Fatima is a daughter of the late ex-governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and finance minister, Adamu Ciroma. She talks about her father’s life and career with GBENGA ADENIJI
Can we know more about your background?
I am Nana Fatima. I am the second of three daughters. I am a civil servant at a government parastatal in Abuja. I have a degree in Business Studies from the Manchester Metropolitan University and an MBA from Webster College, London. I live in Abuja with my two lovely children amongst great family and friends.
How was life growing up with your father?
My father was an extremely busy man but created time for us. I recall that he was the sort of man people came to visit; so, he was always at home. I remember he used to watch cartoons with my sister when she was younger and his favourite was Inspector Gadget. He had a sweet tooth so there was a steady supply of chocolates in his fridge (laughs).
We did a lot of travelling together for holidays and some of my best memories are from those vacations. He was very reserved and at the same time approachable. He was a peaceful man and that was how our home was, very peaceful.
Tell us about your siblings.
My father had three daughters. Aisha is the first from a previous marriage. She is a happily married successful businesswoman. Then, there is Dr. Hafsat (Umma), the youngest who is my mother’s second child. There are seven grandchildren between my sisters and me. We are close and have been there for one another since baba passed away.
Your father studied History but ended up working in the financial sector. Did he tell you how that happened?
He always did say that the stellar quality of education he received at the University College, Ibadan, equipped him with the requisite skills to manage any organisation he was appointed to head. I believe the superiors that gave him the appointments must have seen the qualities in him as he no doubt did not leave anyone disappointed. His versatility was multitude; a civil servant, journalist, banker, administrator and politician.
Did he try to persuade any of his children to follow in his career path?
No, he didn’t. He gave us the best education he could and left us to decide what career path to follow. The three of us have turned out to be a businesswoman, a civil servant and a medical doctor which he was very proud of.
How did he spend time with his family during his free time?
My father enjoyed sitting in the morning and evening having tea or coffee. Those were really good times to catch up with him for a chat. He really enjoyed going on holidays with us. In fact, looking back, he used to go on all the thrilling roller coaster (rides) with us. I can’t imagine myself going on some of these rides with my kids the way he went with us when we were kids. Never!
How would you view his roles as minister of finance in the administrations of Shehu Shagari and Olusegun Obasanjo?
I can’t really comment on that. I was quite young during the Shagari administration and was overseas in the university during Obasanjo’s administration. But it must have been something because for some reasons, President Obasanjo did not give over the position of finance minister to anybody even though baba was away on medical leave which lasted several months after a motor accident. He still returned after his recovery to assume his role till his retirement in 2003.
Those whose career border on financial matters are generally believed to be frugal. How was his disposition to money issues with his children?
I would not describe him as economical on money matters at all. With us growing up, we were very well provided for that we actually had very little requests. He was a philanthropist who gave freely to those in need that came to him.
What was his idea of discipline?
I do not recall ever seeing him lift a hand to hit anyone or raise his voice in anger at anyone. He would always speak calmly yet sternly in pointing out an error. He definitely did not compromise on good moral behaviour and would give an earful to anyone who erred.
Your father was a historian, economist, journalist and politician. Which of his career paths have you shown interest in?
Not a politician myself, I definitely have an interest in politics having grown up with both parents that are high-ranking politicians. He served in the civil service for over 10 years. Similar to him, I began my career as a civil servant.
Would you have wished he were anything else rather than the diverse fields he practised?
I would not have wished anything different for any of the positions he held. He served very well under former Presidents Shagari and Obasanjo as their finance ministers. As I mentioned earlier, his versatility was multitude. He was a civil servant, journalist, banker, administrator and politician.
Which of his values have you imbibed?
Honesty, integrity and a lot more. However, I aspire to emulate all as he truly was a uniquely great person. He was virtuous and that made him stand out.
How did he relax?
In his earlier years, he read a lot. Amongst his favourites were biographies and the Holy Qur’an. He also liked to sit out in the garden during evenings with his wife and visitors over several cups of tea.
What songs did he listen to?
