DR. Festus Iyayi, author, academic and activist of extraordinary endowments lost his life in a ghastly auto crash along Abuja-Lokoja highway on Tuesday, November 12, 2013, to bring to a climax an odyssey of struggle, commitment and dedication to social justice in his fatherland.
The author of epochal novel: Violence and Heroes and other seminal works died at a time the struggle for excellence in the academia was at a crucial stage in the hands of officials of the Nigerian state that has since become a Leviathan.
Dr. Iyayi and other senior executives of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) were travelling to Kano for a crucial meeting on whether or not ASUU should call off the four month old strike embarked upon by lecturers in the country.
The strike had paralysed the university system. As a past leader of ASUU and key labour activist, Dr. Iyayi’s presence and contributions were crucial.
The unfortunate encounter with the convoy of the Governor of Kogi State Alhaji Idris Wada, at Banda village on the Abuja-Lokoja highway, terminated the journey and his sojourn here on earth. Accidents are products of several factors ranging from recklessness, negligence, mechanical faults, misjudgements, as the case may be. But the accident that took the life of Iyayi was a product of exhibition of power and influence by elected public officeholders, a class of people who sought and obtained the mandate of the people. They ride in jets and armoured vehicles, they terrorise people on the roads with convoys of cars driven by men who have no respect for other road users.
When soldiers were in power, Nigerians tolerated the nuisance of sirens by military overlords and their cronies because in the first place, they were usurpers of the positions they occupied. Secondly, they were not accountable to any person or institutions.
The military rulers were barefaced dictators whose actions and inaction were laced with impunity.
With the advent of democratic governance, Nigerians have in the past 14 years yearned to see an end to vestiges of militarism in public office. We have lost so many lives through the recklessness of convoys of government officials.
Yet, these have not moved these demi-gods to change their way.
The Governor of Kogi State, whose convoy killed Iyayi, the academic giants has a reputation of being accident prone. The last crash was the latest in a list of mishaps involving his convoy.
Roads in Nigeria have suddenly become killing fields as countless numbers of lives are lost daily to auto crashes and armed robbers but to think that we have lost a patriot, a champion of the oppressed and a sophisticated human capital like Dr Festus Iyayi through an avoidable accident is nothing but a sign of retrogression.
We have come to the point where Nigerians should explore legal assistance to check some acts of recklessness or criminal negligence arising from the misconducts of the state and its agents.
We cannot close our eyes to actions that willfully take the lives of other Nigerians and plunge their families and dependents into misery and deprivation.
We mourn his sudden demise and condole with his family which like many others in the past have become victims of an act of executive lawlessness which elected public office holders inherited from discredited military dictatorship.