President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday explained that his government renamed the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Moshood Abiola University in commemoration of Democracy Day and in honour of the late Chief Moshood Olawale Kashimawo (MKO) Abiola who paid the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of justice and peace.
In a broadcast to the nation, the president said: “Destiny and circumstances conspired to place upon his shoulder a historic burden and he rose to the occasion in character and courage.
“He deserved recognition for his martyrdom and public-spiritedness and for being the man of history that he was. We need in our land more men and women who will stand up to defend their belief and whose example will further enrich our democracy.
“After very careful consideration and in honour of Chief M.K.O. Abiola’s accomplishment and heroism, on this Democracy Day, the University of Lagos is renamed by the Federal Government of Nigeria Moshood Abiola University, Lagos.
“The federal government will establish an Institution of Democratic Studies in governance in the university.”
But no sooner had the government made the announcement than students of the institution in their thousands trooped out to protest against the renaming of their school, insisting that the institution must maintain its old name.
The students, who came out enmasse from their various hostels, blocked the entrance of the campus and stopped all commercial vehicles and motorcycles that attempted to pick up passengers from the campus.
Students of postgraduate studies were not left out of the protest, as they sang and chanted solidarity songs.
One of the students who led the protest said, “President Jonathan did not know what to do again after the removal of subsidy in January and therefore thought the next thing to do was to disturb our peaceful academic environment by changing the name of the institution.”
Abiola family, Aregbesola, Col Dangiwa Umar, Sagay hail decision
However, the family of the late Chief MKO Abiola said they were ecstatic over the renaming of the University of Lagos after the late politician.
In a telephone chat with the News Agency of Nigeria, Mr. Abdul Abiola, son of the late politician, said there was nothing wrong with the naming of the university after his father.
“We are shocked by the reactions trailing this development. My late father believed so much in education.
“He donated money to universities across the nation. Naming a university after him was a well-deserved honour,” he said.
According to Abiola, the renaming was just one way of honouring and immortalising the late business mogul.
“He should still be given more honours. We see nothing political in this. We are happy about it and we are yet to understand the rationale behind people going up in arms over this decision,” he added.
The governor of the State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, on Tuesday advised President Jonathan to go a step further by recognising the victory of the late Chief MKO Abiola in the June 12 presidential election.
The governor, while applauding the honour done the late Abiola by the renaming of UNILAG, however, said that what could permanently heal the wounds of the incarceration of Abiola and the brutalisation of his supporters was 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 Aregbesola as saying that Abiola won the election decisively.
“While acknowledging the fact that Abiola deserves the honour, we must not forget the need to recognise his victory. The fact that the federal government has eventually honoured him with this renaming of the University of Lagos is an admission of the fact that Abiola was unjustly denied his victory. If that is the case, then, I urge the federal government to go the whole hog to recognise his victory, and accord him all the rights due to the office of the president of Nigeria posthumously.
“This is the only way to heal the wounds inflicted on Abiola and the brutalisation of the psyche of the Nigerian people,” the governor stated.
A former military governor of old Kaduna State, Col. Dangiwa Umar (rtd), commended President Jonathan for his decision to rename UNILAG as Moshood Abiola University, Lagos.
According to Dangiwa, “The decision by the federal government of Nigeria to rename University of Lagos Moshood Abiola University is long overdue. I salute the president for his magnanimity and courage. Thank God common sense has finally prevailed.”
A chieftain of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, has also described the decision as commendable.
- Leadership News