Lagos, Nigeria: The change of name of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) by President Goodluck Jonathan has been described as illegal and a political misadventure.

President Jonathan in his address to the nation last week to celebrate ‘Democracy Day', announced the change of name of the institution (UNILAG) to Moshood Abiola University of Lagos.

The renaming immediately sparked a spirited protest among students and campaigners. Reacting to the announcement, the Head of department for Mass Communication, Professor Ralph Akinfeyele in a telephone interview with Channels Television, said the change of name is a political miscalculation and political misadventure.

Nigerian students in fierce protest over UNILAG name change | Petition News

Prof Akinfeyele noted that “late Chief MKO Abiola was not a regional person but a national and international figure, who was noted to be the first pillar of sport in Africa.”

“So what is wrong in naming the National Stadium Abuja after MKO Abiola” he asked, adding that such a move will be most symbolic in an Olympic year, with the games kicking off in a few weeks.

He also argued that as a national hero, who lost his life while struggling for the nation’s democracy, it will be more befitting to name the University of Abuja after the late politician and business mogul “or rather establish a new university in Abuja and name it after MKO” he added.

On the illegality of the announcement, the university don recalled that UNILAG was established by an Act of Parliament in 1962; “therefore, the president should have consulted widely with the national assembly before making such a decision.”

“We are no longer under the military era, where the president can just wake-up and do whatever he likes.”

Citing historical matters, the Professor also noted that a former leader of the country once made the move to rename the University of Nigeria, (UNN), Nsukka after Nnamdi Azikwe, the first President of Nigeria.

According to Prof Akinfeleye, “Azikiwe who was alive at that time rejected the offer, emphasising that UNN has its history and it will be unfair to distort the history which the name of the institution portrays.”

Mourning period

The move by the president was also strongly condemned for its timing, which coincides with the on-going mourning of the former Vice-Chancellor of the university, Professor Adetokunbo Sofoluwe, who passed away a fortnight ago after a brief illness.

“It is unkind and insensitive to pay such a visit to the institution while we are still mourning the sudden death of our former VC, whose body is still in the mortuary” averred Prof Akinfeleye.

“We are to hold a service of songs for the deceased today and now this announcement.”

“It is most painful that the president who passed an academic institution as a PhD holder is the one that is doing this to us.”

“We are not going to accept it and we totally reject it” he affirmed.

“It is an aberration and very painful” he added, as he urged the President to “go and face Boko Haram and leave UNILAG alone.”

An online petition at GoPetition titled Referendum against UNILAG change of name, has been launched on the internet and has topped over ten thousand signatories and sparked intense debate over the issues raised.

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