Abeni Aso-Oke

Adamu Fika: The courageous man who lived by principles, by Hassan Gimba


Abeni Aso-Oke

Abeni Aso-Oke

So, Malam Adamu Fika, the Wazirin Fika, is dead. Called home by our Creator who loves man more than man loves himself. When He created the world and everything that is inside it, He made man for a purpose and sent him down to earth to complete the purpose.

The purpose of the creation of man is to worship the creator as a way of life. Therefore, our lives and how we conduct our affairs all count on the scales of worship.

Abeni Aso-Oke

Imam Ja’afar Assadiq (AS) said: “If you want to know the religion of a man, do not look at how much he prays and fasts; rather, look at how he treats people.”

The late Waziri was a man who respected all and treated all well. Yet, he is dead, and I am lost for words. What do I say? How do I start? How do I say it?

Soft-spoken and charismatic, his character made people spin lots of myths about him. A story was told of how, one day, on his way to Potiskum from Kaduna, he and his driver came across a roadblock set up by highway bandits. Then he told his driver to stop on the road and he went out and removed the roadblock, telling his driver to pass. He returned it (roadblock), entered his car and they moved on while the bandits were just rooted to their spots.

The myths were plenty. Another had it that when walking in a corridor at the secretariat where he was permanent secretary multiple times and where he reached the apex of the civil service career as head of service, he never turned sideways for any man to pass.

Perhaps the way he exited the service strengthened the myths. I asked him what happened that led to his resignation at the peak of his career in 1988. He drew me close to him. A lot of times I asked myself why, but I could not get the answer and I could not ask him. But it imbued me with greater confidence to ask him almost anything.

Quite right, he was among those who knew me from infancy, but my first conscious contact with him was in 2004 when Malam Adamu Ciroma was turbaned the Dallatun Fika. I saw the Waziri sitting in front of the Emir of Fika’s place in Potiskum and I drew near and saluted him. He answered in his usual soft-spoken, low-tone manner that you sometimes had to strain your ears to hear.

He then pointed to an elderly, distinguished-looking gentleman by his side and told me, “Interview him.” I was then publishing a newspaper called The Informant, with a Hausa version, Mafadi, in Potiskum. I think he saw from my face that I did not know the man and so he helped me out: “He is Sunday Awoniyi.”

I was like… so this is the fabled Sunday Awoniyi!

Soon after, I had another encounter with him. I was included in the team of five formed by the Federal College of Education (Technical), Potiskum, to write Liman Ciroma’s biography.

The team arranged to meet the Waziri for some briefs on the late Ciroma. However, there was a mild drama before we left Potiskum for Kaduna because the college sent me some money as duty tour allowance (DTA). I asked them how they arrived at it and I was told that they placed me as a level 14 officer, to which I took offence. I was the chief executive of my company and demanded to be placed on the same level as their provost.

After settling the disagreement amicably, we proceeded to Kaduna. The Waziri welcomed us and entertained us with assorted food and drinks, after which he took us to his library stacked with books, newspapers, magazines and journals. We sat on chairs at a long table and the interview started. By the time we asked about two or three questions, I think he had already assessed us and then abruptly he asked us, “Who among you here studied history?” None of us raised his hand.

Among us was the registrar of the college, an administrator, two teachers with science backgrounds and yours sincerely. I never heard from anybody about the book again after our return. I made efforts by interviewing Ciroma’s relatives and meeting with the team, but I gave up when I saw their lack of interest.

The late Waziri would just call me on the phone and, when I answered, expecting an instruction, would just hang up after exchanging greetings. He did not do that once or twice. It made me feel embarrassed, kind of. Who was I? When my father died on January 7, 2013, at about 2:30 pm, he called to commiserate with me that day at around 4:30 pm on my way to Potiskum.

When Muhammadu Buhari was elected president in 2015, he facilitated for the Emir of Fika and some dignitaries from the emirate to go and felicitate with him at his temporary residence at Defence House, Abuja. He gave specific instructions that they should include me in the delegation.

