By Dapo Akinrefon, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Olayinka Ajayi & Shina Abubakar
MORE glowing tributes continued to pour in for the late National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin.
Those who paid tributes are constitutional lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana(SAN); the management of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in Osun State; the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, for Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Mike Igini and former presidential candidate Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim.
They described Odumakin’s death as not only tragic, but a monumental loss to the country and the human rights community.
Odumakin was committed to a united Nigeria— Falana
In his tribute entitled: ‘Adieu Yinka Odumakin’, Mr. Falana described the late Odumakin as one who remained committed to a united Nigeria anchored on power devolution from the centre to the other federating units.
The legal icon said: “Yinka Odumakin was an undergraduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University (1986-1989). He was a member of the Alliance of Progressive Students, ALPS.
“Based on his defence of students’ rights Yinka was elected the Public Relations Officer of the Students Union (1987-88). That was the time that the Ibrahim Babangida military junta embarked on the deradicalisation of the universities to weaken the capacity of the Nigerian people to resist the imposition of the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP.
“During the 1988 convocation ceremony of the University, the late Vice-Admiral Patrick Koshoni, stood proxy for the Visitor and military President, General Ibrahim Babangida.
“The students staged a peaceful protest against the recolonisation of the country by imperialism. For leading the protest, Yinka and seven of his colleagues were expelled from the University.
READ ALSO: JIFORM grieves over Odumakin’s death
“My principal, the late Comrade Alao Aka-Bashorun dispatched me to Ife to challenge the expulsion of the student activists at the Oyo State High Court. The trial judge quashed the expulsion and ordered the reinstatement of Yinka and his colleagues.
“When the Babangida junta annulled the results of the June 12 election won by the late Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola, Yinka was among the young men and women who mobilised the Nigerian people to terminate military rule in Nigeria.
“A few years later, I was surprised when Yinka informed me that he had decided to pursue the struggle for the emancipation of the Nigerian people along ethnic lines.
“Thereafter, he pitched his tent with Afenifere, a Yoruba socio-cultural group. Even though Yinka was the youngest member of the group, he was made the spokesman. In that capacity, he effectively publicised the activities of the body and defended its position on national issues.
“Notwithstanding our ideological differences, Yinka consistently called on me to discuss the state of the nation and seek clarifications on major constitutional matters.
“He also referred several cases relating to the infringement of the human rights of the poor and vulnerable members of society to our law for legal redress.
“As a believer in national integration, Yinka married his comrade and girlfriend, Josephine Obiajulu of the Igbo extraction. Despite the pressure recently mounted on him by some separatist groups, Yinka remained committed to a united Nigeria anchored on power devolution from the centre to the other federating units.”
His death is tragic— OAU mgt
Similarly, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Eyitope Ogunbodede noted that the university received Odumakin’s sudden death with shock.
In a statement by the university’s spokesperson, Abiodun Olarewaju, Ogunbodede said the Afenifere spokesperson died when his wealth of experience was most needed to chart a new path for the overall development of Nigeria.
The statement read: “Graduated from the Department of English Language, Obafemi Awolowo University, in 1989, Yinka Odumakin was a vibrant student activist, a mass mobiliser, a great orator and the Public Relations Officer of the Students Unions.
“As an Alumnus, he assisted the Faculty of Arts in raising funds for a few projects that were of immense benefits to the staff and students.”
Odumakin’ll live in our hearts— Igini
Also, the REC for Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Mike Igini, in a statement, described the late Afenifere spokesman as an embodiment of commitment to the success of the Nigerian project.
He said: “The news of the death of Patriot Yinka Odumakin came to me as a rude shock of monumental proportion.
“Comrade Yinka Odumakin’s death is not only a personal irreplaceable loss but a huge loss to the nation.
“Odumakin is an embodiment of commitment to the success of the Nigerian project and demonstrated it with integrity during epochal events such as the Save Nigeria Project and the call for electoral reforms, where he exhibited how the human agency can make or mar the destiny of a nation.”
He was a man of extraordinary courage, says Olawepo-Hashim
On his part, former presidential candidate, Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim described Odumakin as a man of extraordinary courage that stood by his words.
Olawepo-Hashim, in a statement, said: “I woke up to a couple of news items from some online platforms announcing that Yinka Odumakin had just passed on the early hours of that same day (Saturday).
“I was so shocked because a few days earlier he was engaged in a very passionate exchange with some opinion writers. I did not incline that he had been sick all the while.
“I tried getting confirmation from the wife but I did not get feedback until some few hours later, at a time the media was already awash with the tragic news.”
He added: “To say Nigeria has lost another great is, to put it mildly. He was one of the greatest.”
Olawepo-Hashim recalled he met Yinka 33 years ago when the deceased was PRO of Obafemi Awolowo University Students Union and he, Hashim was the PRO of the Students Federation, National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS.
“It was a testy period as we were engaged in a very intense struggle against the military government. Great Ife had invited me to speak on Alternative to SAP, the economic policy of the regime that we were campaigning against.
“Yinka remained on the left of the left platform in the radical movement while I was to the centre of left. But like most of his comrades from Ife such as Lanre Arogundade, Raskeey Ojikutu (Lagos), Adewale Bashar (Ibadan), we were allies in the struggles of the mid and late 1980s.
“Yinka was always passionate with his point of view. He made his debut into partisan politics when he emerged as a spokesman for General Buhari during the 2011 elections.
“He was passionate with General Buhari’s cause when the General had very few friends in the South-West. He probably displayed the same passion against the General when he changed his perspective. That was vintage Yinka.
“Fortunately, Yinka and I had mutual respect for ourselves despite our sometimes opposed perspectives.
“He was very respectful of me or perhaps over respectful as he never called me by my first name even though we were colleagues.
“He called me “Baba”. Yinka cuts the image of a fiery fighter but he was a shy person. There was a Yinka known to those he felt obliged to love and respect different from the Yinka on the newsstand. He was very emotional and humane.
“Another lover of freedom has departed this clime. I mourn a comrade, friend and brother, a man of extraordinary courage.”
He’s a great loss for us in Afenifere— Shonibare
In his condolence message, the acting National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, Chief Supo Shonibare, described Odumakin as a dedicated compatriot that left his mark in the sand of Nigeria’s political terrain.
Shonibare said: “When Yinka Odumakin selected to participate in politics and the struggle for democracy, he did so under the auspices of late Chief Gani Fawehinmi’s group.
“When the present transition to democratic processes, however, began, Chief Fawehinmi’s group was inclined not to participate. Odumakin approached Senator Abraham Adesanya, who directed him to us in Lagos.
“I recall us receiving him in the Afenifere/Alliance for Democracy, Lagos State rally in Ojota in 1998. He was received by our Chairman in Lagos at that time- Alhaji Ganiyu Dawodu and I as Vice-Chairman.
“As we were searching for a younger nucleus within the fold, it was a welcomed relief. He was immediately conscripted to be part of a Governorship Primary team for Ondo State.
“His talent as a gifted wordsmith became self-evident when he began to contribute to the press statements of Afenifere at the national level.
“He was a dedicated Nigerian patriot whose intervention in politics was both an ideological socialist reconstruction of the polity as well as a principled determination to contribute to the restructuring of the polity.
“He has left his mark in the sands of the political terrain in our country. He spoke truth to power and having more loyalty to the Nigerian collective and not any friendship or individual interest.
“We will continue to appreciate and treasure those contributions as we mourn his passing away. It’s a great loss for us in Afenifere.”