By Nelson Ekujumi
Recently comrade Kayode Opeifa, the honourable commissioner for public transportation in Lagos state was in the eye of the storm as a result of the unruly behavior of some miscreants at the Gani Fawehinmi memorial night of tributes held at Jabita hotel, Ikeja in Lagos. I have like others, watched a YouTube documentary of the show of shame by the hoodlums which was a misconduct that ought to be appropriately condemned by not only activists but all lovers of peace, civility and decent public conduct because it was a disservice to the blessed memory of erudite Chief Gani Fawehinmi who used his legal and intellectual prowess to fight for social justice.
I have also taken the time to read people’s comments on the incident which has in no small measure confirmed that variety is the spice of life with a large majority of respondents just like the activists community trooping out enmasse to condemn the indecent misconduct which is not a true reflection of the feelings of our constituency. I am touched and forced to contribute this piece not only as a result of the pains and anger in some respondents writings in condemning the misdemeanor but also because I am concerned as a witness at this event, who feels that there is the compelling need to correct some erroneous positions, before it is taken as the truth of what transpired.
I say with all sense of responsibility that it is absolutely unfair and a misrepresentation of facts for anybody to assert that Comrade Kayode Opeifa was disgraced by activists at an event in honour of Gani Fawehinmi. Comrade Opeifa is an activists per excellence, he is an ambassador of his constituency and we are all very proud of his track record of hard work, honesty, principle, resilience and innovative thinking in his service to humanity in the Lagos state ministry of transportation. The grudge and misconduct of the few miscreants against the comrade commissioner does not and can never represent the general feelings of the civil society community about this oasis in our desert. If you are or have been opportune to watch the documentary, what you will see is just a few, about (6) persons singing against the person of Comrade Opeifa, with the vast majority of the audience bewildered by the misconduct and not wanting to conduct themselves indecently by engaging in acts that could disrupt the programme being held in memory of one of our mentors and icon of our democratic struggle.
Comrade Opeifa attended the programme out of respect for the memory of his mentor and leader, late Chief Gani Fawehinmi and immediately he came in, went and sat with members of his immediate constituency, (CDHR) and within a twinkle of an eye was offered drinks (wine) and food that some of us were even joking that he was using position to oppress us by commanding merriment with fiat when a large number of people had left in annoyance because they were denied such privilege. Then his presence was announced and called to the high table, which was when the hoodlums emerged and started conducting themselves in indecent manner as is expected of them.
Comrade Opeifa as a man of exemplary conduct, despite his busy schedule in public office, has always found time to fraternize with his constituency by physically attending civil society programmes and events at all times and I can mention some just to buttress this position. He was present at the Beko Ransome Kuti memorial lecture programme held at Airport hotel on February 10, 2013, CDHR programmes, 19th anniversary of June 11 Epetedo declaration and the 20th anniversary of the June 12 1993 programmes organized by June 12 Coalition of Democratic Formations and National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Gani Fawehinmi night of tributes, among several others.
Comrade Kayode Opeifa is one and remains a shining light of the civil rights community in Nigeria in bringing about societal change through purpose, focused, hard work and innovative thinking with the new face of the transportation sector in Lagos state under his commissionership.
Unlike other states in the federation, that have embarked on transportation sector reforms through executive fiat, Lagos state ministry of transportation under Comrade Opeifa embarked on its re-engineering through the civilized and democratic method by the enactment a traffic law that was assented to by the executive after its passage by the state legislature, after months of intensive, interactive brainstorming sessions by relevant stakeholders. Comrade Opeifa, as a comrade who believes in democratic way of doing things, also went further to use his office to ensure extensive advocacy and sensitization of the public for months before the implementation of the new law.
The new traffic law that is primarily concerned with the safety of lives on Lagos roads has contributed in no small way to reducing road accidents, time wastage, crime, damage to limbs and properties and loss of lives. With this new innovative policy by the transportation ministry under Comrade Opeifa, the sad and recurring decimal of molue buses plunging into the lagoon with hundreds of lives is now a thing of the past. The alarming accident and crime rates by motorcyclists has been tremendously reduced by the safety rules enforcement.
This epitome of resilience that comrades are noted for has been able within a short time in office to transform Lagos roads to one in which the road signage erection and lane markings is second to none in Nigeria. All major junctions and intersections in Lagos state now have traffic lights that are modern time compliant with time display which reduces the stress of Lagosians in traffic.
Through his office, comrade Kayode Opeifa as a seasoned comrade who was the Lagos state chairman of Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR) for six (6) years and was one of the arrowheads in the trenches against military rule, has been able to play his part in delivering the dividends of democracy to Lagosians through the Traffic Radio whose impact to the lives of the motoring public cannot be quantified. This station gives regular traffic updates, the citizenry are entertained and informed about their motoring duties and obligations, their inquiries about the traffic situation enables them to plan their movements and avoid time wastages. Through this innovative and exemplary radio station, public complaints and suggestion on transportation related issues are addressed.
The commissionership of comrade Kayode Opeifa has breathed new life and zest into the activities of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) who are well motivated and disciplined to perform optimally in their service to the public.
Under Comrade Opeifa, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has witnessed a lot of transformation just to make commuting stress free for the average Lagosian with the latest being the E-Ticketing system launched only recently by His Excellency, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN). Comrade Commissioner as a visionary leader that he is, has also ensured the revival of water transportation system in Lagos in order to create jobs and reduce the pressure on our roads through the construction of world class jetties and participation of private ferry operators all over the state.
Comrade Kayode Opeifa is a workaholic who took after legendary comrades like late Pa Michael Imoudu, Chief Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Margareth Ekpo, Hajia Sawaba, Gani Fawehinmi, Beko Ransome Kuti, etc in advocating social change through intellectualism and mass mobilization and it is this wonderful qualities that has endeared him to the hearts of whoever has come across him and especially his constituency.
I could go on and on, but what more can one write about this young comrade whose love for his fellow human being is worthy of emulation and a source of pride to humanity bearing in mind that he is also a member and patron of many youth and students organizations which he is never tired of associating with both in his immediate community and extended? Therefore, one can only pray that the Almighty should continue to renew his strength and resolve in the service to his people and implore him never to be deterred but to regard the latest storm in the tea cup of an incident as the price to pay for leadership because even our lord Jesus Christ was vilified and condemned despite his good works and the overwhelming evidence of his Messiahship.
God bless you, Comrade Kayode Opeifa and may your road be rough.