Nigeria: Festus Iyayi And The Siren Of Death

Posted: November 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

By Prince Charles Dickson

People talk about a woman who drowned in the river, and you talk about the cloth she wore around her waist.

Very quickly I never knew Festus Iyayi personally but when you read someone’s writing, once or twice, its a little fair to say you have made acquaintance with that person.

I never knew Festus Iyayi the former chairman of the Nigeria’s Academic Staff Union of Universities popularly called ASUU, but all one needs to know is his battle with the Federal government as union chair to have a feel of who he was and some of the things he stood for.

Is this about Festus Iyayi, let me answer in a Nigerian manner ‘Yes and No’! However this is my admonition for this week, in my style I want us to put ourselves in perspective.

Festus Iyayi’s Death
Week after his death, no one person can tell exactly what happened on the fateful day. Did the Kogi state governor’s convoy cause the accident? Till death the Federal Road Safety Commission has remained mute. No arrests made, no official statement from Kogi state; on the contrary, they are waiting, weighing, and thinking the possible media management reaction.

How many times have we seen scenarios like this one?

I have sincerely become disillusioned with the word/phrase, especially in context of Nigeria, where a man blames leadership for cobwebs in his toilet, rather than a lack of personal hygiene.

But yes, leadership is a big problem, and many argue is even the problem.

Talking leadership, I asked my friend in a conversation recently why do Americans call President Barrack Obama, ‘Obama’. His answer, but that’s his name.

Don’t you respect him? He answered the height of respect would be to referred to him as Mr. Obama.

In Nigeria, our leaders are not ‘respected’ on the contrary between two polar ends. They are ‘worshiped’ while in power and treated most times out of power with disdain.

Why is it that Nigerian leaders from mere councilor to President arrive an event late? Thus they must speed to an event or an occasion. With convoys of cars starting from six to as many as several scores, you wonder if they have an appointment with the devil.

The list is endless–I saw a university Student Union Government convoy last year with siren blowing.

Have you seen a traditional leader, customized number plates, his aides and those who provide AIDS to them, and all the speed to nowhere.

How about our religious leaders, in one of the middle belt states a function in which the CAN president attended saw him with an 11 car convoy plus a FORD open carrier with some four stern looking army BGs

First they remove you off the road, in cases, a largely under policed nation takes the luxury of assigning dozens of cops just for a man, mere mortal.

Off course, have you encountered the security personnel themselves, they drive like the cars have no speedometers.

Then attached to their long convoy is an ambulance.

Back to Iyayi
Festus Iyayi’s death is one we die everyday. We know of the death because it is oga Festus, many have mourned, condolences have poured in from the top. But we can’t bring him back.

Was his death avoidable? Yes it was, and how…by a group of people doing the right thing.

How many poor old women and men have collapsed because of the recklessness of these convoys or there was no ambulance to move them from a local hospital to a tertiary hospital.

But these are the issues, do you know the governor doesn’t drive the car, an ordinary Nigerian like Festus does, and an Iyayi is often part of the convoy.

In over 30years no government driver has been fired for refusing to drive within speed limits. They all speed whether oga wants, or does not. In most cases they drive according to oga’s instructions anyway.

So no one has been punished for all the Iyayis killed by executive lawlessness on our roads.

They make the rules, they break it. In Nigeria the law is for the poor, the police hardly stop luxury cars, what we call big man motor. Road safety doesn’t check papers of oga madam’s car.

When their kids drive as underage nothing happens, when the encounter the law, a phone call does it.

Nigeria is not a lawless nation, its just about lawless people. The groups that urinate by the roadside and those that disobey traffic and flog people off the road because a bourdillion van is carrying a few millions.

Late Prof. Ransome Kuti drove himself for a long while, convoys where unheard of then, we just gradually one-step at a time lost it.

These days’ restrictions are placed hours before some oga’s arrival. Access roads blocked when they go to pray. Policemen and women stand by the roadside. I am sure others would say its convention, but these are the conventions that are killing us as a nation.

Now we are pretending to be mourning Festus Iyayi, when many more will die ’cause a state government continues to argue with the FG on who should repair a bad patch on the road. How many villagers have been killed and no one mourned because they were not Festus.

The woman is dead, are we ready to talk about the real these issues or do we concern ourselves with the wrapper she was wearing when she died. –To the many Festus Iyayis, there is one debt that a strong man owes to the earth and it is death, we all will die, how and the legacy we live, only time will tell


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