The Mauling of UNILAG: The Need for a Moshood Abiola University, Otuoke
Present realities have made a cross section of Nigerians to wonder why President Goodluck Jonathan has been putting every foot wrong since this year started. The pandemic of provocative and unpopular decisions started on January 1st, 2012 when for
inexplicable reasons, President Jonathan announced the increase of fuel price from N65 to N140. This fuel price increase which was President Jonathan's New Year gift to Nigerians was vehemently resisted by Nigerians from all walks of life. On an integrated approach to fight the President to a standstill, the Labour Unions - Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) networked with several other bodies to shut down the nation for a week. In the end, the President backed down and pegged the fuel price at N97 per litre, even though the House of Representatives had passed a motion asking the President to revert to the status quo of N65.That was a humiliation of The House of Representatives. It will be recalled that the grouse of Nigerians was based mainly on the timing and, above all, it was a breach of the earlier statement by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, that the fuel price increase (i.e. removal of fuel subsidy) would take effect from April, 2012.It is pertinent to recall that President Jonathans' New Year gift of over 100% increase in fuel price came a week after the Boko Haram muslim fanatics killed about a hundred Christians in a spate of suicide bomb attacks on Christmas Day in a Catholic Church in Madala District, a suburb of ABUJA Federal Territory. It was a coordinated assault by a radical Islamist sect with suspected training links to Al Qaeda, raising the sect's violent antigovernment struggle to a new and more dangerous level that the Nigerian authorities seem powerless to contain. At least 25 people were killed.
Again on Tuesday, May 29th 2012, President Jonathan Goodluck took another rancorous decision which earned the rage and wrath of a cross section of Nigerians in general and the entire publics of University of Lagos (UNILAG) when he announced, during this Democracy Day Broadcast on May 29th, 2012, that University of Lagos (UNILAG) has been renamed' The Moshood Abiola University, Lagos (MAULAG). This singular decision which tantamount to the mauling of the prestigious UNILAG, was a source of grave disappointment and frustration to people in my School of Thought.
I am unable to find any cogent and verifiable reasons to defend the decision of President Jonathan on the renaming of UNILAG to MAULAG. It is doubtful if the President was in a state of compos mentis when the decision was made. After a dispassionate and exhaustive appraisal of the situation, I have come to the conclusion that the decision was taken in a moment of loss of concentration; it was the handiwork of a brain wave for which our President should not be persecuted. Some days are like that, more so, for a President who is facing insuperable challenges on security, economy and the political front (i.e. 2015). Since the President has hurriedly referred the agenda to the National Assembly, it is no longer necessary to embark on comments that tarnish or diminish the gravitas of the Presidency. In deference to the high office of the President, I have withdrawn my first viewpoint which was sarcastic and vitriolic in preference to this one which is a watered down version. There is a maxim that the greatest act of heroism is the ability to conquer self. In swiftly retreating from the quicksand of a perilous idea and forwarding the topic to the National Assembly, President Jonathan has demonstrated that what happened was a mistake of the head and not of the mind. In view of the incessant demands to immortalize MKO Abiola over the years, President Jonathan might have thought that the change of name from UNILAG to MAULAG would be greeted with a thunderous applause which in due season might give him some political mileage. Now that the President has taken the line of due process by referring the issue to the National Assembly, let us eschew atavistic and primordial comments and provide advice on how the stalemate can be resolved.
It is my advice that the most honourable way to resolve this problem is to reinstate the name of UNILAG and thereafter proceed to the National Assembly (NASS) to name one of the nine new Federal Universities - Abiola University. It is also my candid opinion that the new Federal University in Otuoke, President Jonathan's village, should be the most appropriate to be named Moshood Abiola University, Otuoke. This decision, if adopted, will meet with a standing ovation at both National and international fora. Aside the fact that such a gesture will confirm the genuine intention of the President, it will also exemplify the inescapable fact that Chief M.K.O. Abiola fought and died for a Pan-Nigerian cause. He did not fight for the cause of the Yorubas, although his death facilitated the return of the Presidency to the South West.
