The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has denied the PDP's accusation that the party was behind the protests by the students of the University of Lagos against the federal government's decision to change the institution's name to Moshood Abiola University.

In a statement issued in Lagos on Thursday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said rather than blame the opposition for the protests, the PDP should be concerned with how the Jonathan Administration has once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by reaching the right destination through illegal routes.

ACN said while it is not opposed to any action to honour the most prominent martyr of Nigeria's democracy, Chief Moshood Abiola, it is opposed to the sectional nature of the honour and the diminished importance of naming a university after prominent personalities, especially someone like Chief Abiola.

''Chief Abiola clearly won a national election, and this has been
acknowledged by the government itself. Any honour to be conferred on him must reflect that. While it can be argued that UNILAG is a federal university, the truth remains that it is based in the South-west.

 ''Also, in an era in which the establishment of universities have been liberalised, everyone with access to funds can now set up a university and name it after himself or herself. That has definitely eroded the importance attached to naming such institutions after national heroes, including Chief Moshood Abiola, winner of the June 12th 1993 presidential election,'' it said.

 ACN however said it disagrees with insinuations in certain quarters that the decision to honour Chief Abiola was aimed at garnering political benefits, saying Nigerians in general and the people of the South-west in particular are too sophisticated to be hoodwinked by such pandering.

The party said based on media reports, the protests by UNILAG students were spontaneous because the students, staff and alumni of the institution were shocked that the government did not consult them, as stakeholders, before taking the decision to change the name. Neither were the university's Senate and Council even informed of the impending decision.

It said the ACN had never shied away from fighting for its beliefs or giving vent to its opinion on any issue, hence does not need to instigate anyone, least of all the very discerning students of one of the country's top universities, to fight for it.

''What happened was that while President Goodluck Jonathan may have
meant well in honouring a man who gave his blood to wet the seed of democracy being enjoyed in the country today, an action that should have earned him general commendation instead fetched him widespread criticism because his advisers and his bumbling party (PDP), as usual, failed him. Perhaps he also did not think the action through before announcing it.

''President Jonathanhas access to the best legal advice possible. Had his advisers cared enough, they would have told him that since UNILAG was set up by an Act, it would require an amendment to that Act to change its name. They would also have told him that there are other options through which he could use his presidential fiat without creating the kind of unfortunate confusion that has greeted his decision on Chief Abiola.

''Such options include making June 12th or the birthday of the late Chief Abiola a national holiday; naming the Eagle Square or the National Stadium, both in Abuja, after him, and acknowledging - as the whole world knows - that he won the 1993 presidential election (instead of calling him a presumed winner) and posthumously inducting him into the league of former Presidents.

President Jonathan could still have honoured our country's most prominent democracy martyr as he did without running into a hail of criticisms and protests, which now threaten to taint a well deserved honour.

The party said since it is now obvious that President Goodluck Jonathan is not getting the high quality pieces of advice he requires to make right decisions on several issues, he may have to be more wary of the direction in which his advisers are leading him.

''We will cite two recent cases in which the President could have acted differently and on the side of the rule of law and the Constitution

of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. One, the Salami case: Reinstating the respected jurist as the President of the Court of Appeal as recommended by the NJC, and two, coming out clearly on the side of the people and the law by preventing the kind of equivocation from his administration on the need to robustly prosecute those fingered in the fuel subsidy probe by the House of Representatives.

''In the end, President Jonathan should know that the buck stops at his desk, and that he, and not his advisers, will take the blame or the glory for whatever decisions he makes as President,'' ACN said.

Lagos, 31 May 2012


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