Remembering Abubakar Rimi

Kabir Sa’ad Fagge

On April 4, 2010, Nigeria lost one of its most colourful, charismatic, vibrant, progressive and broadminded politicians, late Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Rimi, former civilian governor of old Kano State.
Therefore, on the fourth anniversary of the death of this illustrious politician of Nigeria and, indeed, one of our brightest stars in the galaxy of our democracy, I feel duty-bound to pay a deserving tribute to the memory of this radical, brilliant and articulate politician. It is usually difficult to do justice to the virtues of great men like late Abubakar Rimi. His huge stature is such that you cannot tell a complete story about the man and his politics. Therefore, whatever one chooses to write about Rimi is incomplete because his life story is too huge.

Author J.K. Rowling said death wears a cloak of invisibility and sneaks up on us at any time without warning. Death is a common leveler which doesn’t discriminate on the basis of the status of its victims. When Rimi left Bauchi at odd hours of the night on his way back to Kano after attending the wedding of his eldest daughter, little did it occur to him that death was lurking around the corner; such is the mystery of death; it never keeps a calendar or gives warning when it will strike. If death could give a warning about the day, the hour or circumstances which it will strike, many of us could probably have found the opportunity to prepare. Unfortunately, it doesn’t give anybody that power.

As one great poet said, “The only dead people are those who are forgotten.” I cannot agree more. Since his death four years ago, AbubakarRimi has remained entrenched in the hearts and minds of his people. His funeral was one of the largest gatherings of people Nigerians have ever seen. The people of Kano State would never forget Abubakar Rimi because of his tremendous impact on their lives when he served them meritoriously from October 1979 to May 1983. Since the tenure of the late Alhaji Audu Bako as governor, Abubakar Rimi became the second most outstanding governor the people of Kano State have ever known.
Rimi belongs to a generation of politicians that came to serve rather than fester their nest, which seems to be the norm today when corruption dominates public life like a leviathan.

Rimi’s mass education programmes were so well established that Kano State was recognized by UNESCO. Under Rimi, Kano State had witnessed a remarkable transformation in the aspect of social services from improving education, health standards, agriculture, reducing the tax burden on the poor and other policies that had direct positive impacts on the living standards of the people.

Noted for running an all-graduates cabinet, AbubakarRimi became the envy of the federal government so such that the Shagari administration had to copy his policies to endear itself to the ordinary people. Rimi originated the policy of abolishing taxes on the ordinary people and declaring May Day a public holiday. In line with his policy of political education and creating mass awareness, Rimi created the Triumph Newspaper Company and the City Television (CTV) in Kano State. The paper and the TV station became among the best and vibrant public media organizations. The Triumph newspaper ran some of the most powerful editorials on public issues and became popular as a result.
Since 1964, when he co-founded the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) along with his mentor, late Malam Amino Kano, Abubakar Rimi had always identified himself with progressive politics. In July 1978, he was elected the Deputy National Secretary of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP), apost from which he later became nominated as the gubernatorial candidate of the party for Kano State in the 1979 general elections. He also served as a member of the Constituent Assembly.

When democracy was truncated by military in December 1983, Rimi went into political hibernation until 1998 when he became a member of the G-38 movement, which eventually transformed into the PDP. When Obasanjo was adopted as PDP Presidential candidate at the party’s convention in Jos in 1999, Rimi was widely touted as a running mate to Obasanjo. That was not to be because Rimi was too independent minded for the comfort of a Presidential candidate who had wanted a yes-man. Obasanjo was considering Rimi for ambassadorial post instead, a proposal which the radical Kano politician rejected. Rimi was a grassroots politician who would never accept any posting abroad that could detach him from the local political scene where he held sway as a power broker.

While paying tribute to Rimi, one must be honest to admit his controversial nature. He openly challenged the PDP zoning policy as sacrificing merit; he later left the party to join AC (Action Congress). He criticized the abandonment of the democratic principles on which the PDP was founded, although he later returned to the PDP in 2008. Whatever may be Rimi’s controversies and shortcomings they are, however, overshadowed by his achievements. May his gentle soul continue to rest in peace!

Fagge, a good governance advocate, wrote from No.108, Ali Akilu Road, Kaduna. E-mail:kabirsa’[email protected]

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