Outrage and kudos, yesterday, greeted the announcement by President Goodluck Jonathan renaming the University of Lagos as Moshood Abiola University, Lagos. In a national broadcast to mark his one year in office, President Jonathan said: “The Federal Government has decided that late Chief M.K.O. Abiola be honoured, for making the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of justice and truth.
Destiny and circumstances conspired to place upon his shoulders a historic burden, and he rose to the occasion with character and courage. He deserves recognition for his martyrdom, and public-spiritedness and for being the man of history that he was”.
The president’s broadcast immediately led to outrage from the University of Lagos community as students trooped to the street in protest, while other academics argued that the President did not follow due process before changing the name of the university. Others however commended the president for his action with members of Abiola’s family saying they were ecstatic at the honour done to late Abiola.
The protesting students of University of Lagos barricaded all access roads to the school armed with placards and marched from Yaba College of Technology junction through the ever-busy Herbert Macaulay Way, Sabo and Yaba areas of the state and finally gathered at the school gate chanting anti-Jonathan slogans and vowed to remain at that spot through out the night and until the president reverses his decision.
They also threatened that they would stay out of classes as long as the president decides to uphold the new name of the university. They argued that the president could have named the presidential villa, Aso Rock, or National Assembly after late Abiola.
The students demanded a reversal of the president’s action saying “the name change is coming at a time when we are planning to bury our late Vice Chancellor and celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary.
According to them, “we have blocked all access roads to the school because we want government to know that we are against their decision to change the name of our school to Moshood Abiola University (MAU). Our academic calendar has not been stable and this would further disrupt it.”
Some of the placards carried by the students read- “reverse or resign now”, “FG killed Sofoluwe”, “Unilag can’t be called MAU”, among others.
In his reaction, the Dean, Students’ Affairs, Professor Kayode Amund, pointed out that the school authority was not involved in any form of consultations with government concerning the change of name. “This is a crisis period and I must confess that the school authorities were taken by surprise because, despite the fact that this is a federal government school, we expect that government would have consulted us before a big announcement like this is made. It is the students’ legitimate right to protest but we are trying to calm them down so that the protests don’t become violent and destructive”, he said.
Protest peaceful — Police
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Umaru Manko, who spoke with Vanguard on phone, said he visited the scene of the protest in company of Divisional Police Officers from, Adekunle, Sabo, and Bariga police stations, saying he ordered his men to treat the protesting students with caution and ensure that there was no break down of law and order. “I was at the scene with some of my men but we weren’t there to stop the students from protesting. We allowed them to exercise their rights to protest but we made sure that they didn’t break the law or prevent the free flow of traffic. Though at the time the protest started, there was a little attempt to disrupt the flow of traffic within some areas in Akoka, but we were able to control it and restore normalcy. From all indications the protest was peaceful. There was no loss of life, no destruction of property. No one was arrested. The students also conducted themselves in a more matured manner.”
Other people who reacted to the change in the name of the university either condemned it or commended the president for his courage.
Jonathan’s action is right step—Abiola’s daughter
One of the Children of late Abiola, Mrs Hafsat Abiola-Costello, yesterday, described the naming of University of Lagos by President Goodluck Jonathan after her late father as a right step in the right direction. Mrs. Abiola-Costello who is currently the Special Adviser to Governor Ibikunle Amosun on Millennium Development Goals, MDG, expressed satisfaction over the new development, saying that the national recognition was long overdue.
Also speaking on the development in Abeokuta, former Senator representing Ogun West, Iyabo Anisulowo lauded President Goodluck Jonathan for his courage and boldness in giving the recognition to Abiola.
She said: “It was the right step in the right direction. It is long overdue but most importantly government should tackle poverty in the land.”.
Treat him as President, Aregbesola urges FG
In his own reaction the Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, advised President Goodluck Jonathan to go a step further to recognise the victory of the late Chief MKO Abiola in the June 12 presidential election.
The Governor, while expressing his position on the honour of naming the University of Lagos after the late politician, said, however, that what could permanently heal the wounds of the incarceration of Abiola and the brutalisation of his supporters is to officially recognise the fact that he won the presidential election of June 12 1993 and accord him posthumously all the rights and privileges associated with the office.
