Akele’s passing: Recalling his encounter with Fawehinmi, Tinubu
Adams, Ibrahim others mourn the passage of labour activist
If there is a point where departed souls interact and make conversation about what happened to them while on earth, surely the late legal luminary, Chief Gani Fawehinmi now has such opportunity in the hereafter. He would eagerly find out from the former Secretary-General of National Conscience Party (NCP), Mr. Ayodele Akele, who died on Tuesday, June 23, 2020, whether the former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu did forgive and facilitate his (Akele) recall to the civil service.
Few weeks to September 5, 2009, when Fawehinmi died, Tinubu had visited the ailing legal practitioner at his GRA Ikeja residence but coincidentally meet Akele. Tinubu has had issues over some industrial actions with Akele, who was then chairman of Lagos State chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the development that eventually led to Akele’s controversial removal from service.
Tinubu sacked Akele for leading workers in a struggle for the implementation of N7,500 minimum wage.
During the meeting, Fawehinmi, who probably knew that he would die, appealed to Tinubu to forgive Akele and forget whatever might have been the comrade’s misdemeanors as a parting gift to him. The founder of NCP also begged the APC national leader to be of assistance to Akele, who later contested the governorship election for Lagos twice on the party’s platform.
It was not clear if Tinubu made any commitment to Fawehinmi and Akele but whatever followed that last meeting among the trio, the national leader is now the only living soul that can tell the full details.
Following the intervention by Fawehinmi before his death in 2009, a rights group, the Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR), Osun State, called on Tinubu’s successor, Babatunde Fashola to immediately recall Akele, in the spirit of the celebration of the life of the late legal icon. The group, in a statement signed by Waheed Lawal and Kola Ibrahim, then urged the Fashola administration to recall Akele if it did not want the public to believe that he was playing to the gallery.
Since then Akele began active participation in Lagos politics especially as he contested the governorship elections on the platform of NCP but lost to former governors Babatunde Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode until he fizzled out of public glare perhaps due to the ailment that eventually took his life last Tuesday.
The late labour leader and politician was a student of Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, in 1980 where he played a leading role in the formation of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) after the proscription of the National Association of University Students (NUNS) by the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo. He was elected the founding secretary-general of NANS in June 1980 during which time he worked relentlessly for independent students unionism in Nigeria.
He was a founding member of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) formed in 1989 and had the late Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti as its founding president. He also played a crucial role in the founding of the Campaign for Democracy (CD) that played a fundamental role in the enthronement of democratic rule in Nigeria in 1999.
He later joined Lagos State public service and participated very actively in the Civil Service Union and contributed immensely to the development of the union for decades to the consternation of his employers, employers of labour and even treacherous labour leaders whose main preoccupation was aimed at denying workers and the proletariat their inalienable rights, together with internationally guaranteed good conditions of service.
Akele worked with Lagos State Property Development Corporation (LSPDC) from where he was elected Lagos State Chairman of National Union of Public Corporations Employees (NUPCE) in the late 1980s till 1996 when NUPCE, along with CSTWUN and RSEU, merged to form the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreation Services Employees (AUPCTRE). At that time also, the management of LSDPC would not forget him in a hurry for his numerous battles with them on behalf of the workers.
His controversial encounter with Lagos State government started under the military administration of Governor Brigadier-General Buba Marwa (rtd) and he was eventually fired by the Tinubu-led civilian administration, which succeeded Marwa. Since his death, several Nigerians have eulogized his virtues a true Nigerian, a dedicated comrade and astute politician, whose political and human rights philosophy are aimed at improving the lives of the Nigerian citizens in terms of better infrastructure and creation of credible electoral atmosphere.
In her condolence message, President, Women Arise, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumaki described the death of Akele “as the end of an era.” Okei-Odumakin said the deceased was a strong believer of socialism as an ideology, adding that he was a product of the Gani Fawehinmi school of thought, adding that the news of Akele’s death hit her like a thunderbolt.
According to her, “He was revolutionary humanist par excellence. I recall our struggles for democracy against fiery military men, with pains in my heart. He stood for his convictions while sacrificing comfort and socio-economic benefits. He was a man that not even military torture in cell could break. A strong believer of socialism as an ideology, he was one of the rare products of Gani Fawehinmi school of thought.”
Okei-Odumakin added that Akele gave all for the emancipation of the Nigerian masses.
In a related vein, a group, the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), has expressed deep sorrow over the passing of frontline labour activist, Ayodele Akele.
The group, in a statement in Abuja yesterday by its Executive Director, Dr. Zikirullahi M. Ibrahim, said as an organisation, “we are deeply saddened by the exit of this great and exemplary Comrade. As a labour activist, Akele was a man of principles, who devoted his time and energies to fight on the side of the working people.”
In another condolence, the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams said he received the news of Akele’s death with shock, saying the death was a colossal loss to the entire nation.
Adams, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Aderemi, described Akele as a reliable and trusted ally that made a remarkable impact in the world of social activism, devoting all his life and energy to freedom fighting.
“I am saddened to hear the news of Akele’s death,” he said, “it was a loss too many to bear. The late Comrade Akele’s foothold in social activism was indelible and we will certainly miss his radicalism.”
Akele in his life remained a frontline freedom fighter and one of the strongmen to be trusted in the struggle, especially during the dark era of the military. He had suffered a lot of injustices and yet remained steadfast in the struggle for justice and social reforms.
“The unionist’s relationship with the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) family was cordial till date,” Adams reminisced. “He was nicknamed ‘Itu’ and his popular saying was ‘Keu, Keu’, which had been his signpost among the right activists.”