8th May, 2013
By Olumuyiwa Jimoh
This time last year, I had the greatest shock of my life – the assassination of my friend, my brother and my inestimable comrade; Olaitan Oyerinde. The news of his assassination reached us in the wee hours of the morning and we all had hoped it was not going to be true eventually despite having called his lines without getting through successfully. It was a harrowing wait and like the nightmare it was, it finally dawned on us that our dear friend had gone in a most gruesome way in the hands of cold blooded murderers.
To some of us who knew him very closely, it has been a year of moaning around still thinking that somehow we would come out of this horrible cocoon. If he had gone some other way, perhaps, we would have been given the chance to have communed with him but not the way his death came. It was indeed a great loss and has continued being a deep loss which has left a yawning gap in our lives.
Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde was not only an active voice in Nigeria’s Civil Society movement but was an impactful member of the nation’s labour movement. Olaitan as one of the foremost ideologues of the student movement and civil society rights community collaborated with other progressive radical left, especially from the Marxist-Leninist tradition like the late Comrade Chima Ubani, Dr. Sylvester Odion Akhaine, Segun Mayegun, the late Comrade Ola Oni, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola the Generalissimo of Action Congress of Nigeria, Prof. Abubakar Momoh, Comrade Segun Sango of Democratic Socialist Movement, DSM, Barrister Femi Falana SAN), Comrade Abiodun Aremu a.k.a. Aremson, Comrade Baba Omojola, Femi Aborisade, Dr.Dipo Fashina of the great Obafemi Awolowo University, Barrister Jiti Ogunye, Barrister Kunle Adegoke also known as Krad, among many others, to chase away the military junta.
He was murdered in the early hours of the 4th day of May, 2013 last year by hired assassins who are yet to be convicted and which investigative and prosecutorial circumstances have been mired in melodrama. It is widely held view amongst the populace that his assassination would not be far from the events surrounding the last gubernatorial election in Edo state won by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole with whom Comrade Oyerinde worked closely with.
His presence and impact in the Adam’s government in Edo state may have propelled the evil minds to seek his elimination. I recall that during one of my visits to him with one of his contemporaries, Segun Mayegun, the late Olaitan said that in the course of my political participating in partisan politics, I am going to encounter criticisms from people, which will be their nature and it will appear that the scholarship and scientific approach to the problems of life is futile and that what is sound and good in theory is not always sound and good in practice.
He told me with all the emphasis at his disposal, that if a theory is sound, it will be good in practice except if the theory is in error or the application of the theory is faulty. We would therefore conclude that the comrade was murdered because of his service to Edo people, the Nigerian people and much more, the Labour movement.
We raise a memorial to this great comrade, an epitaph to a man who changed the lives and circumstances that he encountered throughout his short stay on this mother earth. The students’ union movement would never forget his tenacity and determination that saw him joining hands with others to confront the anti -democratic forces of the military regime. The early days of the Civil Society movement would also not forget his doggedness in the trenches as we battled the forces of oppression that hitherto held Nigerian people down. Most importantly, the workers of Nigeria and her peoples would not forget the vitriolic pen dripping with scorn as he tore apart the philosophies driving the ideas of neo-liberalism neither would it forget his strategic presence in the road actions and the picket lines. We have all missed him this past one year and the civil society movement in Nigeria is yet to find a fitting replacement to fill the vacuum that his cruel murder created. The people of Edo state, the people of Osun State and indeed Nigerians still mourn his passing. I mourn his exit and sometimes still look forward to his strategic pieces of advice as we march through the maze of life.
Those who chose to perpetrate this heinous and wicked crime against Nigerians and the movement also chose the hallowed period in which the movement remembers her fallen and living heroes. They chose this period I am sure to mock and deride perhaps desecrate the month of May but even in death, Oyerinde will cause a change in the way the security agencies handle their operations in Nigeria. Instead of desecrating this month, his death has gone to strengthen the resolve of Nigerians and the Civil Society movement to gird their loins, dig deep and confront all contrary and retrogressive forces in the society. His blood that was spilled has gone to water the three of liberty, adding zest to the resolve of the progressive elements within the country to continue the quest for total emancipation of the nation from the hands of the brutal cabal holding Nigeria captive.
Even as we mark this period and month with Nigerian workers, we chose to remember the fallen hero – Olaitan Oyerinde, a true hero of the labour movement. The martyred Olaitan has become a sacrifice for the liberation of the peoples of this nation. I therefore call upon every progressive element in Nigeria to gather around the principles that he espoused while he was alive so that this sacrifice would not be in vain.
As we remember this one year of his departure, we call on the relevant authorities and agencies of government to rise to the occasion and bring the real culprits behind his assassination to justice. The present confusion between the State Security Service (SSS) and the Nigerian Police which albeit has been resolved brings more pains to our hearts. We want to see a speedy trial of the suspects and further politicising of his murder should stop as this raises serious suspicions in our hearts as to the real powers behind this murderous gang.It is also important that we call upon fellow comrades to remember the family which Olaitan left behind. His children must be our children, while his wife and aged parents must remain our responsibility. This is part of the duty which we all owe this great son of Nigeria who was mowed down by the wicked ones in his prime and who has made tremendous and profound contributions to the development of progressive discourse in Nigeria. His philosophies and ideals including his pursuit of egalitarianism must not be allowed to die. The banner which he had lifted up should not be allowed to be brought down again.
This is the least we can do for him and his family. We should not allow his family to suffer the way others have suffered because we forgot our own who fell in the battle to make Nigeria a better society.
Olaitan my brother! Olaitan my friend! Olaitan my comrade!!! You have gone to be with God but I know that if people can fight from the grave, you will continue fighting oppression and impunity without relenting. This gives some of us hope and the courage to continue pressing forward. We mourn you and we miss you dearly.
The souls of the sponsors of this crime will never rest until they are brought swiftly to justice. Your death will not be in vain. I salute a worthy comrade! I salute a great soldier!! I salute a peoples’ general!!!