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25.08.2021 Social Justice TRIBUTES: Omomewa, LASU Student Leader ‘Murdered for Fighting Repression’

Published 25th Aug, 2021

By Gabriel Ogunjobi

Wednesday, August 25, makes it one week since the murder of Nurudeen Yusuf Arowonle, popularly known as ‘Omomewa’, at the Lagos State University (LASU), where he studied Accounting Education.

Different groups, including the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), LASU chapter, have complained about the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate death of the student leader.

On the day of this death, 28-year-old Omomewa attended a panel probing him over allegations of admission racketeering, a charge levelled against him by the university’s management. Many believe Omomewa would not have fallen victim to an attack if the university had not held him back over trumped-up charges at a time his mates were already observing the mandatory one-year youth service.

Omomewa has been described as the most dogged student leader in LASU’s recent history. He fought on the side of ASUU when some of its members were dismissed by the university’s management led by Professor Olanrewaju Fagbohun, the then Vice-Chancellor.

ASUU would later issue a three-page statement to demand an investigation into the cause of Omomewa’s death.

ASUU: OMOMEWA IS OUR COMRADE AND A SHINING EXAMPLE TO HIS COLLEAGUES

In September 2017, two top executive members of ASUU, LASU chapter, were dismissed by the university’s governing council. Three other members of the union, including Dr. Tony Dansu, the Secretary, were later dismissed on the allegations of stealing confidential documents, including the promotion credentials of Fagbohun.

Omomewa waded in with his influence as the State Coordinator for Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and rallied students to support ASUU’s cause.

Tuesday, Dansu told FIJ that Omomewa was a “very truthful and excellent student who would not fight physically but intellectually”. 

“He was clear about his aims,” he said.

Similarly, Adeolu Oyekan, the current secretary of ASUU, LASU chapter, said Omomewa’s conviction for both students’ and workers’ rights was impressive.

“At first I didn’t want to associate with the student-activist because some students can be opportunistic when they establish relationships with lecturers,” he said. “Upon careful observation, I discovered his intentions were genuine.”

“I was convinced that with someone like Omomewa, Nigeria had a bright future. He was honest and a shining example to his colleagues.”

“He was also our comrade because he identified with us during our struggles against the repressive Fagbohun-led administration. 

“In September 2017, when we protested to the governor’s office over our illegal dismissal, Omomewa mobilised his students to join us. Even when some of our colleagues were scared because cameras may implicate them, he stood unshaken. I think that was one reason the university marked, saw him as a threat and plotted against him.”

READ ALSO: LASU Students Protest Killing of Student Leader Held Back by SDC

FOR STUDENTS, OMOMEWA’S DEATH WAS ONE TOO MANY

Many public universities in Nigeria have one student leader that challenges the excesses of management. For LASU, it was Omomewa. He resisted the school’s interference during the 2018 students union election.

READ ALSO: From Activism to Probe Panel, How Slain LASU Student Leader ‘was Set Up’ before his Murder

For two days after his murder, Mutiu Kuku, Omomewa’s best friend, was unstable and could not grant a press interview on the deceased’s personality. Later, he told FIJ Omomewa was “the most dogged student in LASU”.

“Let me just tell you he was available for any movement that concerned educational reforms in Nigeria,” he said.

“That’s why I felt he didn’t need to contest to lead LASU students as union president. He had been doing that even without the office.”

Adekoya Rosa Shewa, another old schoolmate of the deceased at Ijebu Ode Grammar School, wrote on Facebook that she was yet to come to terms with unanswered questions about his death.

“I can’t express how much bitterness and sadness I have nursed since midnight when the news got to me. I am yet to come to terms with unanswered questions!”

On Friday night, LASU students also held a procession in honour of Omomeewa.

CODE’S STRONGMAN IN LASU

Omomewa at a CODE event

Apart from being in charge of ERC in Lagos, he was also the ‘go-to guy’ for Connected Development (CODE), a non-governmental organisation that advocates for accountability in Nigeria’s public sector. 

“He knew everyone that mattered in the government value chain and stakeholders who could make vital decisions,” Daniel Ikwong, Lagos State Chapter lead of CODE, said.

“He was my go-to guy whenever I needed help to track education projects. We tracked and monitored the LASU e-library project for FollowTheMoney and he made very profound contributions through the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the Lagos State Governor on Education.”

TOUGH OUTSIDE, GENTLE AT HOME

On January 2, 2021, Omomewa married his university lover, Aminat. Both became friends in 100L after Omomewa found out Aminat’s surname, ‘Nurudeen,’ was his own first name. Their child clocked four months on Monday, but the father was no more.

“He would be greatly missed,” Aminat said. “He was indeed brave outside, but amazingly gentle at home. There were things I did wrong and Omomewa would still be the one to apologise. That act of meekness often stunned me.”

IN DEATH, OMOMEWA MAY BE PARDONED

When FIJ reached out to Ademola Adekoya, LASU’s spokesperson, for comments, he said the university was still investigating Omomewa’s death.

“The management stands by its statement to collaborate with security agencies to apprehend the perpetrators,” he said.

“On the rumours that the university is complicit in his death, I need to clarify that it is very sad that his death happened in that manner, but there is nothing the school has to gain from being involved in the brutal killing.”

Adekoya said that “in the spirit of humanity, the university may have to drop charges against him.”

“But I don’t want to sound so convincing to speak on behalf of the management, but we are all humans. So, I think the university will be magnanimous enough,” he said.

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Published 25th Aug, 2021

By Gabriel Ogunjobi

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