It would have been surprising if activists of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) did not politicize the death of one of its front rank theorists and practitioners, Professor Tunde Oduleye, a veteran of the struggles of the union who died on March 3rd, 2019. Tributes and condolences have kept pouring in for the late Professor of Animal Physiology. Among the earliest callers are ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, past presidents Prof. Assisi Asobie, Dr. Dipo Fashina and Prof. Abdullahi Sule-Kano as well as fellow travelers such as Prof. Toye Olorode, Prof Idowu Awopetu, Prof. Ropo Sekoni and Prof Niyi Osundare. Although quite a number of those who, by their commitment and consistency, can be called the senior citizens of the ASUU struggle, a designation they would not accept, are yet to gather themselves to put pen to paper on their detailed knowledge of him, others have gone ahead to say something on the departed.
One of the earliest to do so is Professor Shola Olorunyomi from the University of Ibadan who referred to the late Professor as a “scourge of oppressors and oppressive structures”, wishing him a beautiful rite of passage and asking him to extend the greetings of the living to the likes of Amilcar Cabral; Festus Iyayi, Ruth First and Nelson Mandela.
The Unilorin 49+ Foundation for Justice named after the umbrella of the collective struggle against illegal termination of appointment at the University of Ilorin in 2001 declared the late Professor a cerebral academic, intellectual, civil rights activist. In him, “we lost a gem”, said the Foundation in its Online platform.
In what appears an interim tribute, Prof Toye Olorode, another veteran of ASUU struggles referred to Prof Oduleye as one of its best: selfless, courageous and exemplary in all ways. Making reference to Prof Oduleye’s reduced physical capacity after two major road accidents he suffered on ASUU missions and for which he had to undertake a medical trip to the UK at some point, Prof Olorode expressed gratitude to Providence “for his being one of our very best”.
More interesting about the nature of the tributes to Prof Oduleye is how they not only preceded his death but also came from the least expected quarters. According to The Unilorin 49+ Foundation for Justice, Justices of the Court of Appeal sitting in Ilorin who adjudicated on the sacked lecturers’ case said in their judgment against the University of Ilorin that, “Talking of radicalism and the voice of dissent … every nation or institution like the University of Ilorin needs the rebellious spirits and free lips of the Nnamdi Azikiwes, Obafemi Awolowos; Nelson Mandelas; Soyinkas; Fawehinmis; Fela Anikolapo-Kutis; Bala Usmans; Adaka Boros; Ken Sarowiwas; Akinyanjus; Oduleyes; the Atahiru Jegas and the ASUU/Unilorin 44 and others of this world; to constantly remind rulers or administrators of their responsibilities to their subjects and subordinate and to save the system from avoidable cataclysm”.
This is besides Advances in Biological Sciences, a book launched in his honour on the occasion of his 70th birthday, the occasion at which Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), now Governor of Ondo State who was Guest of Honour confessed his pride in identifying with the “celebration of one of Nigeria’s best icons in the struggle for an egalitarian society”, he (Akeredolu) being a former National President of the Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA). “In a society such as Nigeria where majority of the people live in misery in the midst of plenty, for a few scholars with social conscience to challenge the status quo is like attempting to stop a moving train with bare hands, Akeredolu had also said then.
Other similarly strong voices at that occasion were those of Professor J.A. Akinyanju, described by the platform as Professor Oduleye’s compatriot, fellow intellectual, comrade and fellow activist at the University of Ilorin as well as that of Dr. Taiwo Oloruntoba-Oju, Chairman of ASUU at the height of the Unilorin crisis and Chairman of the Unilorin 49+ Foundation who delivered the “Nigerian Intelligentsia and the Challenges of Nationhood: Lecture in Celebration of Prof. S.O. Oduleye”
A graduate of the University of Lagos, Prof Oduleye obtained his PhD from the University of Lancaster in the United Kingdom and attained professorship under the age of 40, dedicating his life to what Prof Akinyanju calls Oduleye’s “epic battles at various levels for the soul of the Nigerian University System”.
Since 1987, the late Prof has been a member of the ASUU Negotiating Team – the squad that deconstructs the governmentality of the Nigerian State when it comes to funding (university) education, uncovering its binary code and exposing same.