By Emmanuel Uffot
Most Nigerians that are familiar with the name Yinka Odumakin and have not heard or seen him speak in a public forum but were stunned when the news of his death broke on Easter Sunday, ironically a day set aside by the Christian folds to commemorate the resurrection of ”Our Lord, Jesus Christ”.
Odumakin could be liken to the Gani Fawehenmi of this world. Whenever there was crisis in the Nigerian polity or a policy taken by government that was considered to be anti- people, many Nigerians had always looked forward to the likes of Odumakin to hear his opinion which always count.
Although many of his fans and followers may not have known that he was ill, only but only to hear of the death of the fiery social critic and an age long spokesman of the Pan- Yoruba Socio-Cultural Group, Afenifere.
According to Joe Okei-Odumakin, his Wife and a human rights campaigner and President of Women Arise, Odumakin died at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH of a post Covid-19 lungs related ailment on Saturday April 3, 2021.
She said: “The sad event happened on Saturday, 3/4/2021, at the intensive healthcare unit of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital ,LASUTH, where he was being managed for respiratory issues due to complications from COVID-19 which he had recovered from about a week ago.
I appreciate the outpouring of grief and sympathy from home and abroad as I mourn my irreplaceable soulmate. I urge us all to remain steadfast in the course of the masses to which he dedicated his life. Burial arrangement will be made public in due course.”
Many socio-cultural and human rights organizations across the country have been in deep mourning over the sudden passage of Odumakin, who until his death was the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere and one of the spokesmen of Southern and Middle Belt Leadership Forum ,SMBLF.
Expectedly ever since Odumakin’s death was made public, there have been outpouring of tributes in droves to eulogies the activist.The roll call of those that have sent tributes include President Muhammdau Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo, Former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Goodluck Jonathan, former Vice- President Atiku Abakar, a former Vice President, AsiwajuBola Tinubu, POPULAR, Jagaban, a one-time governor of Lagos state and APC, National Leader,Governors, activists among others.
President Buhari who is in UK on medical grounds through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina described Odumakin as a dutiful person who was committed to his course and conviction. While expressing sorrow at his demise at a time he had a lot more to contribute to polity and the nation at large. He prayed God ”to grant repose to the soul of the departed activist, and comfort all those who mourn him”.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in a release by his media assistant, Laolu Akande, expressed sadness at the news of Odumakin’s death. Osinbajo commiserated with his wife, family and associates, and prayed that” God will comfort the family”.
Also former President Olusegun Obasanjo also expressed sadness over his demise and paid condolence visit to the leader of the pan-Yoruba group, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, at his Lagos residence to commiserate with him over the death of Odumakin.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan in his tribute titled, “A strong voice for equity is gone,” described Odumakin as “a courageous patriot and rights crusader who gave his all to the struggle for a better Nigeria”He said Odumakin was a man with rich democratic credentials who played active roles in the years of activism that birthed and stabilised civil rule in our country.
“He was a great asset for just causes whose considerable contributions to the growth of civil society is not in doubt. He also acquitted himself as a seasoned journalist and columnist who promoted egalitarianism and social well-being, in his regular essays.”
Also not left out in the torrents of tributes, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar described Odumakin as a promoter of good governance., “Odumakin was a” patriot and strong believer in the promotion of good governance, democracy and the rule of law”. I sympathise with all Nigerians who share these same values with Odumakin, especially the Afenifere group, of which Odumakin was the publicity secretary – a role he played with so much commitment and admiration.
“Much as our heart grieves over this unpleasant development, we must take solace in accepting it as an act of God and acknowledge the fact that the activist lived a life of purpose in defence of ”the ordinary people of this country and to enthrone a better Nigeria.”
Bola Tinubu described the deceased as a “committed fighter for democracy, dedicated civil society activist, a courageous and outspoken defender of whatever ideals and principles he believed in and a patriotic citizen in every sense of the word.”
