TRIBUTE TO TUNJI OTEGBEYE (1925-2009), A REVOLUTIONARY ICON
On behalf of members of the Democratic Alternative
By Dr Abayomi Ferreira, President, Democratic Alternative DA
We have just learnt of the passage of Dr Tunji Otegbeye. This press statement is issued on behalf of all members of the Democratic Alternative for whom I currently have the authority to speak.
Comrade Tunji, as most Marxists of this generation know and address him, belonged to that prominent and vibrant line of Nigerians who cut their revolutionary teeth by following the footsteps of the conquering warriors of the global anti-imperialist struggles that eventually put paid to global colonialism as a form of direct exploitation of economically disadvantaged peoples of the world. Their mentors can very well be truly recalled in such giants of history as Pandit Nehru, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta ……….
After returning from England where he played commendable roles in the Nigeria Union and picked his ideological vibrancy from the Labour Party and Communist Party of Great Britain, he along with the likes of Nigerian socialist greats Eskor Toyo, Femi Okunnu, Ademola Thomas, late Obi Ibeneme Bankole Akpata, Tunde Lawrence, Uche Omo, Alao Aka-Bashorun, Mayuire Kolagbodi, Wahab Goodluck, S U Bassey and others. Tunji came onto the national scene by the founding of the Nigerian Youth Congress NYC at a time just before the earth shaking demonstration that was held by the Students’ unions of the University College Ibadan and Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology Ibadan to the Parliaments building, Tafawa Balewa Square Lagos. The demonstrators successfully sacked the parliament in session. When the legislators reconvened a few days later, the obnoxious Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact was abrogated. Tunji as President and his comrades of the NYC subsequently worked closely with the Nigerian students movement in the National Union of Nigerian Students NUNS. Tunji became the foundation Secretary-General of the Socialist Workers and Farmers Party of Nigeria SWAFP, to date the best organised and most influential socialist political party in Nigerian history.
The platforms of SWAFP, NYC, Nigerian Trade Union Congress NTUC and other left organisations the Friendship movements became the classrooms for the breeding of the new generation of Marxists, socialists and dedicated activists that have devoted their entire lives to the revolutionary transformation of Nigeria. The historical role is still on.
Although Comrade Tunji later had to work in right wing organisations like the Unity Party of Nigeria UPN, like many of his generation of Marxists, the historical fact remains that the flame for freedom and true independence which he and others lighted in 1960 with the founding of the NYC is still burning. It is the duty of those left behind to set the flame into a consuming fire, burn off the self seeking right wing politicians and military apologists who dominate the Nigerian political scene today voraciously consuming our national commonwealth and keeping millions of our people in want, poverty, ignorance and in the grip of international capitalism and work for the true realisation of the socialist transformation of Nigeria.
On behalf of all members of the Democratic Alternative in Nigeria and abroad and those comrades with whom we worked together in the NYC, SWAFP, NTUC and the erstwhile friendship organisations, I say Tunji, adieu! Fare thee well! We may not all have agreed all the time, but you did your best. We take this opportunity to commiserate with the Otegbeye family and wish them the very best in these times of mourning.
Dr Abayomi Ferreira
9 October 2009