The “Oladipo Fashina Jingo@ 70” celebration was held on May, 30 at the Oduduwa Hall Amphitheatre of Obafemi Awolowo University. It was an occassion to commemorate the 70th birthday of Professor Dipo Fashina, popularly called Jingo. Oladipo “Jingo” Fashina, who is currently the national chairperson of JAF, is a seasoned revolutionary activist and philosopher.
Jingo who hails from the Ashogbon family in Isale Eko, a royal ruling house in Lagos has discountenanced all forms of domination of the human spirit – be these the nobility, capitalist bosses or deities – since an early age. He became initially radicalized at an early age when studying at Kings College, which he gained admission into when he was 12 years old.
Four years later, he headed to the Government College, Apata Ibadan for his Higher School Certificate (HSC). He secured admission to study French at the University of Ibadan after successfully bagging his HSC. But, he chose to rather proceed to the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
Interestingly, after his first degree in the USSR, Jingo opted to pursue post-graduate studies in philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He arrived there in 1971, shortly after the witch-hunting of Angela Davis, a radical lecturer in the College had led to her forced exit.
Fashina threw in his lot with the Black Panthers Party whilst studying, helping to build the Black Panthers. While pursuing his PhD, he picked an appointment with the then University of Ife in 1973. He wrapped up his PhD in 1979, with a dissertation which queried the bourgeois distortion that Marxism denied individuals any role within a mechanically deterministic sense of history. It was titled A Theory of Individuals in Karl Marx.
Fully back to Ife during the period of the formation of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in 1978 (replacing the former conservative National Association of University Teachers), he played leading roles in the union’s life for twenty-three years without being keen on occupying offices until he was saddled as National President. He always had an intense sense of organizational discipline and working as part of a collective.
On returning to Ife, he had joined the Socialist Forum Collective which included such notable figures on the Nigerian Left as; Segun Osoba, Toye Olorode, Idowu Awopetu and Biodun Jeyifo. In 1986, he was one of the founding members of the Socialist Congress of Nigeria (SCON). Over the years, he was one of the comrades that did get to maintain a balance of work within his core organization, the union and the broader social movement in a way that was self-reinforcing of these intertwined spheres of building resistance.
And as a teacher, he was a beloved pedagogue, at Ife where he was the pioneer coordinator of the school’s philosophy program. No lecturer, till date ever had so many students enrolling for his or her course as “popular Jingo”. At a stage, the university’s sports center had to be utilized to accommodate some of his classes and he had to use a megaphone to get heard by the students. He demystified and popularized philosophy in general and radical philosophy in particular.
Not a few people believed he was denied a professorship whilst at the University due to his radical stance on issues, including standing by student activists victimized by management. After his retirement from Ife, (which had then become the Obafemi Awolowo University) in 2013, he was requested by Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria to come and establish its philosophy department. This was where his academic acumen was eventually recognized with a professorship.
As National President of ASUU in the early 2000s, he led the campaign that brought about an astronomical increment in the salaries of university teachers, who till then had been poorly paid. This was also the period of Nigeria Labour Congress’ “new beginning” in the wake of the civilianization of the polity.
While the Ibrahim Babangida junta had disaffiliated ASUU from NLC, relations continued informally, until the return of ASUU to the fold by Congress’ 10th National Delegates Conference. This was particularly so under the presidency of Jingo. ASUU activists played important roles in designing the NLC National Schools’ contents as well as in the delivery of radical ideas at the Schools’ plenary sessions. Dipo Fashina was one of the most regular faces in all of these, and still is.
He saw a dialectical unity of work in the trade unions and broader civil society movement, as a socialist. He served as Chair of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights. But it has been as Chairperson of the Joint Action Front (JAF) that he has been most prominent through social movement activism in working-class people’s political struggles.
