Comrade Patrick Abba Moro, a staunch member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Benue South Senatorial District in the Red Chamber. Moro, a former Minister of Interior was elected as a senator in 2019.
In this interview, Moro spoke on the demands for the creation of additional states, power shift agitation in Benue State and the contention as to which region should produce the president in 2023.
There are currently a large number of proposals for the creation of more states before the National Assembly. But some observers are of the notion that the requests for additional states is not a good idea at a time when most of the existing 36 states are not economically viable and many of them are finding it difficult to stand on their feet. What is your take on the issue of state creation?
First of all, let me state clearly that the fact that we have 36 states now that are not fully developed shouldn’t foreclose the creation of states. People talk about viability and say, for instance, that some states are not viable. What is the concept of viability? I think that what is paramount in the agitation for state creation is the sensibility of the people. And I hasten to say that when General Yakubu Gowon, the revered former Head of States, created twelve states, it wasn’t predicated on viability. It was essentially to solve a political problem of the secessionist agitation. That was what prompted the creation of twelve states. And once that was done it became obvious therefore that state creation will certainly assuage the fears of domination by minority communities across the country. Then we went on to 19 states, 21 states and now 36 states. And we are still counting. At the moment most of the agitations are anchored on socio-political considerations. The problem of the underdevelopment of Nigeria, for instance, is not the result of the proliferation of states. No! It is predicated on leadership. Now, the federal government is viable. Yes or no? Yet, we have this epilepsy in electricity supply and this problem of lack of drinkable water in more than two-third of Nigeria. Yet, our roads are in a serious state of disrepair and some places nonexistent. Yet, our hospitals are less than mere consulting centres now. Those are signals of underdevelopment. However, you cannot say that Nigeria is not viable. If you have states whose leaders look up excitedly to the day that the federation account committee will meet to distribute funds, how do you expect the states to develop? There is no part of this country now that you will go to that does not have inherent natural resources. You cannot tell me for instance that states like Lagos state, River State, Akwa-ibom, Delta State, Cross River are not viable. What indices of development can you find? Only recently Nyesom Wike is trying his hands on very many developmental activities. There are pockets of development efforts in Akwa-Ibom State. I don’t know much about the other states. But these are states that in addition to federation allocation they also have derivation allocation. Some of them have derivation allocations that are far more than the federation account allocations to some states. What do you find there? Those states are even owing workers salaries.
You appear to see bad leadership and corruption as the major problem of most states?
I think that the major problem of most states is corruption just as it is with Nigeria where people are in offices or in politics for reasons other than service delivery. That is the problem, where governors after governors would want to outdo the other persons in terms of primitive accumulation of wealth. That is the problem that we have today. You don’t even find many states where they set up enterprises that can generate funds, meaning that these states depend solely on the federation allocation. And because federation allocation funds come every month, people are lazy about doing any other thing. They depend on allocations, loans and overdraft from the banks. I usually commend the situation in China to many developing countries. In China, the Provinces contribute to the centre. The centre depends on contributions from the provinces. But here it is the other way round. The provinces, the zones (states) depend on the federal government for allocation. That is one of the problems that we have here in the country today.
With the cumbersome nature of the constitutional provision for state creation, do you think that it can easily be achieved?
People say the process is cumbersome. Yes, I am given to believe that the founding fathers of this country, the framers of our constitution which is the grundnorm, are aware of the possibility of frivolous agitations and proliferations of agitations for state creation, and therefore they put in some stringent conditions that only serious agitations can pass through. And that is why you have section 8 (1, 2,3) making it mandatory for agitators to get the buying in of councils that are at the lowest level of contacts to the grassroots, representatives of the state houses of assembly, representatives in the national assembly – all these are intended to ensure that only serious agitations get the hearing of the National Assembly. Of course, people can say conducting referendum in our country could be a little cumbersome, yes, I agree with you if you say so. But the Independent National Electoral Commission conducts elections and gets the results and declares winners. So, it is not an impossibility. I can assure you that some of the agitations come as a result of unfairness, injustice, lack of equity in the administration of entities. And so, where communities that are minorities in their areas feel completely excluded from the affairs of governance, where the majority groups make it a birthright to continue to preside over the affairs of their states and entities without a consideration for support for the minority groups, you know that they have genuine reasons to ask to have states of their own.
