Daughter of the late winner of 1993 presidential election, Hafsat Abiola-Costello, has hailed the decision of the federal government to re-name the University of Lagos (UNILAG) after her father but urged the federal government to work more on fighting poverty, as that will be her late father’s utmost desire.
Mrs Abiola-Costello and other prominent citizens in Abeokuta, the hometown of the late politician, described President Jonathan’s announcement as a long overdue but welcome development
In an interview with journalists in the Ogun state capital, she urged the federal government to give more priority to reduce the prevailing poverty level in the country, than naming schools and roads.
“What I want to say to President Jonathan is that what we can do to honour the heroes past is to make sure that they do not die in vain.”
According to her, “Nigerian people are still poor, majority of them are poor today, even more so than in 1993 when he (MKO Abiola) won his election and I hope that President can apply himself to addressing poverty in Nigeria.”
“That is the most important thing, more than naming school, naming roads. Those things are nice but the true benefit for my father is that Nigeria people should not be poor anymore” she stated.
ASSU rejects name change
The chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), UNILAG branch, Karo Ogbinaka, has said that the union will resist the re-naming of the university’s name.
“We are resisting it, all the unions and the students will resist it, the Alunmus will resist it,” Mr Ogbinaka affirmed.
“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,” Mr. Ogbinaka said.
He added that UNILAG is the first university established by Act of Parliament and one man can try to score cheap political point with the institution.
“It’s a senseless thing and we are going to resist it” he said.
Also the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU), UNILAG chapter, has opposed the renaming which it described as unnecessary.
The association’s secretary, Mr Ben Anosike, urged the government to revisit the issue, as the university’s alumni association has also joined the call for the president to rescind the decision.
A statement signed by the national president of the University of Lagos Alumni Association, Professor Olayide Abass, stated that neither the governing council nor the university’s senate was consulted before the name change.
The alumni group therefore rejected the decision, saying there’s no national assembly act to effect such change.
A constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay said the president should be praised for his effort to immortalise Abiola, but added that he however, chose the wrong institution.
However, human right activist and lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, welcomed the decision, stating that nothing is actually wrong with the name change, but it must be done with approval of the university’s council.
Also, a former Minister of Education, Mrs Chinwe Obaji has also thrown her weight behind the decision, saying there is nothing wrong with the name change.
Some civil society groups have also been lending their voices to the UNILAG name-change controversy.
In a statement signed by its director, Julia Johnson, the Coalition for Democracy and Good Governance, emphasised the need for leaders to carry the people along when taking decisions or evolving policies that may directly or indirectly affect them, as they are accountable to the people.
The group noted that although the late Abiola is a national hero, Lagos has other indigenes who fought for democracy and national independence like the late Herbert Macauley, who was a more renowned politician with national and international recognition.
On its part, the Save Nigeria Group through its spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, deplored the manner in which President Jonathan went about the re-naming of the university, describing it as an abuse of power and smacks of autocratic ways of the military.
It added that the university was established by law and the president’s action amounts to a violation of the principles and tenets of democracy.