By Denja Yaqub
It was a sad moment for progressive activists not just in Nigeria; and not limited to the African continent, when news broke out that one of the most revered leaders of the movement had died soon after making a presentation to the National Dialogue Committee in Akure, South West Nigeria.
Born July 13, 1938 in Ipetu Ijesha, Osun State, Babarinde Adewole Omojola Ajibola, popularly known as Baba Omojola, a renowned development economist; first class graduate of the famous London School of Economics (1958 Class); a Marxist socialist; consummate revolutionary; selfless and trusted mobilizer of people and resources; a great thinker with extra ordinary precision; an uncommon but quiet warrior; a human archive of our collective past; a humanist par excellent; a hero of our struggles ; a great intellect of exceptional values, died late morning of Saturday 19 October, 2013.
Baba was well known not just in Nigeria, his home country, but across the African continent, and indeed at various global forums, all for the same reasons, same purpose and same values. A tireless fighter and defender of the interests of the subjugated; of all those whose sweat has been and still being massively exploited to create wealth for a tiny few that has continued to deny the majority a decent life; of all those who have been thrown into abject poverty by heartless human maggots who have been feeding fat on our collective wealth with great impunity; of the millions of youths abandoned on our decrepit streets having been denied access to education, jobs, shelter and decent life; of all those who have been left to rot in death centers called hospitals while the rich and their lackeys take the next flight to Europe and North America for treatment of ailments that could have been treated back home if we have had a system that abhor failures.
These were the concerns of this selfless gentleman, the son of a revered ecclesiastic. This class of people formed Baba’s constituency across the globe.
Oppressions everywhere were contemptuously abhorred by Baba and other comrades of his generation. Knowing that oppression in all its forms and characteristics is rooted in capitalism with all its global fangs, Baba had no illusion about localizing the struggle against oppression and exploitation, as these are inherent parts of global capitalism.
Baba, an internationalist, was not just a link between revolutionary movements in Africa and South America, he was indeed very close to key revolutionaries across the globe giving undisputed accounts of the conditions of the peoples of various colonies in Africa from French colonies to Portuguese and British Colonies; connecting our struggles with the struggles of the Cuban people led by Fidel Castro, Ernesto Che Guevara, etc.
He was a reliable link between these great leaders and their organizations with leaders of the African anti colonial and revolutionary movements such as Osagyefo Kwameh Nkrumah, Algeria’s Ben Bella, South Africa’s Oliver Tambo, Thabo Mbeki, Winnie Mandela, Steve Biko, Sam Nujoma of Namibia, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Keneth Kaunda of Zambia, Leopold Senghor of Senegal, General Kasongo of former Zaire, as well as the Nigerian flank of the movement. It takes an extremely trusted and courageous comrade of Baba’s caliber to be involved in such dangerous clandestine shuttles.
In Nigeria, Baba was involved in nearly all radical organizations. Indeed, Baba Omojola was part of virtually all progressive and left organizations from 1960 until he had his last breathe. He was deeply involved in the All Nigeria Socialist Alliance; Movement for Popular Democracy; the Socialist Revolutionary Vanguard; People’s Redemption Party; National Consultative Forum; Committee for the Defence of Human Rights; Campaign for Democracy; National Democratic Coalition, NADECO; the Pro National Conference Organizations, PRONACO; the Joint Action Committee of Nigeria, JACON; the Socialist Party of Nigeria; June 12 Movement etc. He was actively involved in mobilizing for and organizing Nigerian socialist conferences and meetings between 1960 until his death.
Indeed, Baba never had a personal life as he was always involved in the activities of the movement with little or no consideration for his health and safety, driving across the country. It was during one of such travels that he had a fatal accident that took the life of his first wife, a British woman. He too was taken to the mortuary presumed dead for days until he was discovered still breathing.
He had his residence searched for arms several times in the 70s and also was arrested and detained by the Nigerian secret police for mobilizing people against state oppression. He was among the famous Kuje Five comprising him, comrades Femi Falana, Olsegun Maiyegun, Dr. Beko Ransome – Kuti, and Chief Gani Fawehinmi who were detained at the Kuje prisons on the outskirts of Abuja for several months for leading protests against the Babangida military dictatorship in 1992.
Despite his revolutionary background, Baba maintained his relationship with all his friends, many of them his old classmates without class, ethnic or religious considerations. Perhaps many of them didn’t know the depth of his involvement in the movement. Despite his closeness to these friends, he never compromised the movement. Rather, some of them became useful to some of the popular programmes of the movement in many ways.
He had a wide contact. Several of them became very useful during the preparatory periods for the botched National Conference which had been scheduled for September 6th to 9th 1990 at the National Theater, Iganmu, Lagos. The conference was organized by the National Consultative Forum. It was in the process of organizing this conference that Baba once again proved to be extremely honest, decent, committed, resourceful and reliable.
Though the Babangida government used its full might to scuttle that attempt, Baba never gave up on the project and till death he kept mobilizing along with other comrades across the country for a Sovereign National Conference, which explains his involvement in PRONACO as well as his conviction that the current dialogue could be explored despite its predictable flaws.
Baba, who was until his unfortunate death, the Chair of West African Economic Consultants, otherwise known as Econsultants (Overseas Ltd), a consortium of seasoned academics and professionals of various backgrounds in integrated economics, industrial engineering and environmental consultants, was also a prolific writer and author of several books, particularly biographies, economics and revolutionary politics.
He was the author of the most reliable and globally acceptable biography of Nigeria’s Labour Leader Number One, late Pa Michael Atokhiamen Imoudu, titled “The Imoudu Biography – A political History of Nigeria 1939 – 1950”, being the first part of a book he had travelled far and wide; visiting colonial libraries in London, Paris, etc., to put reliable records together for the epoch book on the late icon of Nigeria’s anti colonial struggles and a colossus of the Nigerian trade union movement. Given the time and energy expended on the first part of the book, Baba must have been working on the second part before he was cut down by death.
While we are pained by his death, even at the age of 75, we do have cause to celebrate this exceptional icon of our struggle; for he had lived a life well spent in the service of our people and left indelible marks such that his name and works shall outlive his physical exit.
Denja Yaqub who worked with late Baba Omojola as a Research Officer at Econsultants (Overseas Limited) between 1988 and 1989 is currently an Assistant Secretary at the headquarter of Nigeria Labour Congress, Abuja.