I believe that creating more states will not change the economic situation if we do not change our attitudes and behaviours towards governance. It will not affect it in any way. If you take a hypothetical situation like Benue, for instance, there is allocation to Benue State. That allocation is supposed to be spread across all the groups in Benue State. So, if you take Benue’s allocation and share it between Benue State and a proposed Apa State for instance, it is still the same thing. There will be a reduction in the activities of governance of Benue State when Apa State is created. All the roads in the proposed Apa State will not be part of the burden of Benue State any more.
Is Apa State the state you are proposing for creation for your zone (Benue South) in Benue State?
Yes, it is a state that we are proposing for the zone C people of Benue State. But for this purpose I am using it as a hypothetical state. And because I am mentioning Benue and Apa it means that I am talking about Benue State from where we want Apa to be created. And what it means therefore is that all the educational institutions in zone C will fall into Apa State. All the workforce in Benue South will fall into Apa State. All the infrastructural requirements that are zone C will fall into Apa State. So, the burden of Benue State is reduced by about 50%. And so giving 50% of the funds meant for Benue for instance to Apa State is like saying look, take your own share and take care of your destiny.
I think that we must take into consideration the fact that unfair, unjust and inequitable treatments breed the many crises that we have in Nigeria today. We talk about IPOB. We talk about the militia and militant groups in the South-south. And even by an extension, the Boko haram that we are talking about or the bandits that have taken arms against the country. They all predicate partly their activities on the factors of unfair, unjust and inequitable treatments. So, the restiveness that we have in the South-south for instance is as a result of their perception of them being the cash cow of Nigeria, yet suffering unjust neglect. The IPOB and the eastern security network all predicate their activities on neglect, marginalization and unfair treatment. And so, if we can create states and devolve power to the various layers of government for everybody to in a way take charge of his destiny, then we would have solved more than 50% of the nation’s problem of insecurity and restiveness, because I can assure that the more you refuse to assuage the sensibility of the people, the more you neglect to attend to their agitations, the more crisis you have on your hands, the more instability that you have on your hands.
Why is it difficult for the government to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the people?
Because the government has refused to develop the necessary political will to tackle headlong the problems of the country. It is not just about restiveness. Look at all the ramifications of insufficiency in our polity. It is as a result of lack of will. Tell me, with the resources that are available to this country why should we lack electricity and energy to power the nation. Why? Why should we not be able to provide sufficient potable water for a sizable level of this country with all the resources available to us? And so if what is happening to us in terms of infrastructural decay or absence of infrastructures is anything to go by, then you begin to wonder for instance how a country like Chad is surviving and doing better. How a country like Niger Republic exists and survives even much better. I have never slept in Benin Republic, but I’m told that Benin Republic enjoys virtual 24-7 electricity. And I do know that part of the electricity requirement of Benin Republic is supplied by Nigeria. When Ghana celebrated 50 years of uninterrupted electricity I was in Ghana and the streets were awash with the stories of Nigerian engineers trained by the defunct electricity corporation of Nigeria who were manning the electricity ministry in Ghana responsible for the 50 years of uninterrupted electricity in Ghana. Yet, our own electricity still reflects the candlelight period of the colonial times. I think the problem is in us and not in the system. It is very unfortunate that we don’t have the crop of Nigerians that can take the bull by the horn and tackle the challenges of this country. Tell me now, maybe if I talk, you will say it is politics. But it is not politics. This government that came to power on the wave of change, tell me, are we better off than where we were? I just read in the papers yesterday that in the yesteryears Dangote in Nigeria was the 25th richest person in the world. Today, indicators show that Dangote has dropped to 115th. Are we doing better? Are we going forward or backward? The Dangote story is the story of the nation. Our infrastructures are in serious decay. Everywhere you go now the roads are impassable. Even the existing roads are impassable. We can’t rehabilitate them. And like I said in those years that our hospitals were mere consulting centres, but today I can tell you that more than 50% of health centres in Nigeria are less than consulting centres. You don’t have doctors to consult. You don’t have nurses. You don’t have all the other requirements of a consulting institution. So they are less than consulting centres as at today. So the situation is going down and down and I say that well if creating a state for a community becomes a panacea for allowing stability, for allowing peace for Nigeria to think well and develop, let’s give them state. For instance, I can’t find myself to continue to live in the present Benue State where I am less than a second hand citizen, where I cannot aspire to the highest position in the land. It doesn’t make sense for me to continue to belong there.