Several years ago, he was a fan of Shata and Dan Kwairo. However, as I mentioned earlier, he was a keen listener to verses from the Holy Qur’an.
How do people relate with you knowing your father?
He was certainly popular having been in and out of the government and holding positions such as the CBN governor and several ministerial portfolios. Most times, people would ask me, “Is it the Ciroma we know?” and upon confirmation, I notice that they speak good things of him and extend the fondness they have for him to me. He was a philanthropist and he also helped a lot of people.
Would you say his name opens doors for you?
His name could open plenty of doors for us; however, we were not raised that way. We were raised to be independent and go for what we want to do. He had no hand in any of the jobs I have ever had. He was so proud of such achievements.
How comfortable was his family when he was in government?
He has been in and out of government before I was born up to his retirement from public service in 2003. I would say there was never a change in our lifestyles whenever he was out of government. He kept his family comfortable.
Your father was involved in the politics of the National Party of Nigeria. Is any of his children involved in politics?
None of us has been involved in politics in the past but who knows what the future holds?
What did he tell you his view about the state of the nation before his death?
My father was quite troubled at the high level of unemployment because without gainful employment, the jobless could turn to a life of crime as means of making a living. This is what has been playing out with the kidnappings, robberies and ethnic clashes etc in the country. He was also concerned about the drug abuse rampant amongst the youth in northern Nigeria.
What was his favourite food?
My father loved a variety of good food. In fact, he was a bit of a food critic as I recall him once instigating a walk out from a restaurant because he was not satisfied with the service. It was hilarious! He loved his wife’s food as well as Chinese food. He really loved eating out at restaurants. I recall that he once described eating tuwo and kuka (dumame) on a cool rainy morning for breakfast as “the best.”
How large is his family?
Even though his mother had only two children, himself and a younger sister, the Ciroma extended family is very large. He grew up surrounded by many uncles, aunties and cousins.
What are you most proud of about him?
My father led a fulfilled and happy life and whilst doing so, he managed to keep his integrity intact. I mean he is one of only two people President Muhammadu (Buhari) publicly vouched for that they were not corrupt. I am most proud because he left a good name and legacy for his family.
Who were your father’s friends?
He had a lot of friends all over the country. Some of them included Mallam Mamman Daura, Prof. Jibrin Aminu, Mallam Musa Bello, Dr. Mahmud Tukur and Chief B. B. Apugo. Others had passed away like Alhaji Lawal Kaita, Alhaji Ali Baba (Dan Madami Adamawa) and Gen. Shehu Yar’Adua to mention a few.
What advice did he give about life and relationship?
My father always gave the simple advice of living a life in which one was true to himself or herself. I recall his words when he dropped me off for A Level thousands of miles from home in England. He said to me to be true to myself and never cheat myself in life. At first, I thought, is that all? But I later realised the big message contained in that simple statement and that has been a guide in my life. He advised people to live according to their means and be thankful to the Almighty.
Where were you when he died?
I was at my office and was planning to visit him at the intensive care unit that afternoon when I got a call to meet my mother at our family house. I knew right then that he had passed on.
Did you have any discussion with him before his death?
The last meaningful discussion we had before he took ill was about an official trip I made to Potiskum (our hometown) after a very long while and he was asking after the children that attend a school he established there. He was glad to hear that the school was running well and the students were doing well.
What would you miss most about him?
I would not be able to list all out but on top of my list would be how he loved hanging with his family over dinner or barbeque including the joy he had interacting with his grandkids.
What are the things Nigerians don’t know about your father?
He sponsored the education of children orphaned by Boko Haram insurgents in Maiduguri. He provided an uncountable number of boreholes for a lot of communities in Borno and Yobe states. He provided funds annually for the treatment of people with vesicovaginal fistula in Katsina, Kano, Borno, Yobe and Sokoto states. He provided funds to the Kaduna Medical Eye Centre to treat those that could not afford to treat their eye problems. He loved going on boat cruises. He loved playing golf and played it for over 40 years. He recited the Holy Qur’an with a sweet and melodious voice.
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