Jingo was called upon to take up this role in 2006, after the death of Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti, the founding Chair of JAF. This was largely because of his non-sectarian politics and down-to-earth personality. He is an avowed Marxist-Leninist. But virtually every tendency on the Left present in JAF could, did and do relate very well with him.
He has thus been able to adequately provide leadership to JAF in its interventions in the different struggles initiated by the trade unions, or independently by the JAF over the past eleven years.
It was within this context of half a century of struggle that the celebration of our Jingo is best situated. Different activists, labor leaders, academics (including seven serving or retired Vice Chancellors), friends and well-wishers that thronged the venue of the ceremonies to commemorate the revolutionary philosopher spoke on different aspects of the life of this polyglot who speaks Yoruba, English, Russian, French, and Ukrainian fluently and who reads and translates Spanish and German.
The highlight of the day’s program was a book presentation, on the life and times of Jingo titled: Perspectives on Dipo Fashina’s Scholarship, Activism and Ideology. In his remarks, Professor Attahiru Jega (a former Vice Chancellor of the Bayero University Kano and immediate past Chair of the Independent National Electoral Commission who had himself served as an ASUU National President during the military dictatorship), while presenting the book to the public stated that the things that make Dipo Fashina popular are; his pursuit of justice and fairness, his left leaning political ideology, and his sense of history.
He further stated that Jingo is a great union strategist basically because of his determined efforts to ensure social justice and the emancipation of workers. Jingo’s contribution to ASUU as part of his dogged commitment to the working class as a whole, he noted, has immensely changed the negotiation prowess and approach of the union.
Several speakers from the academia also recognized that Dipo Fashina was one of the ASUU national leaders that demanded and championed the cause for the federal government to increase funding for the education sector. There is an urgent need now, they added, to renew the struggle for adequate funding of the education sector, going by the just passed 2017 Appropriation Bill, in which just 4% was allocated to the education sector.
It is clear that there is a deliberate attack on the education sector, because this is the worst case of education under-funding in recent times. Hence it is essential for students, teachers and all workers to continue the struggle for education as a right and not a privilege.
Comrade Ayubba Wabba, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress called for working-class people, the intelligentsia and studentry to imbibe the culture of celebrating radical activists that have contributed hugely in changing the society for the better, while they are alive. He further commended the life of Dipo Fashina Jingo as a life of service and commitment to the cause of the downtrodden.
He went on to state that the current national situation must change, but cannot change on its own except we have more people like Jingo. He celebrated Jingo for his achievements in the trade union and civil society movement, and wished him a long and prosperous life with more victories in the struggle for the emancipation of the workers.
Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, the ASUU National President submitted that the recent power tussles within some ASUU branches and especially in the OAU branch can be attributed to a lack of leadership training and selflessness, which is quite unlike what the generation of Jingo bequeathed. He then saluted the role Jingo is currently playing to end the leadership crisis in the union.
The immediate past ASUU National President, Dr Umar Fagge, in his contribution, narrated one of the numerous experiences he had with Dipo Fashina, that he would never forget. This was during the 2011 ASUU strike. The council of traditional rulers had summoned the ASUU national leadership in an attempt to intervene in the industrial action on behalf of the federal government.
There, the Etsu of Nupe threatened the striking workers to resume lecture and call off the strike or face the wrath of the law with a court ruling against the action. Immediately, as Fagge reported, Jingo responded that “we have another option, and it is called civil disobedience, which allows the workers to continue their strike, meanwhile the union is ready for any punishment thereafter”.
He then went ahead to enlighten the traditional rulers that it was based on an earlier tradition of civil obedience in the United States that black people won the right to vote and subsequently have a black man as president of United State of America. This particular statement silenced the traditional rulers.
After hours of inspiring and well-deserved eulogies, and the book presentation, Jingo was joined by his wife to cut the birthday cake. Socialist Workers League members were present at the occasion. And once more, SWL salutes the revolutionary Jingo. Hasta la victoria siempre, compañero!
by Lai Browne and Baba Aye