12th November, 2013
Award winning Nigerian writer and former President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Professor Festus Iyayi, has died in a road accident on the Lokoja- Abuja Highway. He was aged 66.
His car somersaulted several times in a bid to avoid collision with one of the police vehicles in the convoy of Kogi state governor, which suddenly swerved on the path of Iyayi’s vehicle. Witnesses said Iyayi’s vehicle somersaulted several times. Other ocupants of the vehicle were said to be in critical condition.
Iyayi was on his way to the national executive meeting of ASUU holding in Kano, along with the chairman University of Benin chapter and Benin zone of ASUU, Dr. Anthony Monye-Emina and two others, in continuation of negotiation with the federal government.
Dr. Nasir Fagge, the President of ASUU, while confirming his death, said the sad news was broken to the union a few hours ago.
He said “I cannot say anything right now. We have just lost one of our own, Festus Iyayi, who was very dear to us. I am mourning.’’
Iyayi, the famous author of Heroes, who taught in the department of Business Administration at the University of Benin for so many years, was very active in union activities as chairman of the UNIBEN Chapter of ASUU and had several brushes with the university authorities as well as the military.
He rose to the position of president of the national association in 1986. But that same year the union was banned briefly and he was detained..
Iyayi, famous for social realist novels that depict the grinding poverty of the Nigerian people, won the Commomwealth Prize for Literature for his novels, Heroes, a novel where he posits that the civilian populace are actually the winners of the Nigerian civil war.
He was once removed from his faculty position, but was later reinstated after taking the university authorities to court. His literary works also include Violence, The Contract and Awaiting Court Martial
News of his death threw the Benin zone of ASUU and the University of Benin community into shock.
Reacting to Prof. Iyayi’s death, Prof. Friday Okonofua, of the University of Benin, accused Kogi state governor, Capt. Idris Wada, for being responsible for his death.
“It is the governor of Kogi that killed him. He was killed by a reckless convoy. He killed one of our most distinguished academics who has won laurels all over the world. We would hold the governor of Kogi responsible for his death,” Prof. Okonofua said.
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has sent a condolence message to Iyayi’s family, the leadership and members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The President was especially dismayed that Dr. Iyayi died while going to contribute to efforts to finally resolve the ASUU strike which has disrupted academics in the nation’s universities for over four months.
The immediate past President of the union, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, said the news came to him as a rude shock and was still in doubt if it was true.
Awuzie, now the Vice-Chancellor, Imo State University, also told NAN on telephone that he had been trying to get information on the circumstances surrounding the death of Iyayi.
“I know the NEC executives of the union should be on their way to Kano, but I am still expecting the details of the death. Until I get full details on the circumstances of his death, I might not be able to say much,” Awuzie said.
Born in 1947 in Ugbegun, Ishan in Edo, late Iyayi obtained a Master Degree in Industrial Economics from the Kiev Institute of Economics in the former U.S.S.R.
He became a lecturer in 1980 at the Department of Business Administration, University of Benin.