At this juncture, it may be necessary to make certain observations which may not go down well with some people. It is my observation that, in spite of the incessant demands for the immortalization of MKO Abiola, the Yoruba nation does not really have any genuine love for him. As an investigative journalist, I have enough facts to support this assertion. However, suffice it to say that during the Epetedo Hall Declaration when Chief M.K.O. Abiola unilaterally declared himself President of Nigeria, there was no responsible Yoruba man by his side. The Yorubas abandoned him and fled. Chief M.K.O. Abiola was flanked on both sides by two Igbo patriots, Chief Nwosisi from Anambra State and Chief Ralph Obioha from Imo State. So, where were the Yoruba political demagogues and desperados at such a time when their brother was facing the deadliest challenge of his life? Where were the Bola Tinubus and the like? They abandoned him. Even when Abiola was granted bail to go and sin no more, the Yoruba leaders were not smart enough to pull him out of the lion's den. But when General Babangida came up with the idea of a transition government, a son of Egba land, Ernest Shonekan, was so earnest to supplant his brother, Abiola. For Ernest Shonekan, a man that is stinking wealthy and powerful, I am unable to know why he was so earnest to sabotage his brother, Abiola. That was the unkindest cut of all. For the rest of his life, he will live with the burden of the ignoble role he played to outsmart his brother. By the way, I don't know why Ernest Shonekan is still enjoying the membership of the National Council of State. It is only in Nigeria that a leader whose government was declared illegal, null and void by a court of competent jurisdiction can still be allowed to parade himself as a former Head of State thus enjoying all the accoutrements and trappings of political power as a former Head of State. I call on the Festus Keyamos and the Falanas of Oduduwa land to take a second look at this abnormality in order to sack Shonekan from the Council of State.
The sabotage of Ernest Shonekan on Abiola is a case of dÃ©jÃ vu. There was another hero, Lisabi, an Egba warrior, who fought gallantly to restore the dignity of the Egba; but in the long run, Lisabi was killed by the same Egba who he led his life for. The Egba know the story of Lisabi more than I do. In the case of Chief Abiola, he made series of mistakes. Although my culture (Igbo) discourages speaking evil about the dead, I wish to add that M.K.O. Abiola contributed maximally to his own downfall. How can a Muslim politician who was aspiring to be President of Nigeria still go ahead to pick a Muslim Vice President? That choice is an abomination; it's a mockery against Christianity. It is despicable and deplorable that Chief M.K.O. Abiola could not see one Christian in the whole of the North to be his Vice Presidential candidate. I have a sense that the Supreme Deity merely used Babangida to stop Abiola on the grounds of Abiola's derisive treatment of Christianity. This is my perception and I have no apologies. Nobody can fight God's war.
On a related note, when the members of Nigerian military had some conflicts with the children of Abiola a few years before the June 12th 1993 election, Abiola tongue-lashed the military boys and even described them as 'mad dogs'. So, if you were a General of the Army, how would you feel surrendering power to a bloody civilian who had the audacity and effrontery to describe the military as 'mad dogs'? On another note, Abiola was busy installing analogue telephone lines all over Nigeria at a time when he knew full well that what was in vogue was GSM telephony. As the boss of ITT Africa, was he not aware that the analogue telephone technology he was being paid billions for was outdated and anachronistic? Yet, it took Chief Olusegun Obasanjo under a year or so to introduce GSM in Nigeria. In fact, in one of Chief Abiola's chats with the press, he said that 'telephone is not for every Tom, Dick and Harry', but today, as a result of another Egba patriot, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, even beggars are now proud owners of great GSM brands. Some others described him as a military man in civilian uniform.
Furthermore, I want to recall what Chief M. O. Abiola once said during a press chat. He said that on one occasion, his boss, a white man, was sleeping on duty. He (Abiola) took a snapshot of the boss who was sleeping on duty and forwarded it to the ITT head office. That was how he became the boss of ITT in Africa. I read this interview and became shocked that a man could be so desperate in his quest for power or position. Those who live by intrigue and perfidy will die through the same route. In my viewpoint on page 51 of Daily Sun of Friday, June 8, 2012, I wrote thus: 'Yes, Jonathan fumbled and blundered, but Abiola committed a more dangerous blunder when he settled for a Muslim-Muslim ticket in the 1993 election. In a country of over 100 million people, he did not find a single Christian to be his running mate. Too bad!'. That is my feeling about M.K.O. Abiola. His indifference and disdain for Christians betray the fact that he was a religious bigot who would have ruled this country like a Muslim enclave. The bottom-line of my argument is that in spite of all the noise being made by the Yorubas like Senator Tinubu, the Yorubas did not really have genuine love for Abiola. Some very top Yorubas ganged up to encourage the military to not only annul or cancel his election victory but even to quicken his death in prison. As a result of his prosperity, most Yorubas pretended to admire Abiola, even though they hated him.
Worse still, although Abiola was at that time said to be holding the second highest position in the Muslim hierarchy in Nigeria, the Muslims treated him with contempt and derision. In the build-up to the electioneering for the 1993 elections, M.K.O. Abiola had made a huge donation to the National Party of Nigeria (N.P.N.) in a fund raising event at 4 Keffi Street, Lagos, the headquarter of the party. While others were applauding M.K.O. Abiola's generosity to his Party, NPN, Alhaji Umaru Dikko, a top NPN Chieftain, retorted that the Presidency was not for sale to the highest bidder. Although he floated the Concord Newspapers in order to empower the NPN, the Chieftains of NPN kept him at arm's length. So, neither the Yorubas nor the Hausa/Fulani cabals had any genuine admiration for Abiola. The only group that stood by Abiola at his time of grave danger was the Igbo nation. Hence as stated earlier, while declaring himself the elected President at Epetedo Hall, he was flanked by two Igbo patrons: Chief Ralph Obioha and Chief Nwosisi. There was no Yoruba person seen around him.
