Abubakar Rimi and June 12

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

 By Omololu Ogunmade,

 As a liberal politician, Rimi caught the figure of a detribalized Nigerian, who would rather support a noble cause as against playing an ethnic card. At the dusk of the Third Republic, Rimi demonstrated his detribalized posture when he championed the campaign for the election of the late business magnate, Bashorun MKO Abiola, as the presidential candidate of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Kano. Even though many Northerners still agitated for the emergence of a civilian president from the region, Rimi would rather succumb to his conviction that the atmosphere was only ripe for the emergence of a Southern President. Thus, he publicly campaigned for Abiola against his fellow kinsman, Alhaji Bashir Tofa, the presidential candidate of the National Republican Convention (NRC) at the time. Rimi’s support and mobilization for Abiola was so remarkable that he did not only defeat Tofa in Kano, but also gained victory over him by landslide in his (Tofa) ward.

During media campaigns for Abiola prior to the June 12, 1993 election, Rimi made headlines often because of his radical posture to lead the campaign for a Yoruba man. He stated with emphasis at the time that it was time for Southern president and gave convincing reasons why all and sundry should support Abiola’s candidature. He made this declaration against the backdrop of several years of Northern control of power.

For Rimi, the only normal thing to do at the time was to offer maximum support for another section of the country, which according to him was a stakeholder in the emergence of the ‘geographical expression’ called Nigeria, but which hardly had any chance to control the government at the centre.

Therefore, Rimi canvassed the entrenchment of the principle of equality among all tribes and regions that conglomerated Nigeria. He also advocated the need to borrow a leaf from the United States of America, which according to him promoted the principle of fairness among the heterogeneous groups that made up the US. He also condemned nepotism, geocentricism as well as favouritism, describing them as the banes of the society.

Hear Rimi: “What will be required is equal opportunity and fairness. Look at America, it has more ethnic groups than any other country – every group is represented there. In Nigeria, we will need policies similar to what they have in America; adopt policies whereby people will be treated according to merit. In Nigeria today, if a man becomes president, he will hire only people from his ethnic or religious group, favour his people by spending the country’s money to develop his area. The same would be true if he were Hausa or Igbo or Yoruba or from any ethnic group. In order to end tribalism, we will need leadership that is fair to everyone,” he said.

To underscore Rimi’s dislike for tribal campaigns, he vehemently criticized the Igbo over their continuous insinuation to produce the president of Nigeria on ethnic ground, saying their genuine reason to produce the president of this country had been whittled down because it was being pursued on the altar of tribalism.

Rimi Said: “You see, where the Igbos are going wrong in my view, in their bid for the Presidency, is that they are toeing the ethnic line; they are playing the ethnic card. ‘We Igbos, we Igbos; we should be given the opportunity to be president….’ No, you don’t become president because you are Igbo; you become president if you are able to organise a party or you organise support within your party to get the necessary votes at the convention of your party!

“So, you don’t campaign along the lines of being Igbo or Hausa or Yoruba or anything; the ethnic card is not good for anybody who wants to be president of Nigeria. Because people can easily react and say ‘what about us the Hausa? What about us the Nupes? What about us the Fulanis, the Ishekiris? What about the Ijaws et cet era? We too we have somebody who wants to be president.’

Indeed, Rimi manifested his disregard for ethnic sentiment in 2003, when he jettisoned his party’s power rotation principle, which had zoned the Presidency to the South for a period of eight years and contested the presidential primaries against the incumbent President Olusegun Obasanjo who had only spent four years in office, though he lost out in the end.

Source: www.thisdayonline.com

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