President Goodluck Jonathan’s May 29th broadcast  immortalising  Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola by naming the University of Lagos (UNILAG) after  him has raised fresh hopes in some quarters that perhaps sometime in future  June 12 would also be declared a national public holiday in honour of the popular politician.

President Jonathan’s decision to give his democracy day’s pronouncement on Abiola a legal backing may also attract popular endorsement at the National Assembly. In fact, there are indications that the bill will likely sail through at the House of Representatives but not without a storm.

Several members of the House of Representatives who spoke to Vanguard on the proposed law have commended the President for the move.

In a telephone interview Rep William Samuel representing Abeokuta South Federal Constituency in Ogun State said it was a good move on the part of President Jonathan.

According to him:” It is a good thing that President Jonathan has yielded to wise counsel for the purpose of giving legal teeth to his decision on the renaming of University of Lagos to Moshood Abiola University. This is because that university was created by an existing Act of Parliament which gave it that name. It is now he has decided to put the horse before the cart. When he made his announcement, what he did was tantamount to putting the cart before the horse.”

He said even though the bill had been received by the House, it was yet to be deliberated upon by members of the lower legislative house. Hon. Samuel also believes more consultations ought to have been made by the President before he announced his decision.

Said he: “The President Should have engaged in wider consultations with bodies like the Governing Council of the University and others before announcing his decision. It is a good thing to immortalize Abiola but the contentious issue is which  institution  should have been chosen. All the same the bill that was sent to the House of Representatives has to go through first and second readings. If at the end of the day majority of members of the House support it, the bill would then become a law”.

In his own remarks Hon. Yusuf Lasun representing Irepodun/Olorunda/Osogbo/Orolu Federal Constituency hailed President Jonathan for his action. Said he: “For the first time since he became President, Goodluck Jonathan has done the right thing.”

He tongue-lashed students of the University of Lagos who embarked on street protests to indicate their rejection of the name change.

Said he: “Don’t mind students of that university who embarked on street protest over the President’s decision.They have no business with the name of the institution. The issues they should be preoccupied with are the quality of the education they are receiving and the environment in which they are staying”

He further stated that former  University of Ife was renamed Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-ife the day he graduated from the institution, but the students of the institution at the time didn’t embark on any protest because they knew what the late Awolowo stood for when he was alive.

He continued:” I will like to identify with what Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State said about the  UNILAG students protest. He maintained that the students couldn’t appreciate the importance of the posthumous honour that had been bestowed on the late Abiola perhaps because they were too young to know the role played by  the late politician in the  struggle to restore democracy in Nigeria.” He added it was a good way to immortalize Abiola.

In his own contribution to the debate, Hon.Oluwadara Dauda representing Akoko North-East/West Federal Constituency said the Federal Government had the right to rename the university since the institution belonged to the Government.

Said he: “ I don’t have anything against it but those who are opposed to it must have their reasons and that is the beauty of democracy. The Federal Government which took the decision to change the name of the institution also has the right to do what it did”.

Commenting to the bill, Hon. Usman Shehu Bawa representing Kaduna North said he expected Abiola to have been immortalized with a sporting facility like a stadium because of his enormous contribution to sports in the country.

Said he:”Abiola did more for sports in the country than he did for education. Although the decision is a good one because  Abiola also fought for democracy. What the students of that university did was also right because you cannot just wake up one day and rename such an old university.”

He maintained that President Jonathan should have a rethink about his decision since his approach was wrong.
Said he: “There are many people who attended that institution because of the name. If the people don’t want something, there is no reason why the President shouldn’t change his decision on it.”

Speaking to Vanguard on the issue Hon Eucharia Azodo welcomed President Jonathan’s pronouncement adding that so many universities in the country had been renamed in the past.

Said she: “For instance, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka (NAU) was formerly Anambra State University. It is a good idea to immortalize Abiola. Those that are opposed to the idea may not have known about the late politician and his contribution to the nation’s democracy. Those UNILAG students were probably too young to appreciate what Abiola went through in his struggle for the restoration of democratic rule in the country”

Expressing her own view on the matter Hon. Nkoyo Toyo representing Calabar Municipal/Odukpani Federal Constituency said there was a general consensus that Abiola  should be immortalized but people had differed on how it should be done.

Said she: “Some have suggested that Democracy Day should have been renamed Abiola Day because UNILAG pigeon-holes Abiola even though he was a national figure. Others have also said a stadium should have been named after him since he also contributed so much to the sports sector”

She further stated that in her own view, the location of the institution named after Abiola didn’t matter so long as the location is still within the country. “I believe  the President’s action would be appreciated by the Abiola family especially when you consider the fact that the late politician and his wife were killed during the struggle for the restoration of democratic rule in the country” she said.

However, not all the law-makers endorsed the President’s decision.  Rt. Hon. Olisa Imegwu representing Ndokwa East/Ndokwa West/Ukwuani Federal Constituency  in his own remarks said: “UNILAG as an institution doesn’t deserve to be named after somebody whose name is tainted. Yes, Abiola died for democracy but remember he was pressurized to return home to lay claim to his mandate before he was arrested.

This was a proven sign of cowardice. How about reports that he fraternized with the military regimes of  Gen. Babangida and Abacha and allegedly sponsored some of the coup d’etats they organized? Have we bothered to find out the circumstances surrounding his ownership of ITT?

With these issues unresolved, renaming UNILAG would taint the institution. Such an important institution shouldn’t be aligned with a stigma but should be spotless”.


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