OYO State-born pioneer President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Sunday Oladele, who secured victory after 41 years battled with Yaba College of Technology in Lagos, was planning big for his convocation before he died, his son, Olalekan said on Tuesday.
According to him, the 72-year-old activist was celebrating his victory against YABATECH after the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges in June 2021, ordered that his certificate be given to him after 41 years seizure.
Olalekan stated these in an interview with The PUNCH in Abuja on Tuesday on the sidelines of a press conference addressed by the Chairman of Pa Oladele’s Burial Committee, Senator Dino Melaye, and NANS President, Sunday Asefon.
Oladele, alongside a few others, had in 1980 led the rebirth of the students’ movement from the proscribed National Union of Nigerian Students after the military government of Olusegun Obasanjo had, during the ‘Ali Must Go struggle’ led by Olusegun Okeowo, banned student unionism, which was firmly organised under NUNS
He was said to have led others, regrouped them, wrote a new constitution and in 1980, founded NANS.
Melaye said, “This effrontery later earned him and most of his colleagues varying consequences such as expulsion, rustication and withholding of their certificates.
“Seeing how long the injustice had persisted, the Senate mandated the management of YABATECH to release forthwith his certificate withheld for 41 years. With the intervention of the Senate Committee, the management of YABATECH agreed to present the departed leader with his certificate at their next convocation but unfortunately, he died two weeks after.”
According to him, a letter would be sent to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, Ministers of Education and Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, “to ask that this great Nigerian, who sacrificed all for the betterment of this country and who was denied justice for 41 years, be immortalised.”
Melaye said, “He came to Abuja to fight for justice where he met his untimely death. I want to believe that by the time we put our heads together, the Federal Government must immortalise him became there are people of less national value that have been immortalised by the Federal Government.
“So, the Nigerian students’ body is requesting unequivocally that this great Nigerian be immortalised and one famous national institution in this country named after him.
“We, as also students, former students and leaders, still have Students’ Union Buildings that have not been named after individuals. We will encourage through the President of NANS that some of these institutions name their Students’ Union Buildings after this great Nigerian.”
Olalekan told reporters, “I’m his first child and only son; I’ve two sisters. I’m glad that I spoke with him and our last conversation was a good one. He was in high spirits, suffered for 41 years, but died doing what he loves best.
“My father has always talked about his struggles to get his certificate from YABATECH. He was in high spirits, having got that Senate victory and was really looking towards that convocation ceremony in YABATECH in a big way.
“My father fought with love for the masses; it was never a burden to him. He never had any regret. His only regret was that his struggle to see better Nigeria was not actualised in his lifetime. But other than that, he never had any regret.”
Asked if he felt neglected and abandoned by the people he fought for, Olalekan said he never felt neglected, adding, “If he felt neglected, he would not have continued that struggle even when they denied him his right.”
He said, “Even at his old age (72), he had always continued the fight whenever NANS leadership called him. I won’t like to say he died poor but he didn’t achieve many of the things he really wanted. Because of the certificate issue, he couldn’t get to where he was supposed to be. But then, he wasn’t rich and didn’t die a rich man. But he wasn’t begging before he died.”