The Vice Chancellor of Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), Professor Adebiyi Daramola, and the Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius Okogie, have berated the ongoing crisis between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), saying “everybody is a loser in the strike.”

This came as a former national chairman of ASUU, Professor Festus Iyayi was killed yesterday in an auto crash on the busy Lokoja-Abuja Express Road.

Professors Daramola and Okogie spoke yesterday at the opening ceremony of the 28th Annual Conference of the Association of Vice-Chancellors of the Nigerian Universities (AVCNU), held at FUTA, Akure, the Ondo State capital.

Daramola, in his welcome address, stressed the need for the two ‘warring’ parties to end the rift for the sake of the progress of the education sector in the country, noting that the development was already having negative impact on all the stakeholders.
He said: “ It is sad to note that a total of four months have been lost to this ASUU strike by all public universities in the country. This is already having a negative toll on the universities.

“No meaningful progress can ever be achieved if we keep closing academic business for a long time on our campuses.
“The situation is regrettable and unfortunate and will no doubt reflect on the image of the university system in Nigeria and the quality of our outputs. As a matter of fact, in the ASUU strike, we are all losers: ASUU, Federal Government, students, parents and other stakeholders.”
The FUTA VC, however, commended the Federal Government for releasing a N100 billion intervention fund for the revamp of the university system.

Similarly, Prof. Okogie, who was represented at the ceremony, by the Visiting Professor of NUC, expressed displeasure over the crisis facing the education sector, saying there was a need for all stakeholders to find lasting solution to the crisis.

While commending the VCs in the country on the various roles they have played in ending the crisis, Okogie said, “We must begin to look beyond the end of the current crisis to developing a new approach to resolving issues that dog relations in our university system.”

According to him, “I like to use this forum to appeal to vice chancellors to work towards ensuring that disagreements are nipped in the bud and, as much as possible, are resolved at university level in order to avoid any further total breakdown in the public university system.
“The impacts of the strike are significant and they affect not only students who are our primary products, but staff as well. By working together, we will be able to make progress in moving the Nigerian university system forward.”

Declaring the conference open, Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State, expressed regrets at the four-month old strike, lamenting that it has worsened the university education in the country.

Mimiko called on the university lecturers to end the strike in the interest of the whole country, lauding the Federal Government’s moves to resolve the crisis.

However, Iyayi was killed when the vehicle conveying members of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) chapter of ASUU to Kano for a meeting with the Federal Government was rammed into by a police escort vehicle attached to the Kogi State governor.

The versatile writer/social commentator died instantly the convoy rammed into their bus, while others, including the Chairman ASUU, UNIBEN chapter, Prof. Tony Emina-Monye, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Illoh and two others sustained various degrees of injuries and were said to be in critical condition.

The University of Benin dons were on a trip for further negotiation to bring a lasting solution to the prolonged lecturers’ strike that has entered the fourth month.

Iyayi, born 1947, in Ugbegun in Ishan, was a writer known for his radical and sometimes tough stance on social and political issues.

He employed a realistic style of writing, depicting the social, political and moral environment and system in which both the rich and poor live and work.

Iyayi, also a former president of ASUU, started his education at Annunciation Catholic College in the old Bendel State, popularly known as ACC, and graduated in 1966 and in 1967. He was admitted into the Government College, Ughelli, graduating in 1968.

That same year, he was a zonal winner in a Kennedy Essay Competition organised by the United States Embassy in Nigeria.

He left the shores of Nigeria to pursue his higher education, obtaining a M.Sc. in Industrial Economics from the Kiev Institute of Economics, in the former USSR and Ph.D. from the University of Bradford, England.

In 1980, he became a lecturer in the Department of Business Administration at the University of Benin. As a staffer of the university, Iyayi became interested in radical social issues and a few years after his employment, he became the local president of ASUU, a radical union known for its upfront style on academic and social welfare.
He rose to the position of national president of the union in 1986, but in 1988, the union was briefly banned and Iyayi was detained. Same year, he won the Commonwealth Prize for Literature for his book, Heroes. He was later removed from his faculty position.
Better known as a writer, Iyayi wrote the award-winning novel, Violence, The Contract, Heroes and Awaiting Court Martial.

Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate President, David Mark, his House of Representatives counterpart, Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, supervising Minister of Education, Nyeson Wike, have commiserated with the leadership and members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over the death of Iyayi.

Jonathan, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, extended condolences to Iyayi’s family as well as his colleagues, friends and associates across the country and beyond.

He joined them in mourning the renowned academic and award-winning writer, who rose to national prominence in the 1980s with his courageous leadership of ASUU in its struggle for a better working environment for teachers and academics in the nation’s university system.
Jonathan was particularly dismayed by the fact that Iyayi has sadly lost his life while going to contribute to efforts to finally resolve the current ASUU strike, which had unfortunately disrupted academics in most of the nation’s universities for over four months.

Senator Mark lamented the death of Iyayi, saying Nigeria has lost an academic giant.
Reacting to the death in a condolence message signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Paul Mumeh last night, Mark noted the giant strides of the university scholar, which brought international fame and value to the nation.

He noted with pain that Iyayi was one of the leaders of ASUU dialoging with the Federal Government on how to resolve the lingering strike action by the university teachers.

According to Mark, “This is one very painful death. Dr. Iyayi was among the university teachers meeting with the Federal Government side on how to end this strike. As usual, his contributions have been forthright and rewarding.
That he died at this time his contributions were most needed is a huge set back.

“I remember his frank and honest contributions towards ending the strike and addressing the ills in the tertiary education in Nigeria when we met last week. His death is unfortunate. It is a huge loss to the nation.”

The Senate President sympathised with the university community, the immediate family, the government and people of Edo state and the nation on the death of Iyayi.

He prayed that God in His infinite mercies grant the bereaved family the fortitude to bear this sad loss just as he prayed that the almighty creator grant the deceased eternal rest.

Speaker Tambuwal, while also extending his condolence to the Nigerian academic community and the family of Iyayi, described the deceased as a respected teacher and unionist, who gave his all for the progress of the education sector.

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, Tambuwal said the late Iyayi’s life-time of struggles will no doubt inspire many upcoming lecturers and unionists to render selfless service to their country.

While urging ASUU and the Federal Ministry of Education to immortalise the late Professor, Tambuwal prayed to God to give the bereaved family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.

Wike, while in his eulogy, described Iyayi’s death as unfortunate and shocking, saying it was very unfortunate, coming at a tim when his services were still highly needed to resolve some critical issues and challenges confronting educational sector at the moment.

Wike, while was addressing the university vice chancellors and winners of the TETFund Research fund in Abuja yesterday expressed shock at the sudden death of the former president of ASUU.

He described his death as a very sad development, coming when the country is trying to resolve the lingering strike in universities, which he was contributing his best towards finding lasting solutions.

“I heard he died in Lokoja, which is quite unfortunate, quite sad. On behalf of the Federal Ministry of Education, we deeply condole and commiserate with the family and ASUU for this irreparable loss. It’s quite touching, because while we were in the meetings, he contributed so much to the development of Nigerian universities.

“When he was ASUU President, everybody knew what he stood for. It is quite unfortunate but of course, nobody can question God. He knows why it happened the way it happened but we believe that God will give the family the heart to bear the irreparable loss, it is quite unfortunate.”

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) also described the death of Iyayi as a tragic loss to the human right community and the nation at large.

ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo said: “Professor Iyayi’s death is a big loss not only to the management and staff of ERA/FoEN and the human right community but to the Nigerian nation. We will miss his wealth of experience in engaging the issues he championed and commiserate with his family.”

Ojo explained that the professor will be greatly remembered as a dogged fighter for the cause of humanity, his love for education, even as he added that he was one of ERA/FoEN’s most dependable intellectual bases in the struggle for eco-justice and protection of local livelihoods.

“As we commiserate with his family, ASUU and the Nigerian human rights community, we pray his soul rest in the bosom of the Lord. Festus Iyayi will be greatly missed,” Ojo added.

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