By Kunle Wizeman Ajayi
Dr Segun Osobamiro, a history teacher and revolutionary socialist of the Ife Collective was prominent in the 1970s. He submitted a minority report in collaboration with Yusuf Bala Usman when they were Left members in the 50-person 1979 Constitution Drafting Committee.
On the 21st of March 2015, the Coalition for a New Nigeria organised an open house discussion to mark the 80th birthday of the retired university don. The event had the theme “The Struggle for a New Nigerian Society: Retrospect and Prospects”.
Prof Funmi Adewunmi welcomed the participants emphasising that celebrating a revolutionary is always an opportunity to discuss revolutionary issues, and bring together socialists and progressives.
Professor Toye Olorode presented a leadoff for the discussion, with a paper titled: “Reflections on the Triumphs and Failures of the Nigerian Left in Relation to the Neo-Colonial Crises in Nigeria”.
Olorode spoke about meeting Osoba at Ife during the fight for improved pay for lecturers in the early 1970s. Olorode then went ahead to situate the “downturn” in the activities of the left around the fall of the Soviet Russia in 1989. He further posited that, as against Fukuyama’s declarations that capitalism has triumphed, “the triumph of neo-liberalism largely never occurred.” He noted that the current crisis of the NLC “is symptomatic of our failures generally. The working people of Nigeria have no defining plan like then when ASUU, students, and Labour had strategic publications”.
Many of Osoba’s students and comrades were on ground to celebrate. Funmi Adewunmi, Femi Falana, Idowu Awopetu, Niyi Fasanmi, Remi Medupin, Bayo Aborisade, and many others gave revelations of their lessons from the revolutionary life of Segun Osoba.
Issa Aremu, the General Secretary of the Textile Workers Union, spoke on the essence of a revolutionary life. He stated that the labour elections were marred with irregularities.
Baba Aye, head of the Education Department of MHWUN, rose in response. He started by highlighting the issue of the documentation of Osoba and other Nigerian marxists’ works online in order to make them readily available to the wider world through www.marxists.org.
He then berated the Restoration Group in NLC for telling “so much lies”. The NLC elections, he noted, were clearly transparent. The grouse of the Restoration Group was simply that it lost. Elections are always primarily about numbers and the group with the largest number won. He further pointed out that the Restoration Group knew they would lose after accreditation as there were last-minute scheming through calls by its members to lobby for a slot with the leading group.
Prof Idowu Awopetu as well lend his voice to the ensuing discourse on the NLC crisis; “one of the very important lessons from Osoba’s exemplary life is never to break ranks…people can be angry at issues but should fight within and not exposing the movement to divisions that are very dangerous. The elections were largely free and fair. Losing out does not call for breaking out”
Segun Osoba proclaimed, “The task before us is a gargantuan one, our people need to be totally re-oriented”. He also warned against the dominance of religion which has made our people believe that “only god can do it”.
The celebration covered many lessons of struggle ranging from labour issues; building the revolutionary party; documentation of revolutionary works; and the case of winning the students struggles like the reinstatement of the OAU 6 and the non-mechanical unity of workers and students.