The nation on Friday night lost another prominent pro-democracy and human rights activist, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, barely two months after the tragic death of the former Secretary of the Campaign for Democracy (CD), Mr. Chima Ubani.
Beko, as he was fondly called, 65, died as a result of what his daughter, Morenike, said was cancer of the lungs at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital.
His demise sent shock waves across the country with most of his colleagues and other prominent citizens expressing utter disbelief about the incident.
Hordes of activists and politicians thronged his Imaria Close, in Anthony Village, Maryland, Lagos, shortly after news filtered about his death, to commiserate with the family.
An uneasy calm pervaded the family residence when Sunday Punch visited there on Saturday, with some members politely turning down requests for further clarification on the circumstances that surrounded his death.
Some leaders of the Pro- National Conference [PRONACO], who had earlier scheduled to hold a crucial meeting on Monday on the controversial third term, trooped to the residence, with indications that the incident would be among the issues to be discussed.
Beko was among the unrepentant activists that led the struggle against the continued military in the country under both the administrations of former leaders: General Ibrahim Babangida and the late General Sani Abacha.
Apart from being brutalized and hounded into detention, the deceased was also prosecuted and jailed for the 1995 phantom coup under the Abacha regime.
Until his death, Beko was equally a leading light in the clamour for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC).
He was one of the leaders of PRONACO.
A terse statement by a member of the family, Mr. Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, on Saturday, said the fiery activist passed on at 11.20 p.m. at LUTH.
The statement was, however, silent on the burial arrangement for his remains.
President Olusegun Obasanjo and Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos State were among the first set of eminent citizens that paid glowing tributes to the deceased.
President Olusegun Obasanjo described his death as a shock. He remarked that though he was a medical practitioner, like his late elder brother, a former minister of health, Professor Olikoye Ransome Kuti, “Beko came to be more renowned nation wide for his tireless advocacy for democracy and his other social political beliefs.”
The statement, which was signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media Matters, Mrs. Remi Oyo referred to Beko as “the last of the famous Ransome Kuti brothers in Abeokuta, who in their own unique way, have left their marks on our nation’s history”.
In his own comment, the Ogun State governor, Otunba Olugbenga Daniel said, “not only did Beko contribute immensely to the sociopolitical development of Nigeria, he was in the forefront of our struggle for good and equitable government.
“The fact that during his lifetime, he witnessed the return of democracy to Nigeria is a sufficient proof that he fought a successful fight.”
Governor Daniel assured that his administration would keep Beko’s memories alive by “staying on the path of good governance.”
Tinubu said Beko was his soul mate. “We found each other side by side in the opposition to the criminal annulment of the June 12 1999 presidential result won by the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola of blessed memory.”
He said the movement for the emancipation of the Nigerian people from poverty and oppression has lost its progressive thinker and courageous combatant with the death of Beko.
“The news of his death spread like wild fire into the homes of progressives all over the world. Shock, disbelief were the immediate reaction of many of us who worked closely with Beko, as he was fondly called, during the many popular struggles which he led boldly and selflessly to defend the civil rights of all Nigerians and the peoples of the world.”
Lagos lawyer and a colleague of Beko in the human rights community in the prodemocracy movement, Mr. Femi Falana said, “Beko lived a life of self denial. A life of huge sacrifice, a life of commitment to democracy and rule of law.”
Falana said he was yet to fully recover from the shock of Beko’s death, “Having regard to his preeminent position in the pro-democracy movement, he was very meticulous and quite organized. If he fixed a meeting or if he had to attend a meeting, you could be very sure he would never come late to the meeting. What we are going to miss most about him was his readiness to throw his entire life to the struggle.”
Another lawyer and the secretary of the defunct National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Chief Ayo Opadokun, said he wished Beko had not died, “But we are all mortals and God has a way of explaining these matters, in spite of the mysteries of life. Like the Bible preaches in Deuteronomy 29v29, the revealed things belong to us but the sacred things belong to God and only Him can determine when we come and when we disappear.”
Former President of Civil Liberties Organisation, Ms Ayo Obe, said the sad thing about Beko’s death was that, “We are losing him at a time when many of us feel democracy in this country is under threat, that the ordinary people need to be able to get their views across to those who are ruling us.”
Speaking at the deceased’s home in Lagos, president of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, described Beko’s death as painful, saying that the death came at a time when the Nigeria nation requires formidable fighters like him against bad governance.
Oshiomhole said, Beko demonstrated “great courage, tenacity and equanimity under the most severe circumstances”. He said the late activist’s pedigree “was of illustrious vintage”.
The President General of Trade Union Congress, Mrs Peace Nkiru Obiajulu described Beko’s death as a great blow to the struggle for an egalitarian society. She urged labour and civil society groups in the country to emulate Beko’s commitment to the struggle for good governance and unity of purpose in the ensuring that the welfare of the masses is made a priority in the country.”
PRONACO chieftain and senatorial aspirant in Ogun State, Mr. Bisi Adebusi said, “With his death, the rank of human rights activists have been depleted as it is coming just a few months after the demise of Mr. Chima Ubani and a host of other activists. “Beko stood for everything that was in the public interest. He was a dogged fighter and a firm believer in the rule of law, a torn in the flesh of military dictator and oppressor of the Nigerian people.”
Beko was born on August 2, 1940 to the family of the famous late Rev. Ransome-Kuti of Abeokuta. He attended Abeokuta Grammar School between 1951 to 1956, Coventry Technical College, 1956 to 1958a and the University of Manchester 1958 to 1963 where he qualified as a medical doctor. From 1964 to 1997, he worked in several government hospitals before establishing his own private practice. He was President of Nigeria Students in Manchester, Chairman Association of Residents Doctors, member, Lagos State Interim Hospital Management Board and Chairman Lagos State Chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association.
He held several other nation positions in the NMA and later became Chairman of Chairman of Lagos University Teaching Hospital. He was at several times Chairman for Campaign for Democracy, President for the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights and Executive Director, Centre for Constitutional Governance.
Until his death, he was actively involved in the preparation for a sovereign national conference.
SUNDAY PUNCH, February 12, 2006
February 11, 2006
NIDO Americas Press Release
CONDOLENCE MESSAGE ON THE PASSING OF DR BEKO KUTI
On behalf of all Nigerians resident in North and South America and the Caribbean, The Board of NIDO Americas Inc. expresses its condolence to the KUTI family and the PRONACO movement on the sudden and tragic news of the passing of Dr Beko Kuti.
In Dr Kuti's death, Nigerians have been robbed of one of the leading voices for democratic rights and political freedom in contemporary times. Dr Beko Kuti was a Nigerian patriot extraordinaire who devoted most of his life to the struggle for political freedom and emancipation in Nigeria. He was a tireless and fearless critic of oppressive and undemocratic governments in Nigeria. Dr Kuti made considerable personal sacrifices and endured tremendous pains for his beliefs having been jailed numerous times and in a few instances had his life threatened by successive military governments in the land.
It is our hope that Dr Kuti's contributions to the struggle for political freedom in Nigeria will be fondly remembered by current and forthcoming generation of Nigerians. While we must bow to the inevitability of Dr. Kuti,s passing, the vision to sustain the advancement of Nigeria and her peoples Must BE keep alive!
May God the Almighty grant Dr Kuti's soul eternal rest and his family the fortitude, strength and courage to bear this additional profound loss in one of Nigeria's prominent families in recent times.
General Secretary, NIDO Americas Inc.