The Director, Bureau of Communications and Strategy in the Office of the Governor, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon, quoted the Governor as saying that Abiola won the election decisively noting that it was bizarre the manner the winner of an election could be subjected to the degree of humiliation Abiola suffered before his eventual death.
President’s action is provocative —Oyebode
Prof Akin Oyebode, Head of International Law and Jurisprudence of the university said Chief MKO Abiola is deserving of every honour that Nigeria can give him but the president has reduced a man with such a national stature to an ethnic political figure, because he wants to win the votes of the Yoruba people in 2015.
According to Prof. Oyebode, the president could have named the National Stadium after Chief MKO Abiola who was generally acknowledged as the pillar of sports in Africa. He said to name an institution of 50 year old standing after Chief Abiola was provocative and a cheap shot at the Yoruba people.
“First, the University is still mourning the death of its Vice Chancellor, Prof. Sofoluwe and the president just decided to disturb the peace of the university community with this asinine action that shows that the gate to hell is paved with the best intentions. The president may have meant well, but he has done a wrong thing that should be reversed immediately.”
President Jonathan committed illegality -House Leader
Minority leader of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila has described the change of the University of Lagos by President Goodluck Jonathan as an illegality which would be challenged in the court of law.
Mr Gbajabiamila pointed out the illegality in President Jonathan’s democracy day announcement yesterday after having read the President’s broadcast.
Speaking with Vanguard he said, “the President does not have unilateral power to change the name of the University because the University of Lagos was established by the act of National Assembly which cannot be amended or changed by Presidential pronouncement.
“Lagos University was established by the Act of National Assembly known as University of Lagos Act. Section one of that Act clearly spelt out that there shall be a University known as University of Lagos. “If you want to change the name of that University, you have to come by way of amendment to the Act. So there is no President that can change the name except it is changed by the National Assembly. The President’s declaration is illegal and I will instruct my lawyers to file a suit on that today.”
MKO Abiola deserves more than that —Afenifere
National leader of Pan-Yoruba organisation, Afenifere, Pa Fasoranti welcomed the decision but argued that the late Abiola deserves more than what the federal government has done to immortalise him. According to him, “that was a right decision because Abiola was the people’s choice, the whole nation accepted him as their leader. The honour is well deserved because we have always clamored that the man be immortalized. I will agree that he deserves more than that, an institution had already been named after him him, I think the President would have chosen another national monument that would be universally acceptable by Nigerians.”
Jonathan did well, but Nigeria needs good governance— Frank Kokori
On his part, one time secretary of NUPENG, Chief Frank Kokori lauded the decision but was of the view that there is need for President Jonathan to provide good governance in the country.
It’s a step in the right direction — Adebanjo
When asked for his views, he said: “Why not, it is a step in the right direction. I heard some people have been criticising it, we should praise somebody who has recognised that Abiola should be immortalised. What about somebody who was there for eight years, what did he do? It is the spirit which he has done that we should commend; it is unfair not to acknowledge the fact that all that we have agitating for is for him to listen to the voice of the people. We are talking of somebody who has done something, what about somebody who did nothing? The fact that he as done something, he should be commended. That is my own stand”.
SNG faults decision
THE Save Nigeria Group, SNG, has rejected the renaming of University of Lagos after late Chief MKO Abiola describing it as an abuse of power by President Goodluck Jonathan.
In a statement by the group’s spokesman, Mr Yinka Odumakin, he said “while acknowledging the eternal place of Bashorun M.K.O Abiola, the winner of June 12 elections, in the political history of Nigeria and would want the highest possible honor done to him; deplores the indecent manner in which President Goodluck Jonathan has re-named the University of Lagos after him.”
While it faulted the renaming of the tertiary institution, SNG said it was a violation of the principles and tenets of democracy.
Choice of UNILAG is wrong —Ayo Opadokun
Former General-Secretary of NADECO, Mr Ayo Opadokun said: “I will commend the President for breaking the jinx on the clamour for the immortalisation of Chief MKO Abiola. As to the kind of honour that Abiola deserves, I will say that this is a step because the current democracy that we have today became meaningful as a result of Abiola’s martyrdom. However, I dont believe that the thought of naming UNILAG after MKO Abiola was right. I have my reservations but this is my comments for now.”
