Muhammed Abubakar Rimi:A politician and his city

Friday, April 16, 2010

Late Alhaji Muhammed Abubakar Rimi

By Kolade Adeyemi

Muhammed Abubakar Rimi will remain in the annals of Kano State as one individual who made a strong impact in the political renaissance of the ancient city of Kano.

Starting out as a young man at the age of 24, Rimi began what many of his peers could not do when he was said to be involved in progressive meetings of note. He seemed to know his steps quite early because at that age, he began to attend nocturnal meetings which helped in shaping his political career. As recalled by his fellow progressive, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, "Rimi was not afraid then."

The first elected executive governor of old Kano State, comprising the present day Jigawa State, on October 1, 1979, Rimi stood out of the crowd to carve a special political profile for himself when in his inaugural address, he abolished poll tax and Jangali (livestock taxation), a feudal extortionist system under which the peasant livestock farmers were serially robbed of their hard-earned money and resources.

This singular action greatly endeared him to the people as they were emancipated from the extreme high-handedness of the traditional institution which hitherto used the aggressive tax collection mechanism to wantonly oppress, humiliate, jail and harass defaulters.

Within his first two years in office as a governor, Rimi, through the Kano State Agency for Mass Education which he established, won the prestigious United Nations Merit Award for mass literacy, the first to be won by any government in Africa in recognition of the success of the project under which thousands of adults were made literate within a very short time.

Rimi, between 1979 and 1983, established enduring institutions such as Kano Community Television Corporation (CTV) Channel 67, Kano State Agricultural Supply Company (KASCO), Kano State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (KNARDA), the first Kano Specialist Hospital in Bichi, the 25-storey investment building in the centre of Kano, 350-room Magwan Hotel, Triumph Publishing Company (TPC), the First Ministry for Rural and Community Development in the whole of the country under which 180 villages were electrified and connected to the national grid within one year.

Apart from the first governor of Kano State, late Police Commissioner Audu Bako (1967-1975) who commissioned the Kano State Development Master Plan, no other governor has, till date, been able to match the feat of the Rimi administration in development initiatives and enduring structures.

A charismatic and brilliant man, Muhammed Abubakar Rimi was an orator whose power of diction and political appeal were hardly rivalled by any leader within the North of the Niger until he died recently.

Of course, like all mortals, he made mistakes which caused him some setbacks. For instance, not quite long after he survived the Maitatsine religious upheavals, Rimi dared the impossible when he contemplated dethroning the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, on the pretext that the traditional ruler travelled out of the country without his government’s consent.

The query Rimi’s government served on the Emir over the issue resulted in violent riots across the city for three days. The entire Kano State Broadcasting Corporation (Radio Kano) was burnt down by the rioters. The rioters also killed Rimi’s Political Adviser, Dr. Bala Mohammed.

Towards the end of his tenure, Rimi also engaged his political father, Mallam Aminu Kano, in bitter acrimony and rebellion when he openly embraced the clique of the then "Progressive Governors" believed to be against Mallam Kano’s interest. Rimi used the Radio Kano and the print media to fight the late Mallam Kano. The sour relationship between them later cost Rimi a re-election in 1983.

And from the time he parted ways with his political godfather, Mallam Aminu Kano, things were no longer the same again for him politically because he lost grip of Kano politics so rapidly that from that time, he never won any elective position again till his demise. All that came his way were political appointments as he was made the Director-General of Mint and Printing Company, a position which political observers saw as demeaning to his personality. Shortly after that, he was appointed Minister of Communication by the Gen. Abacha regime.

He tried his might in 1999 when he single-handedly opposed his party, PDP’s policy of rotation of presidency between the north and south. He contested the presidency already zoned for the south. Unfortunately for him, his performance was a disaster.

The misfortune did not stop there. One of his children, Abubukar, who contested for the House of Representatives in 2007, lost woefully. Again, in 2006, he curiously lost his wife, Sa’adatu, with whom he lived for nearly 40 years.

When PDP refused to register him shortly before the election of 2007, frustration forced him to defect to the Action Congress (AC) until when the reconciliation committee, headed by Sir Alex Ekwueme brought him back into the party.

However, some within the city have various views on Rimi. Muhammadu Lawan Dan Ani Shanono, a former member of the Kano State House of Assembly in the Second Republic, said the development his community got when Rimi was the Governor of Kano State was immeasurable. He said his community never knew what electricity was, until1979 when he connected the area with the national grid. He was said to have also created employment for the masses of the community.

Renowned Kano politician and member of the House of Representatives, representing Fagge Constituency, Alhaji Danlami Hamza, said Rimi left an indelible mark on Kano State. "Rimi was such a magnet and he was eloquent not only in his native Fulani or Hausa but in English as well. He was a journalist’s delight any day throughout his life time.

Hajiya Asabe Raza, a veteran politician, described Rimi as an exceptional politician whose political profile is second to none in the state and the nation in general. She said the entire population of Kano witnessed tremendous changes under the Rimi administration.

Corroborating her views, Alhaji Nuhu Congo, who was Rimi’s close associate in the 60s, said: "He constructed boreholes, courts and roads of about 800 kilometres across the state and houses for judges and district Heads. Rimi liberated the ordinary citizens by fighting for the rights of the common man. He stopped the injustice being meted to farmers by traditional rulers in the villages.

Another Rimi’s close associate, a former ANPP governorship candidate, Kabiru Gwangwazo, described Rimi’s achievements during his tenure as governor of the state as the best Kano ever had.

A former governor of Kano State, Senator Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya, who replaced Rimi as second civilian governor in the aborted Third Republic under the platform of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), said: "Alhaji Abubakar Rimi was an icon. He made waves throughout his active political days and he had people from all classes of the society who so much believed in his political ideology. He will be greatly missed by the Kano people, Nigerians and all those who believe in the cause of the common man."

Now with his exit, keen political watchers believe that his supporters could be at a crossroads because known chieftains in his camp are bound to face enormous challenges at making the kind of waves Rimi made as he shook the foundation of the Kwankwasiyya bloc within PDP which is currently controlling the Kano PDP executive.

A major caucus within the Rimi structure, the Garkuwa led by Alhaji Usman Alhaji, pundits say, may not have the wherewithal and the political strength to confront the Kwankwasiyya group led by former governor and former Defence Minister, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. Kwankwaso has the contacts and resources required to consolidate on his grip on Kano PDP. The only man who fought him ostensibly and consistently is no more and it is believed that no one could fight like Rimi who had laboured to tame Kwankwaso from what many have described as his (Kwankwaso’s) "larger-than-life" and "it-must-be-me" attitude in the politics of Kano.

One may tend to believe that with Rimi out of the way, Kwankwaso would have it all. But Mohammed Sani Abacha, son of the late military Head of State, told The Nation at Rimi’s graveside, that they would continue to keep Rimi’s legacy alive. Abubakar Rimi was among those at the forefront of actualizing Mohammed Abacha’s 2011 gubernatorial election project. No wonder, Mohammed was the only visible dignitary at the Tarauni Cemetery where Rimi was interred.

Mohammed refused to heed the advice of his aides who struggled in vain to take him out of the surging crowd that thronged Rimi’s graveside. He struggled with them to see how the man whose political ideology he so much admired was being lowered into the grave. Though he said his relationship with Kwankwaso remained cordial, Mohammed vowed to go ahead with his political ambition, declaring however that Rimi’s death "is a big blow to the political landscape of Kano."


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