Renamed UNILAG stirs deep controversy


Nigerians have been commenting on President Goodluck Jonathan’s renaming of University of Lagos as Moshood Abiola University.

While some Nigerians applauded the President’s decision, many other Nigerians want the decision reconsidered. The Founder of the Odu’a People’s Congress (OPC), Dr Frederick Faseun, simply said the renaming had “downgraded the university’’.

“Abiola was my very good friend, but I still do not support the naming of the University of Lagos after him based on local sentiment. Obviously, Abiola merits any democratic concept that could be named after him, but his aspirations had nothing to do with a university of the status of UNILAG,’’ he said.

Professor Ralph Akinfeleye, Head of the Department of Mass Communication in the universit also criticised the renaming of the institution. Describing it as a misplaced priority, the don noted that the announcement came at a time when the university was still mourning the death of its Vice Chancellor, Prof. Adetokunbo Sofoluwe.

“The renaming came at a wrong time and it was not done in accordance with the law establishing the institution. It not a wrong thing to honour the late Abiola, who sacrificed so much during his life time for democracy, but the process and choice of institution, is wrong.

“ Abiola was not a sectional leader. If any honour should be given to him, it should be done in the Federal Capital Territory,” Akinfeleye said.
He suggested that the national stadium or the University of Abuja should be named after the late politician.

Another UNILAG lecturer, Dr Jide Oluwajuyitan, said the late Abiola was bigger than the university and should be accorded a better national honour.

Oluwajuyitan, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, noted that most of the current students might not know Abiola and the significance of naming the school after him.

“ Abiola is bigger than UNILAG and he deserves more honour in Abuja and not in the South-West where he hailed from’’.

Human rights activist and lawyer, Bamidele Aturu however supported the renaming of UNILAG after Abiola.

The position was shared by former Minister of Education, Mrs Chinwe Obaji.

“I do not see anything wrong with the change because it has to do with what is their brief and so, there is nothing wrong with that.

“The University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) , for instance, has it in the constitution establishing it that the name must not be changed and so it would remain.

“Moshood Abiola deserves to be honoured because he was a symbol of democracy, no matter whatever anyone thinks,” she said.

Obaji noted that the 1993 election was the freest and fairest the country had ever experienced, adding that for government to think of giving him such an honour was not out of place. “Here was a man whose ideals were embraced and people, irrespective of religious and ethnic differences voted for him overwhelmingly.
If the government deems it proper to honour him this way, then so be it”.

Two unionists expressed the fears about changing the UNILAG brand name.
Ben Anosike, secretary of the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU), UNILAG Chapter, urged the government to revisit the issue.

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“We are not against the Federal Government honouring whoever it deemed fit, but what we are saying is that UNILAG does not deserve such change.It is already a brand name that has come to be accepted and recognized the world over. It is the university of first choice and the nation’s pride and it should be sustained,’’ he also told NAN.

Mr Patrick Asuquo, immediate past Public Relations Officer, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), UNILAG Chapter, urged the government to reconsider its decision.
“We are calling on the government to quickly reconsider its decision,’’ he said.

But the National Vice-President, Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU), Dr Nasir Fagge, endorsed the development.

“It is a welcome development to the country’s democracy. The government has the right to rename any institution or national monument,’’ he said.

He, however, said funding of the universities should be addressed, describing funding as the most important challenges facing them.

Fagge added:“What is important to us is that the government should fund our universities to attain international standard.
“It is in recognition of the democracy which the late Abiola struggled for, but making the universities work is more important.The change of name is sudden and was done without due consultations.”

Other commentators said renaming UNILAG in honour of MKO has localised the late politician’s national profile.

Mr Rasaq Oladosu, the Director of Strategy, Coalition of Odu’a Self-Determination Groups (COSEG), said any monument outside the South-West would have been ideal for Abiola.
“A monument in Abuja would have been suitable as there are many schools and monuments already named after him in the South-West.`Abiola was a national hero and not a South-West hero,’’ he said.

Prof. Pat Utomi, the 2011 Presidential Candidate of the Social Democratic Mega Party (SDMP), said there was nothing wrong in naming UNILAG after Abiola. But he quickly added that more consultations should have been held to determine what was most suitable.

“The Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, should have been named after him’’.

A constitutional lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), said the president should be praised for his effort to immortalise Abiola, adding that he, however, made a wrong choice in choosing UNILAG.

Sagay said: “The president should be praised for his effort to immortalise Abiola. It was done out of good intention but he chose the wrong institution.
“UNILAG is too well established and has its own individual personality which will be difficult to overshadow”.

He noted that the president could have named one of the nine federal universities being constructed by the government in honour of the late acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.

“This would have been less contentious because they are yet to be given any names and have no identity of their own unlike UNILAG”, Sagay added

The controversy continues.