Iyayi: Facts Behind The Tragedy of An Academic Guru

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– A news commentary written by Micheal Abu and Richard Elesho

The recent accident that led to the death of an erudite scholar and precious -soul, Professor Festus Iyayi along Abuja – Lokoja road,  is a great loss to all Nigerians, the academic community and the labour union particularly.

The timing of the accident is painful and tragic, when viewed against the role the late Professor was playing in uplifting the educational system in Nigeria and bringing a closure to the ASUU strike which has lingered for so long. This is one accident too many.

Prof. Iyayi’s death like many others on our Nigerian roads, occasioned by bad road and recklessness on the part of drivers of both government officials and private individuals is most regrettable and very painful, calls for a moment of reflection and a change of attitude by road users.

Prof Iyayi’s death as painful and sudden as it was,is most regrettable and has no doubt delayed the resumption of students in various University campuses across the Country. He was on his way to Kano to attend a National Executive Council meeting towards the re-opening of closed universities.

Several commentators and writers have since the incident celebrated the death of Prof Iyayi. That of course is and was expected for the high caliber personality that he was. He was an acknowledged global academic icon.

Most writers and those who showed concern since the death of a man many see as a role model, have painted the Kogi State Governor, Capt Idris Wada, in bad light. For these sanctimonious writers and commentators death is cheap and nothing is too sacred to be politicized. They seemed therefore in a hurry to hang the tag of a killer, murderer and hired assassin in the guild of a terrorist on the chest of the Governor. They were persuaded and went on unguided public campaign that the accident occurred because of over speeding, recklessness and wrong over-taking on the part of the Convoy.

This is sad and rather uninformed. Those who know Capt. Wada can attest to the fact that though a mortal and not a saint, the Governor abhors violence and retains the highest respect for others. First, his upbringing as a Muslim instill the highest moral values on the sanctity of life. Second, his training and background as a Pilot of impeccable character commands no contrary view. Aviators like those in the medical industry are trained to protect life. Not to take it. They are care givers and not careless or reckless handlers. Certainly, the Wada that we know won’t hurt a fly as is now been imagined by many who have written out of emotions and lack of information.

Yes, the death of the revered academic icon occurred sadly with the escort vehicle in the Governor’s convoy. However, it needs be clarified that the accident occurred after other vehicles in the convoy and of course, including Capt.  Wada’s had entered Lokoja. The ill fated escort vehicle was said to be trailing behind after it had a mechanical challenge. Even then, It is incontrovertible and government did not disguise the fact that the escort was part of the Governor’s convoy.

Clearly, from the foregoing, the Governor did not supervise the death of the erudite scholar as being erroneously painted by a section of the media. Capt Wada got to know of the accident long after it occurred. It is said, “once beaten is twice shy”, thus, the Governor was overwhelmed with shock on hearing the news of the accident. Furthermore,the news about the death of beloved Prof Iyayi further compounded his sense of loss. And promptly he set aside other state duties in order to rush to the hospital on condolence when he did.

The role played by the media in itself to announce the painful death of a leading academic guru was not out of place. What is worrisome is the manner most of the writers skewed the accident and involvement of the Governor who was made to look as someone who sped off the scene and didn’t stop to attend to the injured. This of course couldn’t have been true since the Governor was not present in person at the time of the ghastly crash.

The news of the death of a man who had stood in the struggle and in the fight for human rights by his friends and associates, no doubt served as the first information the Abuja media had, which today seemed to have shaped the opinion of several writers and be clouded the writing judgment of several others.

For those who know Captain Idris Wada at close range, his being painted the way it was reported in most media across the country does not portray his person.  Captain Wada before and now as Governor, values and appreciates the right to life of others. So he does not seem to be one that endanger the lives of others. It was an accident that is most regrettable.

Sadly enough, Iyayi an internationally renowned scholar and commonwealth literature winner died in a manner that is painful and could have been avoided.  It is unfortunate that the unconcerned attitude seen not to have been shown immediately the accident occurred led to his death. We must see it as the timing of God as painful as it may look.

