By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
It’s crucial in this charged season that a good number of clowns in the name of politicians are toying with democracy in Nigeria that one remembers the departed one: Chima Ubani. A crusader, organizer, activist, revolutionary, hero, strategist, and above all else, a passionate human being, Chima Ubani died on September 21, 2005, in the struggle for the enshrining of true democracy in our dear country. He was committed to mother earth on Thursday, October 27, 2005. It does not make sense at all to write about the great one in the past sense. He is destined to live eternally.
Yes, Chima died aged only 42, but he recorded enough achievements that could last others for two lifetimes. He died in a motor accident around Potiskum, Yobe State, on Wednesday, September 21, 2005, alongside the deputy photo editor of the Vanguard newspapers, Tunde Oyeleru. Chima was on his way to Yola from Maiduguri after a hugely successful rally staged to protest the fuel hike by the anti-people Obasanjo government of the time. He had the option of traveling in the plane with the then Labour leader Adams Oshiomole – who later became Edo State Governor and now chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) – but Chima, characteristically, selflessly gave up his seat and ended up traveling in Oshiomole’s marked jeep. The rest, as they say, is history. It suffices to say that Chima did not die in vain.
He put his heart and soul in the struggle, and died for others. He was without a shadow of doubt the greatest strategist in the Nigerian league of activists. It was Chima who initiated the 5-million-man march that dimmed Daniel Kanu’s One-million-man march for General Sani Abacha’s self-perpetuation in power. The activists of the military era such as Olisa Agbakoba were always beholden to Chima in the marshalling out of strategies for the struggle.
Chima actually studied Crop Science at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he revolutionized the student union movement. He joined forces with comrades such as Olu Oguibe and Emma Ezeazu to rouse the hitherto sleeping campus. He gave revolutionary impetus to the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). He upped the ante of the struggle when he joined the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) and rose to become the body’s Executive Director.
He matched eloquent theory with effective praxis. He was slight of build but what he packed inside of him moved mountains. He was a born leader whom all followers were compelled to listen to. He never disappointed in all his callings, and his passing was a deathblow to principled struggle in the country.
It is so sad that such a devilishly arranged accident could take Chima away from our shores. If he had been alive today, some of the clowns prancing around as presidential candidates would have been put on the run for their dear lives. The incumbent president and the ill-assorted assemblage of pretenders can only have very sleepless nights in their pathetic prancing. Chima in his life never suffered such fools gladly.
General Ibrahim Babangida, for instance, cannot forget the name of Chima Ubani in a hurry. The SAP riots during his regime as military president owed all its success to the input of Chima Ubani who liaised with committed comrades across the nation to put the fear of God into the very heart of the military dictator.
Not even being jailed by the Abacha junta could quench the fire of Chima Ubani. He was captured and dumped in the dungeon but he at no time betrayed his comrades. He came out to restart from where he stopped. He lamented that the struggle should not just stop in sacking the military. It was his idea that the opposition must get organized to take power.
It was in his determination to seize the power game that he formed Democratic Alternative (DA). He felt that it was the complacency of the truly progressive revolutionary forces that has left the conservatives to play tango with the destiny of the nation. His Marxist grounding informed his astute understanding of society, and his life’s ideal was to see labour topple capital.
He left a young wife and young children behind, and it is incumbent on all of us who are still on this side to make sure that the struggle succeeds at last for the benefit of this long-suffering country.
Uzor Maxim Uzoatu is the author of God of Poetry.