Ariyo Dare-Atoye: Patriot Who Bade Goodbye at Sunrise
By Jude Ndukwe
“The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil” (Isaiah 57:1)
Mr Ariyo Dare-Atoye was one man that not only his family, friends and associates would miss, he was someone the entire country and every person of goodwill would. This is because in his short sojourn here on earth, Comrade Dare-Atoye traversed the space as an unwavering carrier of truth who was ready to speak it to kings and emperors, whether gentle or rough, reasonable or dictatorial, and always in defence of the common man, the oppressed, and for the promotion of a just, fair and egalitarian society where the rights of every citizen is not only guaranteed but seen to be protected and promoted. He had suffered incarceration and brutalisation in the course of his activism but such inhuman actions against him only fuelled his desire to fight for the oppressed and defend the defenceless; he was a voice of the voiceless!
When the Shiites were undergoing persecution, Ariyo stood firmly by them alongside Comrade Deji Adeyanju.
When Adeyanju himself became a subject of official intimidation, harassment and incarceration based on trumped up charges as a result of his opposition to official oppression and maladministration, Ariyo stood by him to the end. Even when many could not visit Deji in Kano prison where he was unlawfully held, for fear of being roped in by association and or for fear of the dreaded Abuja – Kaduna highway, Ariyo ignored the consequences and led other Comrades like Demola Rewaju, Kamen Chuks, Jude Ndukwe et al to pay a solidarity visit to Deji in Kano prison. The Convener of Concerned Nigerians was freed shortly after.
Ariyo was also involved neck deep in the processes that have shaped our modern democracy and country despite threats to his life and discomfort to family. He was a man who would not back down on any issue he believed was just to fight for no matter the threat. In fact, Ariyo was an epitome of a warrior who walked on coals of fire just so oppressive regimes and policies are reversed and people-oriented regulations are put in place.
I recall with nostalgic sadness, how Ariyo had led his Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution (CDNDC), to join that led by Comrade Deji Adeyanju of Concerned Nigerians and one led by this writer, Movement for the Advancement of National Transformation (MANTRA) in a march to the National Assembly in April 2017 to raise the alarm about what was then the undue interference of the executive arm of government in the legislature.
Because the emergence of the leadership of the legislature then had not gone according to the plans of certain elements in the executive who wanted to teleguide the election process to favour their anointed candidates, leadership of the national assembly particularly the senate started suffering high level harassment and intimidation with the reckless deployment of law enforcement agencies, and other shenanigans to aggressively disrupt proceedings of the legislature to the detriment of national interest.
At its height, and when those who should speak were either quiet or siding with the aggressors, or already incarcerated over one trumped up charge or the other, Comrades Ariyo Dare-Atoye, Deji Adeyanju and Jude Ndukwe, took the bull by the horn and organized a rally which was tagged #IStandWithNass and marched with a mammoth crowd to the premises of the National Assembly where their address wherein they declared that “Any attempt to intimidate lawmakers and undermine the independence of the legislature will spell doom for democracy”, was handed over to Senator Samuel Anyanwu and two other Senators who had received the marching crowd.
“No one should attempt to kill the national assembly simply because they do not like the faces of one or two persons there or simply because of the fact that they are doing their job. Doing so would just be like asking to kill the judiciary for freeing, discharging and acquitting Chief Mike Ozekhome, Elder Godsday Orubebe, Justice Adeniyi Ademola and others in quick succession”, they had declared.
Also, on March 27, 2017, Comrade Ariyo Dare-Atoye, Comrade Abdul Mahmud who is the President of Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL) and Comrade Jude Chijioke Ndukwe led another mammoth crowd to Amnesty International (AI) to show support to the international human rights organisation over the threat it suffered the previous week when an obviously sponsored group, Global Peace and Rescue Initiative (GOPRI) barricaded the organisation’s office in Abuja for days warning it to leave the country as “there will be no interval of respite if AI failed to leave Nigeria at the end of the five days as we will activate other more profound options to make them leave Nigeria”, the group had threatened.
GOPRI had carried out the action because of AI’s report indicting security agencies on human rights abuses.
Irked by such effrontery, Mr Dare-Atoye in collaboration with Mr Jude Ndukwe and Mr Abdul Mahmud mobilised thousands of Nigerians to AI’s office, assured it of the support of Nigerians and urged it not to vacate the country in compliance with the warped directive of GOPRI.
“Amnesty International has come to stay. Amnesty International is going nowhere. You have our full support. Keep the focus and do not be intimidated or deterred, for those who are for you are greater than those who are against you”, the group had declared.
And in place of the coffin carried by the anti-AI protesters to the organisation’s office, Mr Dare-Atoye, on behalf of the group presented a palm frond signifying peace and victory, and a torchlight signifying light in place of darkness.
Perhaps the most important of Comrade Ariyo’s interventions in the polity was his dogged and audacious pursuit of electoral reforms.
It is a well documented fact that Nigerians, especially the youths will remain eternally grateful to Comrade Ariyo Dare-Atoye who made enormous sacrifice with no reward whatsoever in putting pressure on the National Assembly, INEC and other relevant agencies and organisations that birthed the reforms that have rekindled great hope and confidence in our electoral processes in particular and the polity in general. In fact, it will not be out of place to christen the latest electoral laws “Ariyo Laws” in memory of that great Patriot who gave his all just to ensure a better future for our children and children’s children, a future in which he will not be partaking in but for which his name will be indelibly etched in our nation’s history.
He was also at the forefront of road walks, talk shows and other enlightenment campaigns on the importance of citizens registering for their PVCs and also ensure they collect same so good leaders can be voted into office starting with the forthcoming 2023 general elections.
It was the same with the phenomenal #EndSARS demonstrations that sought to eradicate police brutality from our polity. Atoye with other Comrades led the peaceful but impactful demonstrations in Abuja. He was himself simply phenomenal!
Among those that will miss him sorely are the indigent pupils in his home state of Ekiti whose school fees and other scholarly needs he offsets in his annual scholarship programme. He had always travelled every year to fulfil this purpose just to ensure that children who ordinarily would have been out of school because of financial constraints have their dreams of schooling kept alive.
In further pursuit of justice, equity and faitness, Ariyo had strongly advocated that all political parties zoned their presidential ticket to the southeast so there could be a sense of belonging to all zones of the country which would in turn engender peace. It was all in line with his consistency in advocating for sociopolitical justice no matter who is involved that he embarked on that campaign.
Born on the 24th of March, 1981 to the Atoye family of Igbara Odo in Ekiti State, Comrade Ariyo Dare-Atoye who was also fondly called Aristotle by his associates because of his deep well of wisdom, forthrightness and unrelenting spirit, was a social justice advocate extraordinaire who led a short but very fulfilled life as a patriot and the people’s reliable ally. Only very few social crusaders anywhere in the world can boast of Ariyo’s extremely rich credentials which time and space will not allow one explore in just one piece.
He sadly succumbed to his illness on the 27th of October, 2022 in a private hospital in Abuja leaving behind a wife and three beautiful children.
Although we are in tears and downcast, our solace is in Isaiah 57: 1-2, which says “…that the righteous is taken away from evil. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness”.
May the soul of Brother Ariyo Dare-Atoye rest in peace!
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