Mallam Adamu Ciroma is an elder statesman, a popular politician from the north of Nigeria. Born on the 20th of November 1934 at Potiskum, Yobe State, Ciroma is a fortunate Nigerian indeed.

He has held many important positions in government starting even in the early 70's when some of us were not yet Nigerians! That is, when some of us were not yet born! He had been a former Central Bank Governor, former Minister (in different times and epochs), former aspirant for the presidency. In short Nigeria has fed and nurtured Ciroma to the extent that today he is enjoying his retirement in all bliss having amassed enough wealth that will outlive him.

Mallam Ciroma could count respected statesmen like the former President Alhaji Shehu Shagari, former Senator Olusola Saraki and retired diplomat Maitama Sule as his political peers. Today these patriotic men are offering genuine counsels to the leaders on how to move the nation forward rather than playing divisive politics and making a fool of themselves in the process. That in essence is one of the ingredients of being an elder statesman: intervening positively in the overall interest of the nation that made you.

Today at 76 Ciroma is making the headlines all over Nigeria and even beyond. He is leading some retrogressive northern self-seeking expired politicians seeking a respect of an 'agreement' the PDP reached among its members for power to rotate between the north and the south. As the Chairman of the so-called Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) Ciroma is making a strong case for the PDP candidacy from the north come 2011 and he is going about it uncompromisingly with reckless abandon.

In this last battle of his life (a life apparently well-spent which is closer to the end than the beginning thereof) Ciroma cuts the image of an old republican 'rebel' with little choices and without much energy or strenght -- doing the bidding of his masters pushing him towards political suicide. It boggles the mind that a grand-father of Ciroma's standing could be wilfully engaged in threatening the corporate existence of the federation after receiving very much from her and giving very little or nothing in return.

In a space of few weeks he had issued a one-week 'resignation' ultimatum to the President saying defiantly that if he failed to resign then the Senators should commence impeachment proceedings against him. President Jonathan of course ignored him refusing to resign because he has committed no crime worth abdicating his high office for. And the Senators led by David Mark did not hearken to the impeachment blues from Ciroma perhaps because there is no impeachment offense whatsoever  the affable President could have been said to have committed. There is no Monica Lewinsky-type of Clintonian scandal trailing him or something similar to "Watergate".

The desperate way and manner Mallam Ciroma is going about the business of defending zoning and the 'right' of the north to produce the next president suggest that if military coup d'etat is still in vogue Ciroma and his principals would not hesitate bank-rolling one if only to satisfy their bruised ego and desperate desire of seeing a Mallam or Alhaji calling the shots in Aso Rock come May 29 2011. But thank goodness we are in the 21st century when toppling a democratic government is no longer tolerable especially in Nigeria these days where arms and ammunitions, in large quantities, are dangerously in the hands of unemployed disenchanted youths -- even up north. Remember Boko Haram?

Former out-spoken Information Minister, Chief Edwin Clark, took Ciroma to the cleaners in his well-publicised open letter few weeks ago. In a scathing no-hold-barred open missive published in some national dailies the old Ijaw controversial leader pulled punches and fired from every cylinder available to him. He deconstructed Ciroma describing him as a 'light-weight' politician who has never won any election in his entire life. He pointedly accused Ciroma of stoking the embers of national discord and beating the drum of ethnic confrontation. When an old man talks to an old man we, the new generation whose future the likes of Ciroma are working hard to compromise, can only draw certain lessons.

And recently, in fact last week, another aging politician, this time from the north, who knows Ciroma very well joined issues with him in a well-publicised blistering attack aimed at exposing certain hypocrisy Ciroma is trying to hide about his esteemed self. According to Senator Uba Ahmed Mallam Ciroma had "all his life opposed consensus in the choice of presidential candidates". The former Secretary-General of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN, went on thus: "Adamu Ciroma was opposed to the principle of consensus in 1978 when he was a presidential candidate and we wanted Zik to come. When we wanted to merge NPP with NPN and for Zik to be presidential candidate and for Shagari to be his running mate, did he concede? No, he didn’t. We had fixed the convention for December 8 to 9, 1978, he was the one who stood up and said never. During the NRC, SDP days, he was again a presidential candidate when we met the senators for a consensus candidate, he refused when he realized that he was not going to get it. How now does he expect someone else to do what he himself refused to do?"

