Nasarawa was one of the six states created on October 1, 1996 by the late General Sani Abacha to carve an identity for the former Lower-Plateau people and to advance the development of the area now called Nasarawa State, for inclusive governance.
As the state celebrated its 27th year of creation, SOLOMON ATTAH, engaged one of the founding fathers and elder statemen, Senator Solomon Aku Ewuga, who bared his mind on how the state can leverage its proximity to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT); what led to the agitation for the creation of the state, among other issues. Excerpts:
Being one of the critical stakeholders that played significant role in the struggle for the creation of Nasarawa State, and on October 1st, Nasarawa was 27 years; what really informed the creation of the state?
You must understand the history of the state at that time. We are called the Lower-Plateau when we were in Plateau State and so, that appellation elicited an interest to separate from that kind of nickname, and there has been interest in creating the state, and there was the Middle Belt Movement and Middle Belt Region headed by various members of the state. In 1995, when the constitutional conference came and the military that time, under Gen. Sani Abacha indicated that, they would create states, there were lots of fusion of the various interests in the development of Nasarawa State. They were some that were agitating along partisan interest, they wanted the creation along their own political leaning; some actually expressed their fear that if Nasarawa State was created, they were going to have cleavages that would undermine the strength of the state, but there was no doubting the fact that, that was the general interest towards seeing that we are not called Lower-Plateau, we are called Nasarawa State.
Part of the difficulties started coming with the citing of the State Capital; we have 10 local governments in Nasarawa State that time and we used to meet regularly, from zone to zone and all of us agreed that the capital should be in Akwanga. Nine (9) local governments, except Lafia opposed to that, but because they had their relationship with Gen. Abacha, it was like ‘In baka ba my ba…? (meaning, if you did not give…?), then Gen. Abacha changed it and brought the state capital to Lafia instead of Akwanga. The memoirs are there. That was the first gap in the creation of the state, but everybody was clear on the fact that, there will be creation of state, and I think it was a well-thought-out idea. As the state now came, certain issues started cropping up; issues of religion, issues of ethnicity and issues of personality. They are normal. The aggravated reasons increase the voices against the established phenomenon of a common interest for the state to pursue together and I think, those things have not changed; some of them still manifest in one way or the other and because of that, some of the uniform reasoning patterns have created a value disorientation where people are disagreeing with each other, with lots of venom. I think, this is where we are.
When the agitation for the state was on, was there an articulated design of where you wanted the state to be?
Actually, I was interested in being the governor of the state, but every time I sought it, these features came into play and I was detained for 10 days; I was locked up in the Force CID in Abuja for no reason, other than the fact that they didn’t want me to be or win…; there are all these things but whether the state has got what it wanted is a different matter, but the point about it is that, the attitude still continues and those are the issues and you hear it every day. It is not as if I am saying something new; you guys are younger people and what we want is a leader with visionary reasoning, that reasons above this fray of division. This is where we are.
After you were detained, what happened afterwards?
Nothing. I was just detained and then I was told that IG released me on personal cognizance, nobody has explained why I was detained up till today, other than the fact that I stood election against the run of reason. It is that reason that made the change from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) structure then, because there was no reason.
With your of experiences and engagements, how do we get out of this?
For example, let me give you easy thing to reason. The only road that passes through Nasarawa State is the Federal roads: Keffi to Makurdi, Lafia to Awe, through Tunga, just at the stream in readiness to cross over to Taraba, federal road, Akwanga to Jos, and Wamba to Bokkos. The only road they want to show off is the Farin-Ruwa and the Iconic thing that has been done in Nasarawa State is that the University has come up, Farin-Ruwa water falls has been identified but nothing has happened there and so, there is no legacy project, apart from the University that is on ground in 27 years. There are no rural roads, and any road of relevance was the one we inherited from Plateau State: Doma to Agbashi, Gitata to Panda are all inherited from Plateau in 27 years and we are created the same day with Gombe State. These are the issues that really disturb us when you look at the state. And then, there’s this nagging problem of religion, ethnicity and personality. Personality will continue to be there, but we are not harnessing the potentials in the state; we have not even developed our human capital capacity to fit into the generic position that is happening in the country. What is the strength of the future? How many of our people are involved in the development of Artificial intelligence (AI) reasoning, because we are not developing the human capacity. The younger people should be seen as being more vibrant than they are today. Those things disturb us. Part of Federal Road again: Nasarawa-Udege-Loko-Oweto bridge to Benue State, Federal Government, where is the state? These are the problems, and I am just giving you this so that you can understand the capsule that the state has find itself in, and we are just a gifted state with lots of potentials for agriculture, mineral resources, but look at the state. Let just take rice as a commodity; those days when we were kids, the rice-mills between Lafia and Barkin Abdullahi (B.A.D), (a village close to Lafia) were legendary. There are lots of children I knew that went to school at that time because of all those mills; where are the mills? What happened? There are all these agricultural interventions programme of the Federal Government, why is Nasarawa State not taking advantage of it? There is Federal Government Rural Roads project; why is Nasarawa State not taking advantage of it? The Federal Government has a lot of such intervention programmes and some states have been doing it for years and they are in the third phase, we have not even started. There is the Rural Water Project, RUWASA, where are we? We have Federal Government water project; they are all on. Apart from Doma, even in Doma, there is no reticulation. The Doma Dam is just there and so, there is no policy direction that allows for a spread so that our people can enjoy the benefit of things that are on ground for them to take. These are the difficulties that I still want to understand; they are limiting our progress in the state.
