First,it came as a rumour then gradually gained its authenticity as many newspaper sites, individual blogs, facebook posts and the online media in general broke the news. The untimely, avoidable and needless death of a union veteran, erudite scholar, distinguished economist and prolific writer Prof. Festus Iyaye. As an early reaction, I pondered aloud… “another avoidable loss”, later did I find my pen and yet later did I find a voice through my ink.
Yes, it was yesterday! Tuesday, 12th November, 2013 that the sun set for Prof. Iyaye as he was travelling to Kano for a meeting of the ASUU National Executive Committee. The controversial circumstance surrounding Iyaye’s accidental death and its involvement with the same convoy of again the same Kogi state Governor Idris wada, a second fatal auto crash in less than one year, is a story for another day.
The incorruptible scholar Iyaye died in the line of duty promoting and fighting for what he stood for, justice and good administration especially in the educational sector of our dear country. A course he has fought for decades which eventually saw him at the helm of ASUU leadership between 1986 to 1988. He has been a key player in the present struggle for a resolution of the over 4 month’s industrial action that has put away teaching, learning and research in the ivory towers of our nation. He was part of the ASUU delegation at the 13 hours Tuesday, 5/11/2013 meeting with FGN, chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan which from all indications will soon see to the end of the impasse.
Perhaps if the ASUU-FGN 2009 agreement was honoured, there would have been no strike! Perhaps if there was no strike, Iyaye would have had no need to travel to Kano at a time like this!! Speculations, speculations and yet more speculations as they run through the minds of family members, academia, literary world, economists, Nigerians and of course our government and all who are touched by this irreplaceable loss.
Condolence messages are flooding in their numbers. Plans to immortalise this icon of knowledge and crusader for the reposition of our education may soon be put in place. As usual, committees may be set up for this purpose. Yes, these are lofty plans in their own merits to give a deserved and merited honour to the late 1947 Edo born Professor of Economics and Business Administration of the University of Benin. Iyaye left the shores of Nigeria in 1968 to pursue his higher education, obtaining an M.Sc in Industrial Economics from the Kiev Institute of Economics, in the former USSR, and then his Ph.D from the University of Bradford, England. His incursion to the literary world saw him stamping an authority with the authorship of four books (Violence, The Contract, Heroes, and Awaiting Court Martial) and his eventual winning of the Commonwealth Prize for Literature for his book, Heroes, in 1988.
One wish that is unanimous amongst all who are affected by the news of his death and indeed all men of good will is that Iyaye deserves and must rest in peace. This can be achieved if a lasting solution is found to the struggle that ‘struck’ Iyaye dead. Stake holders in the tertiary education of our country must ensure that best practices are maintained. It is pertinent to ensure that conducive teaching, learning and research environment are restored, improved infrastructure, improved students hostel conditions, improved remunerations, employment of qualified staff, admission of qualified students, adequate sanctions on erring staff and students without favour, bias, ethnic considerations or affiliations and indeed that all standard compromising practices are eschewed.
Only when these and perhaps more are achieved can Iyaye rest in peace.
Emeka Onuekwusi is a lecturer at the Federal University of Technology Owerri and writes from Owerri.