Indicating categorically that Mallam Ciroma was only seeking for some national relevance he accused him pointedly of 'inconsistency' and declared thus: "He fought Obasanjo during the nomination and supported Alex Ekwueme and as soon as Alex Ekwueme lost, he abandoned Alex Ekwueme and joined Obasanjo and became director of campaigns of Obasanjo.When Alex lost why didn’t he continue with Alex, why did he go to become director of campaigns of Obasanjo? And when he became minister (under Obasanjo) who did he recommend to succeed him as minister? His wife!"

From the foregoing one can soundly conclude (then) that Mallam Ciroma is not only a bigot but a hypocrite and a political prostitute. So how could such a man now be telling us about justice and fairness which, for him, is what respect for the zoning agreement in the PDP is all about? Nigeria, as a potentially great nation, is bigger and greater than the likes of Mallam Ciroma who want to go down to their graves with her! Having been pampered, fed and nursed by the resources of the nation Ciroma ought to be seen to be building bridges of understanding and mutual co-existence among the diverse nationalities that make up the federation.

Zoning the Presidency between the South and the North (especially the alleged version in the PDP constitution) amounts to the enthronement and consolidation of mediocrity and as such it does not enjoy my support. Even though a President Umaru Yar'Adua alive would have most probably completed his 8-year two-term in Aso Rock no one should be blamed for his untimely demise. No Southerner was responsible for his death so we can safely assume that that was how God (Allah) wanted it to be. The late Yar'Adua we all know was not that desperate for power even though his wife was. If not his health that failed him, who knew, he could have declined the offer for a second term preferring instead to go home to Katsina to concentrate and manage his deteriorating health profile.

I will only support the zoning of the Nigerian presidency among the six geo-political groups that make up the federation; that is, one modelled after the Swiss system in which power constitutionally alternates between major geo-political zones in the European country. If zoning must work in Nigeria then it has to be broadly developed and made to be constitutional involving the three major tribes or the six geo-political zones. There must be a national conference on that issue in which terms will be worked out; for example how many terms should a President from say the Igbo stock do while in power? What if like in Yar'Adua's case death comes visiting and taking the President away? What happens? These and more are some of the core issues that must be debated and ironed out.

Which brings me to the issue of the Sovereign National Conference (SNC). The PRONACO leader, Chief Anthony Enahoro and many other progressive Nigerians have been advocating for an SNC that will determine how our unity in diversity will be consolidated or on the other hand how to arrange for a peaceful break-up of the federation so that each region could go its seperate ways like the defunct USSR did or former Yugoslovia. I believe the convocation of an SNC will do Nigeria more good than harm. Maintaining the present status quo (a federalism that has been manipulated and made not to work by the ruling cabal) can only lead to more tension and confusion.

That is why President Goodluck Jonathan should be prevailed upon to change his anti-SNC rhethorics he recently delivered unsolicited. How could the President say we have 'passed' that stage in our march towards nationhood when daily we are being confronted with frightening issues that expose our differences as diverse nationalities cobbled together by the marauding colonialists as one country? As the late Sir Winston Churchill, the war-time enigmatic British Prime Minister, once advised the international community: "it is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war."

I believe in the unity of the Nigerian nation but when old hawks like Adamu Ciroma begin to question the 'Nigerianess' in some of us then we must start re-considering our stands. There is no region with a birthright to provide leadership to other regions. If, in any case, leadership quality and stewardship should be taken as yardstick, then no northern leader should be allowed to preside over the affairs of the nation for at least another fifty years since most of them who have had the privilege of leading us had failed the nation.

SOC Okenwa
soco_abj_2006_rci@hotmail.fr

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