By Biodun Olamosu, Books Farm House & Publishers, Signs & Wonders Shopping Complex, Ibadan.
I am delighted to be part of history in felicitating with Prof Bayo Aborisade on this occasion of his retirement from the Federal University of Technology (FUTA), Akure. He has spent a greater part of his working life here to advance knowledge. He has thereby been changing the course of history and left humanity better than he met it. Most sincerely, I wish him the best of his heart’s desire on retirement.
My path along ideological and revolutionary politics crossed that of Prof Bayo Aborisade in the 1980s. This narrative could hardly be expressed in full without my involvement in the struggle of the working people in Ondo State; even when I was not based in. This started while I was a student at the University of Jos and also shortly before then, as I paid regular visits while on holiday to Remi Ogunlana in Owo, where he was a teacher in one of the high schools.
Oguns at the time was already a household name in the community as he was able to have in place a socialist group comprising mostly rank and file teachers of secondary and primary schools. The group known as Association of Patriotic Teachers (APT) was very active within the National Union of Teachers (NUT). At the time, the Union was dominated by heads of primary and secondary schools.
In fact NUT, Owo branch, had no culture of its own in conducting elections to change officers of the Union. These heads only selected the NUT leadership amongst themselves informally on a rotational basis. APT was armed with the principles of Leon Trotsky that where tradition is lacking, striking examples become imperative. They had to carry out their struggle to the doorsteps of the teachers in their various schools for a campaign to change this anti-democratic way of conducting the affairs of the union. In no long time, the campaign gained strength and became a mass movement. Ultimately, the expected change of controlling the Union by this movement was achieved. This did not pass without its repercussions as many of the activists were witch-hunted. The former leadership connived with the State in using its apparatus against APT comrades.
The relationship that the group had with Prof Bayo Aborisade, a lecturer and ASUU activist at FUTA, Akure and Comrade Arije, one time NLC State Chair, and later leading member of the Union of the Senior Staff of the Civil Service; made a difference in the history of the group. The duo occupied very strategic positions in the struggle going on in the State. The Remi Ogunlana led group had cordial relationships with them. They exchanged information and discussed challenges confronting them and this helped the cause of the struggle beyond measure.
The Owo group gathered strength with time; thereby its activities were extended beyond the walls of the elementary and high schools in the community. Some of the leadership of the group gained employment as lecturers at The Polytechnic, Owo (now Rufus Giwa Polytechnic) and this enabled the establishment of another structure of activists and activism in the only higher institution in the town.
Chima Ubani, who later served as the General Secretary of the Campaign for Democracy, an organization that prosecuted the prodemocracy struggle in opposition to the annulment of June 12, 1993 elections (arguably won by Chief MKO Abiola) was part of the group in Owo, where he served as a youth corps member. Together with him we organized the structure of the Labour Party in 1989 while Prof Bayo Aborisade and Comrade Arije did the same in Akure.
The role of the socialist group in Owo and Ondo State in defending the cause of the mass movement on the side of the de-annulment of the June 12 election was therefore not a surprise. At this time, we already had in place a socialist student group at FUTA to relate with and coordinate the affairs of the group amongst the students. Prof Bayo Aborisade played an exemplary role model to these students in guiding them and served as their patron. He was always available as facilitator of their educational programmes and defending them at the Senate. One could be sure of having an alternative position on contemporary political issues from him in the numerous state TV/Radio programmes he participated in.
He organized and associated with not a few organizations in the State of which he led or was the founding leader. These included the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Socialist Congress of Nigeria (SCON), Committee for Democracy and Human Rights (CDHR), National Conscience Party (NCP), Labour Party (LP), etc. He occupied a veritable leading position as the ideological conscience of the working people in the State. The State owned media could not afford to do without inviting him, even when they were not comfortable with his ideas that they found to be contradictory to theirs.
It was with the instrumentality of the united front organizational structures led by Arije, Aborisade, Ogunlana and Fajemifo that the government led by Evangelist Olumilua was brought to its knees for resisting paying the minimum wage as demanded by the workers in the State. The tumultuous struggles emanating from this was the climax of that era.
It would amount to lack of appreciation if I failed to mention my personal attachment with Prof as he served as a guest annual speaker of the social club, The Patriotic Club, Ikere Ekiti. Ogunlana and myself were members. He together with Prof Funmi Adewumi, Comrades Arije and E.E. Okijiola usually made our days as guest lecturers on the eve of every Christmas. This was meant to educate the youths of Ikere on issues of contemporary events in the country.
I must confess that I also followed his intellectual output beyond workshops and lecture halls where he served as a lecturer; but also through his numerous writings. His lucid and succinct style of writing was deep and highly qualitative in content. These are still sources of fascination for me to emulate. A typical example is a chapter he contributed to a CDHR publication on the crisis of education in tertiary institutions in Nigeria. This in no little way helped me in formulating my perspectives on the issue. This was later published as: “Crisis of Education in Nigeria”.