According to the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), “Ever since his student days, Odumakin had been fearless and unrelenting in speaking up in promoting the cause of justice and what he perceived as the best interest of the citizens of Nigeria. He participated actively at the forefront in the various students and youth struggles against successive military dictatorships in the 1980s and 1990s. In the process, he was arrested, harassed, and even detained several times. Yet, he never allowed himself to succumb to tyranny or be pressured into submissive and pliant silence.
For Prince Abiodun, Ogun State Governor, the South west has lost a courageous human, rights activist and fearless public commentator. He noted that while alive, Odumakin championed the cause of the southwest and promoted the ideals of the late sage and Premier of the defunct Western Region, Obafemi Awolowo, which were held dear by the Afenifere.
Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki described “Odumakin, as a man of many parts, tirelessly spoke unequivocally for Nigeria’s advancement, pursuing causes to open up the civic space and engender community engagement in governance and politics.”
Obaseki added, that “as an activist and politician, he was in a class of his own. He fought for noble ideals; gave himself to the struggle to make Nigeria great and never ran away from the clarion call for national redemption. ”Odumakin will be missed for his candour, courage and strength of character, which was never in short supply when it mattered the most”, he remarked.
Governor of Osun state, Adegboyega Oyetola, called the late activist a unique advocate of justice, fairness, good governance, and a better Nigeria. Oyetola said, “”The death of Yinka Odumakin is a great loss to Yoruba land and Nigeria as a whole”. His contributions to the enthronement and growth of democracy in the country will never be forgotten.
In the same vein the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu said the demise of Odumakin is a huge loss to the Yoruba Race and Nigeria at large.He was a true Nationalist who placed Yoruba Race on a pedestal of honour and high regards and quite fearlessly, gave all in his passion-filled struggle for a virile and peaceful Nigeria with fairness, justice, equity, and freedom as his beacons.
In a condolence message, one of his close allies an Aare Onakankanfo of Yoruba land, Otunba Gani Adams said Yoruba has lost a gem and dependable ally.He described the death of the Odumakin as one death too many. He said Yoruba has lost a gem, and he has lost and age-long brother and dependable ally.
“We’ll all miss his voice. We’ll miss his commitment, we’ll miss is bravery because the late Odumakin’s fearless image loomed larger than what we can easily forget in a hurry” Similarly former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose who paid tribute to the late Odumakin described him as a “ man in total defense of justice and fairness for al”l. He had a life well spent, not how far, but how well. “In it all, he will be remembered for his undiluted love for the Yoruba race and Nigerians in general”.
In another reaction, General Secretary, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), . Kunle Olajide said his death was a big loss to Nigeria and the Yoruba race particularly.
According to Olajide, “Odumakin love Nigeria and Yoruba race so much. He was in the struggle to see the best of Nigeria for a long time but unfortunately, he left in the midst of the fight. He however left a great imprint. I salute his humility and talent especially the way he displayed during the 2014 National Conference.”
Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) also eulogies the virtue of Odumakin, saying, “The human rights community had lost a great man.”
President AYCF, Alhaji Yerimma Shettima said, “His death was a great loss to Nigeria. He stood on the side of the people.”
The Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum said Odumakin was a bundle of contradictions but a great lover of Nigerians and Nigeria.
President Yoruba Ronu, Akin Malaolu said Odumakin was wholly out of sympathies with corrupt leaders and also one of those who could without a hint of precocity analysed events and defend a cause with deft temerity.
“We need not tell you all how mournfully we felt when the news of his death broke. He played his part and now he had followed out his fate. In spite of his numerous iniquities, by the recollection of many joys in the glories of this earth, as by corks, to float himself in the sea of nothingness until he reaches the region of the Blessed and the pure in heart”.
Also speaking on his passage, governorship candidate of Lagos Peoples Democratic Party (PDP),. Jimi Agbaje said, “I am too shocked to talk. I least expected Odumakin will die this time.” Odumakin had severally handled the publicity for Agbaje in his several quest to be governor of Lagos State.
