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The Renaming Of UNILAG: Cheap Populism Or Strategic Demystification Of Abiola? By Bamidele Aturu

May 29, 2012

The decision of the Jonathan Administration to rename the University of Lagos as Moshood Abiola University is bound to generate needless controversy. The reaction of the students to the change of name shows clearly that the government did not consult with the stakeholders and this reveals the shoddy way this administration handles sensitive issues. Democracy is all about consultation and consensus. The government has clearly and manifestly failed to carry the people along. The lesson for it is that no matter how lofty its aims may be, it must win the support of the people on critical issues. I sincerely hope that it will take this lesson to heart in its proposal to jerk up electricity bills and fully deregulate the downstream sector of the oil industry, whatever that really means.

The decision of the Jonathan Administration to rename the University of Lagos as Moshood Abiola University is bound to generate needless controversy. The reaction of the students to the change of name shows clearly that the government did not consult with the stakeholders and this reveals the shoddy way this administration handles sensitive issues. Democracy is all about consultation and consensus. The government has clearly and manifestly failed to carry the people along. The lesson for it is that no matter how lofty its aims may be, it must win the support of the people on critical issues. I sincerely hope that it will take this lesson to heart in its proposal to jerk up electricity bills and fully deregulate the downstream sector of the oil industry, whatever that really means.



There is nothing wrong with renaming institutions after heroes of liberal democracy, provided the aim is not to garner cheap populism. The government must be willing and be seen to be committed to the principles of liberal democracy for which Moshood Abiola suffered and died. A government that is unwilling to respect the decision of the NJC on Justice Salami may have shot itself in the foot. On account of this alone UNILAG students will be justified to resist the name change coming from a government that is perceived as lawless.

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This is why ACN also should call some of its Governors who are beginning to exhibit authoritarian tendencies to order. The party cannot be taken seriously as an opposition party unless its officials and representatives conduct their own affairs and those of the states govern by them in a democratic fashion. Progressivism transcends mouthing slogans.

The government has also shown utter disrespect for legality. It is wrong to announce a name change without sending a Bill to the National Assembly for discussion as UNILAG is christened as such by law and only by law can it be rechristened. The Attorney General of the Federation ought to have guided the President, assuming his opinion was sought. Nevertheless, the change of name cannot lawfully be done until the Act establishing UNILAG has been amended. May be the Federal Government is trying to demystify Abiola’s liberal legacies by showing that he is not treasured when it was the shoddy manner the name change was or is being executed that is the problem. We shall see how all of this plays out in the next few days.

The reality that confronts all of us is that the generation of UNILAG students may not even understand our history. It is likely they do not appreciate the significance of Late Abiola to liberal (I emphasise, liberal) democracy. This is a matter that I consider more worrisome. The generational disconnect is huge. This administration is fast becoming a needless burden.

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