The President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan; the President of the Senate, Senator David Mark; and the Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, were among prominent Nigerians that on Tuesday expressed sadness over the death of a former President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof. Festus Iyayi.
Iyayi died in a road crash in Lokoja, Kogi State on Tuesday.
He was on his way to Kano for the National Executive Committee meeting of ASUU.
The vehicle in which he was travelling was said to have been hit by a car in the convoy of the Kogi State Governor, Captain Idris Wada.
Jonathan, in a statement by his spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, said: “On behalf of himself and the Federal Government, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan commiserates with the leadership and members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on the tragic death today of former ASUU President, Dr. Festus Iyayi.
“President Jonathan also extends sincere condolences to Dr. Iyayi’s family as well as his colleagues, friends and associates across the country and beyond.
“The President joins them in mourning the renowned academic and award-winning writer who rose to national prominence in the 1980s with his courageous leadership of ASUU in its struggle for a better working environment for teachers and academics in the nation’s university system.
“He is particularly dismayed by the fact that Dr. Iyayi has sadly lost his life while going to contribute to efforts to finally resolve the current ASUU strike which has unfortunately disrupted academics in most of the nation’s universities for over four months.
“President Jonathan prays that God Almighty will comfort all who mourn Dr. Iyayi and grant his soul eternal rest.”
Mark said with Iyayi’s death, Nigeria has lost an academic giant.
Reacting to the untimely death of Iyayi through a ghastly motor accident, Senator Mark noted the giant strides of the university scholar, which brought international fame and value to the nation.
He noted with pain that Iyayi was one of the leaders of ASUU dialoging with the Federal Government on how to resolve the lingering strike action by the university teachers.
According to Mark: “This is one very painful death.
“Dr. Iyayi was among the university teachers meeting with the Federal Government side on how to end this strike.
“As usual, his contributions have been forthright and rewarding.
That he died at this time his contributions were most needed is a huge set back.
“I remember his frank and honest contributions towards ending the strike and addressing the ills in the tertiary education in Nigeria when we met last week.
“His death is unfortunate.
“It is a huge loss to the nation.”
Senator Mark sympathized with the university community, Iyayi’s immediate family , the government and people of Edo State and the nation.
He prayed that God in His infinite mercy grants the bereaved family the fortitude to bear the sad loss, just as he prayed that the almighty creator grants the deceased eternal rest.
The Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, has expressed deep shock at the sudden death of Iyayi and called on players in the education sector, including the Federal Government and striking lecturers in the country, to rededicate themselves to the pursuit of excellence at the tertiary level in honour of the deceased.
The governor, in a statement by Felix Ofou, his Press Secretary, said the highest honour that the late Iyayi deserved was the return to the pursuit of academic excellence in our universities and other higher institutions, arguing that anything short of this would have meant that the late activist might have died in vain.
Uduaghan recalled the heroic struggle and sacrifice of the late professor and author for the working class as well as the university system, pointing out that the history of strikes and strive for higher academic goals in the country cannot be said to be complete without glowing references to the part played by the deceased while still alive.
The Delta State chief executive, an alumnus of the University of Benin, paid glowing tributes to his alma mater for providing a place of pride for the renowned poet, author and academic colossus, who engineered new heights and defined the intellectual and working class struggle in a manner never experienced before his time, standing strong and speaking truth to power and championing the cause of the oppressed.
He commiserated with the family of the deceased, the University of Benin community, the people of Edo State, ASUU, the academic community and the nation at large on the painful loss and asked God to grant them the fortitude to bear the untimely passage of such a titanic labour leader.