Members of the Literary Community lament the death of a former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Malam Abubakar Gimba, CHUX OHAI writes
The passing away of veteran writer and former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Malam Abubakar Gimba, has thrown members of the literary community resident in Nigeria and the Diaspora into deep mourning.
Gimba died at the age of 63 on Wednesday night at the Minna General Hospital after a protracted battle with an ailment suspected to be cancer. Before his death was made public, he was said to have been bedridden for about two years.
Unfortunately, many members of the literary community did not learn of his death until his body had been laid to rest in his hometown – Minna – on Thursday. When they eventually received the news of his departure, it was with shock and disbelief. Reacting to the sad event, a former President of ANA, Odia Ofeimun, described Gimba as one of the most quiet and unassuming leaders the association ever had.
Ofeimun said, “Gimba was my immediate successor as President of the Association of Nigerian Authors. A soft-spoken and unobtrusive gentleman, he was not loud or known for creating controversies within the association. He helped to establish the most vibrant branch of ANA outside Lagos. The Niger State chapter owes its rapid growth to him.
“Apart from having a tempering effect on the association, Gimba made it possible for the land belonging to ANA in Abuja to be returned to it after more than a decade of virtual government seizure. He added more than mere value to the application I left as General Secretary. He did a lot to give ANA a national image. But he knew how to turn strong disagreements into conversations.”
Another ex President of the writers’ body and former member of the Federal House of Representatives, Dr. Wale Okediran, recalled Gimba’s achievements at the helms of the affairs of ANA.
He said, “Gimba was a very methodical ANA President who used his connections in government and business circles to get funding for the association’s programmes. He was also quite committed to the growth of the association. Several times, he used his personal financial resources to run ANA. It is on record that during his tenure, we were able to secure a certificate of occupancy for the ANA land in Abuja. Until he became President, it was difficult to do this.
“He was the first writer from Northern Nigeria to become President of ANA and I served as General Secretary under him. I recall that we had a very warm relationship. One of the things we set out to achieve as a team was to do away with ethnic sentiments in the association. Some people were actually trying to use the fact that he came from the North against him. But we were able to overcome such sentiments.
“Also, during Gimba’s tenure, we were able to unify the association and to revive several state chapters that had virtually become inactive, especially in the North. He was a gentleman and very considerate.”
The Coordinator of the Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu International Literature Colloquium, Mallam Baba Dzukogi, described the late author as a role model to many younger writers in Niger State.
“We will remember him for his humility and simple approach to life. We all read his works even before we started publishing our own books. Gimba sponsored the Annual Schools Carnival of Art and Festival of Songs in the state for 10 years. We brought up the idea and he bankrolled the event right from the first edition,” he said.
Also, the current National Vice President of ANA, Denja Abdullahi, and literary activist, Chike Ofili, acknowledged Gimba’s humane qualities and commitment to literary development in the country, especially in the North.
“He was very kind and a gentleman who did a lot to encourage literature in Northern Nigeria. He had a kind word for everybody and was such a peaceful person. He made ANA an officially recognised body and properly registered the association after nearly 20 years of its existence. He was a very liberal man, too,” they said.
Born in Lapai, Nasarawa State, Gimba was educated at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he obtained a first degree in Economics, and the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, in the USA, as well as the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom.
At different times, he was an executive director of the United Bank of Africa and Union Bank of Nigeria, as well as a permanent secretary in the Niger State Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning..
Gimba was ANA’s president between 1997 and 2001, Chairman of the Concern Foundation and Savannah Publications Ltd and pioneer Chairman of the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai.
Also, he was the author of several novels, including Witness to Tears, Trail of Sacrifice, Innocent Victims, Sunset for a Mandarin and Golden Apples.
A recipient of the Order of the Federal Republic, he is survived by three wives and many children.