After a prolonged sickness, Comrade Ayodele Akele, the ageless giant fighter for social justice finally succumbed to the cold hands of death on June 23, 2020. As a student of the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos in 1980, Comrade Akele played a leading role in the formation of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) after the proscription of the National Association of University Students (NUNS) by the jack boot military regime headed by the then General Olusegun Obasanjo.
In June 1980, he was elected as the founding Secretary-General of NANS during which time, he worked relentlessly for independent students unionism in Nigeria while also treading a path of self-sacrifice and unrepentant struggle. As a human rights activist, our late comrade Akele was a founding member of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights ( cdhr) formed in 1989 and had Dr Beko Ransome Kuti as it foundation President. He was also a dogged founding member of the Campaign for Democracy (CD ) that spear-headed the return of the military junta to barracks in 1999 after years of prodemocracy struggle. At the time of his death, he was National General Secretary of the National Conscience Party (NCP).
After the National Service, Comrade Akele joined the Lagos State Public Service and participated very actively in the Civil Service Union and contributed immensely to the development of the Union for decades to the consternation of his employers, employers of labor and even treacherous labor leaders whose main preoccupation was aimed at denying workers and the proletariat their inalienable rights together with internationally guaranteed good conditions of service.
As a Quantity Surveyor, Comrade Akele worked with the Lagos State Property Development Corporation (LSPDC) from where he was elected the Lagos State Chairman of the National Union Public Corporations Employees (NUPCE) in the late 1980s till 1996 when NUPCE along with CSTWUN and RSEU merged to form the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreation Services Employees (AUPCTRE). At that time also, the management of LSDPC would not forget him in a hurry for his numerous battles with them on behalf of the workers.
Without doubt, the type of Comrade Akele is very rare, especially in the labour movement even at a time when many unscrupulous labor leaders were in the habit of betraying the Nigerian workers for selfish material gains. He was principled, dogged, focused, unwavering and a genuine working class fighter. It’s for these attributes of his that the state found him too difficult and perhaps, uncompromising; hence his appointment was terminated by two successive administrations in Lagos State. He was first fired by the military Governor Brigadier-General Buba Marwa and months later, the Asiwaju Bola Tinubu led civilian administration which succeeded Buiba Marwa also terminated his appointment at LSDPC months after the same administration had recalled him and many others workers that were laid off by the Buba Marwa administration.
The termination of his appointment didn’t deter him; he continued the battle for the emancipation of the working class and other marginalized masses in conjunction with other labor leaders and participated in many rallies, protests and demonstrations for the up fitment of the Nigerian working class and decent living wage.
I remember when workers in Lagos were locked in a monumental battle with the State government. The NLC had negotiated a review of the national minimum wage to N7,500 for the federal public service sector (and richer states like the oil producing states and Lagos) and N5,500 for (other) states. The Alhaja Olorunimbe-led NLC Lagos state council abandoned workers to their fate when the Lagos state government insisted it could not pay more than N5,500. Akele rallied the COIU leaders and rank and file union members for a showdown with the government, an action that forced the State government to backpedal and succumb to the demands of the workers.
He was a committed revolutionary and loyal member of Labour Militant, the precursor organisation of the now Democratic socialist movement (DSM). He ran unsuccessfully for the Governorship position of Lagos state some years back under the banner of late Gani Fawehinmi led National Conscience Party (NCP). He was a leading member of NCP till his death.
His exit is painful but we take solace in the fact that he contributed his own quota to the struggle for the liberation of the Nigerians and the working class people from the clutches of the ruling class (both military and civilian) without wavering till the end. The ball is now in the courts of the compatriots he left behind to continue the struggle to bring an end to oppression and outright marginalization in Nigeria. This is the best way for him to be remembered as we wish him a perfect and peaceful rest eternal.