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What Beko struggled for remain unrealised, activists lament

Call for release of his son from jail

By Gbenga Oke, Ebun Sessou & Chris Onuoha

Lagos—Friends and associates of the late civil rights activist, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti yesterday remembered his passionate devotion and sacrifices for the dignity of man but lamented that all his efforts remain unachieved.

They spoke at two different events to commemorate the death, ten years ago of Dr. Ransome-Kuti. He died at 65 after an eventful life of activism devoted to pro-democracy causes, civil rights and promotion of the interests of Nigerian doctors through the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA. The remembrance of Ransome-Kuti was also laced with calls for the release of his son, Brigadier Enitan Ransome-Kuti and other soldiers jailed for failing to stop invading insurgents of the Boko Haram militant group.

They spoke at a public lecture at Airport Hotel, Lagos, and at the laying of wreaths at the Beko Ransome-Kuti Cenotaph in Anthony Village, Lagos.

The showers of commendation were led by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State who praised his selfless devotion to the common good and the Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who hailed him as a man of courage.

Other speakers at the 10th Public lecture were former Lagos State governor and pro-democracy activist, Admiral Ndubisi Kanu, trade-cum civil right activists Comrade Abiodun Aremu, Comrade Owei Lakemfa, Odia Ofemium, Ayo Obe, Mr Lanre Arogundade, Mohammed Gani Fawehinmi, Abiola Akiode-Afolabi, Executive Director, WARD-C, Femi Aborishade, founding chairman of the National Conscience Party, among others.

The lecture which had the wife of the late activist, Mrs. Bose Ransome-Kuti in attendance was also graced by Alfred Ilenre, chairman of Beko Memorial Committee, Prof. Eghosa Osaghae, Malam Naseer Kura, Tony Nnadi Esq, Chief Doja Adewolu among others.

Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin leading a procession.
Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin leading a procession.

In his lecture, entitled “Sustaining Nigeria’s Democracy: The realities, challenges and Prospects,” the guest lecturer, Prof. Sunny Akpotor of Department of Political Science, Delta State University, said the character of Nigeria’s governments since 1999 had shown the failure of its practitioners to understand the tenets of democracy.

He said, “With regards to the quality of governance, the 2012 Mo Ibrahim Governance Index placed Nigeria 14th out of 16 West African countries and 43rd out of a total of 52 nations. The report also said Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Egypt dropped in two of the four categories used to assess good governance on the index safety, rule of law and participation and human rights. It, however, singled Nigeria as the worst performer of the four”.

PDP’s total contempt for the rule of law

Continuing, he said: “On democratic realities, Nigeria’s democratic values has  hardly been realized. For the 16 years the Peoples Democratic Party was in power, it exhibited total contempt for the rule of law. The Constitution and other laws were breached with impunity, court orders were disobeyed on a regular basis. The Obasanjo era flourished in a culture of de-democratisation, carried out by militicians who created an authoritarian culture and the shrinking of the political space. Threat of impeachment and blackmail with actual impeachment were rife. Unfortunately, when Nigerians were thinking change has come, the All Progressives Congress, APC federal government led by Muhammadu Buhari has continued with this ugly scenario of disobeying court orders” he maintained.

He nevertheless commended President Buhari for rejecting supplications to devalue the Naira just as he enjoined the guests to tap into the values Dr. Ransome-Kuti promoted in his lifetime.

In his keynote address, Professor Eghosa Osaghae, a professor of Comparative Politics identified governors in Nigeria as the single most potent threat to democracy in the country saying until Nigerians rose against some of their governors, true democracy will remain elusive.

In their various speeches, Malam Naseer Kura, Ayo Obe and Tony Nnadi said the struggle for a better Nigeria which Dr Ransome-Kuti stood for remains a mirage.

 He lived for humanity— Ambode

Governor Ambode, who was represented by Mrs Funmilola Odunlami, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, described the late Dr. Ransome-Kuti as a selfless defender of the masses.

He said: “Beko will forever be remembered because he lived a selfless life even when he had the opportunity to live and dine with the rich, he chose to stand in the struggle for the masses. Severally, he used his medical facilities to save lives for free, and when he had the opportunity of enriching himself, he never did but stood for justice, humanity and became a hero and motivator for the masses.

“He will forever remain a role model to us because he followed the path of honour and believed that evil done against one is an evil done against all.”

He was a man of courage — Fayemi

In his submission, Dr. Fayemi who was represented by Dr. Otive Igbuzor said Ransome-Kuti remains among the greatest pro democracy activists who campaigned for human rights during the Sanni Abacha dictatorship adding that his network reached from Commonwealth fora to even local businesses including sellers of fish of which he was one.

It is painful no one had good record on late Beko — Odia Ofeimun

Literary icon, Odia Ofeimum in his own remarks lamented the dearth of records on Ransome-Kuti’s life.

He said, “One thing that made me sad today is that nobody actually has the full biography of him. He lived an active life, but we had no record or good caption of how he was able to manage those terrible times and that is why I said it is not easy to write about the man Beko Ransome-Kuti. If he did not write his own story, the organisers need to get as many Nigerians who worked closely with him, so that they can write what they knew about him. I wish it were possible to have a good video of his movements, we need to have the video clippings of where Beko performed as an activist, I believe such clippings will help the younger generation on how to deal with tyrants when they come across one”.

