Abubukar Gimba; My Mentor
LIFE has indeed taught me that attaining greatness is simply a question of the array of individuals you associate with, the books you read, places you go to and God’s unmerited grace available to all. You really don’t have to completely agree with this assertion hook, line and sinker, but this belief says everything about me. I may not be where I think I should have been, but I’ve moved from where I used to be a few years ago. The frank realization that achieving success in whatever one does can be guaranteed or fast-tracked by a combination of the above listed considerations accounts for why I could go to any extent to remain glued to them.
The late Abubakar Gimba, author of the famous, Witnesses To Tears, Sunset For A Mandarin, Sacred Apples, Footprints among other titles was one individual that I cultivated a distant, but very beneficial relationship with. What later blossomed into a father and son kind of affiliation began when I first read his award-winning novel, Witnesses To Tears as one of the recommended texts for the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board exams more than a decade ago.
I so fell in love with the book that I pleasurably read it over and over again. The almost flawless text has the trappings of a good literary effort. The simple diction, flawless grammar, consistent concord and flowery line of narration made the book second to none. The book fired up my passion for literature, arts and creativity generally. Gimba’s Witnesses To Tears is more than a novel, it is a complete dossier of what art represents-life, fulfillment, pleasure, freedom and exploration.
Strangely, however, we never had physical contact before he passed on last week. All I know and understand about this literary Iroko are largely based on his works and the confessional statements of his countless apostles, like BM Dzukogi (my oga). Having consumed several of his brilliant weekly columns in both Weekly Trust and Tribune Newspapers, the only thing left for me to do was meeting him in person. I enjoyed his line of thoughts. His arguments were devoid of pettiness, clannish considerations or religious bigotry. He was not a typical Nigerian columnist whose interventions are basically to either defend or promote narrow and often parochial considerations.
Malam Abubakar Gimba was a man who used his pen to correct societal ills. His literary interventions were quite legendary, very enlightening and laced with strong lessons. His arguments were people-driven, broad-based and filled with penetrating anecdotes needed for deep reasoning.
Malam Gimba was much more interested in promoting issues that will better the lots of everyone. He was by any standard, a true nationalist and statesman. He related so well with Nigerians across ethnic, religious or tribal divides. He was not a man known for parochialism. So many tongues wagged when, out of sheer conviction and the need to promote unity in diversity, he chose to begin a weekly column in the Ibadan-based Tribune Newspapers. Many wondered what a core northerner of Gimba’s standing could be doing with a paper outside his territory. He took time to actually offer very vivid explanations of what motivated his action as captured in his book, “Why Am I Doing This?”: A compilation of his articles. He said, “These then, are in part, the reason why I am doing this-writing for a column. I have no tall ambition: just to make a contribution to national discourse so as to make life meaningful, with or without the present boundaries that defines Nigeria.” that was vintage Gimba in his raw nature; always true to himself.
He continued, “I am coming into this with no pretences I write conscientiously and honestly. But not without fear or favour, as the old deceptive phrase goes. No one ever writes completely free of fear or favour. Only a robot could do that, having no emotions or feelings. But I do”. His pan Nigerian disposition was never in doubt. On why Nigeria cannot afford a break-up or balkanization, he said, “I believe we have great things going for us if we remain peaceful country. One Nigeria, (what’s in a name? call it Bini, Biafra, Nok, Oduduwa or Songhai) that is peaceful, democratic and dynamic, is the best deal any of the present components of what we call our country can have.
The cleavages inspired by the tempting allures of Eldorado cannot guarantee the greatness that a one Nigeria could attain. Not by any long shot. You cannot have greatness by diminution. Ask the Russians”, he concluded. In his passing, humanity is robbed of one its finest minds. The literary community is in sombre mood. The body of patriotic Nigerians has lost a consistent member.
An ‘A-Class’ writer has exited the stage. The authors’ author, cerebral novelist, fine writer and leading crusader in the struggle for an egalitarian society has dropped the gauntlet. His humble base in Minna, Niger state is daily playing host to sympathizers in their hundreds to condole with his family since he passed on. Yours sincerely was one of the early callers when the news of his death went viral last week. I seized the opportunity offered by the head of the family, Malam Usman Ahmed to say a bit of my heart about late Gimba. I struggled to end a remark I began with much confidence. My attempt not to give in to emotions failed. Nature had its way. I cried!
Though we never met, your literary accomplishments have left indelible footprints in my life. The telephone conversation I had with you sometimes last year and the kind words you offered were quite humbling. You told me never to feel discouraged by any situation, no matter how dicey. Those words sank so deep. May Allah grant your soul Aljannah fir’daus.
• Yunusa wrote in from FHA, Kubwa, Abuja.
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