By ABBA MAHMOOD —
The death of Mallam Adamu Ciroma on Thursday, July 5, 2018, has robbed Nigeria of one of her finest and most illustrious sons. Mallam Ciroma was integrity personified. Born into the Fika Royal Family in 1934, he was born a leader, prepared for leadership and led creditably for several decades at various levels under various circumstances until he retired quietly, waiting to answer the call of our Creator.
It is difficult to get someone who is both traditionalist as well as modernist; a conservative and a progressive; a thorough establishment person who, on principl, can be anti-establishment. Ciroma was one such rare person.
Mallam Ciroma was educated both in the western and eastern senses. That was why he was well versed in both Islamic and modern knowledge. He attended the prestigious University of Ibadan, Nigeria’s first and best university. He read history, the subject of any aspiring leader. He started his public career in the office of the Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the incubation centre of the best public service tradition. He made his mark there as a fearless civil servant who stood for the truth at all times.
He subsequently served in various provinces across Northern Nigeria during which he established enduring friendship and relationships that lasted till he died. He saw and was part of all the great policies and programs of development that Sir Ahmadu Bello initiated and executed during that golden era of the north’s history. He learnt and polished his administrative skills under that great administrator, the Sardauna of Sokoto.
A few days before the assassination of Ahmadu Bello in January 1966, the government of Northern Nigeria established a newspaper, New Nigerian. During the launch, the premier said: “The greatest weapon is Truth”. It was not surprising therefore when Mallam Ciroma was deployed to New Nigerian as its first editor — a man who was truthful and trustworthy. In that position he gave the New Nigerian its character and tradition of being a courageous voice for the voiceless and a fearless advocate of what is best for the country and its people. He mentored so many journalists who later became distinguished professionals in that field. He eventually became the managing director of the company.
When the first generation political and military leaders of Northern Nigeria were virtually completely assassinated by some military officers in the first military coup of January 15, 1966, there was a huge leadership vacuum in the north. The young military officers who spearheaded the revenge coup of July 29, 1966, were inexperienced in governance. Some patriotic northerners belonging to both civil service and intelligentsia, virtually all of them living around Kaduna, saw the gap and tried to help in articulating policy recommendations to the military government. These were later dubbed the Kaduna Mafia and Mallam Adamu was a key figure in that group.
There was a bloodless change of government in July 1975 when General Murtala Muhammed took over from General Yakubu Gowon. TThat year, Ciroma was appointed Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria by the Murtala administration. From 1975 to 1977, he discharged his duties creditably, helping in the formulation and implementation of laudable monetary and fiscal policies of the government. In 1977, he answered the call of his people and resigned to contest for the Constituent Assembly that debated the 1979 draft constitution.
When the ban on politics was lifted, he was a founding member of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). He, along with five others, contested the presidential primaries of the NPN. In the first ballot, he came third after Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Alhaji Maitama Sule who were first and second respectively. The three were to go for second round when he and Alhaji Maitama Sule withdrew and supported Shagari in the interest of party unity. Alhaji Shehu Shagari subsequently won the presidential election and was sworn in as the first Executive President of Nigeria on October 1, 1979.
During the Shagari administration, Mallam Adamu Ciroma was at various times Minister of Industry, Agriculture and Finance. On December 31, 1983, the military overthrew the civilians and clamped them into detention. General Buhari, who became the Head of State, always says that Mallam Adamu Ciroma and Alhaji Bilyaminu Usman Hadejia, Shagari’s Minister of State for Education, were the only two that were not found wanting in any way during the investigations. And many believe that if Mallam Ciroma were to be the President during the Second Republic the story would have been different, for he knew power and knew the power game.
General Babangida took over from Buhari on August 27, 1985. He started a transition program with the aim of handing over to the civilians once more. Mallam Ciroma offered his services once again by contesting for the presidential ticket of the National Republican Convention (NRC) one of the two parties. He was about to be the presidential flag-bearer of the NRC when the military cancelled the primaries and banned the 23 presidential aspirants of both parties, some of the finest in the country. It was a big blow for the political process and indeed democracy itself.
Eventually, Alhaji Bashir Tofa and Chief MKO Abiola emerged as the presidential candidate of the NRC and SDP respectively. Chief Abiola was set to be declared winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election when the military annulled that election. Mallam Ciroma came out openly and told the Babangida regime that Chief Abiola had won “fair and square” and should therefore be declared winner and sworn in. It was a courageous statement coming from a northern establishment person in support of a southerner – vintage Ciroma.
The late Ciroma was a Minister of Agriculture in the Abacha regime that came to rescue the nation. He left the government when he saw that they were not ready for democracy and even joined others to send a clear message to the military that their time was up — that was under the G18 and later G34. He was a founding member of the PDP in 1998 and served as finance minister under President Obasanjo in 1999-2003.
Fika Emirate where he came from has established a tradition of pursuit of knowledge and public service. Mallam Liman Ciroma, the patriarch of the Ciroma family of Fika, was Secretary to the Federal Government and Head of Civil Service. Mallam Adamu Fika, the Wazirin Fika, was also at one time the Head of the Federal Civil Service. Many were Federal Permanent Secretaries from there. And they were always not afraid to say the truth and to stand for the common good at all times. Mallam Adamu Ciroma was Dallatu, Galadima and later Madaki of Fika.
We have lost a great father. May the Almighty God give him eternal rest in Aljannah. Amin.