Fortunately an investigation into the matter is ongoing and it is hoped that the report will be made public whenever it is ready. Captain Wada  as Governor, has had cause to severally stop on the same Abuja Lokoja road to assist accident victims in the past. One now wonders why a man whose milk of passion transcend tribal and religious barriers would not stop if his vehicle is directly involved in an accident.

It is unfortunate that accidents kill more people in Nigeria after malaria.  Nigeria is ranked 191 out of 192 countries in the world with unsafe roads and with 162 deaths per 100,000 from traffic accidents. According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, over 1.3 million people are killed annually in road accidents while over 50 million people sustain different degrees of injuries from such crashes.

From the foregoing tabours, to localize accidents as a problem exclusive to the Kogi convoy are futile. For instance, the convoy of a governor of one of the south-West States was once involved in an accident that killed many journalists who were members of his Press Crew; another convoy of an incumbent Governor of one of the South-East states claimed the lives of two students of Kogi State University, Anyigba; similarly, a convoy accident claimed the life of a prominent citizen recently in Portharcourt. Coming home, it is recalled that the first civilian Governor of the State Prince Abubakar Audu had a convoy accident that nearly killed him while the convoy of the immediate past Governor Alhaji Ibrahim Idris was many times involved in accidents. The lesson here is that accidents though universal are hardly intended or deliberate.

Since losing his Aide de Camp in an accident late last year, Governor Wada had decreed slow movement for his convoy. As a result of this, Wada is perhaps the only State Chief Executive in Nigeria today who allows other vehicles be they commercial or private to freely overtake him on the highway. Little wonder, his invitation to the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to come and train all convoy drivers in the State. A man of such discipline and considered disposition cannot be accused of recklessness.

Captain Idris Wada, could not have crucified Iyayi neither the federal government as alleged in some quarters. Every one including the Governor needed Iyayi badly at the time he died. He was believed to have the magic wand that could resolve the lingering face off.
Capt Wada as Governor has not been known to exercise executive lawlessness and recklessness. His ideals about life corroborate with that of the late Professor.

As painful as Iyayi’s death may be, the Governor personally shares in the painful loss . His disposition to work during the mourning period speaks volume.  He was completely overwhelmed by shock and this much was displayed in his  condolence message where he appreciated the passion and vigor with which the late Professor pursued the quest for good quality education.

As a mark of respect for the late professor, the Kogi State Government should do what it can in immortalizing his outstanding contributions.

No excuse would be worth its salt for the death of one of the brightest and best brains in the academy of letters. What ever it takes to continuously apologize for what ought to have been done and was not done to have averted the accident and the avoidable death of the Professor and former ASUU President needs to be done. Having worked tirelessly for humanity, through the struggle for a better and just society, efforts must be made for him to be given a befitting burial.

In the same vein, now that the protracted ASUU strike has claimed a big soul, it is perhaps time for the University teachers to consider sheathing their sword as a mark of last respect for the fallen hero. It is here proposed that ASUU should suspend the strike and tow the path of peace in honour of diseased professor. Only then, would his death not be in vain.

A close look at the activities of Captain Wada as Governor shows that he is also a crusader of the poor who by the incident that regrettably claimed the life of one of the worlds most celebrated, he is been misunderstood and negatively referenced for a fault he could not control.

The Governor’s appeal to the family and all stakeholders to accept Iyayi’s death as an unfortunate accident beyond human control, the timing and he being the sole fatality and the entire ramifications of the accident should all be seen as acts of God who direct the affairs of men in the way that pleases Him.

As we pray for the repose of the soul of Prof. Festus Iyayi, may the Almighty God grant him eternal rest and give the family and Captain Idris Wada, who has been in the news for the death of one of Africa’s most committed scholars, the fortitude to bear this painful loss.

Micheal Abu and Richard Elesho are the Chief Press Secretaries to Kogi State Deputy Governor and Governor respectively.


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