The Icon Who Stood For Justice And Fought Against Tyranny

Dr. Bekolari Ransome-Kuti was a Nigerian physician known for his work as a human rights activist.


Ransome-Kuti was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria, on 2 August 1940. His mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was a prominent activist who played a crucial role in negotiating Nigerian independence from Britain. His father, Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, was an Anglican priest and co-founder of the Nigeria Union of Teachers. Beko’s family had a legacy of activism and public service, with his brother Fela Kuti being a renowned musician and activist.

Ransome-Kuti received his education at Abeokuta Grammar School, Coventry Technical College, and Manchester University, where he obtained his medical degree.

After returning to Nigeria in 1963, Ransome-Kuti witnessed the tragic events of 1977 when his brother Fela Kuti’s nightclub was attacked by soldiers, resulting in the destruction of his medical clinic and the death of their mother. These events had a profound impact on him, and he became actively involved in human rights advocacy.

He served as chairman of the Lagos branch of the Nigerian Medical Association and campaigned against the inadequate supply of drugs in hospitals. In 1984, both Fela and Ransome-Kuti were arrested and imprisoned by the government of General Muhammadu Buhari, and his medical association was banned. After General Ibrahim Babangida took power and released him in 1985, Ransome-Kuti was invited to participate in the government.

Ransome-Kuti played a crucial role in forming Nigeria’s first human rights organization, the Campaign for Democracy, which opposed the dictatorship of General Sani Abacha in 1993. Due to his activism, he was sentenced to life in prison by a military tribunal in 1995. Amnesty International adopted him as a prisoner of conscience, and he was eventually freed in 1998 after the death of General Sani Abacha.

Throughout his life, Ransome-Kuti held significant positions in various organizations, including being 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 passed away on 10 February 2006 at the age of 65 due to complications of lung cancer at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Lagos, Nigeria. In honor of his contributions, the state government erected a statue in his honor in 2010, and a park, the Beko Ransome-Kuti Park, was named after him.

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