Nigerians have continue to lament the death of former president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Professor Festus Iyayi, who died in an auto crash on Lokoja-Abuja road, while traveling to Kano for the union’s National Executive Council(NEC) meeting.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, described late Professor Iyayi as “a man who gave his all in the struggle and led by example.”
Condoling members of his immediate family at their residence in Benin City, Governor Adams Oshiomhole, who noted that Iyayi’s death was a rude shock to him, said: “I am here on behalf of the good people of Edo State to condole with you and members of your family on the death of Professor Festus Iyayi. The Iyayi family cannot be defined in terms of the wife, the immediate children, as well as family members.
“Iyayi was a member of a much larger family that cuts across the length and breadth of Nigeria. For me, and I believe for all those who knew him, it was a rude shock. In fact, I was extremely shocked. It was extremely shocking when somebody showed me a text message and suggested in that message that Iyayi might not have survived that accident. I told the man not to spread false rumour.
“A week before then, I saw him on television along with his colleagues providing intellectual backing as to why the Federal Government should deliver on its commitment to ASUU as per the agreement signed in 2009. I played a part in the signing of that agreement after both parties shifted ground.
“When I learnt that our comrade died in such gruesome manner, only a stone hearted person would not be moved. I do not know how to convey, not just my feeling, but the feelings of those who have known him.
“I had known him when I was in the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and ASUU at that time was not part of the NLC. Iyayi along with his colleagues provided intellectual backing to support and encourage the NLC to articulate its position on a variety of socio-economic and political issues. So he was always there”, he said.
Oshiomhole noted that “in line with the ASUU tradition of selfless service and sacrifice in the true sense of that word, he would always travel by road covering long distances where even junior officers and lower people would rather take flights. ASUU leaders would always go by road to any part of the country, leading by example.
“When people talk of selfless service, commitment to nation, leadership by example giving your all to what you believe in, constituting yourself to a one man liberation army driven by national passion to reposition our great country to lead the continent to the way God had intended, Iyayi represented the best of that tradition”, he noted.
Oshiomhole insisted “even those who disagreed with his logic could not fault his position. Even those who faulted his logic could not fault his patriotism that informed those positions. Those are the kind of leadership every community needs if Nigeria would be different from what it has been.
“When I came here, I was troubled by the position of Ambrose Alli University and I wanted people who have dedicated their lives to the cause of education, Professor Iyayi and Dr Peter Ozo-Eson are people I knew all their lives they have worked persuading government to accord the appropriate recognition and sufficient allocation to the university system in order to build the much needed competent human capital.
“I approached them to be members of the governing council which they readily accepted and offered their time generously along with others to provide leadership for the AAU. When I say that we feel the pains, it is not a matter of rhetoric”, he said.
Responding on behalf of the family, Professor Austine Ebewele thanked the governor for the visit and said the death was a big loss not only to the family but also to the university community.
Commenting on the death, Nigeria Medical Association, NMA President, Osahon Enabulele, said: “While we mourn the extremely sad and tragic death of this dogged and courageous fighter for socio-economic and political justice in Nigeria, and an unrepentant crusader for restoration of standards and excellence in university education, we are pained that his death followed another despicable act of recklessness and impunity by executive convoys.
“The NMA, calls on the Federal Government to institute an urgent official inquiry into the circumstances that led to Prof. Iyayi’s death while machinery is urgently put in motion by the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, to put an end to the recklessness of executive convoys whose intolerable impunity has sent many innocent and productive Nigerians to their early graves.
“Surely, we shall miss the inspirational literary works and great personality of Prof. Festus Iyayi, especially at this crucial period of our country’s history when his usually frank contributions to the resolution of the several questions bordering on the existence of the Nigerian state, are most needed.
“While we await the outcome of the official inquiry into the auto crash, we deeply condole with the entire Iyayi family, the President and members of ASUU and the Vice-Chancellor, University of Benin,” Enabulele said.
Reacting, yesterday, to Iyayi’s death, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG claimed the recklessness by the convoy of Governor Wada brought to the fore the need for the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, the police and other relevant traffic agencies to enforce speed limits on our highways by those carrying dignitaries.
NUPENG, in a statement by its General Secretary, Isaac Aberare, while commiserating with the immediate family of Prof. Iyayi and leadership of ASUU, insisted that Iyayi’s death “is just one death too many caused by convoys of this nature and the National Assembly must pass a law to stop such reckless driving and penalise offenders.
“NUPENG also calls on the federal and state governments to rehabilitate our roads to make them motorable, instead of the bad incidences of pot holes dotting our roads causing accidents. The nation cannot continue to lose innocent lives due to negligence and recklessness on the part of government and uncaring government drivers. NUPENG condoles with the family of Professor Iyayi, who was a dogged activist, and known for his non-compromising position when he held sway at ASUU and pray that God will grant him eternal rest. Professor Iyayi will be remembered as an astute academic and labour leader who brought the activities of ASUU to limelight and a force to be reckoned with in the fight for better education in our tertiary institutions today.”
The supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike also commiserated with the family of the deceased.
In a statement, Wike said: “The late former ASUU President was an erudite scholar whose academic and professional contributions to national development will be missed. I pray God to grant the ASUU, the family of Professor Iyayi and the entire nation, the strength to bear this loss. We are very sad about the death of Professor Festus Iyayi who had been a strong voice in the advancement of quality university education in our country. His death is a huge loss to Nigeria.”