In this interview with SEGUN OLUGBILE, Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities at the University of Lagos, Dr. Oghenekaro Ogbinaka, argued that the union was not in support of the authorities’ decision to close down the university
What is ASUU’s position on the change of name of the University of Lagos to Moshood Abiola University of Lagos?
The leadership of ASUU, University of Lagos Branch’s leadership has diligently read the material details of President Goodluck Jonathan’s May 29th speech to the country. Without empathy, we sympathise with a Peoples Democratic Party-led government that has almost nothing to point to – as any achievement of substance of 13 years into our democratic dispensation. In crass demonstration of its continual lack of the feelings of Nigerians at a time that matters most, Jonathan’s PDP-led government has chosen this “moment of bereavement” of the entire UNILAG community to unilaterally announce a change of the institution’s name to the bewilderment and annoyance of all stakeholders.
ASUU, UNILAG salutes the courage of our students and all who have spontaneously rejected this change of name. UNILAG is the first university to have been established by an Act of Parliament in Nigeria. It is the first and only outstandingly well-built university by the Federal Republic of Nigeria at a time Nigeria had little funds.
The Obafemi Awolowo University was established and built by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group-led Government; Ahmadu Bello University was established and built by the NPC led government of Sir Ahmadu Bello; the University of Nigeria, Nsukka was established and built by the Eastern Region; the premier University of Ibadan was established and built under the regime of our colonisers and subsequently acquired by Nigeria at independence; the University of Benin was established and built by the then midwest government.
The University of Lagos is the first University to have used the brand name UNILAG, unlike UI, ABU and UNN, thereafter, most other universities have chosen to be branded “Uni-this or Uni that” The 1962 Act of Parliament that established the university clearly states:
“as from the appointed day the university established by the UNILAG Act 1962 shall be a body corporate by the name of the University of Lagos…”
We, therefore, condemn the most undemocratic and military-like/inspired approach the President has gone about his not-well-intentioned honour of Chief M.K.O. Abiola.
The Federal of Nigeria has chosen the wrong institution and the wrong time. We are not taken aback on this. UNILAG will not go into celebrating its golden jubilee with a PDP-led Jonathan government’s name.
So how do you think Abiola should have been immortalised?
In order to honour the late Kwame Nkrumah, the people of Ghana established and built a new university named Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, the University of Ghana, Legon; the University of Cape Coast and the University of Education retained their names. No university was rebranded by the United States of America in order to honour the Late Martin Luther King, Jr. The condemnable action of the Jonathan-led government is a cheap and lazy approach of a government that is unable to build any worthwhile institution that can be named after a nation’s heroes. This is shameful.
UNILAG is a brand that its stakeholders have laboured, for 50 years. We are not ready to sacrifice this; as the implication of so doing is enormously disastrous to those who attended the university, who are in the university and who aspire to come into the university. If the Federal Government is “in truth and indeed” desirous of honouring Chief MKO Abiola with a university, we will advise President Jonathan to name any or all of his newly, established nine universities that are yet to issue certificates to anybody after him. The wrong rebranding of UNILAG will impose huge financial cost on the university in the face of corruption.
So, what will ASUU want the government to do now?
That is simple. We, lecturers at UNILAG will call on the Jonathan administration to do the right thing by reversing this wrong decision. It is wrong to do a right thing wrongly.
But the authorities of UNILAG have shut down the institution for two weeks as a result of protest embarked upon by the students. Do you think this is justified?
The union interacted with the students from hall to hall and it was clear that the decision (to shut down the university) was uninformed and unpopular. Under our leadership the Dean of Students Affairs assured the students that nobody will eject them from UNILAG and we, as academic members of staff will commence lectures on Monday. The shut down order won’t stand.
What is ASUU going to do if the Federal Government refused to reverse the decision?
You cannot change the name of child at 50 without his or her consent. We will fight this for the interest of all universities in Nigeria. Nobody will use universities built by others to score cheap political points. MKO Abiola deserves to be honoured. The ingenious Federal Government of Nigeria should learn how Ghana honoured Kwame Nkrumah and how USA honour Martin Luther King Jr. What they have done is very uncreative and an insult on Nigerian educational institution. Only military dictators can be that unimaginative.
What do you think will be the impact of this name change on the university?
That is the point. Let National Universities Commission, Tertiary Education Trust Fund, and the Federal Ministry of Education tell the world what it would cost to rebrand the biggest university brand in Africa and how it will be funded. Is that the priority of UNILAG? Let the corrupt leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress tell us what they will contribute to this rebranding. What value will the name Moshood Abiola add to the name University of Lagos? He should be honoured with any of the nine new universities created by the Jonathan-led government. We are not against that as you do not use a wrong action to right another wrong situation.