Monday, January 23, 2017 marked the 70th birthday of one of Nigeria’s most consistent and dogged fighters against injustice, deprivation and continued heightened exploitation of the masses by the agents of retrogression in high places: Dipo Fashina. He is a man that has remained unbowed in his commitment to the causes of the oppressed and hapless masses especially students, market men and women, artisans and the labour movement despite all the pressures from intimidations, harassments and sometimes outright bribery including threat to bodily harm and loss of life.
He became a lecturer at the then University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University where he teamed up with other great minds to make that department one of the hotbeds of critical philosophical thought not only in Ife but also across Nigeria. He was part of the group that created what we can call one of the most vibrant and creative axis for generating intellectual tools that were used in engaging in the sociological struggles of yesteryears against the forces of imperialism and the internal agents of retrogression and underdevelopment.
His passion for progress in Nigeria through his world view of the Marxian philosophy, a force and a platform upon which he built a creative pedagogy is very unmistakable.
We learnt determination and commitment to our ideals from him. We learnt from him that if you want to change the world, you must give yourself to it and must be willing at all times to make sacrifices to push the struggle forward and achieve the goals. He taught all of us to live by examples. Never let others carry the burdens of the struggle while you relax. Do it, he will say.
His commitment to freedom has seen him constantly engaging the various manifestations of anti-people and anti-development forces both in the classrooms and in the field. While some of his compatriots have been compromised and others abandoned the cause or got tired along the way, he has remained true to this path even at 70. He has remained a soldier even at this age and does not shy away from been seen at the frontline, at the heat of the struggle.
It is on this premise that we could see his leadership of LASCO and JAF and the altruism that he has brought to its various engagements. He is not worried about being called to lead such platforms as long as it has something to do with the protection of Nigerian masses. No labour/civil society engagement with the state is complete without his involvement either as an adviser or as a leader in the field. He has become the intellectual backbone of the peoples’ struggle for emancipation from the gyres of oppression.
His consistency is further expressed in his refusing to go permanently on retirement even after officially retiring from the University of Ife. His decision to accept the offer to continue his teaching work at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria was not borne out of trying to avoid idleness but the critical need to resuscitate a dying faculty, a dying subject and to keep Philosophy – a vibrant field of study which he believes has offered him the pedestal upon which he has demonstrated his exploits in the socio-polity alive in the hearts of young men and women. Once again, that is a clear demonstration of sacrifice.
His ideals have guided most of us into our chosen paths. In the respective fields where we have found ourselves, we have had cause to look back and chuckle: he said it! His words in our hearts like a spirit has guided us and like light has illuminated the darkest of nights, showing a clear pathway for us to tread confidently.
Personally, most of the battles I have fought in the legislature were in furtherance of the teachings of Dipo Fashina. I remember vividly the case of the increase in school fees at the Lagos state University. I had to preach to a very few like-minds, galvanising them. I used that platform to engage that issue until it was resolved on the side of reason thus on the side of the students and masses of Lagos. That victory is part of Dr. Fashina’s legacy!
However, these victories have not come without challenges especially from entrenched conservative interests who clearly outnumber those from our orientation. If the struggle is only determined by sheer number, progressivism may have suffered a permanent defeat but with the same doggedness he taught us, we have trudged on. No matter the quantum of evil arrayed against us, we must maintain our principled stance and push on.
As we celebrate Fash at 70, we want to use the opportunity to urge the left to seek ways of encouraging like-minds to get involved in active politics so as to increase the number of those of us who are involved in the various arms of government. This will make the work easier and energise us into expanding our scope and our depth in the eternal struggle to rid our nation of the forces of inequality.
We shall continue basking in the light which Fashina’s beacon has held forth for all of us. Hopefully, one day, we shall all see a better world where inequality would have been grossly reduced and intimidation, harassment of the weak, exploitation by the few of the majority and crass deprivation of the majority including increasing poverty is decimated a fair world of our collective dream.
Jimoh is the deputy majority leader and member of the Lagos State House of Assembly representing Apapa II Constituency.