By Udo Ibuot
NEWS came, yesterday, that one of Nigeria’s leading political lights and elder statesmen, Dr. Adamu Ciroma, CFR, has passed on. The late political icon was arguably the main advocate of the zoning principle in Nigerian politics. He was also associated with the much touted and controversial quest for the Sovereign National Conference, SNC, which was promoted by some Nigerian politicians to ensure equitable distribution of national resources across the geopolitical zones of the country.
The late Malam Adamu Ciroma who was born on November 20, 1934 at Potiskum in Yobe State died at the Turkish Hospital, Abuja after a protracted illness. He attended the Borno Middle School, Barewa Colege, Zaria and the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria before he proceeded to the University of Ibadan in 1957 to study History. Ciroma who had the late Dr. Ukpabi Asika, administrator of the defunct East Central State and Senator Uche Chukwumerije, as classmates at the premier university, actually intended to study Law in the United Kingdom but lost the opportunity because of his failure in an eye test. He graduated with a Bachelors degree in History in 1961.
Often described as the accidental Central Bank governor, especially following the summation of Kole Omotosho in his book, Just Before Dawn, Ciroma who was the Managing Director of the defunct New Nigerian Newspaper, was to be moved from that organisation to the Daily Times of Nigeria as the new Managing Director. He was said to have swapped positions with Aliko Tanko, an accountant who was to be appointed governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria by the late General Murtala Muhammed. However, during the swearing in by the late head of state in 1975, Ciroma was given papers assigning him to the Central Bank instead of the Daily Times while Mohammed was presented with papers assigning him the Daily Times organisation. General Muhammed’s attention was reportedly drawn to this error but he was said to have dismissed it with the notion that “generals don’t change their minds.”
Ciroma, however, had a different account over his appointment as Central Bank governor. He told the Daily Trust newspaper in an interview in 2016 that he was in the CBN apartment in Lagos where he normally resided when the General Murtala Muhammed coup was announced. Said he, “On the morning of the coup, I heard the sound of a stone someone had thrown at my window. I opened the window to ask who it was that threw the stone and it was (Major General) Shehu Musa Yar’Adua. I opened the door and he said to me, ‘There has been a coup and the military leadership has appointed you governor of the Central Bank.”
He served as CBN governor between July 1975 and June 1977 before leaving to participate in politics. He served first on the Constituent Assembly that was headed by the late Justice Egbert Udo Udoma to produce the 1979 Constitution and later participated in the forming of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN. Following his defeat in the presidential primaries by President Shehu Shagari, he served first as minister of trade and industry and later agriculture under Shagari. Under the late General Sani Abacha, Ciroma was again drafted to serve as minister of agriculture. An extremely lucky politician, Ciroma had his fourth stint as minister of the Federal Republic, this time overseeing the ministry of finance under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s first tenure as civilian president between 1999 and 2003.
He was one of the leaders of the G34 and G8 movements that metamorphosed into the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Considered as one of the members of the mythical Kaduna Mafia, he was believed to have been one of the leaders that instigated the formation of the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, to canvass for the picking of a consensus northern candidate to confront President Goodluck Jonathan who was seeking a second term bid following the death of President Umary Musa Yar’Adua. He was also vociferous in highlighting the northern position that power should reside in the north.
He was not always afraid to state his considered opinions on issues affecting the country. For instance, when leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Board of Trustees, led by its chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, visited him in his Wuse II residence in Abuja, he took time off to berate the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, of making similar mistakes that the PDP had made.
He reportedly said, “I want the APC to play the rightful role. They talked about the PDP now as if the APC does not exist. The APC must make mistakes, so all of you (PDP leaders) must be ready. Today PDP did not lose and APC did not win because APC has a lot to do.”
He also took a swipe at the Igbo agitation for Biafra. Said Ciroma: “Biafra, this Biafra, I tell my Igbo friends, Biafra for what? This Nigeria is too small for you Igbos. All over Nigeria you will see Igbos everywhere. If you go to Ghana, Igbos everywhere. If you go to Niger, Igbos everywhere. If you go to South Africa, Igbos everywhere. But now you want something smaller, what does it mean?”
His death will obviously create a lacuna in the north as he was one of the few respected members of his club of elder statesmen around.