Dipo Fashina @ 70 As Seen by a Student of the Professor
By Olumuyiwa Jimoh
January 23rd, 2017 marked the 70th birthday of one of Nigeria’s most consistent and dogged fighters against injustice, deprivation and heightened exploitation of the masses by the agents of capital and their various collaborators in the nation’s diverse high places. A man that has remained unbowed in his commitment to the causes of the oppressed and hapless masses especially students, market men and women, artisans and the labour movement despite all the pressures, intimidations, bribery and harassments, including threat of bodily harm and loss of life.
Dipo my teacher and our teacher! He was born precisely on January 23rd, 1947. He studied in various universities around the world where he specialised in the field of Philosophy. He became a lecturer at the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University where he teamed up with other great minds to make that department one of the hotbeds of critical philosophical thought. He was part of the group that created what we can call one of the most vibrant and creative axis for generating intellectual tools that were used in engaging in the struggles of yester years against the forces of imperialism and the internal agents or retrogression and underdevelopment.
We largely drank from this pool which he jointly stirred with others across Nigeria. I remember as a student from one of the tertiary institutions around that axis constantly sitting awed at the ideas that seamlessly and logically flowed from his lips. Hungrily, we all drank and were drenched in the fervency of his outpouring. When he has not come to our institution to give a talk for sometimes, some of us thirsty souls will take a trip to the University of Ife where he held court to refill and quench our thirst. That was how we became very close to this erudite and passionate scholar.
His passion for progress in Nigeria through his Marxist world view in philosophy remained the force and a platform upon which he built a creative pedagogy which served as a vessel for propagating the liberation ideals into the hearts of the future generations. We learnt determination and commitment to our ideals from him. We learnt from him that if you want to change the world, you must give yourself to it and must be willing at all times to make sacrifices to push the struggle forward and achieve the goals. He taught all of us to live by examples; hands on approach, in the “trenches” and side by side he counselled us. Never let others carry the burdens of the struggle while you relax. Do it, he will say.
His commitment to freedom has seen him constantly engaging the various manifestations of anti-people and anti-development forces both in the classrooms and in the field. While some of his compatriots have been compromised and others abandoned the cause or got tired along the way, he has remained true to this path even at 70. He has remained a soldier even at this age and does not shy away from being seen at the frontline, at the heat of the struggle.
It is on this premise that we could see his leadership of LASCO and JAF and the altruism that he has brought to its various engagements. He is not worried about being called to lead such platforms as long as it has something to do with the protection of Nigerian masses. No Labour/Civil Society engagement with the state is complete without his involvement either as an adviser or as a leader in the field. He has become the intellectual backbone of the peoples’ struggle for emancipation from the gyres of oppression.
His consistency is further expressed in his refusing to go permanently on retirement even after officially retiring from the University of Ife. His decision to accept the offer to continue his teaching work at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria was not borne out of trying to avoid idleness but the critical need to resuscitate a dying faculty, a dying subject and to keep Philosophy – a vibrant field of study which he believes has offered him the pedestal upon which he has demonstrated his exploits in the socio-polity and in the hearts of young men and women. Once again, that is a clear demonstration of sacrifice.
As our teacher and mentor celebrates this milestone of reaching the age of 70, we feel obliged and I personally too to serenade a life that has influenced a group of young men and women positively. His ideals have guided most of us into our chosen paths. In the respective fields where we have found ourselves, we have had cause to look back and chuckle. His words in our hearts like a spirit has guided us and like light has illuminated to darkest of nights showing a clear pathway for us to tread confidently.
Personally, most of the battles I have fought in the Legislature have been in furtherance of the teachings of Dr. Dipo Fashina. His ideals have egged me on and his commitment goaded me into persistently pursuing them until results were achieved for the benefit of the masses. I remember vividly the case of the increase in school fees at the Lagos state University. I had to preach to very few like-minds, galvanising them, using that platform to engage that issue until it was resolved on the side of reason, thus on the side of the students and masses of Lagos. That victory is part of Dr. Fashina’s legacy!
However, these victories have not come without challenges especially from entrenched conservative interests who clearly outnumber those from our paths. If the struggle is only determined by sheer number, progressivism may have suffered a permanent defeat but with the same doggedness he taught us, we have trudged on. No matter the quantum of evil arrayed against us, we must maintain our principled stance and push on without fear the agenda of positive change that we seek.
As we celebrate ‘Dr Fash’ at 70, we want to use the opportunity to urge the left to seek ways of encouraging like-minds to get involved in active politics so as to increase the number of the cadre who are involved in the various arms of Government. This will make the work easier and energise us into expanding our scope and our depth in the eternal struggle to rid our nation of the forces inequality.
What we owe the struggle and the sacrifices of Dipo is for all of us to emulate his ideals to ensure that the fires keep burning and that Dr. Fashina is encouraged to do more for us all. We must push forward the frontiers of these ideals and remain dedicated to its preachments that as he lives on, he may know that his legacies will continue. We must pass on the torch unquenched and fervently burning to others and lend ourselves to his voice and be his legs and physical strength.
Without any reservation, I celebrate this milestone of Dr Dipo Fashina at 70 and I pray the almighty God to continue guiding and guarding you for all of us so that we can continue drinking from your never ending fountain. We shall continue basking in the light which your beacon has held forth for all of us. Hopefully, one day, we shall all see a better world where inequality would have been grossly reduced and intimidation, harassment of the weak, exploitation of the majority by the few and crass deprivation of the majority including increasing poverty is decimated – A fair world of our collective dream. Happy birthday, Sir and congratulations on this milestone! You are, indeed, a great achiever at 70!
Jimoh, the author, is the Deputy Majority Leader of the Lagos State House of Assembly