We woke up this morning to hear the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan declare in his Democracy day speech that the University of Lagos, Akoka has been renamed the Moshood Abiola University in honour of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 election who lost his life and that of a wife in a bid to reclaim his mandate. At the thought of the new name, MAULag we all went to town (facebook, twitter and the rest) laughing and mocking the Unilag babes who we believe are the hardest hit (don’t ask why).
I had fun too and came up with some jokes on the issue only to discover that some people were making a big deal out of the issue. Let’s get serious. What’s the big deal in changing UniLag to Moshood Abiola University? Students of Unilag are not called Unilagites but Akokites and that still stands as the university has not changed location. Correct me if I’m right but seriously I don’t understand all the fuss about the name change and the subsequent blockage of the Third Mainland Bridge.
You can protest all you want but I doubt if that will change anything. A similar thing happened in Ife in 1987. In 1987, the University of Ife was changed to Obafemi Awolowo University and people protested but that changed nothing, the name has come to stay. Today, the school prides itself as the Oba Awon University (King of all Universities). A play on its initials – OAU.
Eminent Nigerians have reacted to the issue and here are my thoughts on some of the opinions expressed. In my opinion, the best criticism against MAU so far is that a Federal structure/institution in the FCT like the National Stadium or the University of Abuja would have done greater honour to Abiola than the sectional approach the Unilag re-christening looks like. They argue that Abiola is not only a South-western hero but a national one. Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola deserves all the honour he gets. MAU doesn’t stop the National Stadium, Abuja or any other institution from being renamed after him. The fact that we have the Obafemi Awolowo University didn’t stop the many roads across the nation from being named after Awo.
From my perspective, I also think that the outcry against this move by the Jonathan led FG is one that goes on to show how people resent change. UniIfe students didn’t hate Awo, yet protested in ’87 and I’m sure UniLag students don’t hate Abiola, yet are protesting. People are just not comfortable with accepting that a CHANGE (of name) has come to an institution they are/were part of, either as students or lecturers. Simple!
Some other critics also accuse the president of not consulting anybody, but are we forgetting that the school is a federal institution? We are the same ones who complain that we set up committees for everything possible under the sun and now we complain again that no committee on name change was set up. This is not to say that the President was right in disregarding the legally prescribed steps for re-christening the institution. The man should take all steps to correct that anomaly by going through the normal route.
Some others say Abiola did nothing for Nigeria. My response to that is that he made steps to do great things for the country by contesting and winning the fairest election this country has ever had, he could have done a lot if the election wasn’t cancelled. And it is possible he wouldn’t have done anything. I’m not a fan of GEJ, neither am I an Abiola fanatic but I believe that this is not such a big issue as some people want the rest of us to believe. The whole furore and debate that trailed the issue seems to me like hitting an ant with a sledge hammer! I honestly do not see a reason for the noise the matter generated.
PS: This piece was originally penned on May 29, 2012 when the announcement of the change of name was made.