Outrage Over Killing Of Festus Iyayi

Festus Iyayi

Prof. Festus Iyayi, former ASUU President: Dies

Outrage has greeted the killing, yesterday, of former President of the Academic Staff Union of University, ASUU, Professor Festus Iyayi, by a car in the convoy of the Kogi State Governor, Idris Wada, with many slamming the governor over his drivers’ recklessness.

Some even want the driver of the car that killed Iyayi prosecuted and that, if possible, Nigerians should frustrate any future attempts by the governor to seek election into any public office.

Iyayi died at 66, in Lokoja, the Kogi state capital, on his way to Kano for a meeting of the ASUU National Executive Council concerning the over four-month old strike embarked upon by the union.

Lagos-based lawyer, Femi Falana, while expressing shock at the death of his former client, urged Nigerians to stop agonising and take action.

Falana, who fought and won the case against the sack of Iyayi and Professor Itse Sagay from the University of Benin during the era of Professor Grace Alele-Williams as Vice Chancellor, also complained that governors in the country, with the exception the Lagos state governor, Babatunde Fashola, are known for their reckless convoys.

He said the driver that killed Iyayi must be arrested and prosecuted because the drivers in Wada’s convoy are notorious for causing fatal accidents.

When contacted this morning, Professor Itse Sagay was too devastated to speak on the death of Iyayi as they were very close during Iyayi’s lifetime.

Prof. Ahunna Okerengwo, the Chairman, University of Port Harcourt chapter of ASUU, said she was still in shock over the death of Prof. Iyayi.

Toni Kan, a journalist and author called Iyayi’s death a sacrifice, another major and sad loss of one of the nation’s best.

The Head, Department of English, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Professor Damian Opata, described the death as unfortunate.

“It is very sad coming at this time,” he said.

The National Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, Chibuzo Asomugha, said the death of Iyayi is both shocking and disappointing.

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“What! How did it happen? I can’t believe this! This is quite shocking and disappointing. I’m lost for words, I can’t make further comments, please,” he reacted when our reporter contacted him.

Also reacting to the sudden death of Iyayi, chairman of University of Lagos chapter of ASUU, Oghenekaro Ogbinaka, condemned the manner in which the former National President of the union lost his life.

“The convoy of the Kogi State governor in its usual manner, has cut short the life of one of our best. It is a very sad day for ASUU,” Ogbinaka said.

Reacting to Prof. Iyayi’s death, Prof. Friday Okonofua of the University of Benin, accused Governor Wada of 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 Jonathan, in his condolence message to Iyayi’s family, the leadership and members of the ASUU, said he was especially dismayed that 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.

Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo state used the opportunity to appeal to ASUU to reconsider government’s position on the strike.

Sunny Akhigbe, a Nigerian who commented on the death of Iyayi, said: “this is tragically painful, a very big loss. I knew this fellow in UNIBEN when ASUU was very vibrant. This Nasir Fagge-led ASUU of today is not serious. Are they so broke that they cannot take care of their elders?

“Why should an elder who led the association almost three decades ago cramp himself into a bus and set out for a journey of more than 14 hours by road to attend NEC meeting? Even leaders of road transport workers will not do that.”

Born in 1947, Iyayi, who was the ASUU president in 1986, was also an author with four books to his credit. He also won the Commonwealth Prize for Literature for ‘Heroes’, one of his books, in 1988.

—Eromosele Ebhomele