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WHEN JONATHAN MET CIROMA

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The president met with Mallam Adamu Ciroma the other day. That says something. And it is not just about the president, not about Mallam Ciroma, but about Nigeria, about Africa, about the way politics is played here, the way it is played outside there. A look at nations on the continent, where leaders hunt down rather than reach out to those who disagree with them gives a picture. Taking a look at the nitty-gritty of a president who goes to meet with a citizen is a worthwhile effort. Examining the implications of a younger generation politician paying older generation politician attention is meaningful.

Placing Nigeria side by side with other nations on the continent to see what is good here, and what is bad there is also a goal, a goal that is a means to achieving an end in the face political upheavals North, West, East and South of the African continent.

Mallam Ciroma is the leader of Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF), he was once the nation’s Finance Minister, and he once worked closely with the late Sardauna and premier of Northern Nigeria in the First Republic, Sir Ahmadu Bello. That counts for something. For up North, people still remember Sardauna. Sardauna loved his people, anyone who speaks in favour of the interest of the people on the upper side of the Niger River loves Sardauna, and people take note of him. It is as simple as that. This resonates in each of the component sections of Nigeria. It is a human thing; it has nothing to do with any northerner playing tribal politics, as some have alleged.

Since the death of former president, Umar Yar’Adua, and the preparations began for the 2011 elections, Ciroma has led others to speak in favour of the continuation of a presidency for the North until 2015. That was the original intention, that a president from the North should be in power for two terms; and it was a legitimate one. But the former Vice President and now president, Goodluck Jonathan, wants to continue on the Yar’Adua/ Jonathan ticket, which is also legitimate, but a thing that does not go down well with NPLF. So far, the displeasure of NPLF over the loss to Jonathan by former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar in the PDP primaries has been shouted out loud. But the president went to see Ciroma as part of his effort to reconcile with those who lost the race to him. With this scenario, level-headed thinking brings out the following. No part of the country had ignored other parts and singlehandedly produced civilian leader in the past. The president knows this, and he has followed the trail, not giving in to temptations to ignore significant voices from the North. This is wise.

Now, it has to be stated that one of the reasons this country enjoys peace today was the North’s decision to work with the South-West and make that part of the country produce a President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. That’s Nigeria, a thing that separates it from any other African country where leaders damn whatever other sections may have to say and continue with the process of governance. The debris of such bad politicking is there to see across the continent. Nigerians need to clap for themselves. For they and their leaders have something others don’t have - a good sense of what is politically workable, a notion that the nation is more important than the selfish desires of any leader, irrespective of tribe or religion.

Ciroma’s NPLF has since the meeting with the president set up a committee to help push forward his effort to reconcile with aggrieved members of the party. That also is a good thing on the part of the NPLF leaders. But for military interventions, everything good in the way leaders rally round make the nation move forward in time of disagreements would have made the county an envy for others.

President Jonathan did a good thing when he reached out to Ciroma. For when he reached out to the North, he reached out to Nigerians who have the right to want to stay in power for as long as the constitution allows. It is strange how some complained that Ciroma heated up the system with his pronouncements since the debate began over who stays in power after 2011. Everyone has the right to place a legitimate demand on the political system. It is however left for the system and those who run it to recognize genuine grievances, sit down and talk it over, with a view to reaching a workable solution. This, the president did, and considering the antagonism already generated between the two camps, it was a coup, unexpected, totally out of this world.

When the president approached Ciroma, he showed respect for age, for experience, deference to lives that had been dedicated to service of not just of the North, but the nation in general as embodied in the likes of Mallam Adamu Ciroma, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, General Ibrahim Babangida, General Aliyu Gusau. What the president did, it must be noted, is not for today. It is for tomorrow, a tomorrow when a section of the country would cry that it is being ignored, and the North too would listen; the fact of its listening led to 1999. The fact of President Goodluck Jonathan’s listening now, will help democracy and the unity of the country whenever times like this arise. It is a thing leaders across the continent should replicate, rather than turn their backs to sections of their country, when talking it over is all that is needed to carry everyone along for the peace and progress of their nation.

Ajibade, a Consultant, lives in Abuja. [email protected]

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