The family of the late Chief MKO Abiola, on Tuesday said that they were ecstatic over the renaming of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) as the Moshood Abiola University. And his son has expressed shock about the protest that the honor ignited.
President Goodluck Jonathan had in a broadcast to the nation to commemorate Democracy Day announced the renaming of the institution after Abiola.
Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the annulled June 1993 presidential elections, was honoured for his contributions to democracy in Nigeria.
In a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), 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 is just one way of honouring and immortalising him.
“He should still be given more honors. 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,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) has said Abiola deserved the highest honour in the land.
It said: “While acknowledging the place of Abiola in the political history of Nigeria, we would want the highest possible honour for him.
“We, however, deplore the renaming of the University of Lagos after him,’’the SNG said in a statement signed by its spokesman, Mr Yinka Odumakin, in Lagos on Tuesday.
“We 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,” it added.
A spontaneous reaction by students had greeted the announcement by President Jonathan of the renaming of the university.
The students took to the streets in the early hours of Tuesday, barricading major highways in the metropolis.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN, the students had massed at Oyingbo, Yaba, Sabo, Akoka and Fadeyi on the Ikorodu road, blocking the highways to protest against the name change from UNILAG to MAU.
Traffic was brought to a standstill, with a few vehicles plying the roads.
Commuters were forced to trek long distances, as the few commercial bus operators who ventured out, increased their fares.
Armed policemen stationed at Akoka, a few metres from the campus, kept their distance from the irate students.
The acting president of the students union, Mr Idowu Odumose, described the name change as an act of injustice.
“It is an injustice to the institution. The change cannot be done unilaterally without amending the act setting up the university,’’ he told NAN.
Mr Alli Sanni, the Chairman, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Lagos State Chapter, said the change was announced without consultation with the students and other stakeholders.
“It is shocking to wake up to find out that the school’s identity has been changed.
“The government should have renamed one of the new federal universities after Abiola,’’ he said.
Addressing the protesters, the institution’s Registrar, Mr Soluwe Bello, urged them to be calm and not to take the laws into their hands.
He said the students should be mindful of the fact that they were still mourning their late Vice Chancellor, Prof. Adetokunbo Sofoluwe. (NAN)