For Jeyifo (BJ) and Komolafe (KK) – Part 3
In January 2016 when Biodun Jeyifo “clocked” 70 years, a big 2-day seminar was held in his honour at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU). A book, Ogun’s Errant Warrior: Celebrating Biodun Jeyifo at 70, later emerged from the papers presented at the seminar. My own paper, Biodun Jeyifo in the Struggle for the Revolutionary Transformation of the Nigerian Society is Chapter 5 (pages 46-75) of the 17-chapter, 300-page publication put out by Kraft Books Limited, Ibadan. That paper, which has also been published in my book The Nigerian Left: Introduction to History (For Eskor Toyo and Biodun Jeyifo), is both a concentrated fraction of the RD story that is yet to be told in full and a personal tribute to BJ. I refer readers to these two publications and to a tribute, Saluting Bene Madunagu at 70, written by me and published in The Guardian of March 21 and 22, 2017. With these references as background, I shall end my narrative with a glimpse at the making of an exceptional revolutionary Leftist cadre, KK.
Comrade Kayode Komolafe (KK) was born on January 25, 1960 in Igbara-Oke, then in the old Western Region, but now in Ondo State. After his primary and secondary education at home he was admitted into the University of Calabar in the last quarter of 1978, at the age of 18, to study Biological Sciences. He came in as a full-time and resident student. He entered Calabar the same month my comrade-spouse, Bene Madunagu, and I were dismissed from the university by the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo. It did not take long for the Radical Movement on the campus and, through it, the Socialist Movement in Calabar to identify him as a rising radical democrat. We soon learnt that his radicalization started before he got to Calabar. He had more than a fair knowledge – for his age and level of formal education – of what was happening in Nigeria, in the Nigerian Left and in Calabar.
Kayode Komolafe soon got admitted into the Movement for Progressive Nigeria (MPN) which was then the leading Leftist students’ formation in the university. From there, he moved to the Calabar Group of Socialists (CGS) and a revolutionary tendency within it – the Democratic Action Committee (DACOM). As expected, the Revolutionary Directorate (RD) also noticed him. It was a rapid movement demanded by the situation in Nigeria and the battles the Nigerian Left and its various segments, including those in Calabar, were waging against the military dictatorship. In that type of situation every exceptionally bright and courageous Leftist enthusiast – especially a very young one – must be grabbed with both hands. The movement grabbed the then smallish, shy, intelligent, humble, kind and generous Kayode Komolafe whose “staying power” was striking. His young comrades and compatriots first called him “Komo!” and then “KK”. The movement followed their lead.
In summary and for the record: KK joined the organized Leftist movement in Nigeria in 1979, at the age 19 but approaching 20. By the end of 1980 he had become a leading member and General Secretary of MPN. The latter linked him to the national students’ movement which was then laboring to form a new organization, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). He also soon became a leading activist of DACOM, and a member of the Calabar Group of Socialists (CGS). By the time Ingrid Essien-Obot was murdered in Calabar in April 1981 KK had become a “friend” of RD; and between his final degree examination in mid-1982, and the fourth quarter of that year when he moved to Takum in then Gongola state, but now in Taraba State, for his national youth service, Kayode Komolafe (KK) was outside Nigeria on a revolutionary assignment.
At a point in this foreign assignment, KK’s family back home in Igbara-Oke became worried that their son had not come back home to prepare for his national service. They therefore sent his younger brother, Gbenga, to come to Calabar to find out what was happening, or rather to confirm his safety. Gbenga naturally came to me and Bene. But we, ourselves, were becoming worried. We, however, confidently told the young man to return home, that his brother had gone to Lagos to sort out some official matters and would be arriving Igbara-Oke in three days. We did not give him any reason to suspect not just that his brother was outside Nigeria but that we had had no contact with him since he left Calabar about two weeks earlier! To cut a long story short, KK returned to Calabar the day after Gbenga’s departure, gave his report, went to Igbara-Oke, and then to Takum.
In December 1982, Bene Madunagu and I paid a visit to Kayode Komolafe (KK) in Takum where he was serving. In the second half of 1983 he finished his service and moved to Lagos with a “stop” at Ife to see Biodun Jeyifo (BJ). KK later joined The Guardian in Lagos. In late 1983, Bene moved from Calabar to Ibadan to complete her Ph.D programme. I myself later left Calabar for Ife/Ibadan, then to Lagos to join The Guardian. By mid-1985 RD had reconstituted and moved its headquarters from Calabar to Ife.
To conclude: What is the current status of RD and what does it do now? The answer to this question will necessarily include a general, even if tentative self-assessment of a 45-year engagement. This will have to wait for another opportunity. Then, I hope, it will be possible to say more on the “extraordinary engagement” and “rural Conscientisation” of 1976/1977.
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