Renowned professor and former President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Nigeria, Prof. Festus Iyayi, is dead.
Witnesses said Prof. Iyayi, 66, died along the highway that links Nigeria's confluence city of Lokoja and the Federal capital, Abuja when the car in which he was travelling collided with the convoy of a State Governor.
The late professor was among ASUU leaders who met with President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja last week to deliberate on how to end the four-month strike by lecturers.
Sources say he was travelling to the northern city of Kano for ASUU's National Executive Committee meeting that was slated for Wednesday where a vote is likely to be taken on whether the ongoing strike should be called off.
Witnesses indicated that one of the pilot cars in the governor’s convoy reportedly rammed into the vehicle in which Prof. Iyayi and other activists were travelling, killing him instantly.
However, the Special Adviser to the Governor, Jacob Edi, said it was untrue that it was the Governor’s pilot vehicle that hit the late Professor’s car.
“There was a collision on a narrow road and it is too early to say who rammed into who,” Mr. Edi told a national daily.
Convoys of Nigerian governors have been blamed for several fatal car crashes across the country. They are known to race through city streets and highways at top speed and are notorious for disrespecting traffic rules.
The Governor whose convoy is involved in this crash recently sustained serious leg injuries in another car crash that claimed the life of his security aide and injured two other state officials.
Several other incidences like this involving the state governors' escorts vehicles have resulted in severe injuries and death of road users.
The death of Professor Iyayi comes as a major blow to Nigeria's academic society because of his role in pressing the demands of Nigeria's university lecturers.
The late Prof. Iyayi was born in Nigeria's southern state of Edo. In 1968, he was a zonal winner in a Kennedy Essay Competition organised by the United States Embassy in Nigeria.
He left the shores of Nigeria to pursue his higher education, obtaining an M.Sc in Industrial Economics from the Kiev Institute of Economics, in the former USSR and then his Ph.D from the University of Bradford, England.
In 1980, he became a lecturer in the Department of Business Administration at the University of Benin. As a member of staff of the University, he became involved in radical social issues, and a few years after his employment, he became the president of the local branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
He rose to the position of president of the national organization in 1986, but in 1988 the Union was briefly banned and Prof. Iyayi was detained. In that same year, he won the Commonwealth Prize for Literature for his book “Heroes”.
He was later removed from the faculty position.
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