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OBITUARY: Advice that changed Ciroma’s life



4mins read

ADAMU Ciroma’s unusual left eye was not just his unique facial feature but also played pivotal role in his career. He could have studied law in the United Kingdom but an eye problem stopped this wish. His doctor told him though he could not study abroad but he could achieve anything in Nigeria.

True to the doctor’s advice, Ciroma studied history at the University of Ibadan and made astonishing achievements. He was a civil servant, governor of Central Bank of Nigerian, three times minister and presidential aspirant.

“Before we went to Ibadan, a friend called Malumfashi and I had decided, while we were at Barewa, to do Law. At that time, there were only a few lawyers – Galadiman Malumfashi, Justice Muhammed Bello, just a few,” Ciroma told the Daily Trust in an interview in 2016.

“But how do we do Law? At that time, there was only one lawyer in private practice in the North and that was Abdulrazak, from Kwara State but he was practising in Zaria. We used to visit him. One day, we asked him, ‘How do we become lawyers?’ He said we would only need to apply to the appropriate quarters.

“At that time, the Northern administration ensured that whatever you wanted to study, you would get a scholarship. We applied and we were admitted to do Law at a school in the United Kingdom. We had to do a medical test. My friend Malumfashi passed the medical test. But my doctor said I would have trouble with my eyes.

“By the time the doctor was through with me, the time to travel had already passed. Then my doctor said to me, ‘You can equally achieve anything here. Go to the Nigerian College and prepare for university.’ So the doctor virtually decided for me. I went to the Nigerian College and in the end, I enjoyed it. From there, I went to the university, all on scholarship.”

Ciroma remembered Ukpabi Asika, Uche Chukwumerije, Dahiru Modibo, D.H. Audu, Garba Ja’Abdulkadir and other prominent Nigerians as his mates at the University of Ibadan where he studied history from 1957 to 1961.

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The former CBN governor who died yesterday at the age of 83 was born in 1934 in Potiskum, Yobe State.  He attended primary schools in Fika and Potiskum. He later  went to the Borno Middle School and Barewa College, Zaria before he proceeded to the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology also in Zaria.


When Ciroma graduated from the university with a degree in history, he joined the civil service as administrative officer in the office of the Sardauna of Sokoto.

“After my graduation in 1961, I was posted to his office as Assistant Secretary IV. I was receiving a lot of letters from African leaders like Hamani Diori of Niger Republic and Hamadou Ahidjo of Cameroun. I had studied a little of French at Ibadan. At a time, I decided to study French further and when I applied to go and study in France, the Sardauna immediately approved and facilitated it,” Ciroma said.

Ciroma excelled on his job and when the government of northern region was looking for an editor for the New Nigeria Newspaper, there was no doubt that he could edit the paper.

“The Northern government was looking for who they believed was a good hand to edit the New Nigerian and they believed I could do it. I had edited a school magazine at the University of Ibadan. When I arrived at the NEW NIGERIAN, I went straight to the newsroom and made there my office. It was from there I began editing the newspaper.”


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After Yakubu Gowon was overthrown as the military Head of State in 1975, Murtala Mohammed, the new Head of State, appointed Ciroma as the CBN governor.

His appointment as CBN governor was allegedly a mistake as he was to be appointed the managing director of Daily Times while Aliko Mohammed, an accountant, was to be made CBN governor.

But on the swearing ceremony, the Head of State mistakenly announced Ciroma as the CBN governor. When Mohammed was reminded of this mistake, he said he could not undo it and the appointees should learn on the job.

Kole Omotosho gave account of this accidental appointment of Ciroma  in his book, “Just Before Dawn”.

On the contrary, Ciroma said he was already a director in CBN before his appointment as the governor.

“Shortly after I was appointed editor of the New Nigerian, I was also appointed a director of the CBN. From that point, I got involved in knowing how the CBN operated, how they worked, what they were doing and so on. So I was quite familiar with operations of the CBN.

“When the coup that ousted Gowon and brought in Murtala Mohammed took place, I was in Lagos and was staying at a CBN apartment where we normally stayed. On the morning of the coup, I heard the sound of a stone someone had thrown at my window.

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“I opened the window to ask who it was that threw the stone and it was Shehu 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 said something like there were some forex transactions which were not done right and they needed somebody to put them right. So they decided to put me there.

“I told you in the beginning that our quality of education then enabled me to be a historian, to head a steel mill, to edit a newspaper, to manage any organization. In the same line of thought I could head the Central Bank. And I did. I actually did a lot of good work for the bank.”


Ciroma resigned as  governor of CBN when  he was chosen by his people to represent them at the Constituent Assembly set up by the military government to create a new constitution for democratic government.

From the Constituent Assembly, he contested the presidential primaries of National Party of Nigeria (NPN) against Shehu Shagari and Maitama Sule.  Shagari eventually became the president in 1979 and made him the Minister of Trade and Industry. Later Shagari reshuffled his cabinet and made him the Minister of Agriculture.  Shagari’s government was eventually overthrown by the military in 1983 in which Muhammadu Buhari became the Head of State.

In 1992, Ciroma contested for the presidential primaries of National Republican Convention (NRC) but the military government of Ibrahim Babangida aborted the exercise.

Sani Abacha, the late military dictator, later appointed Ciroma as the Minister of Agriculture.

At the return of democracy in 1999, former President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Ciroma as finance minister.

Ciroma was also a  founding member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) that played a crucial role for the return of democracy in 1999.

He became the face of Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF), insisting that power must remain in the north after Musa Yar’Adua died in 2010 and Goodluck Jonathan became the president. Jonathan went ahead to contest and won the 2011 presidential election.

Mallam Ciroma was born on November 20, 1934 and died on July 5th 2018.

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