Tributes: Death…too cruel a sting

This is one death too many, Yinka. How fate played a rude one on us! You left at 55. You left behind Pa Ezekiel Abioye Odumakin, your father who turned 115 at his last birthday. Your mother, Alice Ojuolape, 92, is mourning a gem of a child.

Alice couldn’t stop asking why death didn’t take her and leave you here. Ezekiel couldn’t stop wishing this bad dream to end. “Please shake me up from this bad dream,” Pa Ezekiel begged the visiting Afenifere team.

We were in Moro, the rustic, forgotten, rural community in the fringes of the ancient Ile Ife that donated you to our struggle.

At 115, distraught but stoical, pained but undaunted, weak but alert, your mourning father displayed that uncommon never-say-die mien you’re known for. Now we know where came the fighter you were.

From the moment our paths crossed in the early eighties at the then University of Ife, later renamed Obafemi Awolowo University, you’ve remained a leading light of the struggle for a just and egalitarian society.  We pranced the Ife landscape like possessed youths. We dared the jackbooths and bayonet of never smiling military rulers. First, we took on Muhammadu Buhari military dictatorship. Then challenged Ibraheem Babangida’s dribbling military terror.

In all these, you shone like a conquering star. You led the various battles as Public Relations Officer of Yemi Adegbite-led Students Union. I was in the Students Union Parliament.

Following graduation in Ife, you joined Punch Newspaper where you ran its high profile society page named Razzmatazz. Then I was with Kaduna-based Hotline News magazine published by Hassan Sani Kotangora, the consummate but rabid Northern defender. We kept in touch. I recalled the many brainstorming session we had on the ever intractable national missteps of the ruling military junta led by Buhari and later Babangida and the conniving elite class whenever you visited Kaduna where you shared my modest bunk in the night or I made any of my many Lagos trips.

You never stopped impressing it on me that Lagos, being the then seat of military usurper of governance, was where I should ply my trade. I joined late Moshood Abiola-owned Concord Press of Nigeria. You remained at Punch.

The military junta served notice of fake transition to civilian rule. We both found ourselves joining other restless youths on the Abiola presidential platform, code-named Hope 93. He won the presidential election. Abiola’s ascension to the highest office in the land was halted by the military. Bloody mass confrontation with the military enveloped the nation.

Angry military ruling clique bared its fang on media houses. Concord Press was shut down. I lost my job. Punch suffered a similar fate. You lost your job. Other newspapers and electronic media outlets including Observer, Daily Sketch, Guardian and Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation tasted sour grape of proscription. The National Democratic Coalition  (NADECO) came into being. National Liberation Congress (NALICON) followed. You and I pitched our tent with NADECO. You moved on to the National Conscience Party of late storming petrel of the bar, Chief Gani Fawehinmi. We remained on the street throwing darts at the military.

You later served as unpaid Personal Assistant to Afenifere Secretary and NADECO spokesperson, Ayo Opadokun. I combined my job as editorial staff at the defunct  Post Express Newspaper with Personal Assistant duty to late Afenifere and NADECO leader, Pa Abraham Adesanya. We both held these positions gratis.

Victory smiled – or so we thought – on democracy and the diminishing family of activists when the Abacha dictatorship abruptly came to an end with the sudden demise of the ruler. Subsequent events, marked by escalating national malaise,  proved that the nation had only replaced the cloak of one dictatorship with the apparels of another demagogue of democracy.

Yinka, the vanishing hope for an egalitarian society you gallantly fought for and for which you breath your last is very much with us.  Now,  even at your death, it has escalated in cascading discomfort.

How do we reignite the conversation your death halted? You were my buddy in this business of saying no to injustice. You were the ubiquitous rock I drew near whenever it was time to intervene for sake of our people. The last we did together came barely a week before your health collapsed. You were a weekly regular in my office where we interrogated nothing other than Yoruba affairs.

Hope has dimmed for our group of fighters with your departure. To whom do we turn in our quest for halting our sinking ship of state? Another such intervention was our attempt in 2018 to deploy the NADECO spirit in surgical operation to save the nation on realisation that government was losing grip of the security situation in the country. This fortnightly brought to my home Chief Conelius Adebayo, ex-minister and ex-governor; late Frederick Fasehun, Odua Peoples Congress founder; Jimi Agbaje, erstwhile governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Lagos; Funminiyi Afuye, Ekiti State House of Assembly Speaker; Late BiolaIge; Zacheus  Adelabu, ex finance commissioner in Oyo state; Supo Sonibare, Mobolurin, Kabiesi Oba Olaitan and yourself.

Now that you’re on the other side, please greet other greats like Chima Ubani, Baba Omojola, Kanmi Ishola Oshobu, Gani Fawehinmi, Ola Oni, Abraham Adesanya, Frederick Fasehun, Beko Kuti, Kudirat Abiola, Bamidele Aturu Kunle Adepeju and others too numerous to mention here. We remain here to fight on in the shadow of your spirit.

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