On July 5 2018, Nigeria lost, arguably, one of her best elder statesmen, Mallam Adamu Ciroma. He was aged 83. His death came exactly one year after that of another accomplished, respected and respectable son of Nigeria, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, on July 2 2017. A sad commentary on the nation’s health system, the death of those two senior citizens happened outside its shores where they were taken for medical care.
Adamu, fondly addressed simply as “Mallam” (meaning “teacher”), lived an active and fulfilled public life right to the very end. His last public appearance was at the Abuja Policy Dialogue Series, organised by a group much younger Nigerians of the same Northern extraction as he. His parting words as he took his leave were “whatever you’re going to do, make sure the common man is the focus”. That dictum defined Adamu’s public life. In the service of the old Northern Region government that employed him after graduation from Nigeria’s premier University of Ibadan, he put that principle into practice by stopping a contractor who wanted to use his connection to the regional premier to steal from the public till. His minutes on the matter to Sir (Alhaji) Ahmadu Bello read in part: “Hon. Premier, this money belongs… to the peopĺe of the North”.The premier did not like the young Adamus’ effontery but the money was returned to the treasury, nonetheless. Adamu’s audacity also shocked his superiors and inferious alike, making him an instant hero.
It was Mallam’s strength of character that stood him out. Another factor responsible for his mecurial rise in the public service of the North was his proficiency in English and the ease with which he used this gift in communication. When the regional government set up the New Nigerìan in the mid 1960s, the only newspaper in the North at the time, the choice of its first Nigerian edior of Northern extraction fell to Adamu. And he did not disappoint.The quality of the editorials and articles he wrote is the envy of many an editor today in Nigeria.
In the heady days of the 1977/8 Constituent Assembly debate called by the military as part of their programme to return the nation to constitutional rule, Adamu easily became the spokesman on many controversial issues. He it was that uttered the region’s famous “irreductible minimum” position on the debate. He also reaped huge personal political capital from the debate during which he managed to build an efficient political machine. He would use it to prosecute his campaign to become Nigeria’s president in 1979. He was widely expected to win the NPN’s presidential nomination in an open contest. As it turned out, Mallam lost to an Establishment candidate. However, he did not quit the NPN because of that ‘loss’. Instead, he kept with the party to the very end – a lesson on principle for today’s political prostitutes.
Mallam’s record of public service includes serving as governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, minister of industries and steel, then minister of finance. In those positions he acquitted himself very well. In 1999, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, upon his return to power, this time as an elected president, made Adamu the minister of finance, the second time.However, poor health forced his voluntary retirement in 2003.
In private life, Adamu was a devout Muslim and an exemplary family man. He was easy to be friends with. For leisure, he took to golf. How would this man of many parts love to be remembered? He said he did not want to be remembered. But today, we at Peoples Daily do celebrate him as do millions of grateful Nigerians.