Sola Olorunyomi @ 60: A Complete Humanist and Scholar
By Biodun Olamosu
My knowledge of this scholar and humanist was as far back as 35 years ago in the 1980s. This was at a meeting of PYMN, even though I didn’t attend the meeting in person but our students at The Polytechnic Ibadan where the meeting held were well represented. I saw him off after the meeting along with others in attendance. It was on this occasion I came to know much about him as one of the students’ union leaders and activists rusticated at both the University of Ilorin and Kwara State Polytechnic. At this time, the latter was well known in students’ activism than the former. So having being a victim in one he turned to the other in continuation of the struggle especially to establish a tradition of struggle at the University of Ilorin; as Trotsky will say where tradition is lacking striking example becomes imperative.
Before long as I was working as personal assistant to Comrade Ola Oni, he became a regular visitor to Ola Oni’s residence either to see Comrade or buy books. Ola Oni residence better known as Iva Valley Centre or 6, Odeku Close, New Bodija Estate was like Mecca to comrades across the country where they visit for one reason or the other. It was at this time I came to know that he was already an organising secretary working with our reliable Comrade, Uba at the Medical and Health Workers Union in Ibadan. At this time our paths crossed each other more frequently at different programmes, so I now knew him better. Even when we did not share the same political platform while his boss was with us, but we did cooperate on the basis of united front which made it much difficult for outsiders to know that we were not together.
More than anyone else amongst the students’ youth that composed membership of our organisation that organised later on the platform of Trotskyism, Comrade Sola Olorunyomi came to this knowledge before anyone else. My first book on this I got from him to read. It is titled Trotsky and Polemics by George Novak. It was also through him that I came to the understanding of the Palestinian struggle. He left the Union work on gaining admission to the University of Ibadan and myself left Ibadan to the University of Jos. During this period his activism had taken a new turn at the level of scholarship or popular intellectualism. I read much from him on the pages of newspapers and magazine on his travelogue. My impression of his writings at this time was that of being “Ajala travel all over the world” though of different perspective from that of Ajala as they stood for different purposes. By this I was following him in his travelings to be acquainted with what are happening in the rest parts of the world.
I was in the north for a decade as I stayed there after completion of my study but was forced to vacate the place for reason of pressure on me by the state that had come to identify me as a security risk. So on the basis of advice from other comrades I was advised to relocate as the state would not mind to terminate my life as they did to a journalist in Kaduna at the time. This was against the background of being detained on two occasions by IBB and Abacha. Prior to one of these occasions I was in Lagos for a meeting and had to return to the north with the new leaflet issued to be distributed there in order to have it spread to the entire north. Meanwhile, the call for stay at home by Campaign for Democracy (CD) in pursuant to June 12 struggle at hand was fully complied with and successful as the whole streets and roads were vacated by road users. So I had difficulty of getting to Ojota garage from Agege, where I can get vehicle going out of the town. I therefore made use of one okada that agreed to carry me reach Guinness at Ikeja. I did not see a single vehicle or any other okada before reaching the place. I started wondering “what is going to happen now”. I was about thinking of the risk put upon myself for accepting to travel this day when I saw a Volkswagen driven passed me. The driver was a white lady accompanied with a man on the front seat. All of a sudden, I saw the vehicle reversed towards me and I heard the call of Comrade in my direction. By the time I turned to know who was calling me and for what purpose, I was surprised to know it was Comrade Sola Olorunyomi. We then greeted and he asked me where I was going and I told him. This was how he served as my saving grace for that moment and I was able to make my journey to the north as planned.
On returning to the South and Ibadan, he was already an accomplished author about to get his book on Fela Anikulapo-Kuti published. Our comradely friendship continued since then. I was very happy for him on the day Comrade Femi Aborisade broke the news to me that he had his PhD. This became a good news most importantly against the background of what he passed through in the hands of dictators in charge of University administration in Nigeria. Not a few of our comrades that would have ended up as academics have been frustrated along the line and would thank their stars for able to have first degree how much less PhD. His commitments despite all hurds he extended to scholarship and he has been able to create a niche for himself as a respected scholar at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, where he is presently a lecturer specialising in Music and Media. Happy birthday to Comrade Prof Sola Olorunyomi, I wish you long life and good health, for the purpose this is meant to serve for humanity.