The death on Thursday last week, July 5 of Malam Adamu Ciroma robbed Nigeria of its most articulate, one of the most brilliant, most widely knowledgeable, most insightful, most widely experienced and also one of the most principled and courageous men in our public life. His death truly marked the departure of a true titan of the civil service, mass media, business, finance, politics, public service, community and religious leadership in Nigeria. He passed away at the Nizamiye Turkish Hospital, Abuja at the age of 84.
Born on November 20, 1934 in Potiskum, present-day Yobe State, Adamu Ciroma attended Borno Middle School and then Barewa College, Zaria where he finished at the top of his class. He then went to the Nigeria College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria before he entered the University of Ibadan in 1957. He graduated in 1961 with a bachelor’s degree in history. Ciroma became an Administrative Officer in the government of the Northern Region, serving in Adamawa Province and also in the Premier’s Office in Kaduna. He quickly earned a reputation as one of the brilliant young men who were responsible for the efficiency and focus of the office under the Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto.
In 1966, when the Premier launched the New Nigerian Newspapers in Kaduna, Adamu Ciroma became its first Editor under the managing director Mr. Charles Sharp, a Briton. He succeeded Sharp as managing director in 1969 up until 1974 when he left the company. His years as editor and later MD of New Nigerian were the golden years of greatness and editorial independence when the paper stood up to the powers that be and was always with the voiceless and downtrodden.
In 1975 General Murtala Mohammed appointed him Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN]. He held the post until 1977 when he resigned to contest for a seat in the Constituent Assembly of 1977-78, which ratified the 1979 Constitution. Ciroma became a founding member of the National Party of Nigeria [NPN] and contested for its presidential ticket, which he lost to Alhaji Shehu Shagari. He then became NPN’s National Secretary.
In 1979 Ciroma was made Minister of Industries, the first of three ministerial posts he held in his lifetime. He later became Minister of Agriculture and Chairman of the Presidential Transition Committee in 1983. He returned to private business afterwards and in 1992 he entered the race for the National Republican Convention’s [NRC] presidential ticket. In late 1993 the IBB regime banned him from politics alongside many other leading candidates, just when he was scheduled to contest in a run-off election against Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi.
Adamu Ciroma served as Minister of Agriculture in General Sani Abacha’s first cabinet, 1993-95. He was a member of the G-13 [later G-33] group of eminent persons led by Dr. Alex Ekwueme that opposed Abacha’s self-succession agenda and became a founding member of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in 1998. He became Minister of Finance under President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, a post he held until 2003. Ciroma chaired an informal committee that unsuccessfully promoted Atiku Abubakar as the Northern aspirant against Jonathan in 2011. He was unhappy that PDP jettisoned its power rotation policy midstream.
In all those years and in all areas of public and private life where he treaded, Adamu Ciroma left behind giant imprints of courage, principle, focus, unmatched erudition and deep thought of the kind that is hard to find in Nigeria. His intellectual power, his broad-mindedness and his thorough-going patriotism were a rarity in Nigerian public life.
No wonder that thousands of people including many state governors, legislators and ministers attended his funeral prayers in Abuja. Since his death, people from all walks of life have visited the family to offer condolences and to shower encomiums on the departed Malam Adamu Ciroma, who was equally famous for his religious knowledge and practice. A great shining star has dimmed. May Allah reward him with Aljannat Firdaus.