I start in this tribute to Mallam Adamu Ciroma in mentioning issues that touched his heart: poverty, ignorance, disease and inequality, the four giant devils afflicting most third world societies. In Nigeria we can add the most gigantic and most devilish – corruption, because it has prevented our ability to fight the four devils that have made our country unjust and unequal. Corruption has become almost a way of life. Fighting it is a national imperative. If he had been in government today, Mallam Adamu would have been in the forefront in the fight against corruption.
Almost every week and at every opportunity, President Buhari laments his inability to hold people to account in a constitutional democracy and recalls with nostalgia his time as military head of state when he got everybody locked up and declared them guilty until they proved their innocence. At every occasion he publicly acknowledges that only Adamu Ciroma and Bilyaminu Usman were not found wanting by the tribunals.
Mallam Adamu had served as Governor of the Central Bank, as well minister in the ministries of finance, industry, agriculture, at various times from 1979 to 2007. Thus Mallam Adamu stands out as a paragon and personification of integrity, not as the opinion of his legion of admirers – including myself – but by the man who approached fighting corruption with messianic zeal: President Buhari.
Adamu Ciroma didn’t fear death, in fact he was welcoming it. A few years back, after he had been in a car accident that kept him in hospital for several months, I had gone to greet him and he said to me: ‘Abba, ban san abinda zanyi in mutuba, nayi rashin Lafiya, nayi accident amma har yanzu ban mutuba – I did not know how to die. I was in bad shape, I was in danger, but still I did not die.” He also feared no man.
He was brutally frank and told undecorated truth to Power, as a civil servant in the all- powerful Premier’s office in Kaduna, editor of the ‘New Nigerian; during military regimes both to the military governors in the north and military head of state in Lagos. His encounters with late General Hassan and General Gowon were well documented and need no recounting. He was confident and independent.
In journalism he and Mamman Daura made the ‘New Nigerian’ the Al Ahram of Nigeria. It was fearless, authoritative and often set the national agenda in a compelling and reasoned way that even those who did not agree with it, respected the quality of its reasoning.
The paper set the national agenda on major issues to the extent that policy-makers took their cue from its opinion comment, usually set in single, nine-inch column. These days, opinions are expressed in whole pages. It was at once northern and national but spared neither. As a junior reporter in their time this testimony was a lived experience.
He was rare embodiment of integrity, fearlessness and frankness, a privilege for all who knew him. His type of high tradition is fast fading and our society is the poorer for it.
Abba Kyari is the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari