|Urhobo Historical Society
THE tragic loss of yet another prominent citizen, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Rimi, an acclaimed irrepressible champion of the downtrodden should be a serious challenge to the government and the relevant security and health agencies in the country. Undoubtedly, the circumstances of the death of the charismatic politician point to a pervasive culture of insecurity in the land and an inexplicable neglect of public hospitals and other infrastructure.
The Second Republic governor of the old Kano State and a veteran of many political battles, had a tragic encounter with armed robbers a few kilometers outside Kano, his home state. He was returning from Bauchi, in the company of his younger brother who incidentally had machete wounds inflicted on him by the assailants. The encounter was too traumatic for Rimi.
His blood pressure rose, and he took ill, and he had to be rushed to the hospital. But his condition was not managed early enough due to reported delayed service at the Aminu Kano University Teaching Hospital, following a referral from a private clinic. Although the management of the teaching hospital has denied any wrong-doing, the late Rimi's driver and relatives insist that upon arrival at the hospital, there was no effective emergency response, not even a wheel-chair or a stretcher to assist the patient in distress.
Rimi's death should be a lesson to the elite in positions of authority who could at any time fall victim of a warped, non-functional system they set out to create and perpetuate. Nigerian roads are not safe; the hospitals are ill-equipped, life in the country has become short and brutish.
This has been the lot of ordinary citizens who suffer and die unsung in their millions - victims of the shortsightedness and/or uncaring attitude of the privileged elite who troop to foreign hospitals for medical attention at public expense. Rimi's death should prick the conscience of the country's leaders at every level that it is time they changed the system to truly benefit the people and ensure the security of lives and property.
Born in Rimi village in 1940, Abubakar Rimi exhibited great influence on the politics of Kano and Nigeria. He was ideologically committed. Although regarded as a conservative radical, no one could doubt his passion for Nigeria. He went into politics early when in 1964, he teamed up with his political mentor and godfather, Alhaji Aminu Kano in the Northern Elements Progressive Union, (NEPU) and ran for political office. NEPU later metamorphosed into the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) in the build-up to the Second Republic. In 1979, Rimi contested for the position of Governor on the platform of the PRP and won.
That was a turning point in his political career. It provided him an opportunity to initiate a number of people-friendly programmes including mass literacy, abolition of unjust taxes like the controversial cattle tax, his declaration in 1980 of a workers' day - even before the Federal Government did - to celebrate the toiling working masses in line with international practices and women empowerment initiatives including encouraging women to emerge from the purdah. Incidentally, his administration's abolition of the cattle tax set him on a collision course with established traditional authorities like the Kano Emirate.
When the Emir was suspended, this led to the July 1981 riots in Kano which led to the killing of Rimi's equally radical political adviser, Dr Bala Mohammed. His life had its ups and downs, his politics, high and low moments. In 2006, his wife of about 40 years was murdered in their home. He also lost a son and a daughter in succession. He also suffered detentions at various periods - early in his political career and during the struggle to prevent Gen. Sani Abacha from succeeding himself as president.
He has been described in various tributes, most deservedly, as courageous, forthright; a true crusader for the enthronement of democracy and a fearless democrat. To some, however, Rimi's politics was contradictory and inconsistent. In 1983, he had abandoned the People's Redemption Party (PRP) to join the Nigerian People's Party (NPP) for the 1983 election after disagreeing with his mentor, Alhaji Aminu Kano. In the Third Republic, he was a member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and one of the early supporters of the June 12 movement. He later abandoned the progressive camp and joined the Abacha government. By 1998, he became one of the founding members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but he soon left the party to join the Action Congress (AC), only to return again to the PDP.
Rimi studied at the Institute of Administration, Zaria, the Universities of London and Sussex and the Institute of World Affairs in London. Before he went into politics, he served as an instructor at the Clerical Training Centre in Sokoto and later as Administrative secretary at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs. His public life engagements included membership of the Constituent Assembly (1977-78,) Governor of old Kano State (1979-1983), a brief stint as Minister of Communications under the Abacha administration, Chairman and member of several Boards including the Nigeria Agricultural and Co-operative Bank (NACB) and the Nigeria Security Printing and Mint Company (NSPMC).
In life, Rimi was an enigma; in death he remains dear to fellow politicians and the teeming masses who turned out in large numbers to pay their last respects at his burial. The Federal Government should go beyond the usual directive to police authorities to investigate the deaths of prominent people. It should intensify efforts to secure lives and property by empowering the security agencies, and by improving public utilities and infrastructure to truly serve the people. The leaders owe the governed no less. Alhaji Abubakar Rimi will be greatly missed for his contributions to the search for a better society.