An Elergy for Segun Sango, Socialist Revolutionary, Working Class Fighter, People’s Lawyer and Pro-Democracy Advocate
By Tony Iyare
Oh death, where’s thy sting? Oh grave, where’s thy victory? How’s the mighty falling! Let’s roar on the alleys of Agbotikuyo and the factories where our departed comrade had his invaluable imprint that the curtains had indeed fallen on a worthy revolutionary foot soldier.
I grieve over the passing of Segun Aderemi, popularly known amongst his peers in the Ife students movement with the sobriquet “Faracas”. I grieve over the loss of one of our most well groomed and resourceful revolutionary cadres. I grieve over the death of a committed comrade who opted for socialist revolution as his life. I grieve over a pearl of our movement.
I grieve over a friend, brother and advocate who joyfully offered pro bono service during my period of tribulations. I grieve over a comrade who had a rare gift of lacing every social discourse and deep revolutionary thoughts, analyses and praxis with wits, humour and a huge dose of laughing gas. But unlike Mark Anthony’s grief over Julius Ceaser, I’m here not only to partake in the burial of our deserving fallen foot soldier but also to eulogize his great revolutionary prowess.
Some veil was cast around the work of Comrade Segun Aderemi in his early years in the students revolutionary movement at Ife. He was not alone. As part of the strategy of staving off the movement from imminent collapse in case of likely backlash, it was the tradition at the Alliance of Progressive Students (ALPS) to ensure that its leading lights were not unduly exposed.
Else they become easy prey to a rampaging state apparati and its hirelings. As the movement incubates its cadres, it necessarily provides a window for the generation and regeneration of its life via a dialectical process.
Our enlistment into ALPS in 1980 from the precincts of Oduduwa Hall, where we were regaled with a fiery lecture by a budding International Law Scholar, Dr Akin Oyebode, now a retired professor, coincided with the raging discourse on how the movement could more meaningfully engage in the struggles of the campus. This was to make it a fulcrum for galvanizing the larger students populace away from the cocoon of its regular Sunday gathering where cadres are immersed in Marxist-Leninist revolutionary thoughts and polemics.
Even for Segun, Lanre Arogundade, Muyiwa Osunkoya (now Adebanjo), Akin Ladipo, other freshly recruited cadres and I, it was providence that didn’t make us drift away from the incubatory process of the movement. The presentations were usually flowery, grandiloquent and sounded like Greek. Some were simply on the high horse.
Trying to make a sense from the high sounding exchanges between Olufemi Taiwo, Adeolu Ademoyo, both now professors of African Studies at Cornell University, Awam Amkpa, professor of Drama, Film and Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, another people’s professor, Dapo Olorunyomi, publisher, Premium Times, Femi Fatonode, currently dean, School of Engineering, Accra Polytechnic, Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Owei Lakemfa, former secretary general, Organisation of African Trade Union Unity, (OATUU), Wale Adekunle, also now a professor of Agriculture and Rural Development and several high flyers in the movement, could put you off.
Apart from cadres like Last Eguavoen, Akin Akingbulu, Femi Falana and later Owei Lakemfa who contested for offices in the students union, the cream of the movement were generally apathetic and disuaded from doing so to prevent them from being tainted by the pervasive e deh happen culture on campus.
It was also a period of prevailing revolutionary construct hinged on insulating the radical cadres from the petit bourgeois elements who largely dominated the leadership of the students union. But how was the students union supposed to overcome or transcend this petit bourgeois level without the infusion of radical thoughts? How was that level of the larger students movement expected to transform itself without any radical engagements?
The movement later became enmeshed in its own version of glasnost and perestroika as it thereafter asked all its cadres to contest for membership of the students parliament and embark on entryism of other vital organs. The varied students institutions had been allowed to flower over the years as part of the very liberal and democratic environment on Ife campus.
The students parliament, judicial council, regarded as its judicial arm, the electoral commission and the students union itself were by then unfettered in terms of their powers flowing from the students union constitution. Debates at Ife parliament, infused with contestation of different strands, was akin to what you see in the House of Commons. It also synchronized with the democratic tradition foisted by successive Vice Chancellors particularly from the reign of accomplished scholars like Professors Hezekiah Oluwasanmi, Ojetunji Aboyade, Cyril Onwumechili and Wande Abimbola.
Ife was a sanctuary for many students activists who were rusticated from other campuses across the country. That’s how it provided a haven for erstwhile President, National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS), Segun Okeowo and Banji Adegboro, who were expelled from the Universities of Lagos and Ibadan respectively, to finish their studies. Unlike Chom Bagu, Issa Aremu and Bala Mohammed who had to virtually begin again at the Universities of Jos, Port Harcourt and Lagos respectively when they were expelled from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria at the dawn of the rice riots in the early 80s, they would simply had continued from where they stopped without missing much if they came to Ife.
