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Ciroma, the regional warrior

By Ochereome Nnanna
ON two occasions, Malam Adamu Ciroma came close to emerging as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

In 1978 when the military was preparing for their first hand over of power to the civilians, he was a front runner for president on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).

But because the Nigerian ruling class usually prefers less fancied materials, it was soft-spoken Alhaji Shehu Shagari that was picked.

Again in 1992, during General Ibrahim Babangida’s convoluted transition to civil rule programme, Ciroma was poised to pick up the ticket of the National Republican Convention (NRC). In the first ballot, he drew even with his closest rival, Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi and a runoff was imminent.

It was Babangida’s cancellation of the primaries of the SDP and NRC and disqualification of all 22 presidential aspirants that scuttled Ciroma’s opportunity.

Among other things, Ciroma has been a Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Minister of Finance during the first term of the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 to 2003.

It is a man of this giant national profile that is now the field marshal of Arewa warriors campaigning for the return of power to the North in 2011. More than 30 years of exposure to sensitive high national public offices has failed to moderate the regional impetus that threw him upon the national centre-stage.

Just like Shagari, Ciroma started his public service in the office of the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello. He was the first editor (later Managing Director) of the Arewa-centric New Nigerian Newspapers.

But unlike Shagari who has stayed above the unfolding North versus Jonathan fray, Ciroma has remained the defender of the North that Sardauna raised members of his generation to be.

When he took the front seat to push Arewa’s demand that President Goodluck Jonathan should respect the zoning arrangement of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and give way to a Northerner in 2011, I felt he had a point, even if a clumsy one.

It is clumsy in that those asking Jonathan to step down for the North would never do that for the South if the situation were reversed, more so as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is on the President’s side.

Many Igbo people were hoping (and still are) that zoning would be respected in order to enable it solve the problem it was created to do in the first place – give every marginalised group (Igbos inclusive) a sense of belonging in the system, just it has done the Yoruba and Ijaw.

However, the call on Jonathan to resign or be impeached by the National Assembly, in my opinion, smacked of political hysteria, even desperation. When a person is desperate he can say or do anything. When a person is hysterical, he is not in full control of himself.

Something else other than cold reasoning has taken over. The ultimatum that Ciroma issued on behalf of the Northern Political Forum on Wednesday October 6, 2010 was clearly intended to incite the North against the President.

This appears to be a common tactic employed by the pro-zoning wing of Northern leaders against the aspirations of Jonathan. A prominent traditional ruler was quoted as telling Northerners that the emergence of Jonathan in 2011 would threaten their culture and religion.

In an interview in The News Magazine  Prof Ango Abdullahi, the former VC of the Ahmadu Bello University, claimed that Jonathan would lose if he ran for president. Alhaji Lawal Kaita was also quoted in the media as saying the North would make the nation ungovernable for the President unless he respected the zoning principle.

In his statement on behalf of the NPF, Ciroma replied Jonathan’s unguarded defence of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and accusation of “terrorists” while investigation was ongoing with an equally unguarded repartee.

He said Jonathan should resign or be impeached because the North no longer felt safe under him. If Ciroma and his cohorts had their way, Jonathan would be removed from office.

The one-week ultimatum has passed and the call for Jonathan’s impeachment was not acted upon. The failure of the National Assembly to consider the impeachment of the President, even in form of a motion, is a possible pointer to the outcome of the impending struggle to snatch the PDP ticket from the President or defeat him in the general elections.

It is like a failed referendum. Knowing that no section of the country can muster the number of federal legislators to remove the President (least of all a severely divided North) the NPF should not have made that call. It turned out a wasted effort.

Again, it was inappropriate to liken Jonathan’s presidential bid to Obasanjo’s failed third term. Obasanjo tried to change the Constitution to get the third term but failed.

It is also untrue that Obasanjo’s third term bid led to “the wasting of innocent civilian lives”. No life was lost. Clearly, that statement was meant to create an anti-Jonathan feeling in the system as Obasanjo’s bid elicited.

I would advise Northern leaders, especially those who have benefited so much from Nigeria, to take it easy. Let them not give to Jonathan what they would not take from anybody if they were in the President’s shoes.

If they are serious about preventing Jonathan from getting elected next year, let them put their so-called majority power into effect democratically. The North is said to have the knack to unite at the snap of a finger. This is the time to prove it.

The campaign of incitement should cease forthwith, both from the North and Jonathan’s side, who are brandishing state agencies and MEND to intimidate their opponents. Be careful what you wish. You may get it!


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