Lagos — More than a thousand university of Lagos (UNILAG) students and youths have taken over a main artery leading into the business center of Nigeria’s largest city in protest of the unethical name change of the institution by the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The students took over the third mainland bridge Wednesday morning, halting traffic into Lagos’ islands, and commandeered at least four buses to block traffic lanes. They were protesting a decision Tuesday by President Goodluck Jonathan to change the name of the city’s flagship university.
Students sang and waved palm fronds as police stood by. Passengers stepped off buses and walked to work in the islands.
Jonathan said the University of Lagos known as UNILAG would be renamed Moshood Abiola University in honor of a political prisoner who died in jail over a decade ago.
Reacting to the announcement, the Head of department for Mass Communication, Professor Ralph Akinfeyele in a telephone interview with Channels TV, said the change of name is a political miscalculation and political misadventure.
Prof Akinfeyele noted that “late Chief MKO Abiola was not a regional person but a national and international figure, who was noted to be the first pillar of sport in Africa.”
“So what is wrong in naming the National Stadium Abuja after MKO Abiola” he asked, adding that such a move will be most symbolic in an Olympic year, with the games kicking off in a few weeks.
He also argued that as a national hero, who lost his life while struggling for the nation’s democracy, it will be more befitting to name the University of Abuja after the late politician and business mogul “or rather establish a new university in Abuja and name it after MKO” he added.
On illegality of the announcement, the university don recalled that UNILAG was established by an Act of Parliament in 1962; “therefore, the president should have consulted widely with the national assembly before making such a decision.”
“We are no longer under the military era, where the president can just wake-up and do whatever he likes.”
Citing historical matters, the Professor also noted that a former leader of the country once made the move to rename the University of Nigeria, (UNN), Nsukka after Nnamdi Azikwe, the first President of Nigeria.
According to Prof Akinfeleye, “Azikiwe who was alive at that time rejected the offer, emphasising that UNN has its history and it will be unfair to distort the history which the name of the institution portrays.”
Many students argue that UNILAG is not just a name, but a brand with a goodwill that has been established over the years. Further more, many Nigerians believe there are better ways to honor the late MKO Abiola, calling the nation’s president an incompetent leader.