On Sunday 14th May, 2017, I received a well written message from my friend Eddy Omolehinwa informing me that “we have lost Funso Akingbade.” Eddy Omolehinwa was then in Edo State where he had gone for an academic matter. Twenty-four hours after the Omolehinwa message, came a call tome from Professor Union Edebiri formerly of the French Department of UNILAG also informing me of the death of Professor Funso Akingbade. For me, it was a very bad news and tears started flowing freely my eyes. Funso was a left wing revolutionary who committed his intellectual life in pursuit of seeking political, social and economic freedom for the poor people of Nigeria.
Funso will continue to be remembered as an intellectual who was a member of the Speakers Society, publishers of the famous Lagoon Echo of the University of Lagos in those days. The Lagoon Echo was a popular left wing journal of the Speakers Society between 1974 and 1980. It was then treated as a revolutionary catechism of the left in Nigerian politics. Funso until his death was never apologetic of his membership of the revolutionary group. Funso talked revolution and wrote it with intellectual fervor and dedication. An Ijero Ekiti-born intellectual, he never believed in any rabid commitment to tribalism. He believed that poverty had no defence in whatever manner.
Poverty is poverty and its boundaries transcended tribal demarcations. The Speakers Society was indeed a fine and great ideological group of the times in Nigeria and it was supported by all friends inside and outside the University walls. (An effort is now being made to publish a book on the radical writings inside the Lagoon Echo of those years). I was the Editor of the journal before we were all put away by the Obasanjo led counter revolutionary force.
Members of the Speakers Society, publishers of the Lagoon Echo at that time included the following people: Dr. T.T. Abodunde, Professor Layide Abass, the late Dr. S. Olugbemi, Dr. FunsoFambo, the late Dr. Niyi Popoola, the late Dr. AmaechiUchegbu, the late Dr. Bisi Aborisade, Cartographer Adeniji, Professor Eddy Omolehinwa, Dr. Yemi Mosadomi (then a lecturer of the College of Medicine, UNILAG); Professor Akin Oyebode (a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ado Ekiti); the late Professor Funso Akingbade the late Dr. LasisiOsunde and this writer Ebenezer Babatope aka EbinoTopsy.
Lagoon Echo was a left wing publication that never feared anyone but God. I remember the following comments that appeared in the journal between 1974 and 1979.“The scarlet robes, the politics of 1976 that won’t be, “The purge of the left in Nigeria, An Autochthonous Constitution”, whither Nigeria?, Towards Revolution in Nigeria, The people will win, etc.
Funso Akingabde was a member of the Federal government appointed Rent Panel then headed by Dr. Omolayole. He, alongside others like the late M.A. Obasa of the Nigerian Union of Teachers never compromised the interests of the poor people of Nigeria. Funso Akingbade was thorough in everything he did to advance the cause of the oppressed masses. Never a practicing politician, Funso Akingbade did not hesitate to confront the antics of politicians that tended to undermine the peoples’ interest.
When in 1982 a group of politicians inside the then Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) founded and led by the sage, the late Papa Obafemi Awolowo, decided to pull out of the party by joining forces with the reactionary National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Funso Akingbade decided on his own to fight such politicians in the then Ondo State. He went to Ijero Ekiti virtually every weekend in 1982 and 1983 to oppose such politicians then led by the late Chief Akin Omoboriowo. The one man riot squad led by Funso Akingbade never rested until he had fought out of existence the Akin Omoboriowo group from Ijero Ekiti and its environs. Funso Akingbade was simply exceptional in his attitude to fighting those who shared the views of Akin Omoboriowo and his movement. UPN never gave a kobo to Funso Akingbade for all these efforts.
Funso Akingbade and his friends of the Speakers Society were lucky to have operated in the politics of Nigeria when the University of Lagos was then led by the late Professor Jacob Ade Ajayi as Vice-Chancellor. Professor Jacob Ade Ajayi defended academic freedom without ever allowing outside interference in the conduct of Academic Freedom. Professor Jacob Ade Ajayi is dead but he will never be forgotten by all those who know that Nigeria could be saved with radical commitment to academic freedom and the rights of the Universities to decide freely who to teach and what to teach. Professor Ade Ajayi defended this Academic Freedom until he died some few years ago.
I will remember Funso Akingbade until I too answer the supreme call. When President Muhammadu Buhari imprisoned many politicians in Nigeriae (including me), during his first coming as head of state, Funso Akingbade was one of my friends who never forgot my family while I languished in prison. He was there for my family all the way.
Funso Akingbade will be buried in his hometown IjeroEkiti this weekend. Awe, Okun O! Your memory will remain blessed. A writer once said that not all revolutionaries are embittered men. Every embittered man however advances the revolution Funso Akingbade was a systems analyst in his academic career. He was embittered by the decadence of the system that operated in Nigeria.
Funso was embittered by the reactionary way and style the Nigerian political system has impoverished the Nigerian people. He fought against the reactionary system until he dropped dead.
The cause you fought against will forever remain just! Funso, farewell and Good-Night!!
The struggle definitely continues.