30th May, 2012
Federal Government said on Wednesday that protests by students and staff of University of Lagos over the change of the name of their school to Moshood Abiola University as announced in a national broadcast by President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday will not force it to rescind its decision on the name change.
Labaran Maku, the Minister of Information told journalists that the Federal Government is convinced that Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, the late acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election deserved the honour of having the school named after him for his contribution to Nigeria’s democracy.
He spoke to journalists after the meeting of the Federal Executive Council.
“If there is any figure that symbolises sacrifice of self for this nation, that figure is Chief M.K.O Abiola who clearly won the June12, 1993 Presidential election and died in captivity because he stood for principle, he stood to defend the principle of democracy.
“And for anyone that is familiar with the development of our politics in the last two decades, there is no event in the political history of our country that touches the hearts of quite a significant number of citizens like the June 12 Presidential election,” said Maku.
He also said the naming of the institution after the late businessman and politician was a response to continuing clamour for the recognition of the acclaimed June 12 presidential election in Nigeria’s democracy.
“In the last two decades there have been widespread outcry that this democracy has not given recognition to Chief M.K.O Abiola and other heroes who passed on in controversial circumstances as a result of what they did to stand for the democratic development of this country.
” These outcries have continued to come from citizens spread across the nation. What Mr. President did was to listen to the outpouring of appeals by Nigerians across this country that MKO deserved to be immortalised. What he therefore did in his capacity as a visitor to the University of Lagos was to name the university after Moshood Abiola of blessed memory,” said the minister.
He said the protests that have greeted the renaming is expected in a democracy, adding that the protests should not be allowed to overshadow the significance of the President’s action.
“ I think he has shown that he is a true statesman and he truly appreciates the significance of MKO’s contribution to the political development of our country and as people who were adults in 1993 we think that this decision has been long over due and that today Abiola can turn in his grave and say this nation for whom I made a supreme sacrifice for political development has recognised my contributions,” he added.
The minister added that it is hoped that the protesting students in particular and Nigerians generally will appreciate government’s decision to honour Abiola by naming the university after him, adding that the President’s action was in the best interest of the country.
Maku noted that apart from protests by some sections of students, there have been outpourings of encomiums on the President over the action by “patriots and statesmen who really understand the reasons why the President honoured Abiola”.
He added that he decision by the Federal Government to rename the University of Lagos should unify and not divide Nigerians, arguing that such action is not new in the country.
“I remember that around 1987-88 when one of Nigeria’s foremost nationalists and leaders, Chief Obafemi Awolowo passed on, the Federal Government renamed the University of Ife as Obafemi Awolowo University. In addition to that also in the course of our history we have had several national institutions named after our past heroes and even living heroes,” he said.