Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has narrated how late Yinka Odumakin, the ex-spokesperson of Afenifere, was expelled from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU).
Mr Odumakin died on Saturday at the intensive care unit of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital where he was being managed for respiratory issues due to complications from COVID-19.
President Muhammadu Buhari and other dignitaries in the country had described Mr Odumakin as a man of conviction and a strong defender of human rights.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that he was a core activist who started his activism at the university and served as the Public Relations Officer of OAU Students’ Union.
Mr Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria, in his tribute, said Mr Odumakin and six other union leaders were suspended by OAU management for leading peaceful protests against administration.
“Yinka Odumakin was an undergraduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University (1986-1989). He was a member of the Alliance of Progressive Students (ALPS). Based on his defence of students’ rights, Yinka was elected the Public Relations Officer of the Students Union (1987-88).
“That was the time that the Ibrahim Babangida military junta embarked on the deradicalisation of the universities in order to weaken the capacity of the Nigerian people to resist the imposition of the Structural Adjustment Programme.
“During the 1988 convocation ceremony of the University the late Vice Admiral Patrick Koshoni who had stood proxy for the visitor and military President, General Babangida. The students staged a peaceful protest against the recolonization of the country by imperialism. For leading the protest Yinka and seven of his colleagues were expelled from the University.”
Mr Falana said he challenged their expulsion in court and they were all reinstated.
“My principal, the late Comrade Alao Aka-Bashorun dispatched me to Ife to challenge the expulsion of the student activists at the Oyo State High Court.The trial judge quashed the expulsion and ordered the reinstatement of Yinka and his colleagues.
“When the Babangida junta annulled the results of the June 12 election won by the Late Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola, Yinka was among the young men and women who mobilized the Nigerian people to terminate military rule in Nigeria.
“A few years later, I was surprised when Yinka informed me that he had decided to pursue the struggle for the emancipation of the Nigerian people along ethnic lines. Thereafter, he pitched his tent with Afenifere, a Yoruba socio cultural group.”
Mr Falana said despite being the youngest member of Afenifere, he was made the spokesman and in that capacity, he effectively publicised the activities of the body and defended its position on national issues.
“Before President Umaru Yar’adua passed on in May 2010, a cabal of power mongers had staged a coup against the Constitution. Yinka became the Secretary of the Save Nigeria group led by Pastor Tunde Bakare which campaigned for the inauguration of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President.
“Notwithstanding our ideological differences Yinka consistently called on me to discuss the state of the nation and seek clarifications on major constitutional matters. He also referred several cases relating to the infringement of the human rights of the poor and vulnerable members of the society to our law for legal redress.
“As a believer in national integration Yinka married his comrade and girlfriend, Josephine Obiajulu of the Igbo extraction. In spite of the pressure recently mounted on him by some separatist groups Yinka remained committed to a united Nigeria anchored on power devolution from the centre to the other federating units,” Mr Falana said.
PREMIUM TIMES is aware that OAU, University of Lagos, and many other tertiary institutions in Nigeria are known for suspending or expelling activists and student writers who protest or write critical articles against maladministration in the system.
This newspaper reported the case of Adeyeye Olorunfemi (2016), Kunle Adebajo (2018), Omole Ibukun (2018) and Ayoola Babalola (2020) , among others.
These universities are also quick to celebrate the achievements of these students after graduation, calling them worthy alumni.
For instance, OAU in a tribute to Mr Odumakin by its Vice Chancellor, Eyitope Ogunbodede, said Mr “Odumakin was a vibrant Student activist, a mass mobiliser, a great orator and the Public Relations Officer of the Students Unions.
“As an Alumnus, he assisted the Faculty of Arts in raising funds for a few projects that were of immense benefits to the staff and students.”
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