Between 7th and 9th May, 2013, Obafemi Awolowo University Campus came alive as both the students, activists and scholars from every walks of life storm OAU to honour Dr. Oladipo Fashina, an erudite scholar of Philosophy and former National President of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) as he retires from the University Job. In his fruitful years of meritorious service which spans for forty good years, he had not only been a remarkably warm and gregarious person marked by a probing and ranging intellect and a rich activism, but also one who especially delighted in the significant exchanges and the specific public trust of academic life.
Jingo, as he is fondly called in OAU, is a man of action and vision. His philosophical insights, his writing, his activism, his ideology, and his approach to teaching are his weapons. Of all that will be written about Dr. Oladipo Fashina the husband, father, teacher, colleague, unionist, scholar, philosopher, fighter, and gentle man, I believe a lasting tribute to him should be that he will be remembered for his exploits as the President of ASUU.
It would be recalled that before Jingo became the National President of ASUU in 2001, the universities lecturers were as poor as church’s rats. In fact, so poor that Professor Grace Alele William famously announced, in her days as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin, that she would never allow any of her daughters to marry a Professor! The reason was very obvious at that time; even the Universities Professors were so poorly paid that they found it difficult to maintain a decent family successfully!
But all these witnessed radical changes as soon as Dr. Fashina mounted the saddle as he took the then Nigerian government to the cleaners. Fashina not only imagined campus communities that are free of poor scholars, brain drain, morally and financially discouraged intellectuals, but he devoted his life and his life’s work to achieving that goal.
Deeply respected and loved by the students who came his way, I knew of Jingo, as he is popularly called in OAU, through his activities before I met him as an undergraduate student in OAU. I have been nursing the hope within the inner recess of my mind to have Dr. Fashina stand in a class and teach me Philosophy, and fortunately for me, this hope became materialized following my undergraduate admission into OAU in 2008 as he was the listed lecturer that taught me Phil 101 and Phil 104. In those classes, I saw firsthand his analytical power and skill at directing and lecturing a class, a class I will never forget was when he talked about the theory of development and why privatization will never bring Nigeria out of the doldrums. In that class he stated as follow:
“The theory of development as an act of immaculate private conception was founded, among other things, on a considerable ignorance of the history of economic development in the United States itself. In the first 70 years of its own history, American government had played a relatively active role in building the turnpikes, canals, harbours, railroads and schools which made subsequent economic expansion possible. When what economists unhappily termed ‘social overhead capital’ or ‘infrastructure’ is the great need, public investment became a necessity, since private capital will not go into these area of low return. As for the Americans insistence on fiscal purity, this was perhaps a trifle unseemly on the part of a nation which had financed so much of its own development by inflation, wildcat paper money and state bonds sold to foreign investors and subsequently repudiated.
If the criteria of the International Monetary Fund had governed the United States in the nineteenth century, its own economic development would have taken a good deal longer. In preaching fiscal orthodoxy to developing nations, America is somewhat in the position of the prostitute who, having retired on her earnings, believes that public virtues requires the closing down of the red-light district. This policy of the 21st century only reinforced the conviction that the essence of the United States purpose is economic imperialism. Its result for Africa and to a nation such as ours is to place our position and development in extreme external jeopardy”.
He took students who spend their lives studying the realm of the probable and dared us to imagine and strive for the realm of the improbable. He had the soul of a philosopher and the vision of a revolutionary.
Since he picked up the teaching job at OAU as a brilliant young scholar in 1973, Dr. Fashina has made it a practice to make courageous choices. He encountered and overcame harassment, political enticement and financial inducement to achieve the prestigious positions he assumed over the years. Those positions alone could have constituted an important legacy in its own right, but an even more important example of his willingness to stay to his principles was his willingness to step away from those high-profile positions in the name of social justice. His choices were never easy for him or for his family as his choices often brought superfluous and undeserved embarrassment, incarceration, as well as persecution from the state and its agents. Still, it was his unwillingness to relinquish his ideological affiliations or abandon his deeply-held personal commitments that helped me to understand the value and consequence of adhering to principle.
According to a 20th century philosopher, Marcus Garvey, he wrote that: “Yet the thing that lives in history, the thing that goes to the credit of man, is not how much wealth he has piled up for himself; is not how comfortable he has lived, but how good he has done for the rest of humanity. The present world generally worships power, influence and wealth. It is very easy to find sycophants who will fawn before such, and who will pay unreasonable compliments; but those who encourage and help the poor are few, and when they do engage themselves in such labour there is nothing else transient for them but condemnation”.
Perhaps, this is why Dr Oladipo Fashina was very careful to ensure that he autographed his deeds with excellence. For in the end, the mark of leadership is how many lives have been touched and how many enduring institutions built by such leader continues to serve, edify and uplift humanity. As my indefatigable teacher bows out of the system, I say a big farewell to a man I have come to know intimately over the years. Surely, Dr. Fashina’s exit marks the end of an era, therefore, the question on every body’s lip is: from whence comes another Jingo? Ciao Sir.
Lecturer at Department of History,
Osun State College of Education
Ilesa, Osun State.