by Chi Ibe
For the students, alumni, and stakeholders of Moshood Abiola University, formerly University of Lagos, yesterday, Democracy Day, May 29, was akin to January 1 when the nation awoke to the shocking news of the fuel subsidy removal. Only this time, it was the name of their school – University of Lagos – that had been removed through presidential fiat, communicated to the nation, and the world, in the presidential broadcast to mark the national holiday.
The school’s name is changed in honour of Moshood K. O. Abiola, the late politician and acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 election. According to the president’s speech, Abiola is being honoured for his contribution to democracy in Nigeria.
For the school’s stakeholders, the presidential move is a bitter pill to swallow as the school is 50 years old and they feel that brand name UNILAG is much too precious and endearing to be swept away. More so, the university authorities claim they were kept in the dark about this change of name.
Following the massive protests that kicked off immediately the news got out, the chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Lagos branch, Karo Ogbinaka, has announced that his union will refuse the change of the university’s name.
“We are resisting it, all the unions and the students will resist it, the Alumnus will resist it,” Ogbinaka said.
Speaking to the Premium Times, Ogbinaka said, “It shows the level of intelligence of those people in government.”
“Nobody will change Harvard’s name, nobody will change Cambridge’s name to Winston Churchill University. University of Lagos is a brand, for 50 years. The first university established by Act of Parliament and one man trying to score cheap political point?”
“When people go outside and you ask them what university are you from? What name will you pronounce? They’ll ask is it a new university? Is it the name of a toothpaste?
“It’s a senseless thing and we are going to resist it.
“The Minister of Education was here, the Executive Secretary of NUC (National University Commission) was here, top government functionaries have been coming here.
“They never gave any inkling that they were going to change the name of the school.”
The students’ protest, which lasted several hours, blocked all the access roads to and around the university.
Yesterday, YNaija was at the scene of the protest to capture the reactions from the UNILAG campus. Solidarity songs were sung accompanied with passionate aluta chants. Students displayed placards showing their contempt and the police was present but watching from a safe distance.