Sunday, 1 December 2013

Tribute to late Prof. Festus Iyayi

The nation was thrown into mourning on 12th November 2013 following the killing of Prof. Festus Iyayi of the University of Benin by a vehicle in the convoy of Captain Idris Wada, the Kogi State governor. This is the second time in less than a year that Mr Wada would be involved in a ghastly motor accident. Dr Iyayi is the second victim of the Wada killing machines. 

Dr Iyayi was the president of ASUU in the late eighties. His tenure was turbulent because he was up against a military junta headed by Gen Ibrahim Babangida or IBB. Following a national industrial action embarked upon by the ASUU, the union was labelled an illegal association of persons with evil motives who were teaching what they were not paid to teach and the union was subsequently proscribed by the IBB regime. His persecution never ended until he was detained and removed from the list of faculty members of one the universities in Nigeria where Iyayi was a teacher of microeconomics. Iyayi was never a teacher of creative writing but he earned global accolades and recognition for his beautiful works. One of his works, Heroes, won him the Commonwealth Writers Prize while he was under the persecution of the federal military government of Nigeria. 

The sadness that characterized the death Dr Iyayi was as result of the condition or the situation under which he was killed: he was on his way to Kano State in Northern Nigeria to partake in a joint decision of the body that would decided whether to continue or suspend the industrial action the union was observing at the time. He never got to Kano. He did as a result of the injury he sustained from the collision fashioned by the group of poorly-trained killer drivers of Gov. Wada. The governor later requested the concerned authority to help him train his chauffeurs. 

In a situation like this one is forced to ask: where are we going as a nation? Are the political leader interested in the education of the teaming youth? How can the docile youth help salvage a dying nation? The struggle that killed Prof Iyayi, will it continue? Could Iyayi have been so naive as to believe that his generation can heal Nigeria of its innumerable maladies? Who will carry on after Iyayi? We will certainly miss the man in Iyayi who refused to be rich even when he had the opportunity. Very few of his colleagues in the academia will put their lives on the line to travel on  the lethal Nigerian roads across the Niger River just for the purpose of trying to build a future of which he new he would never be part of. It is on this note that i see the danger ahead of the Nigerian state because it is his students nationwide, and not Iyayi, who are suppose to be protesting the moribund state of their learning environment. Regrettably, the student never new the depth of Iyayi's statesmanship and his commitment to their generation.   

As i write this contribution to the many voices of anger that greeted Iyayi's demise, the federal government is threatening a showdown with the Union leaders on the very day Iyayi would be laid to rest, December 4. The government of Dr Jonathan has instructed the Union to go back to work or risk being sacked. ASUU on their own have warned that any move to break the strike will be resisted. The union reminded Mr Jonathan that a military junta has tried it decades ago and had its fingers burnt. Will the president of 170 million people be called to order by a tiny pressure group: it remains to be seen. 

Adieu Festus Iyayi of Nigeria.