JONATHAN'S DEMOCRACY DAY DEBACLE
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday renamed University of Lagos, one of Nigeria's prestigious universities after M.K.O. Abiola, a flamboyant politician and a successful business man who had come to symbolize Nigeria's struggle against military dictatorship.
The gesture was no doubt intended as a sop to the academia and the nation. But the reactions when they began to pour in immediately after the speech were not what the President and his handlers quite anticipated.
The students were enraged. They were in no mood for a name change no matter the personality whose name will now replace UNILAG, the acronym that has come to mean so much for past and present students. Soon after the broadcast they began to mass on the campus; in under an hour they had poured on to streets and blocked several roads. They had harsh words for the President and demanded the decision be rescinded or the protest will continue. Comments on television and radio talk shop are no less unfavourable; many of them were made by the university's lecturers.
What has gone wrong? Alot. One is the policy and decision making process in Aso Rock. A lot of things are taken for granted, apparently. The government must have been under the illusion that the university community and the public would be too pleased with the gesture. That would be the limit of naivety. First, in taking the decision, the government should have been aware that majority of the students are in their teens and early twenties and, therefore, too young or not even born at all when June 12 happened in 1993 for it to hold any significance in their lives.
Again, from their comments yesterday, many senior lecturers were not too pleased with the President's action. The general sense is that there was less or no consultation at all but only rash decision.
It also does the government no good that even though the Abiola family had welcome the gesture, one of his well known daughters, Hafsat said Mr. Jonathan should concentrate his energy on eradicating poverty in Nigeria which was her late father's desire.
The government should go back to the drawing board and work hard to clean up this mess.