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Life and times of Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye

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[FILE PHOTO] Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye

Tinubu, Fayemi, Abiodun, others mourn
The progressive wing of Nigerian politics has lost one of its strong pillars and former member, National Assembly that represented Ogun East (1999-2003) under the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD), Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye.

The astute politician and a member of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), died at 88 years in Lagos on Monday, after a brief illness.

The death of the immediate chairman, Board of Commissioners for Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), came as a rude shock to those agitating for restructuring of Nigeria, who said with Durojaiye’s demise their ranks has been depleted.

Durojaiye remained in the progressive wings until he breathed his last. He was a member of the defunct Action Group (AG), founded by the former Premier of Western Region, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He also joined the progressive wing in the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), during the Second Republic and was part of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), in the short-lived Third Republic.

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He joined forces with pro-democracy group and was actively engaged in the struggle under NADECO that eventually ended military hegemony in Nigeria.

He moved along with the progressives under the platform of AD where he was elected senator. The Ijebu-Igbo born politician was a member of Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere. Durojaiye aligned with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), in 2015 to end the 16-year rule of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Paying tribute to the late Afenifere chieftain, the national Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu said, “I’m deeply saddened by the passing of elder statesman, pro-democracy activist and progressive politician, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye.

“An eminent and committed leader, Senator Durojaiye did much for Nigeria. His contributions to democracy and good governance have been considerable and will preserve the name of Durojaiye in the history of our nation.

“He worked tirelessly for the termination of military rule and return of democracy in the land. He stood steadfastly against the annulment of June 12 presidential elections.

“Senator Durojaiye was prominent among the founders of progressive political parties including SDP, AD and APC.

Tinubu noted that the late politician at the Senate deployed his deep understanding of politics and economy to advance the course of development in his state and throughout the entire country.

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Tinubu said, “Senator Durojaiye was a close associate and partner on the progressive front. Together we travelled throughout this country in our bid to advance democratic good governance. He was a rare leader I owe nothing but respect, admiration and fond memories”.

In a condolence message, Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State expressed shock over the passage of the Ijebu-Igbo born politician.

He said: “Chief Durojaiye was with us during the stakeholders meeting for the Ward Congress last month and was a strong pillar of our administration.”

Abiodun described Durojaiye’s death as a “great loss to the progressives, the political ideology he identified with and represented while alive”.

He noted that Durojaiye was an elder statesman and formidable economist, lawyer and banker, who was elected member of the 1988/1989 Constituent Assembly.

He said, “Durojaiye will be greatly missed in the political circle of not only in Ogun State, but Nigeria.”

The governor added that apart from being a consummate politician, Chief Durojaiye was also a community leader who loved his community and contributed to the development of Ijebu Igbo, Ijebu North Local Government and Ogun State.

Paying tribute to the late politician, former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Segun Osoba said Durojaiye died in active service to the nation. “Despite his old age, the late octogenarian was never found wanting anytime he was called to serve. I recalled how he was incarcerated under the military regime of the late Gen. Sani Abacha, but he was never deterred.”

For the General Secretary of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Dr. Kunle Olajide, Durojaiye’s death was “a great loss to Nigeria”.

Describing him as a level headed Nigerian patriot, Olajide disclosed that Durojaiye’s joined politics in 1988 when former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida lifted ban on politics.

Olajide said, “He indicated interest to contest for the presidency of Nigeria. I was contesting for the governorship of old Ondo State then. Some of us saw him as a joker because he did not have the financial muscle required for that office and touring the whole of the country. It was the same time the late Chief M.K.O Abiola and Gen. Musa Yar’ Adua contested.  Nigeria has lost a very brilliant man, down-to-earth and very patient.”

To a former Nigerian Ambassador to the Philippines, Dr. Yemi Farounbi, Durojaiye was a respected Yoruba man, describing him as a “great progressive who served his people in Ijebu-igbo loyally. As a senator, he was very distinguished. A great performer and he was very loyal to the party.”

Farombi said, “With the time I interacted with him in the old SDP and at various levels, I found him as a very committed patriot, very committed Yoruba man, the man who loved the poor and even made his personal resources available to the poor, to the needy and to underprivileged.

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“Durojaiye rose to the highest point in Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) before he retired and joined active service to the nation”.

The apex Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere expressed shock at the demise of Durojaiye.
The national publicity Secretary of the organisation, Comrade Jare Ajayi said that Durojaiye left unblemished records both in his public career and as a politician.

Ajayi said,“For the whole of his 35 years in the public service, Durojaiye was never found wanting. 28 of his 35 years were spent in the Central Bank of Nigeria and in the Nigerian Minting Corporation at the management level. Although occupying offices where temptations abound, Olabiyi never compromised his integrity.”

