From the frenzied atmosphere at the entry point of the large Maizube farm, on Bida road, Minna in Niger state, one need not to be told that there was a serious business going on at the large expanse farm owned by the former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar. Although the security was tight, and the atmosphere within relaxed.
As one entered the main administrative building of the farm, it was easy to notice the presence of all the who- is- who in the north as they thronged the small hall of the farm adjacent the main conference hall.
The gathering was the meeting of leaders and elders of the north who had converged on the farm that cool but dry Thursday March 15, 2012, to discuss the myriad of problems facing the region.
There was no doubt that the northern leaders were determined more than ever before to proffer solutions to the numerous problems bedevilling the northern parts of Nigeria and which have turned the region to a war zone from its hitherto peaceful nature.
Those who attended the meeting convened by General Abubakar, cut across the key sectors of the society. The Minna meeting came barely five days after a similar one in Abuja.
The all-important meeting chaired by Mallam Adamu Ciroma, former minister of finance, had in attendance the former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, former Vice-president Atiku Abubakar, General John Shagaya, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore, Arch Bishop John Onayekan, Senator Jibril Aminu, former secretary to the government of the federation, Alhari. Yayale Ahmed, as well other retired generals, retired judicial officers and media gurus from the north including the Chairman and Editor-in Chief of LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, Kakakin Nupe.
Others included Sheik Ahmed Lemu, former Kaduna state Governor Lawal Kaita, Bello Fadile, AbdulRaman Gimba, Barr. Abraham Isah, while Niger state governor, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu joined the meeting during lunch break.
General Abdulsalami Abubakar who convened the meeting set the tone in his welcome address before the meeting went behind closed door. He said: “I am worried about the direction and consequences of a number of developments in our nation.
Ordinarily elders like us would take comfort in the belief that God Almighty has rewarded our own past endeavours with successors who should worry over matters of national security, the state of the economy and governance generally”.
He said: “It would have been their lot (the nation’s current leaders) to find solutions to problems that confront our people today and ours would have been to pray for them, but these are not ordinary times”.
He added: The cumulative effect of the escalating security challenges was not functioning in a manner that there were solutions in sight in the face of the dwindling economy of the north in particular.
On this premise, General Abubakar said it became imperative for the elders to lend their voice for genuine solutions and put ideas in perspective as well as give hope to the hopeless, especially in the north.
Consequently, he said, the meeting was structured on four sub-themes of the current security situation, the political environment, reviving northern economy and strategising on how the north could contribute to the development and stability of the nation.
Abubakar emphasised that the situation called for collective effort and should not be left to government alone.
Former President Ibrahim Babangida said in an interview at the meeting: “It is the initiative of General Abubakar to gather everyone to find lasting solution to the situation in the country”.
According to him, “this generation knows what the country means to us so anytime we see little problem that can aggravate the situation, we try to find solution to them”.
While maintaining that the problems facing the nation desire the contribution of elders, leaders of thought, traditional rulers, religious leaders and political leaders, General Babangida said that naturally the situation could be disturbing and needing urgent intervention of all leaders of thought.
Alhaji Adamu Ciroma who chaired the meeting said: “Every- body is trying to put his best in order to help this country survive. Most of the problems require the instrumentality of government. We are to discuss and make recommendations to government, north is part of Nigeria”.
A communiqué issued at the end of the meeting disclosed the resolve of the northern leaders to intensify search for solutions to threats to the security of the north and Nigeria in all their manifestations.
According to the communiqué signed by General Abdulsalami Abubakar and Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, the meeting examined many issues which ranged from the efforts to re-discover the unity and cohesion of the communities which made up the north to the negative impact of ethno-religious conflicts in the region.
The communiqué which was read to journalists by the Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group, the Kakaki of Nupe Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah stated that the forum resolved to facilitate the emergence of broad consensus around the basic interests of the north and strategies for achieving them.
The meeting also resolved to engage leadership at all levels in the search for better governance, fighting corruption and improving the responsiveness of leaders to the basic needs of citizens.
“To encourage northern governors to improve on the management of the economy of the north and expand investments into the search for more economic resources which abound in the region”, the communiqué read in part.
The meeting was no doubt aware of the need to work for the unity of the north, hence the forum according to the communiqué, resolved to improve inter-faith and inter-ethnic relationship in the region and also to assist in the search for better state-community relations.
This, the forum observed, included the improvements in community involvement in intelligence gatherings and peace building, as a way to explore further avenues to achieve the forum’s objectives.