Mallam Adamu Ciroma, journalist, administrator, politician, former minister of different portfolios and erstwhile governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, is one of Nigeria’s leading statesmen. Ciroma, who was third in the 1978 presidential primaries of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN, subsequently turned out to become a close confidant of President Shehu Shagari and served as minister in the Second Republic. He was also a close confidant of President Olusegun Obasanjo in the Fourth Republic and a rallying figure in the northern opposition to the 2011 presidential bid of President Goodluck Jonathan. Ciroma has largely kept out of the public eye despite the active participation of his wife, Hayiya Maryam Ciroma in the affairs of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
In this interview, he speaks on issues in his party, the PDP, the polity and among others. Excerpts:
By Henry Umoru
You have been quiet for long on issues. Why?
There is no issue and I don’t have to talk to the media or anybody.
As a founding father of the PDP, a lot of things went wrong and the party lost after 16 years in government. What do you think really happened?
You are a reporter and you have been following events more than me. Some of the things which caused the downfall of the party, have already been reported by you, and some of them were the cause of controversy in the party, for example about the presidential candidate where he comes from.
Do you also agree that there were also issues of lack of respect, lack of internal democracy in the party?
Everything about Nigerian politics and the formation of PDP and the management of affairs during the PDP period are known by you and indeed by everybody and everyone is even tired of them.
Now even the new government that has not been formed yet properly has not settled yet, has not done anything yet, why do you want to confuse us again about the PDP period? You know everything about PDP period; you know everything they are doing even now. I don’t want to be in the press because you have come to ask me questions.
How can we get to the end of the Boko Haram insurgency?
The President has asked the military to bring the insurgency to an end by the end of December, this is official, everybody has heard of it and everybody is praying for the success of the president and everybody wants to help. So we pray that what the President said comes true and we hope that this nation will be able to have peace.
Was setting a time line for it really feasible?
I am not a military personnel, I am not a member of the police force.
Worries about foreign exchange
I am not a member of any of the security agencies; so I am not the one to answer that question.
How would you assess the government of President Muhammadu Buhari?
I have just told you that the government that was elected after the elections has not yet been properly established; ministers have just been named and approved by the Senate, the ministers are still familiarizing themselves with their ministries; so it is too early to ask what they have done or how they are doing it.
In fact, a lot of the worries people have now, is about the economy and the foreign exchange and things of that nature. It is now for the president to look at what the people are saying and deal with the problems of which they are throwing up and it is his duty to do that.
How will you assess the present economic team of Mr President and his economic blueprint? And if you are to proffer an economic advice, what would you recommend?
You go and ask Udo Udoma and the Minister of Finance to explain to you their positions on things as they have outlined their programme to the President.I am not governor of the CBN now; I have not been the governor of the CBN for a long time.
Even, I was the minister of finance a long time ago. So all I know is that people are worried about foreign exchange, about financial transactions, about banking and I know that the government knows about these problems; though I expect the government to deal with them.
Nigerians will want to share in your experience on how you succeeded as finance minister and as CBN governor.
I did not have the same problem with the present government. I am old fashioned. Our view was that finance must deal with funding government activities, paying government workers, paying for economic development and once you put an item in the budget, you may consider it already done because government must find the resources to do them; in fact they will not put anything in the budget if they cannot find the resources to do them.
So our own way of doing things was old fashioned and when we say things you know, they will be done. But the present government is just settling in. I don’t know their plans.
Part of their plans is to deregulate the price of petroleum which could see the price go up in future. Is there hope?
Udo Udoma laid out his views of what is likely going to happen to the economy. The Minister of Finance has said she expected there should be a lot of hard times next year.
Alleged arms deals
But I am sure that from now on, they are trying to ensure that only good things happen, that the problems they are afraid of will be avoided and I am sure that they are going to do their best.
Are you worried by the revelations on the alleged misuse of the security funds raised against the former National Security Adviser, Col. Samo Dasuki?
The issue of the alleged arms deals involving the former National Security Adviser is just something which is unfolding and you know that the matter is in court, the EFCC is trying to prosecute some of those involved and you can see the complication in public affairs where something begins with security adviser and ends up with the distribution of money at party level for the campaign.
So we are still in the middle of these things, we don’t know how it is going to end. You just for the time being take note that people are being arrested, some are being tried and some denying receiving money from the security adviser. So the issues are going to clarify themselves in due course when EFCC has finished trying those who are accused.
Col. Sambo Dasuki mentioned that some party leaders were involved and they used it as campaign funds for the party, was it right and during your time did it happen that money maybe from the NSA or so, will be directed to the party?
Anything in politics, no matter how you deal with it secretly, eventually becomes public, eventually people will get to know about it. What didn’t get exposed didn’t happen.
So the issues they are having now are issues that have happened. It didn’t happen before and that was why it was not exposed. And I don’t know the details of what they did.
The PDP recently organized a national conference supposedly to heal wounds? Did they get it right?
