Dr. Bekolari Ransome-Kuti (2 August 1940 – 10 February 2006) was a Nigerian medical doctor known for his work as a human rights activist.
Ransome-Kuti was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria. His mother Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti opposed indiscriminate taxation of women by the British colonial government. She helped negotiate Nigerian independence from Britain and is said to have been the first Nigerian woman to drive a car. His father Oladotun Ransome-Kuti was an Anglican priest and founded the Nigeria Union of Teachers. One of his brothers, Fela Kuti, was a famous musician and activist who founded Afrobeat; another, Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, was also a medical doctor and an AIDS campaigner. Beko’s son, Enitan, is a retired Nigerian Army Brigadier General who headed the Multinational Joint Task Force.
Ransome-Kuti attended Abeokuta Grammar School, Coventry Technical College, and Manchester University, where he became a medical doctor.
CAREER AND ACTIVISM
Ransome-Kuti returned to Nigeria in 1963 upon obtaining his degree. He was deeply affected by the events of 1977 when soldiers under the orders of Olusegun Obasanjo’s military government stormed his brother Fela Kuti’s nightclub, destroyed his medical clinic and killed his mother. He became chairman of the Lagos branch of the Nigerian Medical Association and its national deputy, campaigning against the lack of drugs in hospitals.
In 1984, Fela was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison by the government of General Muhammadu Buhari. Ransome-Kuti was also jailed, and his medical association was banned. He was released in 1985 when Buhari was deposed by General Ibrahim Babangida; Babangida then invited him to participate in the government.
Ransome-Kuti helped to form Nigeria’s first human rights organization, the Campaign for Democracy, which in 1993 opposed the dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. In 1995, a military tribunal sentenced him to life in prison for bringing the mock trial of Olusegun Obasanjo to the attention of the world. He was adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International and freed in 1998 following the death of Sani Abacha.
Ransome-Kuti was a fellow of the West African College of Physicians and Surgeons, a leading figure in the British Commonwealth’s human rights committee, chair of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights and executive director of the Centre for Constitutional Governance.
Ransome-Kuti never went to Nigerian funerals or weddings, notable for the huge sums of money that is often spent by families at such occasions, at which people were lauded for how much money they stuck on musicians and dancers (“spraying”). He was against such gratuitous display of wealth.
DEATH AND LEGACY
Ransome-Kuti died 10 February 2006, at approximately 11:20 P.M. at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Lagos, Nigeria at the age of 65 from complications of lung cancer. The state government honoured him with a statue in 2010.