Are you still vehement in your struggle and agitation for power shift to Benue South in 2023, considering the fact that many people from the other zones have declared their interest, indicating that they are not ready to relinquish power to Zone C?
Yeah, from all indications it looks obvious that our brothers and sisters are not sufficiently sensitized towards supporting one of us from Zone C to become governor. There is no doubt about it. And like you rightly pointed out, the sheer volume of human beings that are coming out to contest from the other zones, not other zones this time around because zone B has the incumbent governor. Nobody is coming from Zone B to contest for governor. Everybody that is coming out to contest is coming from Zone A. And we have few people from zone C that are coming out to contest. But like I keep insisting we don’t have the number. We don’t have the numbers to go solo and win the election in Benue State. I mean the zone C people. But again like I keep saying, equity, fairness and justice demands that at least for once, our brothers should be able to support one of us to become governor. But I don’t see that coming. As the representative of the very good people of the Benue South Senatorial District called Zone C, I fire the first shot at demanding for power rotation or powershift. I will continue to do it. I did it in 2007. I contested that election, I lost narrowly. Now I am their senator. I am advocating for it. I will continue the advocacy in my capacity as the senator representing my people. I will continue to advocate that and I will continue to ask salient questions for our own brothers and sisters in zone A and zone B to also know that it is not because we don’t qualify to be governor, but because they are refusing to support us. But I can tell you that I will spare no effort to continue to drum it into our ears and the ears of Nigerians, that if we are not supported to become governor in 2023 then we are being unfairly treated.
There is contention as to which region between the north and south should the presidency go in 2023. Some have said it doesn’t matter it should go anywhere while others have insisted that the understanding for zoning and rotation of the presidency should be maintained, as such, it should go to the south. What is your view on this?
Those people who are saying it doesn’t matter it could go anywhere are not just being fair to Nigerians. Whether you like it or not, Nigeria stands on two legs – the north and the south. And so because of lack of understanding of ourselves and the fragile political democracy that we have now and the sensibilities of the people and how sensitive people are as to who occupies what position, it can only be fair that after eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari administration, power should shift to the south. Somebody from the south should become the president of this country in 2023. That is my position. That is my take. And I predicate it on the fact that when Yar’adua died, President Jonathan took over, completed Yar’Adua’s tenure, went for his own tenure, coming to the south-south and completed his tenure. All arguments to the effect that he only completed Yar’Adua’s term in the first term and therefore should be given his own rightful second term fell on deaf ears and everybody says no, no, it can’t happen. It has to go to the north. Power has gone to the north and the north has had it for eight years or is going to have it by 2023 for eight years. And then some people are saying the north should still produce the next president. That is unfair. That is unjust. That is not in tandem with the law of equity. And so, I think that the next president should come from the south. I can say that contrary to the impression that people have of the occupation of the presidency conferring any undue advantage, I ask my friends and my brothers from the north, what extra advantage has the eight years of General Buhari administration given to the north? Is it the roads? Our roads are as bad as those in the south. Is it the educational institutions? The situation is the same. Is it the hospitals? What outstanding hospital in the north can you cite now as the reason why we should continue to cling to power for the sake of advantages? Are all of us not still going to London, going to America, going to Dubai, going to India for medical treatments? Is the north having more outlets for drinkable water than the south? What is the big deal about clinging to power for the sake of it? I don’t believe so. And so, for the sake of fairness, equity and justice, I think we should have the necessary political will to say let the south produce the next president of Nigeria.
( Interview by Michael Jegede)