Political Intentions Behind Unilag Renaming? By Raheem Oluwafunminiyi



The heat generated by the renaming of the former University of Lagos, UNILAG into Moshood Abiola University, Lagos, MAUL, has seized to abate even when an avoidable and unfortunate plane crash miffed our collective sensibilities few days ago. It is not everyday that plane crashes occur globally, but when it comes to Nigeria, a pointer to institutional incompetence is always not far-fetched. The DANA airliner crash is a story for another day even as we still mourn the huge human and material loss.

In the life of any country, most especially those whose democracy has been deepened over time and which is celebrated with much seriousness, those that matter at the political ladder usually come out to give speeches worthy of emulation. Speeches that informs and is usually critical of the situation on ground. It is therefore not unusual to find the State of the Union address or speech by most American presidents quite interesting and critically addressing issues of national priority within and without the American federation.

Not many would forget one of such speeches by a former American president, which provoked criticisms outside the borders of the Western hemisphere simply because some nations to the president were without apology hammered with the ‘axis of evil’ of appellation, even as more than half of Americans took such speech with equanimity.

However, the May 29 speech made by our own president days back has continued to provoke debates, criticisms and given opinion moulders like this writer a reason to ask the simple question of why and how we came to a level were issues that matter in our nation are left out, while pursuing irrelevances by the powers that be. Nowhere in the president’s speech did he talk about the stupendous act of corruption unprecedented in our history and how to tackle the monster that continues in high and low places, nowhere was the mention of the failure of the security agencies and how they had failed to tackle the Boko Haram imbroglio, nowhere had the speech mentioned how our roads would be fixed at the nick of time, nowhere was mentioned the high level of poverty in the land and how to bring it to a minimal level, and nowhere amongst others did the speech talk about the general failure of the current administration to fight the oil cabal and its inability to use the subsidy removal to cushion development programmes.

With such a speech, many Nigerians would of course had agreed it was one of those normal democracy day speeches which have had no single effect on them and brushed such aside. However, all hell was let loose when at the end of the speech and  reminiscent of the heydays of military rule, the president went ahead to tell his stunning listeners that the University of Lagos was to be renamed Moshood Abiola University, Lagos.

This writer with all sense of acknowledgement and respect to the winner of the only election devoid of hate, violence, bias and sentiments held in this country finds it deserving by the current administration to honour the late MKO Abiola, but holds that it was done to pursue a purely political agenda which eventually backfired. It is quite sad that since the beginning of our nascent democracy, no president had had the effrontery to acknowledge the man who fought for our democracy, which many politicians spit on today, however, with the current administration making it a matter of expediency to honour the late MKO Abiola by renaming an institution whose current and past stake holders were not consulted, sparks off nothing but a means to employ divisive tactics among the people.

Abiola was much more than what the present crop of politicians claim to be. This writer read the may day speech of the president and in one of its praise-worship of Abiola, the president was quoted to have said, ‘…the F.G has decided that late Chief M.K.O. Abiola be honoured for making the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of justice and truth…as he rose to the occasion with character and courage’. If these words amongst many others portray a true beckon of democracy like Abiola was, why did the president not also make ‘the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of justice and truth’ by consulting widely before renaming, so to speak an ‘infinitesimal’ establishment like UNILAG amount gigantic monuments in the country?

When we look at Nigerian univeristies today, UNILAG might have been a brand name for 50 years, it might have been located at the former seat of power and might have produced personalties over time, it however, cannot be compared to some other very few univeristies in the South-West whose old glory continues to flourish, even as the rot in the education sector deepens every hour.

This writer is of the opinion that since the president had in his speech initiated the process of building a Presidential Museum in Abuja, ‘which will document the lives and times of Nigeria’s Presidents and Heads of Government since 1960, and reminds us…of the high points in our national history’, such monument should have been named after Chief Abiola, while the Institute of Democratic Studies and Governance should have been part of the Musuem idea, in affiliations with a selected university.

The name change to be factual does nothing but breeds anger among the people with lack of foresight and ineptitude towards the powers that be and will continue to remind past, present and future students of the UNILAG almost nothing about what Chief Abiola stood for, but everything about how their pride was suddenly snatched from them through presidential fiat.

It is for this reason that this writer believes, as many would agree in the South-West that the renaming of UNILAG to MAUL was basically an ill-conceived agenda typical of the military era of divide and rule tactics to cause disaffection among a progressive people. More than half of those who come from the South-West cannot yet fathom why a man whose name was imposed on the university community cannot be honoured by making June 12 democracy day, rather than the one the military had made us accept willynilly since 1999.

Such gesture would have been the highest honour Chief Abiola should have gotten, coupled with the recognition of him being one of the past presidents of this great country. If truelly, according to the may day speech, Chief Abiola was a man of history, those that matter today in the political equation of this country ought to have ensured that his name is honoured accordingly through the use of the rule of law and respect for the aspirations and wishes of the people.

For the fact that the renaming had generated a lot of dust goes to show that whatever intentions the presidency had in choosing such idea as renaming a university which was still in a mournful mood as a result of the death of their Vice-Chancellor, it had backfired and goes to show that one-sided political agenda cannot work in some regions even if they succeed pathetically in others. Abiola meant a lot to all Nigerians and we must do his memory a lot of good, not by mere rhetorics or speeches, but by committing ourselves to acts that pursues efficiency and effectiveness for our nascent democracy, afterall, the democracy we all critique today was what Chief Abiola died for.

RAHEEM OLUWAFUNMINIYI is a social commentator and political analyst who wrote via [email protected]

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