The four month-long strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, yesterday took the life of a former president of the union, Professor Festus Iyayi of the University of Benin.
Iyayi, who died in a car accident on his way to the National Executive Council meeting of the union in Kano. The NEC meeting was to decide whether to call off or continue the strike after ratifying the decisions of the 61 chapters of the union.
The accident which happened at about 11 am at Banda village along the Lokoja-Abuja highway involved a vehicle in the convoy of the Kogi State Governor, Idris Wada.
With his death, hope of the suspension of the four month strike appears dim as the news shocked his friends and allies in the labour movement.
Also in the ASUU bus conveying the late Professor were Dr. Ngozi Ilo, National Welfare Officer of ASUU who was said to be in critical condition; the Chairman of ASUU branch of UNIBEN, Dr. Anthony Monye Emina, who was reported to be in stable condition and the driver of the vehicle, whose identity was not known at the time of this report.
It was gathered from the KogiStateSpecialistHospital that the female lecturer who sustained fracture in her left arm, and the male passenger who sustained bruises all over his body were receiving treatment at the hospital.
An eyewitness said the accident involved a rear vehicle in the convoy of the Kogi State Governor and a Toyota Hilux with number plate ED 357 USL belonging to ASUU, UNIBEN branch.
The eyewitness who took part in the rescue operation said the rear vehicle in the governor’s convoy pulled out to overtake the other vehicles in the convoy and in the process rammed into the ASUU bus coming from the Lokoja end of the road. He added that the ASUU vehicle veered off the road, and somersaulted three times before hitting a tree in the nearby bush, killing Professor Iyayi instantly and injuring the two others.
Vanguard also gathered that seven security aides of the governor, who were in the vehicle that hit Iyayi’s vehicle also sustained injuries and are receiving treatment at the government house clinic, Lokoja.
Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission, Olakunle Motajo who confirmed the accident said, preliminary investigation revealed that there was wrongful overtaking on the part of the governor’s vehicle, saying that proper investigation has commenced.
Olakunle confirmed that Professor Iyayi’s corpse has been deposited at the hospital morgue where the injured ones are receiving treatment.
Meanwhile, Governor Wada later visited the emergency unit of the hospital to sympathise with the victims and also the mortuary to see the remains of late Prof. Iyayi, saying he was shocked over the incident.
As at 5 p.m. yesterday, lecturers, students, commissioners of the Edo State Government were at Professor Iyayi’s residence in Benin to console his wife, Grace and their four children.
On the current ASUU strike, the late Professor Iyayi had, in an interview with the Worker magazine, said: “We do not believe that government has no money. As we told Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, we are a union of intellectuals, we have economists, experts in economics, and so we have access to the figures that government itself produces in relation to its revenue string.
Government has a lot of money. What is important is not the question of whether government has money or does not have money but the priorities of government in relation to spending the money that it has. Like we told her dramatically, it is not the size of the cake that matters but how you share the cake to the various individuals who have a stake in it.
“So government has a lot of money but how is the government applying that money? Government spent three trillion naira bailing out the banks; it spent 500 billion naira bailing out the airlines; it spent another 100 billion naira for the textile firms; it even had money to give to Nollywood and the Stock Exchange, private people who arrange deals, they had money to give them, about 350 billion naira.
How come when it comes to education, government suddenly says it has no money? It is because they have contempt for education; they want people to remain in ignorance so that they can continue to toy with the destiny of Nigerians. It is not that they don’t have the money; they have a lot of money.
They are now amassing money for 2015, towards the next elections. Whether the country goes to ruin or not it doesn’t matter as long as they can pursue their political ambitions. Yes, government has money!”
Iyayi’s death painful — Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan has expressed sadness over the death of Prof. Iyayi, saying his death was painful because it came at a time that he (Iyayi) was going to contribute to the resolution of the prolonged ASUU crisis.
In a message by the Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati the president described Iyayi as a ‘renowned academic and award-winning writer who rose to national prominence in the 1980s with his courageous leadership of ASUU in its struggle for a better working environment for teachers and academics in the nation’s university system’.
“On behalf of himself and the Federal Government, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan commiserates with the leadership and members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on the tragic death today (yesterday) of former ASUU President, Dr. Festus Iyayi.
“President Jonathan also extends sincere condolences to Dr. Iyayi’s family as well as his colleagues, friends and associates across the country and beyond.
“The President joins them in mourning the renowned academic and award-winning writer who rose to national prominence in the 1980s with his courageous leadership of ASUU in its struggle for a better working environment for teachers and academics in the nation’s university system.
“He is particularly dismayed by the fact that Dr. Iyayi has sadly lost his life while going to contribute to efforts to finally resolve the current ASUU strike which has unfortunately disrupted academics in most of the nation’s universities for over four months.
“President Jonathan prays that God Almighty will comfort all who mourn Dr. Iyayi and grant his soul eternal rest”.