In his well-acclaimed novel, “Violence”, the late Festus Iyayi describes the condition of an average Nigerian symbolised by Idemudia, writing that the character’s “unfinished education, his joblessness, his hunger, his poverty, all these…were different forms of violence” being unleashed on him by the powers that be, represented by the Queen.
Unfortunately, it was a case of double violence against the award-winning author as the vehicle in which he was travelling during this Tuesday (November 12, 2013), for the same issues of poor wages and protest against wrong conditions of service he wrote on, was violently hit. It was a fatal hit in Kogi.
The violence was compounded by the reported denial of complicity by the minders of Governor Idris Wada of Kogi State, whose reckless driver committed the original violence. By the way, when are we going to ban Governors’ killing convoys from our roads?
There are people who live what they write and there are those who just write what they like. The former group is rare, the latter legion. Professor Festus Iyayi wrote that a worker “is paid so little because he accepts it” and he died in the struggle of protesting against the rot in the university system. He lived his words.
“A man gets a job and he cannot protest. He cannot ask for higher wages, the period of his leisure is cut down arbitrarily and he must come out to work when he is old. This was slavery,” he wrote. He rose to become the President of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and many years afterwards, he remained in the forefront of struggle against perceived slavery. He died in the course as he was on his way to Kano where he wanted to attend an important Congress.
Part of the paradox of our time is that good people die often and bad people stay rather long, causing atrocities and wreaking havoc. There is solace in the words of Carlin for the family, friends and associates of the late Professor: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”
For Prof. Iyayi, great moments took his breath away. May his kind be multiplied! Adieu, one of Nigeria’s “Heroes”, the title of another one of his novels!