The National Vice-President, Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU), Dr Nasir Fagge, argued that the renaming of the university was a welcome development to democracy. “It is a welcome development to the country’s democracy. The government has the right to rename any institution or national monument,” he said.
But Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye, Head of the Department of Mass Communication in the university, 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 is 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 also told NAN.
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”.
In his comment, human rights lawyer, Mr Bamidele Aturu, said:“It is a welcome development, but it is not enough.
“What is more important is for Nigerians to reap the dividends of the democracy that Abiola died for.
The Founder of the Odu’a People’s Congress (OPC), Dr Frederick Faseun, 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.
Prof. Pat Utomi, the 2011 Presidential Candidate of the Social Democratic Mega Party (SDMP), also told NAN that it was a good thing to name a monument after Abiola, but more consultations should have been held to determine what was most suitable.
Sagay, others differ
Some prominent lawyers on Tuesday expressed mixed reactions over the decision of the Federal Government to rename the University of Lagos (UNILAG) in honour of the late Chief MKO Abiola.
The lawyers gave their views in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
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.
Mr Bamidele Aturu, a human rights activist, said the president had the power to change the name of the institution? stressing that nothing was actually wrong with the name change.
He said: “The renaming itself is not the problem it is a populist gesture. This must not been seen as a way to garner the sympathy of the people of the South West.
“The Federal Government has the power to change the name of any of its institution but it must be done with approval of the university’s council.
“If the UNILAG Council did not approve the name to be changed, then there will be a problem because it means that due process has not been followed”.
Also speaking, Mr Wale Ogunade, President, Voters Awareness Initiative, a non-governmental organisation, said the proper way to honour Abiola would have been to recognise June 12 as a national holiday.
“MKO Abiola is not known to be an educationist. The best way to have honoured him is for the Federal Government to recognise June 12 as a national public holiday”, he said.
Ogunade said lawyers in the country would challenge the change of the institution’s name in a court of competent jurisdiction if it was not reversed by the government.
He said: “The University of Lagos was enacted by an act, so nobody can unilaterally change its name without an act by the National Assembly.
“I can assure you that this will be challenged in the court because it is an illegality”.
Abiola deserves the honour——Senator Mamora
“The late Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola deserved the posthumous honour that was bestowed on him by President Goodluck Jonathan. I believe some other institutions should have been named after him and not University of Lagos. This is because he touched so many aspects of our national life including sports.
I would have preferred either the National Stadium Lagos or Abuja renamed after him. I can remember that the fourth National Assembly (1999-2003) passed a resolution that the National Stadium, Abuja should be renamed after him.
I think the students of University of Lagos who protested against the renaming of that institution after Abiola have the right to express their grievance against any policy of government; although such a protest should always be peaceful.
Another thing I need to mention is that it doesn’t seem right that the President could just by fiat rename an institution of that standing which was established by law. For it be properly done, I think he should a bill to the National Assembly for the renaming of the University of Lagos. It is only after such a law has been passed into law and signed by the President that it becomes effective. For him to make a mere pronouncement is not enough.
I don’t think the Federal Government has enough to tackle the menace of terrorism in the country especially in the area of intelligence gathering. This is because bombings by terrorists have persisted in some parts of the country. There is need for the Government to do more in the area of intelligence gathering in order to tackle the menace.
On his own part former Governor of Edo State John Odigie-Oyegun endorsed President Jonathan’s renaming of the University of Lagos to MKO Abiola university.
Said he: “I wish he made the announcement on the 19th anniversary of the annulment of the June 12 1993 Presidential election which was widely acclaimed to have been won by the late politician. I would have also loved the announcement the more if it was made on the 14th anniversary of the death of Abiola. It is better late than never.”
However his reaction on the President’s pledge to tackle insecurity was guarded.
According to him: “The taste of the pudding is in the eating. We have heard enough speeches by Government officials on this matter. The truth of the matter is that on the part of the Government, there is no alternative to ensuring that the citizens are secured. The Government should use all the tools at its disposal and this should not exclude negotiation with the aggrieved groups.”