Which way out in all these gaps?
It is the indigenes themselves that brought out the issue and they have to decide how to move forward or they keep living as fractious people and we will not progress. That is what it is. If the past generation is phasing out today, new generation is not fitted into the emerging scientific orientation, who is losing? Is the aggregate value negative to the emerging national trade? The only ones that happen are people who go to train themselves. I hope I am not being too critical? I am just trying to let people know that, you people have to be able to…, because for us, we have done our own bit and we are looking at how the conceptual framework will determine the strength of our state as we move on. I think this is where we are. The young, they are vibrant, capacitated and ready to go, but if they are not engaged, they become destructive. This is what is happening, because at your youth, what did you do? You are convinced to do something else, different from your choice…
When I finished university, I had three jobs, I chose to work with the Radio. To get a job now is something else. I read comments of people on social media platforms within the state, and I see the comments of the people are very demoralising. We are not talking of limited language; Alago, Eggon, Kambari, among others and what I have said affect every ethnic nationality, nothing to do with ethnicity. There are Christians and Muslims, and nothing to do with religion but these problems are there. They said, ‘person never bele full, e dey fight, na hunger go continue na’. That is what it is.
As an elder stateman that tours the globe and with your vast knowledge, is there a forum where other elder statemen from the state meet to chart a course for the future?
That is how some of us develop, I didn’t get this idea from nobody. I told you how I met M. B. Ibrahim of blessed memory, because they were open. The creation of the state encouraged us, we were involving, I was the secretary of the committee, during the constitutional conference for state and local governments creation. I was engaged in the state committee and became part of the secretariat for the creation and so, from the beginning and the emerging state, I knew exactly what I am saying. I am not saying this from suggestions. We were involved because that was our own desire to have a state, but have we achieved the result? I doubt it; I am just concerned that I want people to be seen as engaging more in those things that will unite us and build our capacities, because right now the society must involve itself in knowledge development. If you read international report on human capital development, they are talking about knowledge; if you don’t develop your knowledge, you lose it. Since the state created the University, the institution has been going on quite well and I am quite encouraged that the former Governor, Senator Abdullahi Adamu had a great foresight to create Nasarawa State University, Keffi. The University is expanding and I am very happy with the present Vice Chancellor, but there must be retraining. The Japanese says, a graduate is just a raw material in the system. What has evolved to make this raw material to be more valuable to the state?
As a one-time member of the State Executive Council and a former lawmaker, what are your experiences as regard the claim that the legislature is mostly rubber stamp to the Executive. Where did the public get it wrong?
The main issue is, all these things are just about the deficit that we have in respect to policy direction and execution. Those are what it is. Any other thing I am saying is the same thing. The symptoms are the same; what we need to do is to change our orientation to the way we work; not all these ones with divisive language. The divisive language goes to the heart of the matter, and people are no longer meeting to discuss common interest. I can assure you, if somebody listens to me now talking, he will say, he is talking like this because he is Eggon, but what I am saying you will agree with me that, it has nothing to do with whether I am an Alago, Kambari or Eggon. That is the reality.
Earlier, you said, you were part of the brains behind the creation of state. What are the main issues our founding fathers, which you are part of, think Nasarawa should be?
We must be part of Nigeria seamlessly, but we are not and we must get state, we are proximate to the Federal Capital Territory, part of FCT is Nasarawa State and part of Nasarawa is FCT and that is the seat of government. The Villa is in Nasarawa State, but are we enjoying the benefit?
Suggestively, for the wellbeing of the people, given all that you have said, on a specific term, what will you advice the government should do going forward?
A Twenty-seven-year-old state is a very young state. There is a Greek philosopher called Solon, Solon spent all his life trying to find out about happiness. What makes people happy. He died at the age of 96 years old and couldn’t get what happiness is because, somebody will say, if I am married, I will be happy, but immediately he gets married, he had to deal with the problems associated to marriage. Another one will say, if I have money, I will be happy, and immediately he gets the money, he starts thinking about something else. Happiness is a fleeting situation. At 96, Solon was frustrated and committed suicide and his last word was, ‘be happy when you are young.’ So, Nasarawa State at 27 be happy when you are young.
The zoning of governorship position has gone full circle in the state, are you comfortable with the zoning politics?
There is nothing wrong. In the course of political life, you can do anything that will strengthen our bonds in our people and give a sense of belonging.