- Monday, April 14, 2014
By Chukwudi Nweje / Assistant Features Editor
Late Professor Festus Iyayi
Now that a Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) report has indicted the convoy of Kogi State Governor Idris Wada as being responsible for the death of Professor Festus Iyayi, a one time President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in November last year, what happens next?
This seems to be the question puzzling the minds of activists. The former President of ASUU died in an accident involving the bus he was travelling in and the convoy of Kogi State Governor, Captain Idris Wada along the Abuja – Kogi highway. One of the pilot cars in the governor’s convoy, a Toyota Hilux vehicle which was conveying six police details had crashed into the bus in which Iyayi and other activists were travelling, killing him instantly.
The late Iyayi was travelling to Kano for the National Executive Committee meeting of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) which was then deliberating on how to end the six month-long strike that plagued the university system last year.
It will be recalled that the nature of the injuries noticed on Iyayi’s heart area after the accident had fuelled speculations that he might have been shot in the chest region, implying that he might not have died as a result of the accident alone.
Nevertheless, the FRSC report obtained through the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by human rights lawyer and activist, Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and made public disclosed that the Kogi State Governor’s convoy was responsible for the November 12, 2013 accident which led to the death of University don.
The FRSC report, dated March 21, 2014, dismissed weather or vehicle conditions as probable causes of the accident, stating that the driver of the Toyota Hilux pick-up van in the convoy was the cause of the accident. It also stated that the hole in the late Professor Iyayi’s chest which led to his death was caused by metal piercings from the bus he was travelling in alongside other persons who survived the car crash.
According to the FRSC report, the driver of the Hilux pick-up travelling “on a high but determined speed South-bound of the road, deliberately failed to return to and stick to his lane of travel. Contributing to the injury severity was speed, the direction of impact and one of V#1’s (Iyayi’s vehicle) body reinforcement materials which pierced through the heart area of the fatal injury”, the report read in part.
The report also stated that Captain Idris Wada’s convoy vehicle reduced the speed of oncoming vehicles on the opposite lane and in the process sideswiped the left side of the bus conveying Professor Iyayi. The FRSC also blamed the delay in completion of the Lokoja-Abuja road project for the incident.
Unfortunately, the report though providing answers to who killed Iyayi has opened up fresh rounds of agitations. Despite its findings, the FRSC had merely left the Kogi State governor’s convoy with an advice. The FRSC had advised governor’s convoy to “maintain adequate lane discipline and desist from running other vehicles off-road.”
Analysts described the advice contained in the conclusion of the report as a bad way to end a good report.
Emmanuel Onwubiko, a former Commissioner in the National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), described the FRSC report as unfortunate saying that the commission spoilt what would have been a good report by its failure to recommend punitive punishment for the offending driver.
“FRSC by this hollow and substantially weak conclusion did not recommend punitive measures for the alleged killers of Prof. Iyayi because even after finding out the real culprits, it went to the ridiculous limit of preaching to the guilty parties without deploying or invoking its legal powers to punish the offenders. Have FRSC officials become religious preachers?
“By this show of shame, the commission has promoted official impunity which implies that the law is only meant to sanction the weak and the poor who are in conflict with the law. Federal Government must take measure to prosecute the guilty parties in the killing of Prof. Iyayi except Nigeria has officially become a banana republic.
“This tendency which contributes to general break down of law and order must be reversed if we ever hope to salvage Nigeria from spiralling violence and bloodshed occurring virtually in all segments of our Nigerian society” Onwubiko argues.
The November 12, 2013 accident was the second time in the past two years that the Kogi State Governor’s convoy was involved in an accident that claimed at least one life. In December 2012, his convoy was in an auto crash that broke the governor’s leg, killed a security aide and injured at least one other official of the state.
Apart from Governor Wada, other some other state governors’ convoys have also been involved some of which led to loss of lives. For instance, in April 2012, the convoy of Governor Oshiomhole of Edo State was involved in an auto accident in which three journalists died and four others were injured. In September 2012, three political aides of governor Al-Makura of Nassarawa State were killed in a multiple auto crash involving the governor’s convoy. In November last year, the convoy of then Governor of Kaduna State, Patrick Yakowa, was reported to have killed a road side orange seller. The same year, the convoy of Zamfara State Governor Abdul Aziz Yari was also reported to be in an accident. Late 2012, the convoy of Rochas Okorocha, Imo State Governor and that of Senator Chris Anyanwu were involved in an accident in the state. The death of Iyayi in what was a preventable accident has opened new debates on the relationship between leaders and the led in Nigeria.