You know it more than myself, you were there, you reported the thing. I was not there, they said I would be there, but I was not there. Did they not say I would be there?
Why didn’t you attend?
I was not there because I wasn’t clear in my own mind what they were trying to do.
Meaning they didn’t come to explain, they didn’t visit you.
They visited me, they explained, but I was not convinced.
Immediately after the election, two prominent PDP leaders resigned their positions in the party Adamu Muazu and the next day the chairman BoT, Chief Tony Anenih, what is your take on this?
I will not. Adamu Muazu is alive and well, the former chairman of BoT is alive and well.
Winning and losing
It is more interesting to get them to talk than to ask me a retired person to talk about things which happened when I was not there.
Some people are still saying that PDP will bounce back. Do you think so?
Politics is a continuous event, whether you like or you don’t like it, there will always be politics. Even if the Army is there, there will still be politics, so politics will continue.
And parties in government will eventually lose; every party in government will have to lose, so there is nothing new really about the party losing election, it is nothing new. So losing elections, people get worried about this, what is there in losing election; what is new about losing election. If you are talking about democracy you are talking of winning and losing and anybody can lose, anybody can win; events of today can change tomorrow.
One of the problems of the party now is after Adamu Mu’azu resigned, stakeholders from the Northeast claimed that he should have been succeeded by someone from the region. What is your take on this?
I don’t know what you are talking about, I don’t know about it. I cannot comment on what I don’t know. Is it a new thing for PDP to change their position? In 2011 when Yar‘adua died, wasn’t it still the time of the north to continue with the presidency? Was it not changed?
So there is nothing new about these things. But everything you do have consequences and you must remember that you are going to pay for the consequences of your action.
In other words PDP paid the price for not allowing the north to continue
This is your own saying; we have already done the political side in 2011.
So, do you think the NWC did a good thing now by zoning the presidency in 2019 to the north? Where exactly in the north do you think it should go now because at least the North West has had its own share?
If you do the right thing you will reap good result; if you don’t do the right thing you pay.
What is your take on the intrigues that threw up an opposition party senator as Deputy President of the Senate and an APC Senate President that was opposed by his party?
All these things are happening in front of your eyes and the people who are doing it are still there, what is the need for a retired person like me to answer.
Nigerians will be happy to hear your views on this
No, it doesn’t follow that way. Just because I say I am right or just because I say something they are doing is wrong, it doesn’t follow that way.
Deal with the current events and the current event is that the National Assembly; they are just settling in; they have just finished appointing the chairmen of their committees and they have disputes between themselves. There is nothing new about that, it is normal.
How do you react to raging issues in the polity such as the agitation for Biafra, the faceoff with followers of Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky to the call for separation by the Afenifere following the kidnap of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae?
The education process up to University enables you appreciate how life unfolds and especially with your literature. You will read about how people think, how they create plays and things like that; a lot of it is drawn from real life.
Prescribed way of living
So you are talking about Nigeria, you are talking about people, living people, you are talking about people who are Muslims; you are talking about people who are Christians, you are talking about people who are pagans; you are talking about people who speak different languages, about Kanuris, about Fulanis in the Northeast; so life is dealing with all these complicated things, of people who are actually living.
There is no single prescribed way of how they are going to live. We are just Nigerians, we are not even called Nigerians, we are just black people living in this part. The British came and put us together and said we are Nigerians and eventually we all agreed with the British that we are Nigerians. And when we are unhappy, we say we are Biafrans or when we are not happy we will say we are Yorubas, but we say we are Nigerians.
So we are learning to live with one another, we accorded each other, so the way things will unfold, you cannot predict and you have to learn how to live with other people. Sometimes I wonder you Nigerians, are you real people? Don’t you know that we are coming together only a hundred years ago and we are still learning how to live with one another.
By the time the Europeans came, even the Yoruba people, did not even learn how to live with each other, they were fighting and all over the north, they were fighting everywhere, there were tribal wars.
Now we are at peace because of economic development, social contacts and things like that are happening, they are changing our ways of thinking, they are changing our ways of life, education is changing us. And sometimes when you ask questions you seem to be unaware that Nigeria is a complicated place, but not only Nigeria, Britain is a complicated place.
Look at how a lot of people from all over the world now are going to Europe, they want to go and live and enjoy, the Europeans are resisting. So you Nigerians, you must learn how to live with one another in such a way that you will understand that you have life that is you relate with each other in a friendly way, in a stable way, in an understanding way.
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, Igbo everywhere; this Nigeria is too small for you. But now you want something smaller, what does it mean?
It means that people sometimes do things without thinking very deeply. But education is to enable you to think and to solve problems.
What the Igbos are saying is that they want Biafra; I just remember only recently the Yoruba leaders said they want to break, break from where. The Yoruba are probably the people who economically enjoy Nigeria more than anybody, economically. So why are they going? So my own problem with Nigeria is that many people say things without thinking.