Professor Toye Olorode at 80: African Intellectual Still Standing, By Issa Aremu


I congratulate my senior comrade, teacher and mentor ( almost in-that-order! ) Professor Toye Olorode at 80. It is a double joy to be celebrated alive in Nigeria today. Unhelpful posthumous accolades (even of our late comrades!) are becoming fashionable. Which shows the unacceptable increasing disconnectedness of comrades and friends while alive!

We must promote comradeship/friendship Renaissance!The first civilian governor of the state, Alhaji Lateef Jakande recently died ( precisely on February 11th ) at 91. I recall that on Wednesday March 17th, at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan Stadium, Lagos on “a Day of Tributes” was stand still in honour of the late “action” Governor popularly called ‘Baba Kekere! The posthumous spoken and written tributes for Alhaji Jakande could make many books. Yet there was no official documented reference book on the late icon which paradoxically Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos rightly singled out as “a reference point for governance” in Nigeria. The point cannot be overstated: despite the challenges of “arrested development”, we must nonetheless celebrate the gift of life.

Appreciation goes to the comrades and friends who initiated this manifestation. Celebration affords opportunity to engage with the celebrant do collective reflections on decade long struggle for socialist prosperous Africa and just and fairer world. That’s the beauty of life celebration: it affords roll call of the living comrades in joy not despair at grave sides of departed comrades. I hope today’s public lecture offers same for Intellectual reflections under the theme: :”Labour and Quest For Nigeria’s National Development:Reflections and Prognosis on the Way Forward”. It’s a good opportunity to once again listen to the good voice of the celebrant for socialism in the current era of dictatorship of unipolar neo- liberal ideology.

Professor Omotoye Olorode at 80 raises the nostalgia of our students’ days of struggles in socialist radical movement, NUN/ NANS in late 1970s/ 1980s. Admission to Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) through the famous School of Basic Studies ( SBS), Samaru, Zaria opened a vista of opportunity for knowledge about Development and Society. As students of Social Sciences and Arts our imagination was fried to rediscover Africa and World through History. We were introduced to theories of growth and development, Theories of Change and Revolutions, Sociology of Organizations, including mass organizations like trade unions and women movements . The academic atmosphere at ABU and all Nigerian pioneer universities was truly progressive, democratic and liberal. We had a remarkable mix of radical and conservative teachers sourced all over the world. We were exposed to critical studies through regular debates, contestations and summarizations with eye and mind on liberation of Africa from poverty, vestiges of colonialism and apartheid regime in Southern Africa . There were regular seminars and tutorials on contemporary issues of the day. There was a progressive alliance between radical left groups that included Zaria Group of Marxist Leninist movement and Socialist Group of Ife Collective, two radical movements namely African Anti-lmperialist Youth Front (AAIYF) at Kano ( BUK).

National growth LS

Late Dr Bala Usman, late Professor Claude Ake, late Professor Nkenna Izimero, late Dr Mahmoud Tukur, late Ntiem Kungwai, late Dr Ola Oni, late Dr Rauf Mustapha, Jibo Ibrahim, Dr Biodun Jeyfor Eddie Madunagu and Professor Olorode were among the radical teachers who inspired us to theories and praxis of change. “Banking” education of primary and secondary in which pupils and students reproduce unthinking received wisdom of teachers gave way to critical studies and critical minds. Thanks to the Olorodes.

In 1981 in our final years in ABU, Zaria, the then Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, went on full scale repression of progressive radical students. Ango was a visible right wing conservative member of the ruling party (NPN) in the second Republic. Following the resistance of students’ union against worsening learning conditions, he expelled scores of students that included yours comradely, late Bala Jibril, Abdulrahaman Black and Chom Bagu Deme. All expelled students were all progressive and radical. The report recommended wholesale obscene political witch-hunt. The patriotic Movement for a Progressive Nigeria (MPN) was recommended for a ban and all its members, expelled ‘if ABU is to enjoy lasting peace’. It was also that year that Ango made a move to prohibit a social science course, ‘Marxism and Developing World’ in the institution’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. The McCarthian argument was that ‘Marxism’ was the cause of the students’ protest and not the objective crisis conditions created by the administration’s ineptitude and arbitrariness.

As the late Dr Yahaya Mahmoud, former ASUU President summed it up: ‘it was certainly a good Mafia – design, destroy, and then blame the victims’. Ango Abdullahi bulldozed his way into the Committee of Universities Vice Chancellors (CVC), an opportunistic ad-hoc committee, according to which, all expelled students (mostly from ABU) should not be readmitted into any other university.

In 1986 another fresh crisis exposed the Ango’s tyranny . A female student Farida Mustapha was shot dead, without reason, by policemen on the order of ‘custodian’ Ango. Eventually Ango Abdullahi was ignominiously removed.
Professor Olorode is among the radical lecturers who encouraged and facilitated our readmission and completions of our studies in various universities at home and abroad.

Professor Olorode has been a regular resource fellow at Harmattan and Rain schools of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) with participants drawn from industrial unions. He has helped in cultivating and consolidating class consciousness among the workers through periodic thematic lectures. On the 31st October 2019 at the my former union; National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers ( NUTGWN) organized 30th Annual National Education Conference of) at the Conference Hall, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Central Business District, Abuja. Professor Olorode was a star lecturer who spoke eloquently on Contemporary Ideologies and Labour during the opening ceremony.

The greatest valued contribution of Professor Olorode is his activist documentation of Labour’s resistance against national and global capital and struggle of trade unions in defence of workers’ rights. Professor Omotoye Olorode delivered the 19th Annual Dr M.E. KOLAGBODI MEMORIAL LECTURE. I recommend the 63- paged manual presentation as a compulsory read in all trade union workshops for its rich dated facts, analysis and audacious agenda setting for trade union movement. It’s a reference material for all times. Some of his views are controversial. In line with critical mind he taught us I have had cause to engage him on some of his controversial views on “professional unionists” . The world has long moved on with inclusive labour movement with formal and informal workers, women and youths.

Any interaction with Professor Olorode often brings into fond memory of my mentor the late Professor Claude Ake who audaciously damned the reactionary authority of University of Portharcourt, encouraged my readmission to the university in 1982. The two are unassuming and humble, soft spoken with characteristic lady-like soft-spoken words which often obscured ever entrenched Intellectual rigor and deep commitment to transform Africa. At times like this of fashionable insularity and xenophobia, student imperialist sponsored Balkanized Nigeria, we need more standing Compatriots and socialists Professor Olorode and late Claude Ake who stand for united socialist Africa.

Amandla!!! Happy birthday comrade Prof!!!!

Issa AREMU mni

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