Ever since his demise on the evening of Friday, April 2, many occasions have arisen for which his attention as the national publicity secretary of the apex South-West sociocultural and socio-political group, Afenifere, would have been demanded. Issues have arisen in the polity to which he would have responded effortlessly and with clinical incisiveness and depth, but they have gone completely unattended to. Such is the yawning gap which Yinka Odumakin’s sudden death has left in the South-West in particular and in the country as a whole.
Indeed, Odumakin led such a boisterous and active life that even the active called him an activist despite the cynicism that the label often conjures in these climes these days. Odumakin was a workaholic: at the beginning of his hospital admission, he had humbly requested that the doctors attending to him should give him some time before putting him on a ventilator, so that he could finish writing the week’s edition of his column. He reportedly wrote the column but the computer he used malfunctioned. He lost all he had written and wanted to start all over again, but was prevailed upon by doctors who advised that the coronavirus complications that he had developed needed to be tackled right away. And up to his final moments, there was still a ray of hope that he would overcome the pull of transition.
Peter Oluyinka Odumakin’s life, like that of many others, started humbly. He was born on December 10, 1966, in Moro in Ife North local government area of Osun State. After attending the St. Augustine School in Ondo, he had continued his education in Edunabon and Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife. He obtained a degree in English Studies from the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University in 1989. He also attended the University of Ghana, Legon, for his postgraduate degree. Odumakin was actively involved in the push for the emergence of the fourth Republic. At a relatively young age, he took part in the agitations for the return to democratic rule in the country, a struggle which the military junta headed by General Sani Abacha did its best to suppress with brute force. Happily, the struggle by the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) movement and others paid off handsomely with the return to civil rule in 1999.
With the country back in civil rule, Odumakin took part in the political process, although not in elective capacity. He served as the spokesman for the then General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) when the latter contested the presidential election on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2011. Subsequently, he focused on the Afenifere assignment for which he will be fondly remembered. He was also a key member of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), making critical and necessary interventions in the polity.
Instructively, since Odumakin’s demise, many of those who were at the receiving end of his vitriolic and acerbic criticisms have come out to mourn him profusely. It is really an admirable feat that Odumakin’s contributions to the country’s democratic development as a critic are appreciated by various persuasions across the geopolitical zones of the country. In all of his engagements, he arguably acquitted himself honourably. In a clime where integrity has almost lost its meaning and essence, Odumakin stood out. He was a profound patriot who articulated his views succinctly and unapologetically, no matter whose ox was gored. Indeed, he and his wife, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, whom he had met while they were both in detention over pro-democracy activities, were the only couple who served as members of the 2014 national conference held in Abuja. Odumakin was such an unrepentant advocate of Nigeria’s restructuring that he once declared restructuring as his political party.
There was a common thread of agitation and the push for the ideal things of life in all of his pursuits and that probably explains why he didn’t tolerate papering over the cracks. It is impossible to lead a life like this without ruffling a lot of feathers and, to be sure, Odumakin actually ruffled many during his brief life. In mourning his demise, we are hopeful that his family will have the fortitude to bear the pains of the irreparable loss. And to the army of agitators that he has left behind, we say the struggle continues.
Adieu, Yinka Odumakin.
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