Abba Moro is the Senator-elect from Benue South Senatorial District for the Ninth Senate expected to be inaugurated on Tuesday. A staunch member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Moro was the Minister of Interior between 2011 and 2015, under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. He will be replacing ex-Senate President, David Mark, who has been in the Upper Legislative Chamber of the National Assembly since 1999.
In this this interview with Sunday Sun, the lecturer-turned politician, vowed to leave no stone unturned to make the people of Benue South proud, by giving them quality representation that will bring the dividends of democracy to their doorsteps.
He stressed the need for elected representatives to work together to achieve common goal in the interest of the country regardless of their political, religious and ethnic affiliations. Moro, a one-time local government chairman, and unionist also dwelt on the NASS leadership tussle and other various issues of national importance.
How did the recent Supreme Court judgment validating your nomination as PDP candidate for Benue South Senatorial District in a pre-election case instituted by one of your co-aspirants in the party’s primaries for the 2019 election come to you?
It didn’t come to me as a surprise. From the beginning, I had believed I won the primary and I was duly returned as the candidate of the PDP. My name was submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). I contested the election and won the election squarely, as a matter of fact, in all the nine local government areas in Benue South Senatorial District. But unfortunately, and very sad indeed, one of my co-contestants, Joe Ojobo, decided to take me to court, making a very frivolous and unsubstantiated allegation against my person and the process. He went to the court of first instance; the court held that my nomination was valid. He went to the Appeal Court; the Appeal Court equally validated and reaffirmed my nomination. And not further satisfied he went to the Supreme Court. Of course, the Supreme Court concurred with the concurrent rulings of the two lower courts – and affirmed my nomination in the PDP primaries of the Benue South Senatorial District. And so, as it were I am no longer just the candidate of the PDP, but the Senator-elect. I am happy about it. I feel excited.
Now that the apex court has cleared the way for you in the pre-election case, how do you intend to carry your opponent who took you to court along upon your inauguration as the Senator representing Benue South Senatorial District?
I have always insisted that we are one family, especially in the PDP. From the beginning, I had enjoined my co-contestants in the PDP primaries and even in the general election, to join hands with me to work towards elevating the people of the Benue South Senatorial District. I had always believed that in a contest involving more than one person, only one person can win at a time. And in this particular case, I have won. I have appealed to my opponents to join hands with me and to realize that only one person can win at a time and that having won our interest in elevating the living standards of the people of Benue South should be paramount in our minds. Rather than waste resources in the courts or tribunals, we should all come together and chart a common cause for the benefit of our people. Of course, the human mind doesn’t work in the same way all the times. So, I admire the courage of those who have taken me to the courts and those who have taken me to the tribunal. I believe that it is a good test of maturity, responsibility on my part. And on their parts, an exercise of their fundamental rights to seek redress on issues that they feel aggrieved. So, I do not see it as a personal matter. I see it as a desire to serve the people – that is how I desire to serve the people. I want to think that they also have the same desire. And so for now that the Supreme Court has affirmed my election and nomination; now that Young Alhaji (Usman Abubakar, Benue South Senatorial candidate of the Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance, APDA) had also heeded to my clarion call to sheathe the sword and come join me to work for the Benue South Senatorial District, it means that I have only one case at the tribunal and that case is the one instituted by Steven Lawani (former Benue State Deputy Governor and Benue South APC senatorial candidate). And so, I think that that gives me some leeway, and lessens my battlefields or battlegrounds. And then I should be able now to concentrate. But again, I make a passionate appeal to all and sundry that this election or the whole process is not about Abba Moro. It is about the future of our people. Therefore, I still enjoin all of them to join hands with me so that we can put our people in the proper place in the Nigerian political equation.
Having won the pre-election litigation, how confident are you about the tribunal case?
Again, I think that the election of 23 February 2019 had been won and lost. The people have spoken. And they say the verdict of the people is the verdict of God. And I want to believe that our lawyers are in a very good foundation, good leg in prosecuting the election petition brought by Chief Steven Lawani. At the end of the day, God will vindicate us. God will vindicate the people. God will vindicate me and grant us victory. If Chief Lawani refuses to withdraw from tribunal up till the end, I am hoping that giving what is on the ground and the conduct of the election, we will equally win in the tribunal. And so, I don’t sleep with that on my mind at all. Now, I am concentrating and looking forward, excitedly towards rendering service to our people.
With the recent induction/orientation programme organized for Senators-elect, how fully prepared are you for the task ahead?
Well, the world is dynamic. Politics is dynamic. Governance is dynamic. Things keep changing. At the moment I think I am prepared to face the challenge ahead of me in terms of representing my people in the Senate. The orientation itself was a very veritable fertile ground for the cross-fertilization of ideas. And it brought all of us together from all walks of life, from all parts of Nigeria, from all political parties across the divides. We shared ideas and compared notes and all of us agreed on one thing that Nigeria is superior to any other thing or any other person. So, we all agreed at the end of the day to work for Nigeria. Thus, I am looking forward excitedly to displaying those lessons that I have learned from the orientation and my life’s own lessons too.
As you are set to take up the seat of Benue South in the 9th Senate, what is your solemn promise to the people of the senatorial zone?
