[LEADERSHIP] The decision by President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday to rename University of Lagos, popularly called UniLag, as Moshood Abiola University has created a pointless controversy. Some people, especially members of the opposition, have described it as “cheap populism” while many current students and ex-students of the institution have wondered aloud why their school should be renamed “MauLag” – whatever that means. The social media are full of divergent reactions on the matter. But come to think of it, what is so special about UniLag? What makes some people think that the institution is too important to be renamed Moshood Abiola University? Do these critics actually know the role Abiola played in the evolution of the current liberal democracy that most of us are enjoying today? Are they aware of the pain of many years of military rule, which Abiola lost his life fighting against? Perhaps No.
Let me share my little experience about my encounter with the late Abiola. At the peak of the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election won by Abiola, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) under the supervision of the late Comrade Chima Ubani, who doubled then as the general secretary of a coalition of pro-democracy and human rights groups, the Campaign for Democracy (CD), invited student union and pro-democracy leaders across the nation to the Yaba, Lagos, office of the CLO. I was then the Lagos State publicity secretary of the organisation. The meeting was solely called to mobilise Nigerians for a mass protest against the wicked action of the Ibrahim Babangida-led military junta that annulled the election described as the freest and most credible election ever held in Nigeria. And, after two days of staying in Lagos warming up for “action”, it became very difficult for the CLO to transport the comrades back to their different states for “the real action”. And one of us then suggested that we should go to Abiola for assistance, but the late Ubani was opposed to it on principle. However, he later got convinced about the urgent need to meet Abiola for assistance. Consequently, Ubani, Mr. Abdul Oroh, the then executive director of the CLO, myself and one other person drove to Abiola’s house in Opebi, Ikeja. It was about midnight and hundreds of people were in the compound, some waiting to see Abiola. After about three hours, we were able to see him with the help of Dr. Jonathan Zwingina, the then manager of Hope ‘93, the presidential campaign organisation of Abiola. The winner of June 12 presidential election was very excited seeing us; he was visibly happy about our determination to confront the military for annulling the wish of millions of Nigerians. With an assistance of about N50, 000 or so, Abiola told us that he was ready to confront the military in defence of the mandate given to him by Nigerians with the last drop of his blood, in spite of several warnings by some of his friends. He wished us well in our planned mission. Of course, two days later, the nation was brought to a standstill by Nigerian students and pro-democracy activists; hundreds of Nigerians were unfortunately killed in the process, especially in Lagos. The rest is now history.
I needed to give this background to underscore the crucial role the late Abiola played in our struggle for democracy or civilian government, as people prefer to call it. In the course of fighting for his mandate and deepening our democracy, Abiola lost his life and that of his lovely wife, Kudirat. His family lost everything – I mean everything, including their business empire. Indeed, he sacrificed his life for us to have what looks like democracy today. He was the rallying point for Nigerians’ battle against many years of uninterrupted military rule in our nation. Like somebody rightly said, Abiola was undoubtedly the father of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic. He paid the ultimate sacrifice for it, and regrettably a republic whose beneficiaries, out of self-denial, deliberately refused to immortalise him until yesterday when President Jonathan renamed a “mere” University of Lagos after him and some students were said to have gone to the streets of Lagos protesting the decision. The so-called facebook critics were also not left out in raining all kinds of abuses on the president.
While one can understand the youthful exuberance of the students – most of them were in nursery/primary schools or were not even born then and may not understand the role played by Abiola in the advancement of our nation – I am in a fix over what informed the opposition of some cheque-book activists, who, before now, even suggested that Aso Rock be named MKO House. Let’s face it, Jonathan may have failed to meet the aspiration of many Nigerians in just one year but renaming the University of Lagos after Abiola is not a bad decision by all ramifications. For those who do not know, Abiola was the symbol and character of the freest, fairest and transparent election in the history of our nation – “an election where no blood was shed, where a Muslim-Muslim ticket won, and an election which defied tribalism and regionalism”.
The heartbreak and spiteful planned end-result of the annulment of the June 12 election is that those who masterminded the annulment of the election have become champions of democracy in our nation today. They have continued to lecture us about the principles of democracy. They were members of the gang that faked the emergence of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as president in 1999. They were also the same people who have corrupted our electoral process that resulted in the sham elections of 1999, 2003 and 2007.
The current students of UniLag may not know: Abiola faced death from the beginning if he held on to his mandate. An insider in the June 12 struggle had revealed that at a meeting of July 4, 1993, the then military president, Gen. Babangida took Abiola and his family into confidence and told them point blank that, “they” would kill Abiola rather than allow him to become the elected president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces Nigeria. Babangida was also said to have added that “they” would also kill him (Babangida), if he allowed Abiola to be sworn in as the president. Yet, he was not deterred by the threat and blackmail of Babangida.
For those who should know, Abiola was killed for what the June 12, 1993, presidential election would have brought about in our nation. There were two issues which political experts said were dreaded by the “geo-ethno-military-ruling clique”. First, they said that Abiola’s victory would create a shift of power from the north to the south; second, that the credible election would lead to a shift of power from the “geo-ethno-military-ruling clique” to the Nigerian voters for the first time in our history. And if this gang willingly allowed power to shift to the south in 1999, it was because of the ultimate price that Abiola and many Nigerians paid. Arguably and unfortunately, the issues thrown up by the death of Abiola still remain today unresolved and I am not too sure they will die with Abiola. The agitation for a national conference today is a result of the unresolved national question, which many observers believe are too fundamental and beyond the power of the normal governmental process to tackle.
But let me also say that there is nothing under the sun that these pseudo activists cannot condemn. Even in 1987, when the military government changed the name of the University of Ife to honour the highly revered sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who laid a strong foundation for education in the old Western Region, the university community and some of these activists were disheartened that the name of their university was lost. There were student protests, petitions and others, but the government had already spoken. The then serving vice-chancellor, a distinguished historian and scholar, Prof. Wande Abimbola, managed the situation skillfully.
So, this opposition against the renaming of UniLag is not new. President Jonathan has spoken; the school authority should manage the pocket of protests greeting the decision.
By Iyobosa Uwagiaren View original article here
- MUST READ: Moshood Abiola University – Jonathan’s action is legally justified (transformationwatch.com)
- Letter of Commendation to President Goodluck Jonathan, by the Abiola Family (transformationwatch.com)
- Rage over UNILAG renaming (vanguardngr.com)
- We’ll implement presidential directive on UNILAG – NUC (transformationwatch.com)
- Jonathan renames UNILAG, Moshood Abiola University (vanguardngr.com)