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Festus Iyayi: Too much a sacrifice for executive lawlessness

By Rotimi Fasan
It all looks and sounds so surreal that Festus Iyayi is dead, victim of yet another case of executive lawlessness. By executive lawlessness I’m not just referring to the irresponsible and rampaging conduct of Idris Wada, one of the sorry cases now functioning as state governors in a Nigeria supposedly under the rule of law.

I include in my statement of executive recklessness those whose violations of simple agreements reached between them and the Academic Staff Union of Universities led to the protracted strike that has now needlessly claimed the life of Iyayi; those whose corrupt ways have made air travels such high risk business that sane people would rather endure the hardship and equally grave risks of long road trips than enter the flying coffins that routinely drop out of our air space like errant asteroids.

TEARS FOR IYAYI—Relations and sympathisers console Mrs Grace Iyayi (4th L), widow of former president of ASUU, Late Prof. Festus Iyayi at Ekosodin in Benin City. Photo: Barnabas Uzosike.
TEARS FOR IYAYI—Relations and sympathisers console Mrs Grace Iyayi (4th L), widow of former president of ASUU, Late Prof. Festus Iyayi at Ekosodin in Benin City. Photo: Barnabas Uzosike.


O yes, Festus Iyayi is dead but this is too much sacrifice to expect from a man who has already given so much to Nigerian children; one who endured the onslaught of a university administration that, at the behest of a despotic military, flung his belongings out of his university quarters, took his job from him and turned him and his family into overnight destitutes in their own country.

This was his reward for leading a strike of the academic union of universities as their president 27 years ago. Not even the most far-sighted clairvoyant could have guessed it would all end in this way. That having escaped the bang of military violation, it would all end for him with the vile whimper of civil recklessness. It’s too much a price to pay for the survival of our decayed educational system.

Iyayi deserved more than this and ASUU must prove this by instituting a civil case against Idris Wada and his rampaging goons. The Governor must be hounded through the instrumentality of the law until his likes learn the norms of civilised conduct. He is definitely a menace to the community of Nigerian road users.

It was just last week I commented here on the irresponsible ways of our public officials and their uniformed murderers misnamed escorts. I talked about the irresponsibility of so-called police aides and guards engaging their weapons in crowded places as with the Adoration Ground murder of 27 Nigerians fleeing apparently from the shot of a police aide of Peter Obi, governor of AnambraState.

I had rhetorically asked if it would be ‘strange that a security aide of a politician, even a governor, would use their weapon in a crowded place?’ and had answered that: ‘This indeed is common practice with our trigger-happy police and military operatives who, as escorts to politicians and other public officials, are known to shoot guns with live ammunition into the air simply to find their way out of crowded traffic.

The frightful pandemonium that follows such irresponsible use of arm is never the business of our kill-and-go officers of the law’. Only a week after I wrote those lines, a police aide of Idris Wada drove dangerously in a reckless overtake into the vehicle conveying Iyayi and other ASUU leaders to the NEC meeting of the body in Kano.

The meeting was to consider outcome of the referendum from the branch associations of ASUU on the need or not to review the four months old strike. Rather than the euphoria that would have followed the expected positive outcome of the meeting, we now have ashes in our mouth and wear sackcloth in mourning.

No, ASUU must demand legal recompense from Wada, however inadequate and impossible it is to bring back Iyayi. What can Wada who only recently, just less than a year ago, was involved in another vehicular crash that left him with a fracture and took the life of his police aide- what does Wada or the FRSC that promised to clamp down on executive recklessness of this nature- what do they have to say about Wada’s unruly driving habit?

This, if no other, is additional proof of the reckless conduct of our public officers, appointed or elected. They conduct themselves as if only they have the right to life. They plunder the treasury and rather than cover their faces in shame they flaunt the proceeds of their theft in the eyes of the dispossessed.

They make air travels either unsafe or too costly for ordinary Nigerians to make, while they go about in so-called private jets acquired at public expense. What can Wada show as proof of his own contribution to Nigeria where people talk of Iyayi who was not only a professor of Business Administration but also a novelist of note?

Iyayi we all know; his works we’ve read. But what, for goodness sake, do Nigerians know of Wada other than his ghastly traffic record and disputed electoral victory as governor of KogiState?  Yet he goes around, like his executive kith and kin, causing needless deaths on our highway!

Could these executive-induced deaths across the land be some macabre blood ritual for power?  With his Heroes, a satiric take on the Nigerian khakied class of ‘desk generals’ who made themselves heroes of the Nigerian Civil War at the expense of the subalterns- with Heroes Iyayi celebrates foot soldiers of the War.

With this novel that won him the Commonwealth Prize for Literature, Iyayi in 1987 etched his name on Nigeria’s literary map. Heroes and Violence, another novel of his, were among other texts I supervised for long essays submitted by two of my graduating students.

These students would be returning to pick their degrees at the end of this strike while Iyayi who fought to make the future richer for them lies cold beneath the earth. With his contribution to the educational and political growth of this country, Festus Iyayi has paid his dues for Nigeria. The task now is for ASUU not to let his legacy go to waste and that must begin with seeking legal redress for his death.


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