A Tragic Loss to the Struggle for Revitalisation of the Public University System
It was with shock that the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) received the news of the death of Professor Festus Iyayi in a road accident yesterday involving the accident-prone convoy of the Kogi State Governor Idris Wada. Two other leaders of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) were according to report critically injured and receiving treatment at the hospital. Prof. Iyayi alongside others was on his way to attend a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of ASUU to discuss issues related to the on-going strike of the union.
This sad news is totally shocking and heartbreaking. We commisserate with the leadership and members of ASUU as well as families of the deceased and injured and all Nigerians who support the struggle to save public education.
That Prof. Festus Iyayi died on his way to ASUU NEC is a testimony to his lifelong commitment to the struggle for a better public University education system for the children of the working masses and poor in general. He was ASUU president in 1986, yet he remained a vocal critic of government anti-poor education and economic policies since then and was until his death a prominent member of ASUU's team negotiating with government the need to honour the 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement.
This is not an act of God. Prof. Festus Iyayi's death is avoidable. If our roads are safe for travelling and Governors and other elected officials stop their habitual recklessness and disrespect for the rights of other road users, perhaps Prof. Festus Iyayi would still be alive today.
Regrettably due to the incurable corruption of the capitalist ruling elite and the profit-first mentality of the neo-colonial capitalist system of privatisation and deregulation Nigeria operates, road infrastructures and all other means of transportation like rail, sea and air are in such devastated, abandoned and antediluvian condition that it is now according to conventional wisdom often seen as nothing short of a miracle for Nigerians to transit daily by road, sea or air and then come back home safely. Needless to stress many lives are lost daily due to the dilapidated condition of road infrastructure but this scarcely makes the news since they are not prominent individuals. According to a report by the Federal Road Safety Corps, an average of 11 people were killed daily in road accident across Nigeria in 2012. The death occurred in 6,269 road traffic crashes.
Combined with this is the "big-man" elitist mentality of corrupt government officials like Governors, lawmakers and Ministers who once they assume the mantle of leadership immediately become uncomfortable with their old humble means of transportation and now junket about in convoys of ten cars or more, blaring sirens wildly and deliberately driving recklessly along roads thus terrorising ordinary Nigerians who supposedly voted them into office.
As expected President Goodluck Jonathan whose failure to honour a simple agreement signed with University lecturers since 2009 caused Prof. Festus Iyayi to embark on the ill-fated journey is one of the earliest mourners. We want no crocodile tears from the Federal government. More than ever before, Prof. Festus Iyayi's death imposes a heavy moral burden on President Goodluck Jonathan to honour the 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement in the interest of the revitalisation of public University education and respite for home-weary students.
The Kogi State Governor's convoy was responsible for this accident. According to records this is one accident too many by the Kogi State Governors' convoy. We demand appropriate disciplinary sanctions within the ambit of law for the driver in the convoy who was responsible for this accident. However while the driver is a small fry, the capitalist ruling elite comprising Governor Idris Wada and all other Governors and government officials who have penchant for long convoys is the main culprit.
The ERC demands abolition of convoys. It is an unconscionable waste of public funds. In a rational society where there is socio-economic justice, efficient and comfortable means of mass transportation and security of lives is guaranteed, there will be no reason for an individual to move around in convoy of several vehicles. The only reason public office holders have to go around in convoys is to screen and protect themselves from possible backlash from the hopelessness and mass misery in the midst of abundance which their neo-liberal capitalist economic policies have created in society. Over 100 million Nigerians are poor in a population of 170 million. Logically, the 1% who have created this unjust condition can only move about successfully with "adequate" security which long convoys provides. This to us stresses all over again the need for a revolutionary transformation of society.
While nothing can bring Prof. Festus Iyayi back to life, our commitment to the struggle to save public University education which he spent all his adult life prosecuting is one of the ways to immortalise him. All fighters for a better Nigeria take solace in the fact that Festus Iyayi at least left a positive mark in the struggle for a better public university education for the children of the working masses and the poor im general.
May he sleep well!
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Michael Ogundele
National Coordinator National Secretary