By Eric Elezuo
At exactly 10:40pm on Friday, April 2, 2021, the curtain was drawn against renowned spokesperson and human rights defender, Yinka Odumakin as he took a bow off the stage to eternity. He was said to have succumbed to the cold hands of death after spirited battle against respiratory ailment occasioned by the dreaded COVID-19.
Yinka passed away at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) where he was transferred to following news that he had recovered from the Coronavirus disease. No one has been able to explain why he had to pass on afterwards.
Born on December 10, 1966, and hailed from Moro, Ife North, Osun State, the human rights activist and politician, who was until his death, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, a Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, was a proud student of the revered University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, and without mincing words, well read.
Odumakin’s early life started at the St. Augustine Primary School, Ondo State, where he had his elementary education from where he proceeded to CAC Grammar School, Edunabon, for his secondary education, and later to Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife, both in Osun State. He attended and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Studies from the Obafemi Awolowo University in 1989, and followed up his academic pursuit with another degree from the University of Ghana.
Known as a dogged fighter in matters of human relationship and rights, Odumakin played a key role in every facet of human endeavour where he had been privileged to feature. While a student in Ife, he featured prominently in campus politics and students unionism, rising to the position of the students Union President of his time.
He also featured conspicuously in the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), a movement that fought the government of Sani Abacha after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, which many people believed Chief MKO Abiola won.
As a prolific spokesperson, Odumakin was among the spokespersons of the Southern and Middle Belt Leader’s Forum (SMBLF) before joining the train of Muhammadu Buhari when he contested the 2011 Nigerian presidential election under the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, also as a spokesperson.
Odumakin found love in the cause of activism when he met his soulmate, Josephine Okei, in the gulag at Alagbon where they were locked up by the General Sani Abacha government for protesting and speaking out against the continuous incarceration of Abiola. They were further introduced by the late lawyer and popular rights activist, Gani Fawehinmi. Okei has just been transferred from Ilorin, Kwara State prison. Both lovebirds got married on November 4, 1997.
In 2014, during the government of Goodluck Jonathan, Odumakin and his wife were the only married couple among the 492-member 2014 National Conference which was held in Abuja, Nigeria.
Not a man who holds brief for wrong doing, he had critically spoken against his former boss, Muhammadu Buhari and his government for alleged incompetence among other misdemeanors. Odumakin has also remained a great campaigner of the Yoruba nation, speaking against whatever runs contrary to the affairs and beliefs of the Afenifere. He is also known to be a strong critic of the former Lagos State governor and National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and was said to write critically concerning Tinubu’s alleged age.
Ever since his demise, notable Nigerians including the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Deputy Governor, Femi Hamzat, Nobel Laurette, Prof Wole Soyinka, Opeyemi Bamidele, Pastor Ituah Ighodalo, Iyiola Omisore, Dele Momodu, Tokunboh Afikuyomi, Speaker Mudashiru Obasa, Musiliu Obanikoro among others.
The late activist’s wife captured their journey in this brief elegy:
YINKA: BASKING IN THE SHADOW THAT YOU CAST
By Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin
If breath was the currency of life and its legal tender…then, Yinka spent his breath on causes.
The medics said his oxygen level was running low but my husband was reaching out for his tab to type out his column…
He was never frugal in spending that oxygen on his Yoruba earth – his beloved and his Nigeria – his truly beloved
My memories are rousing through chains of pains. A sea surge of a romance which sprouted in Gen. Sani Abacha’s detention.
My husband was not a criminal, neither was I. Our “crime” was standing strong for others as we always have been. We will return to the dingy detention cell in our reminiscences later!
Who meets and marries from detention at Alagbon? Only Yinka would ask! And only I would say YES!
We were introduced to each other by the most qualified, the most preeminent, and the most decorated of inmate – Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAM, SAN).
Chief said: “Yinka, she’s a man!”. Yinka married both the man & the woman in me!
It was our truest solemnization of activist matrimony by a revered High Priest of the struggle…with the trench as our altar and the good of our people as our ultimate goal.
Yinka, it cannot be goodbye, It is goodnight and see you later on the other side with God.
I will bask with reckless abandon in the shadow of your cast…
Since no one is permitted in the Critical Care Unit, we had commited you to the care of the best qualified medics at LASUTH and the hand of God hoping to see you next morning.
The medics said they could not fathom how to immediately relay the message of your passage to me directly.
Now that I am in possession of your death certificate, I can see you passed at exactly 10.40pm on Good Friday (April 2nd, 2021) and not in the morning of Saturday, April 3rd, 2021) as initially communicated.
Due to the principles of the truth and saying it as it is, which Yinka and I hold dear – and which Yinka lived all his adult life for – it is important to immediately put this very important record straight.
You came! you saw!! and you conquered!!! We will carry forward the baton in the eternal word of our leader, Nigeria will be saved, Nigeria will be changed and Nigeria will become a great nation. Nigeria will work in my lifetime and even in yours as you live on in me, our children and generation yet unborn.