By Dr Bolaji O. Akinyemi
The news of his death on Saturday 3rd of April 2021 came like a sudden rain on a bright and sunny day, it robbed the day of it brightness and left it gloomy.
The Odumakins are a unique couple, beyond love they were bounded by passion to see a better nation and humanity at large.
Joe and Yinka were the only married couple in the 492 member National Conference of 2014. Though they represented different groups at the Conference; Joe; Campaign for Democracy and Women Arise both of which she heads. Joe, like most Nigerians is a contradiction of citizenship, she was born in Zaria Kaduna State, while her State of Origin is Delta. Yinka was Yoruba and represented the Afenifere at the Confab.
A people held perpetually hostage by her elites and political class are bound to live through struggles. This struggle modeled them into activists of National recognition and global reputations.
Many, has been the season of our desire for political freedom and leadership emancipation as a nation. Contributors have come and gone, many died in the struggle without a deserving recognition of their part, in honour to their names nor attainments to heroism. But of some, history can’t be silent.
There are those who stood like stature in the minds of succeeding generations for their part in our conquests. How can history be quiet about Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, a woman who’s blood left behind the duo of Beko Ransome Kuti and Fela Anikulapo Kuti. How will the deed of Segun Okeowo, Ken Saro Wiwa, Chinua Achebe, Chris Ubani and Gani Fawehinmi, to mention just a few, be concealed in the dustbin of history? How!
Among the witnesses of our heroes Yinka has taken his place. A line of our National Anthem says; ‘the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain’. That was recited on Good Friday, the 2nd day of April 2021 without Yinka in mind. How can that line be recited again without a thought of him along with other great heroes of our nation?
The better part of Yinka Odumakin’s life was spent in the struggle until NAME; the break of all true spirited advocates of the masses came through for him. Beyond all the left behind of Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi is a name erk in gold upon the tablet of time; earning him a National Honour; Grand Commander of the Niger, GCON, exclusively reserved for those privileged to attain to the political office of the Vice President of the Federation.
Gani lived through the travesty of life, but in him truth eventually travailed, though, in death. Fawehinmi got the highest honour of the land in services to law; that which distinguished the Chief Justice of the Federation as the head of the Judiciary and the Senate President as the head of the law makers (legislature), GCON, Fawehinmi got in death as an attestation to a life lived in truth and for the truth.
The goodwill of the name “Gani Fawehinmi” has more momentary social capital value than the annual rent from an estate of 12 buildings. This path of honour, Yinka Odumakin chose to tread and he did without looking back till death came calling. The people’s warrior who fought through many battles against the military was fallen by COVID19.
“Eniyan o niyi laye, ba ba ku tan lad’ere” meaning, no one is valued alive; but in death statues are made of people. Yinka, lies of life told in existential competition will now be overtaken by the who you truly were.
The visibility of Yinka Odumakin in the NADECO days earned him the most treasured legacy in human existence; “a good name”; which the Bible in Proverbs 22:1 counselled rather to be chosen that great riches, and the loving favour it offers is better than silver and gold. Yinka wasn’t able to make political gain of the risk he took confronting the kill and go Government of the Junta General, Sani Abacha.
When many in the struggle fled out of the country and remained in exile till the General was announced dead in fear for their lives. Yinka was on ground to provide inspiration for the army of Nigerian masses till victory song we sang.
What many lost in terms of political appointment they gained in Naira and kobo through political patronage, some were even privileged to be rewarded in hard currency this was not to be for Yinka. But his name can’t be erased from the list of heroes who sent the military back to the barracks. Since 1999, he has played roles befitting a Democrat and Nationalist that he was.
His contributions and stabilising role at the 2014 National Conference was remarkable, when politicians from the South West took steps that negated the spirit of democracy by boycotting the confab, it was through men like him the Voice of the Yoruba nation was heard and made relevant during the conference.
Prior to the Confab, precisely in January 2010, Pastor Tunde Bakare in holy anger conveyed Save Nigeria Group to save the ship of our nation from drifting. Yinka and Joe were on hands to give life to the new group. Of course Yinka was born to speak, the ink of his pen was as caustic as when the job is left to his tongue. Becoming the spokesperson of the new group came to him naturally.
SNG was instrumental to the swearing in of Jonathan after the demise of Yaradua when the hawks needed the space upon the rock of our nation and the jackals, the vacuum in the valley of power.
Duty later called Yinka Odumakin again to stand on the side of the people against Jonathan, he never hesitated. Yinka held dearly the tenets of democracy till death. A consistent Activist, he was on the side of the people to see change and worked for the emergence of the present Government, effortlessly however was the switch when the tide was against the masses. Yinka became the only voice once heard from the camp of the SNG who stood for the people till death did him and the nation part.
After the confab Yinka took Afenifere to a new national consciousness, he spoke for the Yoruba nation until his voice could no more be heard. Just when his voice was needed under a new leader, Baba Ayo Adebanjo; an old horse never tired, then you took leave of time to rest in eternity.
A good name ironically is earned or lost at death, several who started well lost their social capital of a good name built over the years in a moment of wrong decision. Ecclesiastes 7:1 says; a good name is better than precious ointment and the day of death better than the day of one’s birth.
Saturday; 3rd of April 2021 was made better than Saturday 10th December 1966 by Yinka’s life of service to humanity. Though he would have turned 55 this December. Those eyes he opened in time as a new born baby on a Saturday, he closed to time and crossed to the side of eternity on a Saturday.
Life is a travesty people must travails through, with nothing but the truth. Through truth only we shall emerge from the gloom of lies that hides many, with curtains of life drawn across the stage after our acts are performed in several scenes. Truth we lived and stood for is what will keep our memories in the minds of men when life stage is covered in the fog of death.
Sadly have to refer to Joe as the widow of Yinka, but that is the reality of a lone fighter you have become. I can only pray that God will strengthen your hands on the sword of activism.
For the children, they have join the leagues of privilege children whose father’s name opens door, may wisdom be yours to make the best of opportunities behind the door his names shall opened to you in life. Afenifere should be consoled by the light Yinka now is in the firmament of heaven away from the covering fog of death for we see him now clearer than the weaknesses humanity made of him. Rest in peace Yinka Odumakin.
Bolaji Akinyemi is a strategic communication expert with focus on political marketing and education, he writes from Lagos via email@example.com
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