aspirations. That is exactly what I am doing right now. If it becomes necessary that I contest to become governor, I should be able to at that time tell my people when and if I am contesting to become governor. But right now, I am the senator representing the people and I speak for the people. For now, who should become the governor shouldn’t be on the front burner. What should be on the front burner should be the advocacy and agitation for power to shift to Benue South Senatorial District. And I know that when the time comes there are many, many qualified citizens of Benue South that can become governor and perform very well for Benue State.
What is your take on the level of insecurity in the country?
It is a worrisome situation and it calls for concern of all Nigerians. We do not need a ghost to tell us there is a problem in the land. Although as individuals, we must also get involved, but the greater challenge is with the federal leadership to rise up to the challenge. We, as senators have articulated our position and made it known to the government.