“Whatever you are going to do, make sure that the common man is the focus”. These were the parting words to us, from Mallam Adamu Ciroma, the morning he honoured us at the Abuja Policy Dialogue Series (APDS) Hut, in Garki, earlier this year. May Allah rest him in AlJannah, amin.
That cool and agreeable mid harmattan Saturday morning, ailing Mallam Adamu came out of his home where he hadn’t left for a long time, to answer our invitation to sit easy with us to Tea In The APDS Hut, for the very first in our series of Sitting With An Elder .2 Although he was frail, this amazing elder was acutely alert and intellectually super sharp, throughout the morning.
He sat, listened to questions from about two dozen middle agers of varying backgrounds, and gave answers. It was a session of deep reflection and reminiscing. Very rewarding. And when he was about to leave, just before 1pm, his clear and husky voice admonished younger Nigerians working to build Nigeria into a united, cohesive, progressive, peaceful and strong nation. He said,
“Whatever you are going to do, make sure that the common man is the focus”.
These words have etched themselves very deeply in my mind, and I keep hearing them in my head, all the time.
I think we have a development philosophy in Mallam Adamu Ciroma’s words. Just before, and throughout the Civil War, Nigeria’s leadership philosophy under Gowon was, “To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done.” Our early foreign policy, especially during the bubbly Murtala/Obasanjo regime, was anchored on the strategic philosophy of, “Africa is the center piece of our foreign policy.” These, respectively, helped us marshal and focus energy and resources towards preserving our unity, and towards the decolonization of Africa, as well as towards the eventual ending of apartheid in South Africa.
Today, an appropriate development philosophy will enable us leapfrog and catch up in areas of national unity, peace, social and economic development, technological progress, and general prosperity. Mallam Adamu Ciroma’s advice provides us that development philosophy. He was almost uniquely suited to do so.
Born in a semi urban setting, he grew up and studied in the colonial economy and epoch, began his career in administration in the early post-colonial period, and rose to hold five very important jobs, respectively, of Editor of the New Nigerian Newspaper; Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria; Minister of Agriculture; Minister of Commerce and Industries; and Minister of Finance. The last post in two different governments! He was also a politician who took part in constitution-making in the Constituent Assembly (1977/78), and became a party ideologue and secretary. Hardly has any one Nigerian been so privileged and positioned to observe, study and understand Nigeria’s development challenges. He was, as a result, able to synthesize a development philosophy from that rich experience. From Mallam Adamu Ciroma’s sagely words of that morning with us therefore, and as his lasting legacy, we can coin a new national development philosophy thus:
“The common man is the focus of Nigeria’s governance.”
So help us God.