A cross-section of members of the academic community, joined by members of civil society organisations, booed one the officiating clergymen, during the lying-in-state ceremony held for late former President of the Academic staff Union of Universities, Prof. Festus Iyayi, which held on Friday, at the Akin Deko main auditorium of the University of Benin.
Rev. Fr. Andrew Obiyan, one of the seven officiating priests at the ceremony, which was attended by a record that continued to swell as the programme wore on, drew the ire of the virtually all in attendance, when he veered of his main business, to tell ASUU about having a rethink about their over five month-old strike.
The priest said many of the lecturers were already wary of the “fight.”
Reading from portions of the bible, Obiyan praised Iyayi’s tenacity of purpose, courage and sense of dedication to duty, all of which he said contributed to the “hero” he became, both in life and in death and went on to call on ASUU members to consider their position in order that they not continue to be at the receiving end.
He said, “The death of the faithful is precious in the eyes of God, so I want to admonish the family not to think of the pain of death, but think about the bright promise of immortality.”
Threading on what was to irk the crowd, he said, “Finally, I want to thank God because (ASUU) you have become the voice of the voiceless today. May that voice never die. But I want to remind you that there is no success without sacrifice; for Jesus to gain the whole world he had to give up his life. We give up to go up.
“My humble appeal to you as a minister of God is to kindly request you in the name of God to please surrender the tool of power. Do not give the federal government the privilege of satisfaction of fighting and defeating you. I encourage you to surrender first in this fight. You have made your point eloquently and clear enough.
“Sincere and intelligent Nigerians will consider will consider what you have done and will forever appreciate you for it. Your surrender at this time as a tool of power is the sign of strength, it’s not a sign of weakness. Our relationship with God our father shows that faith and trust navigate.
“We may not trust the federal government owing to their antecedents, but I humbly request you to please trust them now.”
Speaking with journalists at the end of the ceremony, ASUU President, Dr Nasri Fagge said reaction from the crowd was enough attestation to the mood of majority of union members on the matter.
He said, “We were told here at this gathering there were some fundamental issues that bother the mind of our late comrade, as to the future of the struggle. For me, it is left for us to rally round those ideals and advance his legacies. You saw the reaction of the crowd to what was said about suspending the struggle, and that to me said it all.”
Recalling some of his past encounters with the late professor of business administration, Governor Adams Oshiomhole said, “Iyayi spoke truth to power, just as much as he spoke truth with his colleagues.”
Oshiomhole offered to support in building of ASUU secretariat at UNIBEN, as a way of immortalising Iyayi.