Remembering a rare gem called Ciroma

Having read tributes to Malam Adamu Ciroma by elder statesmen and veteran journalists like Ahmed Joda, Mamman Daura, Abba Kyari, Dan Agbese, Dr Gausu Ahmad and Mahmud Jega, it becomes incumbent upon me as a journalist in training to draw a few lessons from those rare gems for young journalists like me to imbibe in order to revive the image of our profession and live a meaningful life.


My first area of concern is humility demonstrated by Ciroma throughout his life; humility not only to his friends, colleagues, subordinates, but to the common man (Talaka). I can vividly remember that in 1992 Ramadan, I, together with some ‘Talakawas’ visited Sultan Bello Mosque to listen to Tafsir by late Abubakar Mahmud Gumi and used the opportunity to see Malam Adamu Ciroma who was at that time a presidential candidate under the erstwhile National Republican Party, (NRC).

I was the youngest among them. We waited patiently until after the Tafsir. As he came outside, we approached him and instead of stopping at verbal greeting, I extended my hand for a hand shake which he graciously obliged. This singular demonstration of humility has continued to ring in my memory.


Another instance was his modesty and not feeling high even among his subordinates, as demonstrated in his last interview with Daily Trust published in 2015 when he declared that Mamman Daura could edit stories better than him and Daura’s mastery of English was even far better than his – a rare expression coming from a master concerning his subordinate. Ironically, in Daura’s tribute to Ciroma, he described his boss as ‘the first and the best editor of the New Nigerian; he wrote powerful, thoughtful but always constructive editorials and articles. His command of English was uncommonly brilliant.’

In his tribute, elder statesman, Ahmed Joda, expressed appreciation with Ciroma’s selflessness and zeal to serve unsolicited and remembered how Ciroma on October 11, 1956 saved them the trouble of wandering in Kano with his family by assisting them to locate the house of Dr. Abubakar Imam, given the fact that he knew only two people in Kano at that time, i.e., Dr Abubakar Imam and Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim. The incident left an indelible etch in Joda’s mind. Another incident that I found most appealing in the article was where Joda described Adamu Ciroma’s unmaterialistic disposition when he proposed to him about working for the New Nigerian Newspapers, (NNN) in which there and then he accepted without any pause, hesitation or discussing salary and conditions of service.

In another tribute, Mahmud Jega described Malam as a fearless journalist who worked hard to tell what Abba Kyari called ‘undecorated truth’ no matter the implication. He recalled that as editor of the New Nigerian, Ciroma published aerial bombardment of the Kaduna airport by a Biafran jet on the front page despite earlier warning not to publish it. Ciroma was later summoned by the then military governor of the Northern region, Major Hassan Usman Katsina, who bitterly expressed anger with the publication but Ciroma stood his ground insisting that as an editor he would not do anything that will affect the integrity of the paper. How many media chief executives can summon the courage to see the president to secure the release of their staff? Ciroma (as Managing Director of NNN) did exactly that and even threatened to resign when the Military administration of General Yakubu Gowon arrested Mamman Daura, the then editor of the New Nigerian.

Another attribute of Ciroma worthy of mention is that he was incorruptible as aptly captured by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, who recalled that when the military government of Major General Muhammadu Buhari took over power from the civilian administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, all serving public office holders were arrested and detained. A military tribunal was set up which investigated the tenure of all those arrested. It immediately released Malam Adamu Ciroma and Muhammadu Goni, who were never found wanting throughout the investigations. This made Buhari to, times without number, publicly apologize to Ciroma, describing him as incorruptible and a man of proven integrity.

In his tribute, Dan Agbese focused more on Ciroma’s mentoring of young, upcoming journalists. He recalled how the deceased logically trained him to rise and become editor of the New Nigerian in 1982. In particular, Agbese talked on how Ciroma engaged him intellectually whenever he erred, patiently corrected and reminded him of the integrity of the paper he was working for.  He recalled when he exaggerated the number of teachers protesting against poor conditions of service from the Igala Native Authority, in a report. Although Ciroma was angry with him, he immediately forgave and advised him never to write anything that would make the newspaper look stupid to right thinking members of the society.

Also, Ciroma taught Agbese the techniques of interviewing when he asked him to interview heavy weights in his early months in the newspaper by assigning him to interview the six military governors of the northern states i.e. CP Audu Bako (Kano); ACP Joseph Gomwalk (Benue-Plateau); Major Abba Kyari (North-Central); Major Musa Usman (North-Est) Major David Bamigboye (Kwara) and Superintendent of Police, Usman Faruk (North-West). In addition, he taught him how to write editorials, the virtues of short sentences, the discipline of not wasting words or putting wrong words in the right places, etc.

In his tribute, a veteran journalist and university lecturer, Dr. Gausu Ahmad, described the deceased in two words- humility and confidence. He extolled Ciroma’s ingenuity in the management of NNN and his ability to strike a balance between professionalism and ownership influence by satisfying the government and the public at the same time. Ciroma also successfully introduced management by succession in NNN aimed at securing and guaranteeing the stability of the paper and loyalty of the staff. 

This write up will not be complete without a tribute by a lawyer; Ahmed Raji, SAN, published by PR Nigeria entitled ‘An Encounter with Adamu Ciroma as Young Attorney’ published on 13th July, 2018. Raji described him as someone who would do everything to protect his integrity. Raji was standing for the deceased in a libel suit against the Nigerian Tribune. The Tribune misreported the evidence of the late strong man of Kwara politics (Dr. Olusola Saraki) in the celebrated case of Saraki vs Kotoye. It was reported that Dr. Olusola Saraki said in evidence that he gave shares to Mallam Adamu Ciroma to secure the banking license of Societe Generale Bank, contrary to the evidence on record. Mallam was peeved, hence the suit to protect his image.  After his victory in the trial court and Tribune’s appeal was becoming prolonged, Ciroma was always showing understanding for the process until the appeal was disposed of and he won. The trial judge then in Kaduna State was Justice Abubakar Yahya, now of the Court of Appeal.

These attributes of humility, patience, simplicity, selflessness, courage, honesty, anti-corruption stand and mentorship as exemplified by the deceased, as noted above, are very scarce among journalists today, thus, the need for more mentorship by the old to save the journalistic profession from further decay. I therefore call on veterans, especially Malam Mamman Daura who, in terms of expression and delivery, is considered second to none on this continent, to make themselves available i.e. assist in training young journalists in that area. We are in dire need of it!  

There are calls from the National Assembly, political parties and prominent Nigerians on the need to immortalize Madakin Fika and a promise by president Buhari to honour him for dedicating his entire life for public service. I would like to propose for the revitalization of the New Nigerian Newspapers and the company’s head office complex named after him as a mark of respect for the deceased. This can be achieved by forcing the owners i.e. Northern state governors to either invest on it or cede its ownership back to the federal government (as recommended way back by Adamu Ciroma) who will now revive the place and subsequently privatize it, if needs be. This call is timely due to the presence of large number of former NNN staff in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, particularly his Chief of staff, Minister of Education, the INEC commissioner in charge of NC and many others. We look forward to seeing this achieved within the shortest time possible.

Let me conclude with a famous quotation by late Sardauna of Sokoto at the commissioning ceremony of NNN on 1st January, 1966 where he said; ‘the work is too much, only a little is done and the life is too short’.

Alhassan is the Manager, News and Programmes, ABU FM Radio

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