Son of the late Chief MKO Abiola expressed “shock” at the wave of negative comments and public protests that followed President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to rename the University of Lagos after his father.
Student of the popular, top choice University on Tuesday took to the streets and the twittersphere to protest the Federal Government’s decision to immortalise the late MKO Abiola by naming the 50 year old educational institution after him.
In an interview with new agencies, Abiola’s family said they were ecstatic by the decision, commending the President for it. Mr. Abdul Abiola, son of the late politician, described his father as a man who “believed so much in education”, adding that “he donated money to universities across the nation. Naming a university after him was a well-deserved honour”.
However well-deserved the honour, it is welcomed with stiff opposition from unions and civil society groups who plan to fight the President’s decision to change UNILAG’s name, saying it is tantamount to changing the University’s identity.
Prominent lawyers in the commercial city, who applauded Jonathan’s decision to immortalise Abiola, still treated with suspicion his method of doing so. They called the renaming of the nation’s most popular university after Abiola a political ploy by the ruling PDP, aimed at pleasing the southwest.
Abiola’s son, on the other hand, sees “nothing political in this”. He believes his father, the acclaimed winner of the disputed 12 June 1993 presidential elections, “should still be given more honors”.
“We are happy about it and we are yet to understand the rationale behind people going up in arms over this,” he added.
The Save Nigeria Group, in a press statement released today, said while Abiola deserved the highest honours, the government ought to find a different manner of bestowing the honour.
In the statement signed by SNG spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, the group says they “deplore the renaming of the University of Lagos after him,” and “restate our demand that Abiola must be given a befitting honour for the sacrifices he made for democracy in Nigeria in a decent and worthy manner”.
Alum starts online petition to save alma mata
Meanwhile, an alum of the UNILAG has started an online petition, a referendum against the name change of the University of Lagos. The petition was started by Tolani Ogunsanya, an alum of the University, and already has over 2,600 signatures.
In the petition, Ogunsanya expressed “honour and respect” for MKO and all he stood for, but condemned the “hoodwinking of our polity by our ‘leaders’. They have chosen to major on the minor and minor on the majors”.
Ogunsanya made reference to the constitution which states that citizens can express their disagreement with a law or policy by appending their signatures to a public statement. 50,000 signatures are needed.
He ends by saying the referendum is “no disrespect to MKO but a strong message to ‘them’”.
“Revert the name to UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS. We are tired of being hoodwinked. UNILAG is not just a name, it is a social Identity!”