However, the military coup that ushered in Gen Muhammadu Buhari and Gen Tunde Idiagbon on the eve of 1984 not only brought in a new wave of authoritarianism, it also withdrew food subsidy in tertiary institutions. The convocation of a congress, spearheaded by the mass of students to discuss this, without the stamp of the students union leadership, saw the clampdown on six students by the authorities. Segun Aderemi, Bolaji Adebiyi, now managing editor of This Day Newspapers, three others and I were rusticated on account of our supposed active roles in the affair which attracted a lead story of The Daily Times.
It was clear that we had become marked men as prime movers at the students parliament. Though we were not physically part of the protest but we were presumed guilty by association. At the time of the protest, Segun, who’s from Modakeke, was nursing an ailment in his home in town while I was in Benin City where I had stopped on my way from a mobilization trip of tertiary institutions in what’s now called the southeast and southsouth against a planned action by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS).
My cup was already full. I had been charged with making some offensive broadcast on the newly established Radio UNIFE which I got off by the whiskers. I was also holding forte at the NANS secretariat in Fajuyi Hall and had the privilege of receiving the emissaries from the university authorities – Prof Wale Omole, pioneer secretary general of the students union and Prof Abayomi Lawanson. Their mission was to dissuade the NANS leadership from embarking on the impending action on commercialization of Education. Omole who later became VC and Lawanson were all ears as I patiently explained the basis for the student action. I instantly became a marked man after I also took them through some of the issues contained in the NANS Charter of Demands which Segun, then a Law student, had helped to cobble together. He also played a frontline role in shaping contending perspectives in the Patriotic Yourh Movement of Nigeria (PYMN), the NANS vanguard movement.
But thanks to Prof Wole Soyinka, Prof Omotoye Olorode, Prof Kayode Adetugbo, Prof Kunle Wahab and members of the Ife Collective who insisted that the action must be upturned, the suspension on Segun, two others and I were lifted. But Bolaji and another culprit who were seen as arrowheads of the Congress, saw their expulsion converted to suspension making them spend an additional year.
We had all gone our separate ways as we adopted varied mechanics of pushing the revolutionary agenda. Shortly after school, we had some romance with the Forward Group composing largely of our forebears at ALPS – Idowu Obasa, Dapo Olorunyomi, Ola Fejemisi, Femi Falana and others. In my tribute to Dapo Olorunyomi at 60 titled, “Toast to Dapsy, our grandmaster @60”, I had explained that this group later threw up many splinters in the ensuing crisis of praxis.
“Segun Aderemi, Muyiwa Osunkoya and Lanre Arogundade teamed up with other younger members of the Ife students’ movement and some others to join Comrade Ola Oni’s Workers Vanguard. They later withdrew to float the Labour Militant which metamorphosed into the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM). Some others including this writer, also teamed up with some comrades across the country to form the Patriotic Labour Movement of Nigeria (PLMN) which later dissolved into the Socialist Revolutionary Vanguard (SRV).”
Burrowing from the exploits of Baba Omojola, whose hands were on every revolutionary pie, Segun Aderemi, rechristened Sango, on account of his deft contributions to the radical movement, flirted with many organizations. From National Conscience Party (NCP) to the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) to many street protests, where DSM and its cadres played leading roles, he was there at the barricades. Rather than concentrating on his law practice, earn big money and live comfortably, defending the people’s cause and revolution became his life.
Like Soyinka revealed in his rather refreshing tribute on John Pepper Clark, where he recalled their escapades at the Lagos Boat Club with Jonathan Olusesan Dideolu, former Librarian at Ife Varsity, we all do have varied sides of life. I’m just wondering how Segun, who was extremely rich with wits, would have characterized what now appears as the nation’s choice of Hobson – casting lot for APC, PDP and perhaps Labour Party, in his admix of Oyo ascent laced with humour. With him, there was really no dull moment. Were it possible for Segun to suddenly wake up and see us in this gathering, I’m sure he would diffuse it with a witty bomb. You could do a glossary of his humorous quotes in peculiar words. At the movement on campus, I recall how he once struggled through the word fracas and ended up with “faracas” almost sending everyone reaching for the door.
As we bid bye to our beloved comrade in mournful faces, I wish to commit us all to the poem of John Donne titled, “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”. Donn wrote this poem in 1611 to his wife to cheer up as he was leaving home to go visit his mother. I will leave you with lines 13 and 21.
* We should not mourn because if love is more than physical, relationships continue because the soul still lives. Those who only have the senses of the body cannot stand separation because the senses depend on the object of affection being present.
* Their relationship is stretched thin but not breached or broken. It’s expanded. He is leaving to go on a trip, but promises he will return.
Donne compares souls to compasses. This is the image of the compass you would use in geometry, which was another popular image at the time. The points may be far apart, but they are connected in the center. The further apart the points are, the more the compass legs lean toward each other. She stays put while he traces the path around, and as long as she remains firm, he’ll return to the same spot he started from.
Our dear Comrade who’s proceeding on a long journey until we meet again on resurrection morning won great laurels for his exceptional work.
Adieu Segun. Eternal rest grant him O’Lord and let perpetual light shine on his revolutionary soul, Amen.
Tony Iyare, a Communication & Development Expert is also an International Relations Analyst
My Encounter With ‘Faracas’ – The NEWS