Ajayi noted that even when Durojaiye ventured into partisan politics, he discharged himself creditably, thus demonstrating the Omoluabi ethos.

Afenifere spokesperson also recalled the patriotic roles played by the late Senator in the testy days of the military. The struggle to get military to leave the political scene made Afenifere, with the collaboration of some concerned patriots, formed the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), which coordinated activities that forced military to leave the political arena in 1999.

Born in 1933, Olabiyi was a foundation student of the popular Molusi College, Ijebu Igbo after which he went overseas to read law.

Afenifere asserted that Durojaiye’s death has further created another vacuum in the comity of statesmen in Nigeria.

“However, while we mourn this patriotic Yoruba son, we assure all and sundry that we will not relent in the struggle to have a better society, a mission to which the Ogun State politician dedicated his later life”.

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Afenifere called on his immediate and extended family members not to be downcast but to be resolute in seeing to the fruition of those ideals,  “for which Durojaiye lived and died”.

The body seized the opportunity to call on those at the helms of affairs to honour the memory of Durojaiye by “instituting true federalism in Nigeria. For, this, among others, was something very much at heart of the late Senator.”

In like manner, Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum, said Durojaiye made visible impact while he lived.

A statement signed by President of the forum, Mr Akin Malaolu said “the late Senator promoted the spirit of togetherness amongst Nigerians of diverse backgrounds of ethnicity, faith, and politics. He was a farsighted leader who transcended parochialism”.

Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, expressed condolences on the death of Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye.

The Governor in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Yinka Oyebode, said he was saddened that a pillar in the struggle for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria in the nineties has gone.

He described the deceased as a highly cerebral economist, lawyer, pro-democracy activist, distinguished parliamentarian and a leading light of the progressive politics in Nigeria.

Dr. Fayemi said the deceased was one of the prominent pro-democracy campaigners who gave younger elements in the movement like him inspiration during the struggle for revalidation of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.

He said Durojaiye stood to be counted on the side of the people of Nigeria and defied the most brutal military dictatorship at a critical period in the nation’s history to demand for the restoration of a popular mandate when it was risky to do so.

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Hailing the sacrifices made by the late Afenifere chieftain, Fayemi recalled that he was arrested in December 1996 and detained for 560 days by the Gen. Sanni Abacha-led junta who considered him a thorn in its flesh.

Fayemi said the late Senator Durojaiye’s commitment to service came to the fore during his career at the nation’s apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), before he decided to join politics as a member of the Constituent Assembly between 1988 and 1989 and later as a Senator of the Federal Republic.

He noted further that the late Durojaiye had a memorable and unblemished tenure as Chairman of the NCC, the regulatory body of telecoms operation in the country.

“An iroko has fallen. We shall miss Senator Durojaiye’s amiable personality, brilliance, wisdom and candour. He was one of our very best. We are however comforted with the fact he lived a decent and impactful life and served God and humanity with all his might.

“We pray that God comfort his family and associates and grant him eternal rest,” the Governor added.

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Oludescribed Durojaiye as a passionate leader who served his country meritoriously as a public servant, human rights activist, politician and seasoned administrator.

Sanwo-Olu in a condolence message, said the late legal practitioner, politician and Afenifere chieftain spent his life in the service of humanity, particularly for emancipation of Yoruba people and defense of Nigeria’s democratic system.

He also praised the late Senator Durojaiye’s contribution to Nigeria’s democracy, especially his fight, alongside other progressive elements in the country during the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election and the dark days of the military junta for the enthronement of constitutional democracy in Nigeria.

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The governor also commiserated with Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, and the entire people of the State, especially, indigenes of Ijebu-Igbo, on the demise of their illustrious son and elder statesman.

He said: “On behalf of the Government and people of Lagos State, I want to express my sincere and heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and associates of the late Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye as well as members of the political family of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and entire Yoruba people.

“The death of Senator Durojaiye is a colossal loss to the country. He made lots of positive contributions during his lifetime to the growth and development of Yorubaland and Nigeria. He fought along with several other patriots and pro-democracy activists tirelessly for enthronement of democracy in Nigeria.

“He wrote his name in gold as a tireless fighter and an advocate of democratic government. He played a crucial role as chieftain of NADECO in the agitation for the actualisation of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election and return of civilian government in May 29, 1999. Despite being arrested and imprisoned by the military regime of General Sani Abacha, he never gave up the struggle for Nigeria’s democracy.

“I pray that God will grant him eternal rest and give his immediate family, friends, political associates, Afenifere, the people of Ijebu-Igbo and Ogun State, the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.”

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