By OlatunbosunOlatunji, Abeokuta
Chief SegunOkeowo was that freedom fighter who sacrificed his whole life in the struggle for the emancipation of Nigerian students, youths and the voiceless. He passed away on Tuesday January 28, 2014 at his Aluta House residence in Simawa, Sagamu, Ogun State at the age of 73.
Okeowo, the former president of the National Union of Nigeria Students (NUNS) was reported to have died at about 6.30 am on that fateful day at OlabisiOnabanjo University Teaching Hospital, Sagamu of heart-related ailment. He will be sorely missed for his doggedness, which he demonstrated when he led the students’ union in 1970s, insisting on the removal of then Federal Commissioner for Education, Col Ahmadu Ali (rtd) over the increase of 50 Kobo in the daily meal of university students, the ‘Ali Must Go campaign’. It was also a revolt against some of the educational policies of the Murtala-Obasanjo military regime.
The 1978 protest was codenamed “Operation Consultation, Consolidation and Confrontation”. The operation was said to have truly measured up in leadership, perception, activity and responses.
The ‘Ali Must Go’ protest remains arguably one of the most violent students agitations in Nigeria.
Okeowo was the Chairman, Ogun State Teaching Service Commission between 2003 and 2011.
Paying tribute to the late icon of student unionism, his arch-enemy then and former Federal Commissioner for Education Ali prayed that the late students’ union leader should rest in peace.
When asked what led to the demonstration then in 1978, Ali, who is also a former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, had said: “In the demonstration that happened in 1978, the students were told that instead of having their free accommodation in the university and their meal was still N1.50k, because there was not much money, it was thought that they should make more contributions by adding 50 kobo to the cost of their meal per day”.
In his own condolence message, Ogun State Governor IbikunleAmosun described Okeowo’s death as shocking. He described the deceased as a hero and urged Nigerian youths to take a cue from his exemplary struggle for a just cause.
Former governor of the state, OtunbaGbenga Daniel, described the late Okeowo as a legendary fighter and true democrat.