Abubakar Gimba: The Audacity Of Courage


“No one can outstrip his destiny. My belief and faith became my refuge. Why then bemoan my predicament, when I have no doubt that the pens have been lifted and the pages are dry. I admonished myself for yielding to a creeping disbelief. No. The strong steel-like, sweet and soothing handle hold of the straight path of faith I must grab with greater firmness, if no one’s time of death would be pushed forward or inflicted on him before the ordained hour, I need not worry.”


-         Excerpts from Abubakar Gimba’s OH UHUD: THY HAUNTING SPIRIT)


One after the other they sauntered into the expansive hall through the VIP entrance and onto the high table. And these were no ordinary men by any stretch of the imagination. Except for the lone lady in their midst, nearly all were all over 70 years old.


There was the retired General and former Head of state Abdulsalami Abubakar. There was the Emir of Suleja and former Executive Governor of Niger State, Alhaji Auwal Ibrahim, along with his counterpart from Lapai Alhaji Umaru Bago III. There was, also, the Walin Muye Alhaji Ahmadu Abubakar, a former Minister of Finance, along with Barrister Abdulrahman Hassan Gimba, also once the Minister of Sports. My big sister, Senator Zainab Kure was the sole woman on the high table.


As they sat waiting for the event to commence, their looks belied the significance of the occasion. They looked somber and pensive. Although the event was supposed to be the formal launch of the post-humous book I referred to above, it swiftly became a platform to honor, once again, the memory of the undisputed icon that was the late Alhaji Abubakar Gimba, the multi-task specialist, who passed away exactly a year earlier on the 25th of February, 2016. The occasion quickly overwhelmed even the Chairman of the occasion His Highness, the Emir of Suleja who could barely control his emotions as he delivered his opening address.     


Alhaji Abubakar Gimba’s virtues easily endeared him to so many people across a very broad social spectrum. I was pleased to count him among my mentors. Often, after reading my column, he would call to offer his comments. And; given his pedigree, his views meant the world to me. His brand enjoyed almost universal appeal.


Gimba served two governors of Niger state as a Permanent Secretary and maintained a close relationship with both until he died. He was at different times an Executive Director with Union Bank and the UBA. He served on the Governing Council of Ahmadu Bello University from 2002 to 2006. He was also the national President of the ABU Alumni Association. He contributed immensely to both the University Council and Alumni Association.


In 1998 he was appointed a Member of the Think-Tank Committee, the leading advisory body to the then Head of State, General Abdulsalami A. Abubakar.  In November 2008, he was appointed the Special Adviser to the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on Economic and Budget Matters. He was also appointed into the Presidential Advisory Council to advise Nigeria’s President on various matters, in March 2010.  Soon after which he was appointed as a Member of the Presidential Review Committee on Public Service in 2011.


In between all these, the Late Abubakar Gimba, somehow, found the time to  author six novels, a collection of short stories, two works or poetry, two journalistic essays, two works of epistolary, as well as an additional one for children. Footprints; the trail of Sacrifice; Sacred Apples: Witness   to Tears; Letter to the Muslim Fundamentalist; This Land of Ours; and Letter to the Unborn Child are some of the titles.  To crown all these, in 1997, he was elected – yes elected- the National President, Association of Nigerian Authors, when it seemed easier to pass a camel through the eye of needle due to the entrenched prejudices in the body before his emergence. His predecessors were no lesser personalities than Chinua Achebe and Dr. Wole Soyinka. Gimba was the first from the northern part of the country.  


But all living mortals, and indeed all religious faiths, recognize that death is an inevitable end. It is the time and manner of its coming that remains the eternal enigma. Doctors are able to predict specific number of months and days left for their patients to expire depending on the severity of their ailments, but they are never able to tell the exact moment the cold hands of death will strike.


The exact time of our passing from this world is known only to our maker and the Supreme Being. To add further to the mystique of death, people are known to have undergone miraculous healings that defied modern science and the rabid predictions of even the finest doctors on the planet. 


Even so, stories abound on how some patients reacted when they were told by their doctor diagnosis that their ailments could be terminal. People of lesser courage and faith are known to have been driven to blind panic and irrational behavior when confronted with the prospect of death. Some descend into self-pity or become a nuisance to their loved ones. Others utilize their remaining days settling scores with their perceived enemies. Very few are able to think positively or constructively as they pass through the valley of death.


As I listened to the many tributes to Abubakar Gimba last week, I was also steeped in subtle conversation with Dr. Isa Yahaya Vatsa, a former Commissioner in the last administration in Niger state. Throughout the four years that the late writer and esteemed technocrat was ill, he was among the people who enjoyed unfettered access to him. He provided fresh insights into the inner workings of his state of mind at the time.


As the final hour approached, Gimba dreaded death, but was also supremely unbowed. Not for him the recourse to negative impulses. His deep appreciation of his faith precluded that. Inevitably, the subject of writing another book was broached and quickly accepted. The result was what the general public gathered to launch last Thursday in Minna.


As supremely reviewed by Professor Tanimu Abubakar of the Department of English and Literary Studies of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, “OH UHUD: THY HAUNTING SPIRIT” is a timeless odyssey on the vanities of man, but especially our leaders, as our dear nation continues its struggles in the clutches of rabid under-development, as seen through the discerning lenses of the author.


The title of the also provides undeniable proof of the late author’s undoubted refuge in his faith as he came to terms with his adversity. The battle of Uhud, which occurred on Saturday, 19th of March 652 AD, is a significant milestone in Islam. It bequeathed a legacy of courage, faith and resilience. Three thousand polytheists from Mecca squared off against only 700 Muslims led by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).


While the battle itself was a major a stalemate, it was a major victory for the Muslims considering the circumstances. Their losses were mitigated by the several verses they received immediately after the battle, which promised them victory provided they remained faithful and submitted themselves to the will of Allah.


Undoubtedly, as he battled with his terminal illness, the same spirit kept Gimba alive long enough to contribute his port-humous book to humanity. May Allah forgive his short-comings and grant him with Aljannat-firdausi.