The pronouncement was made only few hours ago, but given the controversy it left in its trail, it is no longer news that Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan resting on the powers conferred on him as the President of Nigeria has effectively re-christened theUniversity of Lagos as somewhat of a Democracy Day present to the South West.
This celebrated institution will now be known and addressed as Moshood Abiola University Lagos, which yields MAULAG or MAUL or MAU as an acronym as against the rather more fashionable UNILAG.
True to the reputation of modern day South West, and Lagos in particular, this particular pronouncement is already generating all the fuss as though it were a matter of hyper urgent national importance. Reports of street protests in Lagos against the re-naming have emerged. The social media and the conventional mainstream Nigerian media are almost nearing saturation point with lots of blogs and opinions condemning the development.
With due respect to the institution concerned, truth be told, this fast and harsh reaction is an overkill. We have had famous national establishments re-named after national heroes before and still will many years to come (if we survive these perilous times). Heaven was not let loose when National Airport Abuja was re-named after Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe following the demise of the former Head of State. They may have been, but I am yet to read about spontaneous high-intensity disapproval from students or politicians when the famous University of Ife was re-named after Chief Obafemi Awolowo many years ago.
Or, more recently, there were not too many ripples when a serving federal minister used his powers to rename the entirety of an emerging posh district in the Federal Capital Territoryafter Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
Granted, UNILAG is a university with a mountain-high celebrity status, but in all sincerity, what differences exist between all these name changes? Are they not progenies of the same parents? I mean null issues with respect to the mammoth national challenge before us?
The late Chief Moshood Abiola, the aare ona kakanfo of Yoruba land was a popular, loved, and highly respected Yoruba man while on earth. He died on the altar of democracy in his rational pursuit of the presidential mandate handed to him by the Nigerian people. The righteous struggle that consumed him did not spare his adorable wife either. Mrs Kudirat Abiola was shot and killed by wicked proxies of darkness.
Commendably, till date, the late flamboyant billionaire is venerated by politicians and activists especially in the South West. Some states honour him annually with a Public Holiday and series of democracy-themed events to advertise the valour of the man, MKO Abiola and wife.
So how does renaming a university you love after a man you love become an item that generates hate as to clutching everyone's attention willy-nilly? Why is there such a vehement resistance to honouring a man you and I have always mentioned as a national hero? Or, democracy martyr if you like? Is it to infer that some persons never truly loved this icon though they feign it all these years? Or, is it a case of a fairly right message coming from a very wrong messenger at an odd time?
Pressed to choose, I would opt for the latter as the reason for this reaction. There may be problems with the intents or processes leading to the pronouncements, but methinks there is not much of a problem with the re-naming as it were.
To say President Jonathan is not popular in the South West is only stating the undeniable obvious. And his woes will only get further compounded as long as this administration stay dutifully unrepentant of its very poorly thought-out policies and commitments which ultimately yields no-shows.
One does not need rocket science IQ to that given the polity of the day, it would have been a sagacious move to acquire the buy-in of the darlings and the prime movers of the concerned system before opting to change any public establishment be it a school, an airport, a stadium, or even a culture of doing things. And this is irrespective of the powers he â€“ the President â€“ has over the object of change in question. Sad? Maybe yes! But that's the reality of the day â€“ at least for the sake of a calm polity.
I may be wrong, but my heart and my head tell me many an institution would be proud to have their school bear the famous name Moshood Abiola. A quick attestation to this is the visible pride expressed by my friends who graduated from the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic in Ogun State whenever they hear or see the acronym M-A-P-O-L-Y.
Well, whatsoever shape this develops into, and no matter the vehemence of the condemnation of the name change, upon deep reflections, one feels the street protests by the university students as reported are though very clearly understandable but rather unnecessary.
The barrage of vile criticism against the actions on the social media quite sadly too counts for only little. Such energies should be concentrated on the good campaigns against bad leadership and unabated corruption in the land. Let our crusades be against the legion of thieving politicians and not some banal change of name. This is with all due respect to this great institution which I must confess I dream of attending some day â€“ when I grow up.
Thoughts stretched, one must concede that it though unfetters some mid-level curiosity to note that while the president eulogised the slain Chief MKO Abiola early on in his long address, he somehow managed to delay this solemn change of name proclamation until the ultimate paragraph. This together with the suddenness of the change connotes to a wandering mind a rather doubtful deliberate intent to split the 'house' equipped with the fore knowledge of a divided response to this pronouncement.
On the basis of this believability, this is yet another trying time for the organized opposition to exhibit the often misplaced political maturity to stay calm in an agitated environment. There is the need to stay united and to jettison pedestrian issues to concentrate on real matters.
Again, I may be wrong. Hence, I leave that to the skilled political minds who may desire to run a detailed inquest into the dynamics of a divided core opposition vis-Ã -vis the importance of Lagos State nay the South West to the powers controlling the centre, a little less than three calendar years from this day.
As with every change, having spoken with a few, I imagine the unease in some of my friends â€“ who are extraordinarily proud of their university name â€“ to forcefully adapt to this sudden change from the old UNILAG to the new MAULAG. Or, perhaps MAUL. Anyway, there is no reason to lose sleep over this, because like the UNI-IFE name change many years ago, everyone will get used to this sooner rather than later.
I would have ended this piece by reproducing William Shakespeare's famous ''what is in a name?'' question, but I prefer to close out by respectfully suggesting a name combo of some sort: Moshood Abiola University of Lagos. Let the grammar not bother you, all we seek is an agreement station.
Happy Democracy Day Nigeria!
May 30, 2012.