Recommendation:For the umpteenth time, my advice to President Jonathan is to name one of the new Federal Universities after Moshood Abiola. He will be given a rousing applause if he gives us a 'Moshood Abiola University, Otuoke'. President Jonathan hails from Otuoke in Bayelsa State and one of the new Federal Universities is sited in Otuoke. He may consider the National Stadium, since Abiola was the Pillar of Sports in Africa. One of the military divisions could be named after him, since he was the Generalissimo of Yorubaland. The Eagle Square, also Aso Rock Complex, NASS or even an International Secondary School in the class of Eton of England could be named after M.K.O. Abiola. We reject the renaming of UNILAG for whatever reasons.
When Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was alive, he rejected the then Federal Government's gesture to name the University of Nigeria (UNN) Nsukka after him. He rejected the offer and vehemently warned that the motive behind establishing the UNN was beyond any human being - alive or dead - and that the name of the University must never be changed. It was after this encounter that the Federal Government built the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, (NAU) Awka as a way of immortalizing the Great Zik. Again, the politicians in Imo State in Ohakims Administration had swiftly changed the name of Imo State University to Evan Enwerem University. This name change was vociferously challenged by the majority of Imo populace. In fact, it is one of the sins of Ikedi Ohakim that facilitated his defeat in the 2011 Governorship election. One of the first decisions of Governor Okorocha a week after he became Governor was to restore the name of the University to its original name 'Imo State University'. This is one of the reasons why Governor Okorocha remains popular, in spite of perceived shortcomings. University of Lagos is a powerful brand and it is infradig to change the name to Moshood Abiola University, Lagos. In fact, in normal countries, the Minister of Education should have since been sacked for giving the President a wrong advice.
In conclusion, I want to support the opinion of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who once said that 'Abiola is not the Messiah Nigerians are looking for'. In my viewpoint entitled: 'A season of Obasanjo bashing series' (please Google it), I'd said that 'Obasanjo is the only statesman standing'. Aside Obasanjo, there is no other Nigerian in the political ambience who can call a spade a spade. He may be a bad politician but he is a great statesman. So, the columnists of Daily Sun who often use every available space to attack the person of Baba are misguided as they are chasing the shadow.
I make this statement because I am not aware of any exemplary roles of Abiola that would have qualified him to subsume the brand name of a prestigious university like University of Lagos. Some people have described him, Chief Abiola, as one who was known for his generous donations. Well, the moneys he donated were not his money; they were moneys he made by looting the Nigerian treasury through bloated contract awards to ITT, the company he used to rip-off Nigeria. So, Abiola was not in the business of charity. He was a philanthropist. We know that in Nigeria, philanthropy is a euphemism for 419(Obtaining by Tricks). You give a donation of N10m and the government awards you a contract of N500B which you will eventually abandon. The real charitable organizations like Ford Foundation are still relevant and alive. So, M.K.O. was not a man of charity in the real sense.
There is a need to emphasize that the system of using one major achievement or one major failure to rate a person is undesirable and not sustainable. This procedure can easily make a hero to be graded as a villain and vice versa. This method of appraisal has the risk of the halo effect which may overwhelm the appraising official to grade a very bad candidate as a super achiever. In a viewpoint which appeared on the back page of the Daily Sun of Friday, June 1, 2012, entitled 'Honouring Abiola' Good gesture bungled', Femi Adesina made his usual innuendos which purpose was to besmirch and tarnish the integrity of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. He stated inter alia: '… when Abiola was cheated of his presidential mandate in 1993, Obasanjo went to Harare in Zimbabwe, and gleefully declared that Abiola was not the Messiah Nigeria awaited. Last Tuesday, in his Democracy Day broadcast, President Jonathan attempted to right a long standing wrong. He proclaimed the honour for Abiola by naming the University of Lagos (popularly known as UNILAG) after him'. The scenario painted here is balderdash as it is part of the Daily Sun's editorial policy of using the newspaper to cast aspersions on Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. If President Jonathan has a genuine interest in immortalizing M.K.O. Abiola., let him adopt ABIOLA by naming the Federal University Otuoke as Moshood Abiola University, Otuoke. The world will give him a rapturous applause. For me, I am in full support of Chief Obasanjo that 'Abiola is not the Messiah Nigerians are waiting for'. The act of renaming UNILAG TO MAULAG is a classic case of mauling the prestigious university, UNILAG. But, may the soul of M.K.O. Abiola rest in peace.
JOHN I. MGBE 800x600