The University of Benin yesterday stood still in honour of former President, Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Late Prof. Festus Iyayi as it declared the Late Don irreplaceable.
At about 9.35am, his body was carried by pall bearers into a waiting hearse with registration number FG 63-U50 while his wife, Mrs. Grace Iyayi was conveyed in a black Toyota Prado SUV with registration number NUC 07U-37 FG, followed by ASUU, CDHR representatives and close associates in a long motorcade to the UNIBEN Ugbowo Campus.
On arrival at UNIBEN, his remains was conveyed to the Faculty of Management Sciences, where he was the HOD, Business Administration till he died. At the Faculty, Academics decked in academic gowns formed a guard of honour while the Dean of the faculty, Prof. Famous Izedonmi delivered a brief oration. In the same vein, Prof. P. Eriki rendered heart touching prayers before the body was taken to the University main auditorium.
The remains of Iyayi was received by a mammoth crowd of ASUU members and UNIBEN management led by Prof. G. Oshodin and immediately, a commendation service began.
The auditorium which overflowed into canopies was a congregation of academic intellectuals from all the universities across the country.
In his opening oration, Dr. Nasir Isa Fagge, ASUU President said Iyayi’s death came as a rude shock to the academic union with no one having a premonition of the sudden death.
His words, “With a heavy heart, I read this tribute. The death of our Comrade came to us as a rude shock because we had no premonition of it. He was full of life, having just partaken in a congress the day before.
On his part, the Vice Chancellor of UNIBEN, Prof Oshodin stated that the death of Iyayi has left a void that cannot be filled because Iyayi chose a part of forthrightness and excellence which made him to beg Iyayi to become HOD while others were lobbying for it.
According to him, “Life is not about how long we live but how well we live. His life was characterised with hardwork, excellence and forthrightness. He came to this world unannounced but he is leaving with a loud ovation.
One of the officiating Priests at the lying- in state ceremony held at the Akin Deko Main Auditorium in honour of the former President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Festus Iyayi drew the ire of a cross-section of members of the academic community, civil society organizations when in his homily, he appealed to ASUU to suspend their six months old strike.
Rev. Fr. Andrew Obiyan, who was booed during the homily ceremony, which was attended by a large number of people said many of the lecturers were already wary of the “fight.”
Reading from portions of the Bible, Obiyan praised Iyayi’s tenacity of purpose, courage and sense of dedication to duty, all of which he said contributed to the “hero” he became, both in life and in death and appealed to ASUU members to consider their position in order not to continue at the receiving end.
He said, “The death of the faithful is precious in the eyes of God, so I want to admonish the family not to think of the pain of death, but think about the bright promise of immortality.
“Finally, I want to thank God because (ASUU) has become the voice of the voiceless today. May that voice never die; but I want to remind you that there is no success without sacrifice. For Jesus to gain the whole world, he had to give up his life.
Speaking with journalists at the end of the ceremony, ASUU President, Dr Nasri Fagge said reaction from the crowd was enough attestation to the mood of majority of union members on the matter.
He said, “We were told here at this gathering there were some fundamental issues that bother the mind of our late comrade, as to the future of the struggle. For me, it is left for us to rally around those ideals and advance his legacies. You saw the reaction of the crowd to what was said about suspending the struggle, and that to me said it all.”