Spokesman Middle Belt Forum, Isuwa Dogo who said he worked with Odumakin over decades eulogized him as a very great man who loved Nigeria and wished the best for the country especially his desire to see a restructure system of government.
Afenifere leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, said the loss is too heavy to bear.
Echoing the voice of te Afenifere leader, the Secretary-General of Afenifere, Basorun Sehinde Arogbofa, described the death of the Afenifere spokesperson as a terrible blow to the country and the group.
“it’s a terrible blow. A terrible blow to me, as a person, because we’ve been so intimate.
“He’s been my right-hand man in Afenifere management. It’s terrible. Yinka should not have gone at this time.It’s a terrible blow to Afenifere and Nigeria. We’ve lost a brilliant chap with intelligent and brilliant ideas. This is sad, very sad.”
The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said Odumakin’s death was a huge loss to the country and, particularly, the PDP, given his erudite contributions to national dialogue and relentless commitment towards the development of democratic ethos in the country.
In a statement, National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said, “Odumakin was consistently focused in fighting for a nation in which the principles of equity, fairness and justice will thrive in every sphere of our national life.
“He dedicated his life as a journalist, human right activist and social crusader for improvement in every phase of the live in our country.“Indeed, if Yinka Odumakin had the last pint of blood in his vein and there was a need to drop same for democracy to be strengthened in our country, he would have readily made it available
“Our party commiserates with his dear wife, Joe, who has also remained steadfast in fighting for human rights, good governance, credible elections as well as justice, especially for the downtrodden.”
Similarly All Progressives Congress ,APC, mourned the death of Odumakin, describing him as a seasoned public analyst, activist, politician and patriot, who was relentless in canvassing and serving the interests of Yoruba land and the progress of the country at large. Secretary of the APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, in a statement said he was an uncommon patriot.
Governor Jide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State said, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Gboyega Akosile that, the late activist was a great nationalist, passionate leader, and champion of a true Nigeria that would work for every citizen. “Odumakin as civil rights activist was selfless. He spent the greater part of his life in the service of humanity, particularly the emancipation of the Yoruba people, the development of the South-west region, in particular, and the nation, in general.”
Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate Of Nigerian, SAN and human rights lawyer anda close ally of Odumakin mourn his death as a great loss.
Odumakin, born on December 10, 1966, had attended St. Augustine Primary School, Ondo State, before proceeding to CAC Grammar School, Edunabon, Osun State and Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife, Osun State. He graduated from Obafemi Awolowo University in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Studies, and also graduated from University of Ghana.
Odumakin played a key role in the National Democratic Coalition ,NADECO, that fought the government of late General Sani Abacha after the annulment of the 1993 Nigerian presidential election. He was among the spokespersons of the Southern and Middle Belt Leader’s Forum ,SMBLF.
He was the spokesman of Muhammadu Buhari when he contested the 2011 Nigerian presidential election under the defunct Congress for Progressive Change. In 2014, during the government of Goodluck Jonathan, Odumakin and his wife were the only married couple among the 492-member 2014 National Conference which was held in Abuja, Nigeria. He is also a known critic of Muhammadu Buhari’s government.
By 2015 Odumakin had left the Bubari’s camp to support Jonathan. He played a significant role as a member of Save Nigeria Group ,SNG, in 2009 when the Doctrine of Necessity was invoked to swear in Jonathan as president after the death of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Odumakin was from Moro, Ife North, Osun State, Nigeria. During the government of late Abacha, he met his wife Joe Okei-Odumakin at a detention facility in Alagbon, after she was transferred from Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria, due to her involvement in pro-democracy campaigns. They married on November 4, 1997.
Odumakin was also a member of the NADECO, which fought the military regime to a standstill for actualisation of June 12 Presidential Election results and enthronement of democracy.
Odumakin died on 3 April 2021 at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital from respiratory issues due to complications resulting from CO
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