UNILAG ASUU Versus Iyayi’s Legacy

By Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye
Immorality is a virtue that all homo-sapiens lacks. Only the creator possesses it. If whales and sharks whose sizes double that of man are preys of death, who is surprised that man too, could die?
Temporal and physical insignia of this celestial ball is a vain venture to the death’s royal staff. The stings of death never discriminate base on posture or power. Works and wealth are never worthy to this dangerous leveler. Fame and fate are nothing to him.
Death seems to detest good people. Since all human being are like tamed domestic animals to death, he makes sure he is meticulous in marring the candles of those who wipe tears from the faces of the poor masses.
Oh! Poor death, a skillful schemer and ambidextrous that stops a sewer from reaping his bountiful seeds. Death is not like a partial agent of nature that leaves the addict drunkard only to take away gentle souls of the teetotal.
A graveyard silence pervaded the nation of Nigeria on November 12 2013 when the shocking news of Dr. Festus Iyayi, a former National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities’ (ASUU) transition to glory hit the blogosphere.
Iyayi’s death was a paralyzing shock not because he was a toddler; his constituency, I mean the intelligentsias and the poorest of the poor wailed uncontrollably because he died at battle front. Iyayi died while struggling for a just and an egalitarian Nigeria.
Festus Iyayi was among the greatest men that marked a new epoch in history and of course a man whose lifestyle was a model. Throughout his amazing lecturing career at the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Edo-State, Iyayi was resilient.
Even when the Alele Williams administration in UNIBEN dismissed Iyayi for being critical of the bourgeoisies at the corridor of power, he was unperturbed. Instead of engaging in fisticuffs, Iyayi dragged federal government to court with the help of a Human Rights Activist, Femi Falana and conquered. Iyayi’s office at the Department of Business Administration, UNIBEN was a Mecca of sort for the younger generation, civil society’s comrades, journalist’s et al. He was a father and mentor to all.
He was a man of the people whose fame transcended beyond the cosmos. He was closer to his root (ASUU) as he never considered himself alien to his subordinates.  He spends his sabbaticals and holidays writing against oppressors and enemies against Nigerian people.
Iyayi’s award winning novel, THE HEROES was used to wage war against capitalism in a supposed socialist state. The wide academic experience of late Festus Iyayi with his delight was a preamble and armament that prepared him for what he later became in life. He was born a pauper but fought poverty and starvation to become a chief corner stone.
To his students, comrades and colleagues, his name was simply Iyayi. The name was ubiquitous. It is extremely rare for any character in the academic parlance that late Iyayi be called a Dr. This was not to mean an inexcusable disregard for his awe. This was due to the conventional believed that a man of repute should be simply called his mere name.
Today, Iyayi may have been forgotten by those who oppressed him to a journey of no return, but in death, he remains the beloved and darling of his constituency.
While speaking at a special congress organized in Iyayi’s honour on Thursday November 19 in the University of Lagos (UNILAG), the Chairperson of ASUU in the prestigious citadel of learning, Adelaja Odukoya, alleged that Iyayi was murdered by some agents of oppressors led by the Governor of Kogi State, Idris Wada and vowed on behalf of his colleagues to pursue the case to a logical conclusion.
In his tribute in honour of Iyayi, Adelaja declared unequivocally that the award winning writer was a defender of public education who fought for the welfare of the common man. The political scientist described the late Edo State born Iyayi as a compassionate leader who waged war against commercialization of public education in Nigeria.
Adelaja, like many others who spoke at the event, affirmed that Iyayi stood for justice and truth and he was a voice for the voiceless and a friend of the common people who agitated for the enthronement of democratic socialism in Nigeria.
Iyayi died on November 12 2013 in a ghastly motor accident caused by a reckless convoy of Governor Wada when he was on his way to kano to attend an ASUU NEC meeting convened then to deliberate on the four months old strike embarked upon by the union.
Oh! Poor death, what a great injury you have done to ASUU? Why did you wreck so much havoc on the people of Ugbesan, the country home of our gallant fighter? I wonder how Iyayi’s students at UNIBEN would erase his essential commitment and dedication to duty from their memory.
Nonetheless, I took solace on the fact that Iyayi did not die in vain. Today, the younger generation and Iyayi’s colleagues have started enjoying the benefit of what their mentor died for. According to Adelaja, today, 12 physical projects are ongoing at Bayero University, Kano (BUK). The UNILAG ASUU chief also confirmed that the following projects are ongoing in his own institution; they are: Construction of a 15 storey library edifice, renovation of Elkanem Residential Hall and construction of a new ultra modern faculty of Social Sciences building.
Adelaja further revealed that his institution has received N200m for human-capital development. All the afore-mentioned were products of the 2013 struggle that Iyayi died for. In reality, the industrial struggle that claimed the life of Festus Iyayi was the most remarkable in the history of ASUU’s resistance against dearth of public education in Nigeria.
This symbol of Justice whose head has been decorated with a legendary muffler by ASUU remains a martyr of the struggle for a qualitative and affordable education in Nigeria. His effigy, which has been erected strategically in a beautiful mausoleum in his country home, will stand to invent him. Not as far as I know how could I predict if a mere effigy could represent a gem.
Lives on Festus Iyayi!
Adeleye writes from Magodo,Lagos
Tel: +2347039168005 (SMS ONLY).