Last week, Nigeria lost one of its illustrious elder statesmen; perhaps one of the last men in the country who, with all passion and honesty, stood his ground to preserve the governmental legacies, especially of our foremost northern regional leaders. He died after a long, rich, and eventful life at 90 years of age.
Born in Fika in the old Borno State (now located in Yobe State) in 1933, the seasoned administrator, who bore the traditional title of Wazirin Fika, attended elementary school in Fika, 1941-45; Borno Middle School, Maiduguri, 1947; Kaduna Government College (now Barewa College), Zaria from 1948-1951; and the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria (now Ahmadu Bello University), where he was one of the pioneer students from 1952-1953.
Malam Adamu Fika started his career as a mathematics and physics teacher at Barewa College, Zaria, in 1956. He was transferred in 1958 to teach at Government Secondary School, Katsina-Ala, Benue State. In 1960, he was appointed Provincial Inspector of Education, Zaria, and Inspector of Education, Adamawa Province, Yola, in 1962. He became the principal of the Federal Training Centre, Kaduna, in 1962.
He was appointed Deputy Secretary, Interim Common Services Agency (ICSA), and served in that capacity from 1968 to 1970, when he was appointed ICSA’s Executive Secretary. In 1972, he was appointed Commissioner of Finance, North-Eastern State.
After serving for three years as a commissioner, Malam Adamu Fika joined the federal civil service, where at different times he served as permanent secretary in six federal ministries, including Internal Affairs in 1975; Commerce in 1979; Public Service Department, Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, 1981-1982; and Communications, in 1982. He was appointed permanent secretary and chief executive, Federal Capital Development Authority, Abuja, in 1984.
The Wazirin Fika’s career training took him to the Institute of Statisticians, London, 1958; Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, England, August-December, 1969; and the Royal Institute of Public Administration, University of Manchester, UK, 1978.
The most impactful part of his career as a public servant was during his days as the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HOCSF). He was appointed to this office in January 1986; two years before he voluntarily retired from the federal public service in April 1988.
Malam Adamu Fika’s appointment as the HOCSF marked the separation by the General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB)’s military presidency of the office of Secretary to the Federal Government (SFG) from that of the HOCSF. The two offices had, since the 1960s, remained together. Chief Olu Falae was made the SFG, and Waziri as the HOCSF.
As a principled administrator and technocrat, Fika, as the HOSCF, boldly opposed part of the 1988 civil service reform policies of the IBB regime. For example, IBB wanted ministers to be the accounting officers of their ministries, a function hitherto performed by the permanent secretaries, whom he had renamed directors general. Wazirin Fika insisted that accountability in the management of public finance was not only about patriotism, but beyond it was the imperative of training, asserting that public funds are strictly managed according to financial regulations.
While Wazirin Fika’s argument did not stop IBB from proceeding with the implementation of his reform agenda that was abandoned some years later, he stood out as one public servant who considered public office as a public trust that must operate according to extant rules—a principle that is today missing in most public servants, including permanent secretaries.
Waziri, it is believed, quit the public service due to that disagreement between him and the military president. Malam Adamu Fika also dared IBB over the sale of government houses. When IBB instructed the Federal Ministry of Works to value the official residence of the retiring Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Sowemimo, for its onward sale to him, Wazirin Fika strongly opposed the sale; saying there wouldn’t have been any of such houses left if they had been sold since colonial times. Rather, Waziri advised IBB to give the judge money to build another house.
In retirement, Wazirin Fika continued to benefit the country in various administrative capacities. He was Chairman, National Commission for Colleges of Education, March 1989-1990; Administrative Secretary for the government-funded Social Democratic Party, 1990; Chairman, United Bank for Africa (government appointee), January 1990-March 1993; Clerk and Director General of the National Assembly, 1992-1993; Pioneer Chairman, Salaries and Wages Commission, September 1992-March 1993; and Pioneer Chairman, Federal Character Commission, December 1995-March 2001.
Malam Adamu Fika is a recipient of the national honours of the Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) bestowed on him by the federal government in 1992; and LL. D Honoris Causa conferred on him in 1992 by Bayero University, Kano. At the time of his death, he was the Chairman, Board of Trustees, of the Arewa Consultative Forum.
The Wazirin Fika would be missed as a library of information on northern institutions and establishments, including the Ahmadu Bello University, Bank of the North, Hamdala Hotel, New Nigerian Newspapers, Kaduna Polytechnic, Arewa House, and other organisations. Nigeria, Yobe State, Fika Emirate, his family, students, and public service disciples have all lost a man of great wisdom. May Allah grant Malam Adamu Fika eternal mercy.