The original plan was for him and a few respected elders to guide the Buhari administration discreetly. He withdrew a few months into the life of the administration; he realised he was being used to lend it credibility whereas the government was being run against his expectations.

Every time he was to come to Abuja, he would phone me from Kaduna and say, “Hassan, I’ll come into Abuja on so and so day and time, meet me at so and so hotel.” And he was so patient to repeat to me whatever I did not hear, aware of his naturally low-tone voice.

And I always went to meet him. It was in one of those meetings that he told me a lot about his career. How he went to the North East as a commissioner and the why and how he returned to the federal civil service.

I seized the opportunity to ask him why he resigned from a position you would hardly find a Nigerian resign from no matter what was going on.

Previously, the office of the Secretary to the Federal Government (SFG) and that of the Head of Service were one but in 1986 Babangida separated the two offices, making Chief Olu Falae the SGF and Waziri the Head of Service. He was against it. He told me that he even volunteered to resign and for someone else to be appointed to the position so that the office would be left intact.

In 1988, the reforms of the civil service took effect, making ministers accounting officers instead of permanent secretaries who were rechristened directors-general. It was the last straw that broke the camel’s back as he resigned.

All these were based on a report of a reforms committee set up by the government of IBB. As a member of the committee, the Wazirin Fika sensed that General Babangida’s reforms would ruin the civil service. He wrote a minority report against the reforms and resigned.

He was later vindicated when that policy was dumped some years later, but the civil service is still teetering from that experiment.

Unknown to me, he made sure that the late Sam Nda-Isaiah, publisher of Leadership Newspaper, knew he had my back. And so when I left as an editor of the Friday title (between 2014 and 2015) to serve as spokesman for the minister of science and technology, Dr Abdu Bulama, the paper went through at least five editors. After May 2015, I did not return because I didn’t want those lining themselves for editorship to think I had returned to “block” them.

“Chairman”, as we called the publisher, was worried but could not call me. All through our relationship, he somehow viewed me with respect and as someone a bit semi-independent. So he went through the Wazirin Fika. He was the one who called me and asked: “Hassan, you don’t want to go back to Leadership?” I said I wanted to, then he said, “Okay, call Sam and tell him you are coming back”. And that was how I returned for a second stint.

A year before he resigned from the civil service, he had a disagreement with Babangida. Babangida wanted to sell to the retiring Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Sowemimo, his house for ₦4 million, as the latter had requested. The Waziri advised against it, asking the president to give the Justice money to build another house instead, saying if such houses had been sold since colonial times, there would have been none left. Anyway, IBB did as he wished, but the man had made his point.

When the late General Sani Abacha was looking for credible people to assist him in governance, he made the Waziri the first chairman of the Federal Character Commission, with Dr. Sabo Bako from ABU, Zaria, as the secretary.

The chairman, with the disciplined background of a British-trained civil servant, could not jell with the secretary coming from the liberal university structure. When it came down to Abacha to settle for one, he was said to have intoned, “Tell that doctor to return to ABU.”

I used to visit Dr Fika with my family at his house in Kaduna and in Abuja whenever he asked me to meet him. And so it was that we also visited him a couple of times on his sick bed at the Aso Clinic. Even at the hospital, he made me feel welcomed, and he engaged me in discussions, always encouraging me by telling me: “I read your article.”

The Waziri was a man who lived by the best of principles: he spoke truth to power while in service and left when the powerful refused to heed wise counsel, but the world knows now that time and posterity have vindicated him.

He did not remain with a sealed mouth, enjoying the fruits of misdeeds, then turning back and castigating at a “valedictory speech” when forced by service rules to leave. That attitude does not help the country. That’s cowardice and Dr Adamu Fika, the Wazirin Fika, was never a coward.

May his noble soul rest in perfect peace.

Hassan Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime.

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