Beko remains the best ever —Adewolu

In his message, one of the deceased’s school mates at Abeokuta Grammar School, Chief Doja Adewolu said it was significant that members of the Ransome-Kuti family were almost always first in everything they did.

According to him, “Beko had the best result at Abeokuta Grammar School and as at today, I can say confidently that he remains the youngest personality to qualify as a medical doctor at the age of 21 years old”.

“As a medical doctor, his hospital provided succour to those Nigerians who needed medical attention but could not afford it. His achievements will go down memory lane in many years to come because he remains one of the pillars of democracy and a courageous activist” he stated.

Earlier, at the laying of wreath at the Beko Ransome-Kuti Cenotaph in Anthony Village, associates of the late civil rights activist called for the release of military officers jailed over their alleged failure to repulse Boko Haram insurgents who attacked them. Among the jailed officers is Brig. Gen. Enitan Ransome-Kuti, son of the late activist.

Among those who spoke at the event were NADECO Chairman, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd.), Femi Aborishade, Campaign for Democracy (CD), Dr. Joe Odumakin, President, Women Arise.

Kanu, who challenged Nigerians to emulate the virtues of Dr. Ransome-Kuti said that “what Beko struggled, stood for and lived for is timeless.”

Odumakin, while lauding the achievements of the late Ransome-Kuti called for the release of his son, Enitan upon the confirmed fact that the military was deprived of fighting platforms in the war against the insurgency.

“As we mark the anniversary of Dr. Beko, we remember Brigadier-General Enitan Ransome-Kuti who is in prison now. We want to use this occasion to call for his release and that of other officers who did not have the weapon to fight the dreaded Boko-Haram.”

Comrade Femi Aborishade, founding National Chairman, National Conscience Party (NCP) in his speech said, “When I first met Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti in 1984, I knew him as someone who lived a life of service. He was so committed to improving the life of people. I never knew him advocating or fighting for himself as a person or for family but for Nigerian people, the downtrodden against the rich.

“Beko used his resources, risked his life for my own freedom when I was jailed in 1989, and when I was released, later on in the year, the Free Femi Aborishade Campaign Committee he initiated was changed to Committee for the Defense of Human Rights which later became Campaign for Democracy. It is in this regards that Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti has lived a life that all must emulate.”

Also speaking at the event, Dr. Abiola Akiode-Afolabi, Executive Director, WARD-C said: “Beko Ransome-Kuti charted a course for Nigerians, He had dreams for the country, and as long as we continue remembering him, saying that Beko lived on, we must make sure that we do what is right and respect the rights of the people. It is a reminder to all us that we cannot forget what Beko left behind, and what he lived and died for.”

Former President, Civil Liberty Organisation, Mrs. Ayo Obe in her remarks, urged Nigerians to use their votes shrewdly towards placing the right persons in power.

She said what the last election taught Nigerians is that an incumbent can be voted out.

Rights group demands unconditional release of jailed Beko’s son

Also yesterday, the Beko Rights Klub, a human rights group, called for the immediate release and reinstatement of Brigadier-General Enitan Ransome-Kuti and other soldiers jailed for failing to hold their own against the Boko Haram insurgent group in the Northeast.

Led by its convener, Comrade Debo Adeniran, the group staged a protest at the Lagos State House of Assembly as part of activities marking the death of Dr Beko Ransome Kuti ten years ago. They claimed that recent revelations in the country attested to the fact that Brigadier-General Enitan was not guilty of any act of mutiny.

The group charged the State House of Assembly to do all within its power to get the National Assembly to compel the Federal Government to ensure the prompt release and reinstatement of the Brigadier-General and others so imprisoned.

“The Beko Rights Klub is utilising this occasion of the commemoration of Beko’s passage to call on the Nigerian government to grant Brigadier-General Enitan Ransome-Kuti, son of our late hero, Beko Ransome-Kuti, national pardon with regards to the case of ‘mutiny’ against him following the decision of the military to court martial him after the Baga massacre carried out by Boko Haram insurgents in January 2015.

Brigadier-General Enitan remains in imprisonment till date, even though history has absolved him,” said Adeniran.

Adeniran, who is also the chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, insisted that rather than heap blames on the hapless Brigadier-General, he should be held shoulders high, bearing in mind that his innocence had been proven by the ongoing arms scandal in the country.

“We are strongly convinced that the revelations reeled out from the arms procurement scandal confirm his innocence and patriotism. In fact, we believe, with those expositions, the actions of Brigadier-General Enitan and others are justifiable, reasonable and dialectical,” he added.

In his response, the Majority Leader of the House, Sanai Agunbiade, said that members of the House shared the position of the group, especially in the quest to have a country where justice, fairness and obedience to the rule of law prevail.

He, therefore, said that the House would do the needful in ensuring that the right thing was done to what the group was clamouring for.

 

 

 


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