By Vera Wisdom-Bassey
Many prominent leaders of the Yoruba, on April 15, gathered in Ikeja, Lagos, to mark the first anniversary of renowned activist, Yinka Odumakin, who died on Good Friday in 2021, after an illness.
Among those who gathered for a book launch in his memory were the leader of the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana,SAN; pastor of the Citadel Global Community Church, Tunde Bakare; Olumide Fusika; and Mr. Zacch Adedeji, executive secretary, National Sugar Development Council, among others.
In his speech, Adebanjo praised Odumakin for his relentless efforts in the fight for restructuring Nigeria. He said Odumakin made great contributions on restructuring Nigeria, and urged Nigerians to continue to demand restructuring of the country.
He stressed that he did not believe that the outcome of the 2023 elections would bring solutions to the challenges in the country. He emphasised that Nigeria must be rescued from bad leadership through the ballot after the restructuring process has been executed.
Also lauding Odumakin’s legacy was the former governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who was represented by his then deputy, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, SAN.
Falana described Odumakin as a “relentless fighter” who did not hesitate to bring socio-political issues to the front burner.
The human rights lawyer stated that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration should free all prisoners who have been jailed for stealing petty items and are facing trial.
“All criminals and petty thieves in our prisons should be released on the basis of equality. Section 42 of the Constitution guarantees equity and justice, and this must be achieved and must be seen to be done by the Federal Government.”
Bakare described Odumakin as “the most courageous friend I have ever had, since we met years back.” He said Odumakin constantly worked in defence of human rights so much so that he never had a holiday. He also said that he remained loyal to friends despite the differences that he had with them.
Reviewing the 110-page Odumakin biography, titled “Comrade,” Fusika said the book did not only tell the story of how he met his wife in detention for his activism and how he was influenced by Chief Gani Fawehinmi, but also speaks deeply to the values and perspectives that Odumakin held on nation-building.
He also said that Odumakin had warned some of his friends about Buhari during the 2015 campaign. He recalled how the comrade said, “By the time he (Buhari) finishes Nigeria, you will not recognise Nigeria again.”
Odumakin’s widow, Joe, remarked that she was yet to come to terms with the fact that her husband was no more.
“Each time there is an issue of great concern, I would want to call him and tell him about it. So, he has been in me and he revolved around my life. Sometimes, I don’t want to use past tense to describe him. I still believe he is still around. I am sure my husband never knew he was going to die.
“So, keeping his memory alive is important. He lived his life for others. Education was sacrosanct to him, and we will be giving scholarship to indigent Nigerians,” she said.
She disclosed that the book took her three weeks to put together, which she began after the birth of her twins.
She expressed delight that the Yoruba leaders attended her husband’s burial and their continued support, including towards the book launch.
She, therefore, promised that she would uphold what her husband lived and died for. She recalled that, even at the hospital, he was still working for the betterment of the country.