By Gambo Dori
IT is quite a number of heavy losses these days. The most prominent loss, of course, was that of Adamu Ciroma, the very well-known former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and Minister of the federal republic who held a number of important portfolios, including finance and agriculture, during the military and civilian regimes. Personally I chiefly remember him more as the editor of the New Nigerian newspaper which I had started to read from the very first edition in 1966 when I was rounding up primary school. I became particularly enamoured to it when I came to the University in Zaria in the early 1970s. The paper was available daily as it was published a few kilometres away in Kaduna. “The paper became a staple reading in our daily lives not only for the news but for the good writing that was the hallmark of the New Nigerian newspaper. The editorial of the New Nigerian was famous for its economy of words.
It was a government paper yet it carried on as if it was independent, carrying news items and editorials that were in many instances highly critical of the government. Most of those who have eulogized him particularly his close associates in the New Nigerian, Mamman Daura, Abba Kyari, Sully Abu, attributed this to his personal charisma, courage and calm disposition. He had an excellent command of language and gathered around him only those whom he judged were good writers. In later years when I came to see more of him on television I realized he was one of the few that were gifted to write as they spoke. I always imagined that he was an interviewer’s delight, endowed with quick thinking and an uncanny ability to always find the right words (and pauses) to express whatever he wanted in a voice that was as stentorian as you can find. Many who knew him have exchanged condolences on the death of the late statesman.
A friend of this column Buhari Hassan sent in this contribution from Kaduna. Please read on:““Gambo please allow me to narrate a second hand tribute to Mallam Adamu. It all happened during our fun-filled North-East students rag day celebrations in Maiduguri in the early seventies. We barged into the office of a highly placed civil servant as students would do in those days. He was visibly angry and challenged us for invading his office. Then one of our colleagues with a tremendous sense of humour turned to us and said, ‘look, behave yourselves boys. Do you realize that we are in presence of a highly educated and trained Nigerian civil servant and not a rag tag British colonial officer with some dubious qualification from a backwater institution’.
That did the trick! The officer ordered for additional chairs and when we were seated regaled us with account of their escapades as brash young Turks in the Northern Nigerian civil service. He was particularly proud to have worked with his contemporaries like ADAMU CHIROMA whom he described as belonging to a group of young white-haired boys in the Premier’s Office while he our host largely worked in the provincial administration with equally impressive achievements. He ended his story with an interesting account of Mallam Adamu’s integrity in the business world after his stay in the New Nigerian Newspaper. A certain Scandinavian country had donated some serviceable mass transit buses to the Nigerian government. Mallam Adamu with some other business men earned commissions as agents of the company. The whole exercise was a colossal disaster as the buses embarrassingly malfunctioned and a government commission was instituted to investigate the transaction.
Mallam Adamu duly appeared before the commission admitted his part and startled the members with a tax receipt on his agency fees. Our host described him as damn clever. Remember those were the days of plenty of petrodollars, and one could get away with all manner of financial misdemeanours, but not for him as he acquitted himself admirably. Needless to say we lapped up the account and left our host with our collection box handsomely stuffed and a good story for campus “gisting” to use the popular slang. The same respected elder statesman was publicly acknowledged for his moral rectitude by no less a person than President Muhammad Buhari even before his demise. May The Almighty Allah repose his soul with Aljannatu Firdausi. Amin.” –Buhari Hassan
Professor Anthony Kirk-Greene
In the same week news filtered from England of the death of Professor A. H. M. Kirk-Green, at the age of 93. This was contained in an announcement by the Warden of St Anthony’s College, University of Oxford, where Kirk-Greene had been since he left Nigeria in the mid-1960s. Though he was referred to as an Africanist in other reports, I saw elsewhere, the Daily Trust news item of 11th July correctly identified him as an English Nigerianist – obviously an acknowledgement to the extensive work he did in Nigeria mostly during the colonial times and the vast array of material he had left behind.
“Anthony Kirk-Greene came into Nigeria about 1950 as a colonial officer and served mainly in the North during those turbulent times when power was shifting from the colonial masters and the traditional rulers to the elected officials. Tony served mainly in Adamawa, Niger and Borno Provinces as Divisional Officer (DO). In Borno, where I come from, he is particularly remembered as supervising that historic election in 1956 where the ruling the Northern People Congress, NPC, lost to Borno Youths Movement, BYM. He wrote a lot about his experiences in the field and developed a keen interest in both Hausa and Fulfulde languages. “He was said to speak Hausa like an indigenous speaker, kamar jakin Kano, complete with the idioms and all.
He wrote many books on Hausa and Fulani culture and languages that are still relevant. I still come across his book, Hausa Ba Dabo Ba Ne, a collection of Hausa proverbs, in bookshops. He was very much involved as a lecturer in the Institute of Administration, Zaria which predated the birth of Ahmadu Bello University, ABU. When ABU came into being in 1962 he was seconded there as Reader and first Head of Department of Public Administration. Later, due to his interest in the major languages of the North and the amount of work he had done on Hausa and Fulfulde languages, he was appointed to begin the new Department of African and Nigerian Languages. “He left abruptly for England in 1965 and never returned. In 1967 he joined St Anthony’s where he remained for life, basking in their appreciation for his vast contributions which drew from his lengthy and distinctive experience in Nigeria.
He lectured and continued to produce books and pamphlets about Nigeria. Shehu Othman who compiled a bibliography of Kirk-Greene’s works was astounded to find and list more than 700 items comprising books, pamphlets, articles, mostly on Nigerian history and languages. “Shehu Othman said, ‘reading through his works one is easily struck by his formidable reservoir of knowledge, his grasp of historical details, his keen prognostic sense and a literary style that makes him among the best of his generation. Whether writing about historical or political issues or about matters of human interest, Tony Kirk-Green deals with his subject in both a robust and witty fashion. Few Africanists would match the quality of his essays, but I know of no Nigerianist with a higher record of publications’. “Shehu Othman’s listing stopped in 1992 but certainly Kirk-Green did not stop there. At least I have seen a copy of Was It Yesterday? The Last Generation of Nigeria’s Turawa, 2002, edited by Trevor Clark, which contained chapters contributed by Tony.