I got to note this morning, like many others, that Abubakar Gimba, the talented writer, economist and former Executive Director of the United Bank for Africa and Union Bank, died on 26th February, 2015 at the Minna General Hospital (in Niger state, Nigeria), at about 11:50pm, after a prolonged illness. He was 63 years old.
I came in contact with Abubakar Gimba first through his book Witnesses to Tears which we had to read for our pre-university JAMB examination. It was a fascinating book and I enjoyed the twist to it. I got to read some of his other works too; ah, I enjoyed them too. I read a book of essays of his, which title I can’t remember. The book made me realize the depth of this man who I only knew as a writer then. At different national Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) annual conventions, I got to see the man, a one-time President of the association. He was a humble man and never walked up to any platform or high table until he was invited. A friend of mine always insulted this attribute of the man which he called ‘false modesty.’ His simplicity was easily noticeable and not once did I have to ask: ‘Is this really Abubakar Gimba?’ For what it is worth, I think Alhaji Gimba was a fine man, quiet, reserved, and not much like all the other ‘big men’ who would want everyone to notice them.
Alhaji Gimba was born on the 10th of March, 1952 in the Nasarawa town of Lapai Emirate. He earned a BSc in Economics from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in 1974. He proceeded to the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, in the USA 1976 for a Master’s degree, where he obtained an MA in Economics. He subsequently attended the University of Bradford for a UK’s Project Planning Course on Infrastructure in 1982. He attended other courses professionally and in 2000 took part in the University of Iowa’s writing programme sponsored by the United States Embassy in Nigeria.
He is a past National President of both the Association of Nigerian Authors (1997-2001) and Ahmadu Bello University Alumni Association. He served as chairman of the Concern Foundation and Savannah Publications Ltd and was the pioneer chairman of IBB University, Lapai. He once served as Permanent Secretary in Niger State when David Mark was military Governor. He joined David Mark as a special adviser to the Senate President on Politics and Economics.
Abubakar Gimba was a fine writer with novels that include Witness to Tears; Trail of Sacrifice; Innocent Victims; Sunset for a Mandarin, and Golden Apples. Abubakar Gimba is a recipient of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR), a prestigious merit award from the federal government of Nigeria. He is survived by three wives and many children.
Oh well, I tried contacting other writers online and physically while calling others. His news had spread fast and the tributes are pouring: from the Association of Nigerian Authors, Chuma Nwokolo (who prayed that Gimba’s pages will ‘rustle endlessly, evermore’), Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, B. M. Dzukogi, Maria Ajima, and many more including the Benue Association of Nigerian Authors. The most popular post on the 27th February around our literary parts and if it were to have a hash tag just might have been #RIPGimba or so… Not surprisingly, his burial conducted today, according to Muslim rites, was witnessed by top government officials and public figures including past Presidents Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar, Senate President David Mark and the acting Governor of Niger state. They all had good things to say about him; he was a good man.
I had my lady call me this evening in shock: ‘So Abubakar Gimba is dead! Just like that?’ and I said ‘Yes, buried.’ I guess the burial thing puts a finality to it that we can’t deny. Where we would have said ‘Maybe it was a different person’…the sands falling leave us without doubt. I find it quite disheartening that I have to delete the phone number of another person I admire greatly… Never will we hear that voice in wisdom or note him try to transact a deal for his books as he loved to. It reminds one of the ticking tock and the falling grains of time.
The stars put out their lamps
leaving the grey sky
the moon compensating, smiled meekly
a clear ball
different from yesterday’s banana
I stayed an eternity with you
but just as my heart counted a second
the night rolled its mat
bringing in the harsh reality of day.
(‘Life’ from Su’eddie Vershima Agema’s Bring our casket home: tales one shouldn’t tell (Makurdi: SEVHAGE, 2012)
In the words of my friend, the lovely poet Hyginus Ekwuazi, may the sands lie softly on him. Amin.