By Rotimi Fasan
IF the death of Abubakar Rimi could be of any redeeming value for Nigeria it would, perhaps, be in the manner it helps reduce our sloppy approach to many things we do.
It would be hoping too much to expect his unfortunate and clearly avoidable death to bring about complete change in our less desirable ways. But as for the search for his â€˜killersâ€™, itâ€™s another classical instance of administering medicine after death. In its frantic effort to bring Rimiâ€™s â€˜killersâ€™ to justice, the Nigerian state is once more seeking ad-hoc solutions to a perennial problem- a problem that is often, as in this instance, a mere symptom of a more fundamental malaise.
Turning the searchlight on Rimiâ€™s â€˜killersâ€™ is a cheap way of not taking responsibility for those failures that have cheapened human life in todayâ€™s Nigeria. And a readiness not to take responsibility is the distinguishing mark of Nigerian rulers. Which brings me to the account of the events that preceded and led to Rimiâ€™s death.
According to Haruna Abdullahi, his long-time driver, they had driven into a barricade erected by robbers earnestly at work on their way back from Bauchi where theyâ€™d attended the presentation of staff of office to the new Emir of Dass, Usman Othman. The robbers had been robbing occupants of other vehicles before that conveying Rimi arrived on the scene.
Weâ€™ve not been told why but the only person physically manhandled among those travelling with Rimi was his younger brother who sustained injury on his neck. Otherwise, they were only dispossessed of their property and left to go. Rimi was not in any way molested physically perhaps because the robbers recognised him, which would be very generous of them in this age when itâ€™s become lucrative to seize prominent and not-so-prominent Nigerians in exchange for money.
This has ledÂ to the theory that Rimi apparently came under shock following the robbery, necessitating his being rushed to hospital- first the Classic Hospital and thereafter, the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, both in Kano. Itâ€™s what happened at the AKTH that should be of interest to us, for Nigerians have been told by Abdullahi that on getting to the hospital they were kept waiting for many precious minutes, nearly half an hour to be precise, because there was no stretcher -a mere stretcher!- to convey Rimi into the hospital. And after the man was carried into the Hospital, it took some more time before he would be attended to, time during which life gradually left the former civilian governor of old Kano State.
Following this account of events, it should be clear that those who robbed Rimi might have been less responsible for his death than the â€˜consulting clinicsâ€™, or more appropriately, mortuaries misnamed hospitals and their parade of inept staff. Yet itâ€™s the robbers that have come under scrutiny. Yes we know crime is not necessarily the alternative to joblessness or all the other forms of economic disempowerment of the youth, but nobody has looked at the socio-economic dimension of the robbersâ€™ action.
Unfortunate as it was, what Abubakar Rimi who lost his first wife to a suspected robbery attack a few years back went through is daily fare for millions of Nigerians who, because they are neither members of the ruling class nor wealthy enough to command media attention, remain faceless and therefore become part of the morbid statistics of those who are said to have died for lack of access to medical attention. Such people are never mentioned as evidence of state failure as nobody has said a word of the identity of those who were being robbed before Rimiâ€™s vehicle came into the scene of robbery on the fateful night of his death.
Just weeks ago there was the gory news of Nigerians, faceless victims of a rotten system, crushed to death by vehicles on the Benin-Ore express while being robbed. Government has so far expressed no opinion about that. But Rimiâ€™s elite status would provoke state intervention into his death, namely, the order by the Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan, that those who robbed him and apparently triggered the shock that led to his death must be found and punished. And just two days after the Acing Presidentâ€™s order, Ogbonna Onovo, the obliging Inspector General of Police, announced the arrest of the suspected robbers while visiting Rimiâ€™s family on a condolence call.
How come the police are not this efficient when matters concern ordinary Nigerians? Why are Nigerians not under the governance of the same law to say nothing of a common ethic? Why should the IG wait for the death of Rimi before ordering the beef-up of security in Bauchi and Kano? And what happens after these temporary measures must have run their course- we go back to sleep and await the death of or an attack on another prominent Nigerian or some other person of consequence before acting?
Recall what happened to Bayo Ohu, The Guardian editor who was murdered in his home last November. Then the police swung into action after the presidency ordered a probe into the incident. A couple of weeks ago the police announced that the murder was a case of robbery and was without the sinister odour of political assassination as was initially thought. Discounting the actual motivation for this murder, that is letâ€™s assume that there was nothing more to the incident than what the police said, isnâ€™t it remarkable that the police was able to fish out the suspected killers of Ohu at all? What then is happening on those occasions the police act as if totally helpless to unravel a crime?
Were they just being mischievous or are we to believe that the police simply parade â€˜innocentsâ€™ and foist the tag of criminals on them each time they announce a breakthrough in their investigation of a crime? Whatever the case is, what must not be forgotten is that the Nigerian state must begin to put in place institutions that work for the good of Nigerians irrespective of their economic or political status. A system that only caters to the interest of the elite cannot and should not stand. Sooner than later those who created such system become victims of it.