Originally titled “We are their heirs”, the text below is the remarks by Prof. Omotoye Olorode at the end of the commemorative public lecture organised by comrades to mark his 80th birthday in Abuja on April 29th, 2021.
By Omotoye Olorode
Although this is not an overtly political event, it has all the elements of such an event. That it does is really what I like to thank the organisers of this platform for. This event and the constellation of comrades, friends, family members and compatriots gathered here today or participating virtually, confirms for me, and should confirm for us, that a core exists in our country of people and ideas that remains and have remained committed to the cause of our people across Nigeria and of the oppressed around the world.
From its relative and progressive coherence in the mid- 1970s, the constellation had undergone fragmentation and differentiation. Surviving in small pockets of various sizes and pursuing goals of various political and ideological depths and even visibilities.
At a normative, if not a procedural or active programmatic level, the constellation had existed and we must say without mincing words that some of our comrades gathered here have given various degrees of effect and actuation to that existence. Today’s gathering is an evidence.
Abuja; April 29, 2021
We must, as we articulate the foregoing, admit that our disabilities, having regard to sustaining momentum of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s have to do with factors that are both internal and external to our country, and that are internal and external to our organization, our movement and even to us as individuals. We must also admit that some of our debilitating factors relate to, or are consequent upon, our individual personal and/or existential limitations and the methods of operation which pertains to those limitations and our organizations. We cannot go into exemplifying the details of these here and now.
Reading about the current controversy about the ownership of Labour Party underscores the observations above about personalities, methods and their consequences for the advancement or retrogression of our movement. The controversy also reminds one of events at the NLC’s “Labour and political transition” workshop/conference at Calabar in April 1989.
An interesting account of the event surrounding that conference was given by our indefatigable Comrade Edwin Madunagu in an article reproduced in his book Understanding Nigeria and the New Imperialism: Essays 2000-2006 (Clear Lines publications, Calabar. Pg. 210-212).
Needless to say, there are various accounts of that “tragedy”! Towards understanding where we are today and reinventing our movement, for the task of rescuing our country from the brink to which the two vultures (imperialism and the Nigerian ruling class) have driven it, we must return to the quadri-pod of the late 1970s and the 1980s and early 1990s – labour, the intellectuals, the women and the youths (the students). That platform on the synergy of these forces which were all at once ant-imperialist and for the working masses of Nigeria. It is a coherent political, not necessarily electoral, platform on which our movement stood!
Platform “For the Liberation of Nigeria”
A large number of us gathered here are a part of the working peoples’ platform to liberate Nigeria. We did not invent that platform even though we may have contributed to building it. The platform has been the creation of overlapping generations of patriots some of who have passed on: Michael Imuodu, Gambo Sawaba, Wahab Goodluck, Mokwugo Okoye, Fumilayo Ransome- Kuti, Ola Oni, Eskor Toyo, Balarabe Musa, Alao Aka-Bashorun, Festus Iyayi, Chima Ubani, Bagauda Kaltho, Bamidele Aturu, Chris Abashi, to mention just a few.
We are only the heirs of these heroes and patriots. It is a privilege that I, like many of you distinguished ladies and gentlemen, comrades and compatriots share the honour of working with at least some of our heroes that passed on. It is even a grand privilege that I have shared the tradition and the vicissitudes and triumphs, not to mention the camaraderie and solidarity with the organisers of this symposium: Comrade Abubakar Sokoto – Mohammed, Comrade Peters Adeyemi, Y.Z Y’au, John Odah, Attahiru Jega, Femi Falana, and many others. It is also an utmost privilege for me to acknowledge the kindness and solidarity of our comrades in the trade union movement generally and among working peoples’ intellectuals in the media, among the legal professionals who have stood in solidarity with us in the struggle and our students and our younger people at large who have continued to inspire us. I must single out John Odah.
While thanking our comrades in the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for providing an enduring and robust platform for my development in the last fifty years or so, I wish to thank Comrades Attahiru Jega, Abubakar Sokoto – Mohammed, Y.Z Y’au and Member George Genyi especially for today.