To my people, I promise them not to fail them. I told them I know their aspirations, I know their expectations. I told them I have followed the immediate past Senate President (David Mark) all over the place as his DG in the campaigns, as a Minister and all that. And so, I am not a stranger to what my people desire and what they deserve from the national political situation. I made solemn promises to them of ensuring that I will support quality legislation that will enhance their living standards; that will enhance their strategic placement in the Nigerian political equation; that will equally make them relevant in Nigeria. But above all, because I am aware that representing the people in the National Assembly is not all about legislation, I intend to use my exposure and experience as Minister, as Chairman of Governing Council of different universities, to attract relevant infrastructural facilities to our place, particularly the legacy projects that Senator Mark had started and has not been able to finish. I intend to navigate the political map sufficiently to be able to complete them for the benefit of our people. That is exactly what I am going to do. And by the grace of God and with the support of my people I think I will not fail.
Nigerians believe that NASS as the core institution of democracy has not done much to ameliorate the plight of the masses as such the citizens appear to have lost trust in the legislature which is supposed to be the true symbol of democracy. As one who is about to be inaugurated into the 9th NASS, how do you feel about this and what do think could be done to change this perception?
Well, you know, perceptions are perceptions. I agree with you completely that currently, the perception of the National Assembly by Nigerians is very negative. They see the National Assembly as a kind of cancer and believe that the democratic process in Nigeria is not doing much to assist the Nigerian situation. Like I said those are perceptions and even though they may not accord with what is on ground based on the number of bills and legislation that the National Assembly has passed in recent times. Sometimes these negative perceptions are based on the wrong interpretation of the role of the National Assembly. But the truth about it is that sometimes perceptions are a reality. I have talked to a few friends especially during our orientation/induction period that we need to change the perception of Nigerians of the National Assembly that is negative at this point. And that means that we must be able to engage in the constructive construction of the Nigerian state. And once we do that, I think that the Nigerian people will begin to change their negative perception of the National Assembly, especially the Senate. We owe Nigerians an abiding responsibility to ensure that internationally and nationally, the National Assembly is seen as a veritable arm of government that is focused on ameliorating the poor conditions of the Nigerian people. Because after all, they are supposed to be made up of people that are picked and elected by the people to represent their interest. Therefore, I think that if anything had been done in the past to obstruct the reconstruction of the Nigerian state for the benefit of Nigerians; if anything had been done in the past to make the system not to work for every Nigerian, I think it is the responsibility of the Ninth Assembly to ensure that these negative attitudes and perceptions are changed for the better for the benefit of Nigeria.
As the inauguration of the Ninth National Assembly takes place on Tuesday, how do you see the situation where some persons have been endorsed for the NASS topmost leadership positions by APC, the party expected to produce presiding officers, against other aspirants in the contests?
I do not see anything wrong in a party endorsing a person for a particular position in the leadership situation in the National Assembly. After all, we all contested elections on the platforms of political parties. And so, if a party feels comfortable with a particular person and recommends the person or endorses the person for a particular position, it is left for the Assembly members to elect whomever they want. If party A, for instance, recommends candidate B for an election, the people in the National Assembly or in the Senate will be free to either vote for the candidate endorsed by the party or vote for another candidate entirely. All political parties take their positions when elections are due. For instance, while APC that is the majority party might be endorsing some particular candidates for particular positions, I believe that the PDP, which is the major opposition party in the country is also free to endorse particular candidates and ask its members to vote for such candidates. So, I feel it is normal. It is the beauty of democracy, especially our own democracy that attaches a lot of importance to political parties in sponsoring candidates.
You don’t see the said endorsements as an attempt to impose candidates or leaders on the National Assembly?
Let me make this clarification. By my own understanding of politics and democracy, an endorsement of a candidate by a political party is not an imposition. If we get that clear, then we will be able to approach the issue very open-mindedly. Yes, a political party can endorse a particular candidate for a particular position. But that party will not go and vote. It is members of the party elected on the platform of the party that will go and vote. Yes, for instance, hypothetically, APC endorses candidates for elections and ask all party members to support the candidates. PDP would want to say, okay, we also have our preferences from among people who are contesting these elections. Therefore, our members support this particular candidate. As far as I am concerned, even by literary interpretation of endorsement, it is not an imposition. I think that it is left for members of the National Assembly, the Senate and House of Representatives and all other members of the state Houses of Assembly to go to the rooms, view the candidates, view their manifestoes and choose whom they think will enhance the interest of the people they represent and the platforms they represent. So, to that extent, I think that in order that we do get it wrong we must avoid misinterpreting intentions and names that are given to activities of political parties. But this time around, quite frankly, it is my view that Nigerians, even political parties, when they discuss issues of support and endorsement, what should be of paramount importance and top priority is the interest of Nigeria, not necessarily the interest of political parties, not necessarily the interest of individuals who are there. The survival of this country and the deepening of democracy should be paramount in our minds as we make our choices.
After 20 years of uninterrupted democracy, how far, how well, would you say we have fared, especially as one who has been in the political terrain throughout this period?
I think I have always insisted that how far, how well in a democratic process is contingent on various factors. And that Nigeria has been independent for the past over 50 or so years and out of this over 50 or so years, we have an interrupted democratic march forward for 20 years. We are not there yet. There is no doubt about it. But we are marching on. And so as far as I am concerned democracy in Nigeria is work-in-progress. And we must continue to sensitize ourselves.