Back in November 2013, Bamidele Aturu, a Lagos based lawyer and human rights activist had blamed the death of Iyayi on the little regard Nigerian leaders have for the citizenry. He had argued that what happened to Iyayi was not an accident, but tantamount to murder. “Comrade Festus Iyayi was gruesomely murdered. He did not die by a yet to be identified assassin in the employ of the Government of Kogi State. This is the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the facts that are now available in the public domain. The story is that while travelling along Lokoja-Abuja road in the company of his ASUU comrades on their way to Kano to discuss the way forward in respect of the ongoing strike, an escort car in the convoy of the Governor of Kogi State, Mr. Idris Wada, rammed into the ASUU bus killing our beloved comrade and wounding, hopefully not fatally, some other lecturers.
“It is difficult to accept the wasting of one of Africa’s most cerebral and committed scholars by a reckless driver who probably assumed that because he was ‘privileged’ to be in a Governor’s convoy he was above traffic regulations and other users of the road, including even his intellectual superiors. The murder of Comrade Iyayi is no doubt a product of the empty pomposity that pervades the corridors of power in Nigeria, from the Governors to their cooks. This pomposity is seen in a culture of impunity and recklessness that gives them the sense that they own our lives, and all that belongs to this country. This is the only way one can understand why they expect all other road users to disappear from the road whenever they ply the roads.
“The madness of reckless killings on our roads by those who occupy government houses must stop. The only way to end it is to insist, as some of our comrades are suggesting, that the man in Kogi Government House must be produced and prosecuted for manslaughter. It is a shame that it appears that the Governor of that State lacks the capacity to prevent his drivers from reckless and senseless driving; otherwise his convoy should not have been involved in another accident so soon after the tragic accident that claimed the life of his ADC just in December 2012.
It may well be that his drivers expect that the only way they can please a former pilot, that he is, is to literally fly on the road. Whatever the case may be, the Governor is vicariously liable for the murder of one of the heroes of the Nigerian struggle against impunity. He too will be made to pay one way or the other. Some of us will be willing to pursue this matter to a logical conclusion.
“Our continent, nay the world, has lost one of the most passionate believers in social justice and equity. He was one of the most honest and dependable ally. We have lost a dogged advocate of decency and consummate teacher. It is indeed an irony that a man who spent his entire life campaigning against impunity should be murdered so recklessly,” he argued.
Similarly, Abiodun Aremu, Secretary General Joint Action Front (JAF) had also decried the attitude of Nigerian leaders saying it was “a monumental tragedy inflicted on the working and oppressed people in Nigeria by a murderous class of rulers in Government. The culture of impunity and recklessness making comrades and the oppressed people victims must stop. The rule of struggle must change. We must no longer be the victims. We are duty bound if indeed we are comrades in the real sense it should be, to avenge Iyayi and other comrades’. This is the clarion call to an organised revolution to change this unjust system” he said.
According to him the death of Iyayi is another too many. It is another tragic loss to the Nigerian Socialist Movement. “What a Big loss? What a monumental tragedy inflicted on the working and oppressed people in Nigeria by a murderous class of rulers in Government? Indeed, this is a tragic loss for Comrade Professor Festus Iyayi to have been wasted by the Kogi State Governor’s reckless convoy.
Nigerian roads and rulers have wasted our very dear comrades in questionable circumstances. Mahmud Tukur – a former ASUU President in the early 80s was wasted on the Kaduna – Zaria road in a very suspicious riddle yet uncovered; Bala Jibril Muhammed on the Maiduguri – Bauchi road; Chima Ubani on the Maiduguri – Potiskum road; Abiodun Kolawole on the Ekiti road. Now it is Comrade Iyayi on the Lokoja – Abuja road.
This is not the time to agonise. This is not about legality. This is not about morality. This is not about consolation. It is about whether we deserve to be human or not? Animals in human skin should no longer preside over our destiny where just people are supposed to abound. The culture of impunity and recklessness making comrades and the oppressed people victims must stop. The rule of struggle must change. We must no longer be the victims.
We are duty bound “if indeed we are comrades in the real sense it should be”, to avenge Iyayi and other comrades. This is the clarion call to an organised revolution to change this unjust system. Suffer suffer must stop. We must be human enough to conquer the fears in us. It is either we are free or remain in bondage and await the next victim in our rank. No one should shed any drop of tears for me if am the next victim of road/air accident or state murder.”
For Debo Adeniran, executive chairman of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) and Convener Beko Rights Klub (RBK), the recommendations of the FRSC as unfortunate and justice could not be done until the offending driver is arrested and prosecuted.
“It is a known fact that many convoys of our so-called leaders drive recklessly breaking the rules of driving on our roads. The lawlessness of our public officials and their convoys should be stopped. Lives are being lost in droves daily due to the reckless driving of these people. Proper investigation should be conducted into the case, the driver should be fished out and tried for manslaughter to serve as deterrent to others” he said.