The burial ceremony for a former President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Festus Iyayi, has been tentatively fixed for the first week of December, a member of the Iyayi’s family, Prof. Robert Ebewele, disclosed Thursday.
The disclosure came as the federal government expressed deep shock and regret over the death of the former ASUU president, describing him as a foremost patriot and literary icon.
Also, the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), has expressed shock and sadness at the road accident, which led to the death of Iyayi, just as a former Chairman of the Committee of Pro-Chancellors and chairman of Bi-Courtney Group, Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), expressed shock at the tragic manner in which Iyayi died.
Iyayi died in an auto crash involving the convoy of Kogi State Governor, Idris Wada, in Banda, Lokoja, while he was on his way to honour a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the union in Kano State, over the four-month-old strike by university teachers across the country.
But Ebewele, who disclosed the funeral plan, when the Pro-chancellor of the University of Benin Senator Effiong Dickson Bob, paid a condolence visit to the bereaved family, said the funeral would commence with a commendation service.
He stressed that the family would liaise with the university community for the burial programme, even as he thanked his guest for his concern.
Earlier, Effiong, who was led on the visit by the Vice-Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Osayuki Oshodin, said: “It’s my hope that his death will spur ASUU leadership to honour him by finding a lasting solution to the strike even as I urge all those who are alive to do all they could with steadfastness and courage.”
Also, the Minister of Information and supervising Minster for the Ministry of Defence, Mr. Labaran Maku, while expressing federal government’s condolences, in a statement he personally signed said Iyayi was not just a scholar of first class distinction, but a true Nigerian, who had distinguished himself in the literary world, particularly with his two classics: Violence and Heroes.
Maku added that Iyayi’s death came shortly after the demise of Prof. Chinua Achebe, stating that the two incidents had robbed Nigeria, Africa and indeed the entire literary world of two outstanding giants, who made distinctive contributions to Africa’s literature.
“He was never one of those scholars seen at the corridors of power seeking favours. He devoted his life to scholarship and active struggle for the democratisation and transformation of Nigeria. This death indeed has robbed Nigeria of one of Africa’s most fecund minds and a devoted advocate for Africa’s renaissance,” he said.
In its reaction, the National Chairman of PDM, Mallam Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim, said the demise of Iyayi came at a time when his services were still needed most by the academic community.
Ibrahim, who spoke through his Media Adviser, Mr. Alaba Yusuf, deplored the incessant loss of valuable Nigerian lives to avoidable road accidents.
“Nigeria has endured too much loss of its priceless human assets through untimely deaths resulting from unnecessary road accidents. Iyayi was a global academic icon who didn’t have to die this way. We pray for the repose of his soul and further pray God to grant his family the fortitude to bear the sad loss,” the party said.
Meanwhile, Babalakin, who was the chairman of the Implementation Monitoring Committee of the Federal Government/University-based Unions Agreement 2009, expressed regret that Iyayi’s death was a sad development and a set-back to the current effort to halt the prolonged industrial action by ASUU.
He however said Iyayi’s death, as sad and regrettable as it was, should serve as a nudge to the whole nation on areas of our national life that require urgent and sincere attention.
In a statement issued yesterday, Babalakin commiserated with the leadership and members of ASUU as well as the immediate family members and friends of the astute professors, on the tragic death.
“I knew Iyayi as a brilliant and committed scholar and an exemplary leader, who wanted the very best for the Nigerian universities and the educational system in general,” he said.
Babalakin, who recalled his close relations with Iyayi as well as other officials of ASUU, when he served as the chairman, Committee of Pro-Chancellors said: “Iyayi would not have died in vain if the sad occurrence of Tuesday caused us to revisit and act on the agreements between ASUU and the federal government.”
The Bi-Courtney chairman, who was the immediate past Pro-Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID), said: “The agreements were painstakingly negotiated with the prime desire not only to uplift tertiary education in Nigeria from its lowly, less-than-ideal state, but to also, ultimately, lead to the autonomy of universities in the country.”