From Odumakin to Mailafia: How Nigeria lost two fiery critics in five months

THE death of former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Obadiah Mailafia came to many Nigerians as a rude shock on Sunday.

The fiery critic died at the National Hospital at 64 after allegedly taking ill on Saturday.

Though a presidential candidate in the 2019 general election on the African Democratic Congress (ADC) platform, Mailafia became more popular when he defied the shrinking civil space to vent his feelings on President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.

Following increasing activities of the Boko Haram insurgents group in the country’s North-East, Mailafia claimed in August 2020 that one of the governors in the North was sponsoring the group.


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On August 12, the State Security Service (SSS) invited him shortly after making the claim.

He got another invitation from the secret police five days later.

The ICIR reported how he claimed his life was in danger after receiving his third invitation from the SSS in November that year.

The US had early this month vowed to expose sponsors of the dreaded group.

Similarly, the United Arab Emirates last week named six Nigerians among the financiers of global terrorism.

They included: Abdurrahaman Ado Musa, Salihu Yusuf Adamu, Bashir Ali Yusuf, Muhammed Ibrahim Isa, Ibrahim Ali Alhassan and Surajo Abubakar Muhammad.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Boko Haram group has displaced nearly 2.4 million people in the Lake Chad Basin.

Activities of the group have led to the displacement of over 2.1 million in Nigeria, UNHCR says.

The Global Conflict Tracker notes that nearly 350,000 people have died in the North-East where Boko Haram’s attacks have been common since 2009.

The Cable quoted the spokesperson of the Southern Kaduna Peoples’ Union (SOKAPU) Luka Binniyat as saying that Mailafia had been taking refuge at different locations since his crisis with the SSS.

According to him, Mailafia moved from Makurdi, Benue State, to Abuja’s National Hospital, where he later died.

Reacting to Mailafiya’s death, a former Senator representing Kaduna Central Shehu Sani said the deceased had “stepped out of this troubled, troubling and turbulent world.” 

He said “the memories of his powerful words and shattering truth,” would remain with Nigerians as “he cast the light of justice and freedom in the dark corners of power.” 

Sani added: “Dr Mailafiya epitomised courage, conscience and conviction. Whenever he speaks, he breaks the ceiling of fear and unsettles a nation allergic to the truth. He kept the power on its toes with his facts and intelligence. He was a northern star who shined  in the darkness of silence and surrender.

“He raised the moral bar with his boldness. He was a man whose truth is without a season. Like most greats and champions of freedom, he inspired many and irritated the establishment in his journey of life.”

Mailafia died five months after another prominent critic and spokesperson of Afenifere, a South-West socio-political group, Yinka Odumakin, died.

Odumakin died on April 3 at the Lagos State Teaching Hospital from respiratory issues due to complications resulting from COVID-19.

He was 54.

Odumakin played a crucial role in the National Democratic Coalition’s (NADECO) confrontation with General Sani Abacha’s military regime.



    He severely condemned President Buhari’s leadership approach many times and accused him of using state instruments for ethnic revenge.

    Odumakin was Buhari’s spokesperson when he contested for president in 2011 on the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) platform.

    Prominent Nigerians, including President Buhari, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar extolled Odumakin’s courage in activism.

    Buhari described him as a “dutiful, and a person of conviction” in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina.

    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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