UNILAG SHUT; NO GOING BACK - JONATHAN
BY Ben Agande, Bose Adelaja & Dayo Adesulu
LAGOS - Authorities of the University of Lagos, yesterday, ordered immediate closure of the university following protests by students of the institution which entered second day over the renaming of the school to Moshood Abiola University. This came as the Federal Government insisted that there was no going back on the decision.
President Goodluck Jonathan's announcement during his Democracy Day broadcast, Tuesday, renaming University of Lagos sparked off spontaneous protests from the students of the institution.
Stand still at the third Mainland Bridge caused by the angry students of University of Lagos. on 30-05-2012 Photo by Lamidi Bamidele
On the second day of the protests, the students and lecturers arrived the Third Mainland Bridge as early as 7am carrying placards of various inscriptions, conveying a message that they don't want the new name. They barricaded the bridge and prevented motorists from accessing it as they chanted 'We don't want MAU, give us our UNILAG.'
The protest led to a traffic gridlock in that axis as civil servants whose offices are situated at Victoria Island and Ikoyi were unable to get to their offices at the usual 8am.
Motorists were therefore compelled to make use of Ikorodu Road to CMS which is the only alternative route to the Island, as commuters were forced to pay fare that was fifty per cent higher than the normal.
The protesting students vowed not to vacate the roads until President Jonathan reverts the name of the school to UNILAG.
Unilag already has a 50-yr-old name - ASUU chairman
Speaking on the protest, Dr Karo Ogbineka, UNILAG ASUU Chairman said: 'If President Goodluck Jonathan must honour MKO, he could name one of the newly established nine Federal universities after him. UNILAG, already has a name that has been in existence for 50 years.
'All over the world, governments build monuments to honour their heroes. The president could as well change May 29 democracy day to June 12 in honour of MKO'.
At Fadeyi bus-stop the protesters hijacked two BRT buses which were used to barricade the two sides of the road causing serious traffic gridlock that lasted hours as some passengers disembarked and walked, while others had to terminate their journey. The protest caused panic and apprehension among residents of the area as many of them scampered for safety. The situation was almost hijacked by hoodlums but for the timely intervention of Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Umar Manko who arrived the scene and restored sanity in the area. Some motorists who spoke with Vanguard expressed dissatisfaction at the protest and called on government to prevent further occurrence.
In its immediate reaction to the protest, the university authorities in a statement yesterday said: 'In view of the recent developments on our campuses, the senate of the university has directed that all academic activities be suspended forthwith for two weeks. Accordingly, all students are to vacate the halls of residence latest by 11.am today May 30, 2012. The university security has been mandated to ensure compliance'.
No going back-FG
Meanwhile, the Federal Government declared, yesterday, that there was no going back on the decision to rename the University of Lagos as Moshood Abiola University as the late acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief M.K.O. Abiola deserved the honour.
Addressing State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive council meeting, the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku said President Goodluck Jonathan's proclamation was only a response to the over a decade clamour by a broad spectrum of Nigerians for Chief Abiola to be immortalized.
Maku said government does not see the protest as a mark of disapproval and expressed hope that reasons would prevail at the end of the day.
'Yes sometimes government decisions get reactions from the populace, we do not as an administration see this as a disapproval. We just see it as a normal way in every democracy that when you take major decisions definitely sometimes you have public reaction but we should not allow the protest to overshadow the national significance of what Mr. President has done. I think he has shown that he is a true statesman and he truly appreciates the significance of M.K.O's contribution in the political development of our country and as people who were adults in 1993. We think that this decision has been long overdue and that, today, Abiola can turn in his grave and say this nation for whom I made a supreme sacrifice for political development has recognized my contributions.
'It is our hope that reason will prevail and that the decision to honor one of our nations's icons and heroes will be appreciated by all Nigerians including our youths and students who are the future leaders of this country.'
According to the minister, ' if there is any figure that symbolizes sacrifice of self for this nation, that figure is Chief M.K.O Abiola who clearly won the June12, 1993 Presidential election and died in that captivity because he stood for principle, he stood to defend the principle of democracy, and for anyone that is familiar with the development of our politics in the last two decades, there is no event in the political history of our country that touches the hearts of quite a significant number of citizens like the June 12 Presidential election.
'In the last two decades, there has been widespread outcry that this democracy has not given Chief M.K.O Abiola and other heroes who passed on in controversial circumstances their due honour as a result of what they did to stand for the democratic development of this country. These outcries have continued to come from citizens spread across the nation. What Mr. President did was to listen to the outpouring of appeals of persuasions by Nigerians across this country that MKO deserved to be immortalised. What he therefore did in his capacity as a visitor to the University of Lagos was to name the University after Moshood Abiola of blessed memory. He did so in the best interest of the country, he did so because any nation that does not honour those who clearly stand out and make a sacrifice as role models for others to follow cannot appeal to the best in its own traditions for citizens to follow. The decision has been made in very good faith by Mr. President and we have seen the reactions by a section of the students of University of Lagos; we have also seen the outpouring of encomiums by patriots and statesmen who really understand the reasons why the President honoured Abiola.'
The information minister said the decision by the Federal government to rename the University of Lagos should 'unify Nigeria, those who believe in one country, those who believe in one democracy, those who believe in the reward for sacrifice for the nation and I think that is exactly what the President did.
'I remember that around 1987-88 when one of Nigeria's foremost nationalists and leaders Chief Obafemi Awolowo passed on, the Federal Government renamed the University of Ife as Obafemi Awolowo University. In addition to that also in the course of our history we have had several national institutions named after our past heroes and even living heroes' he said.