Friday, June 1, 2012

Please Don’t MAUL University of Lagos

As an alumnus of University of Lagos (having graduated with honours from the Political Science Department of the numero uno institution of learning) I have a locus to comment on the crisis rocking the institution. First and foremost, my condolence to the university community on the untimely and sudden death of its Vice Chancellor, Professor Adetokunbo  Sofoluwe on May 11. May Almighty God grant the amiable VC eternal rest. Secondly and more importantly, I want to react to the May 29, 2012 re-christening of my alma mater, UNILAG as Moshood Abiola University, Lagos (MAUL). I thank President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for deeming it fit to honour Nigeria’s martyr of democracy, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola ‘for making the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of justice and truth.’ This worthy and meritorious recognition is long overdue considering the enormous contributions of Bashorun MKO Abiola to national development.

I however join the staffs, students and alumni of the University of Lagos in rejecting the name change of the 50 year old institution.  My rejection of that rebaptism is for the following reasons:  Chief MKO Abiola was a national icon whose fame, philanthropy and political mandate superseded his South West region, thus the monument that should have been named after MKO should be outside his region and preferably in Abuja. The National Assembly, I learnt, had passed a resolution that being a pillar of sport in Africa; the Abuja National Stadium should be named after Chief Abiola. What the president ought to have done was to have heeded this resolution. Alternatively, the president should consider any of the following other available options – Recognize and declare June 12 as the authentic Democracy Day and make such a day public holiday. This is in the mould of what the American Government did in honour of Martin Luther King. Federal Government could also consider naming the Aso Presidential Villa or Abuja Three Arm Zone after the winner of the June 12 presidential election. Even, University of Abuja would be in order to be renamed MKO Abiola University after due consultations with the university authorities.

The president, as an academic, ought to have known that this is a democracy and that due consultation with University of Lagos authorities – the University Council and Senate or at the very least the University Vice Chancellor - ought to have preceded the announcement of the name change. This was not done. Moreover, being an institution established by an Act of Parliament (April 1962), it will take an amendment to that Act by the National Assembly for that pronouncement to be valid and legal. It has been discovered that no such amendment has been sponsored by the president. Whither due process in all these? UNILAG is a universal brand whose status should not be diminished by making it look like a Yoruba institution.  A lot of resources which the institution can ill-afford will also need to be spent on the rebranding of the university if the Federal Government goes ahead with the name change. It is yet not too late for the president to reverse himself on this faux pas. I do not want my dear UNILAG to be MAULed. Mr. President, let the staus quo ante before May 29, 2012 be maintained, it is not yet a fait accompli.