MKO Abiola: Tokenism or Immortalization? By Mohammed Dahiru Aminu
Always full of surreal surprises, Nigeria's arrantly underperforming president; Goodluck Jonathan has called in on us with yet another bolt from the blue.
Just after a tragic one year in office as (s)elected president of an apocalyptic Nigeria, our president made a very funny yet sidesplitting announcement: that the 1962-established University of Lagos (UNILAG) has been renamed Moshood Abiola University, after the legendary MKO Abiola.
This topical incident, the undue renaming of a 50-year old institution of higher education which is one of Nigeria's noblest and most esteemed universities, is, indicative of our excessively unjustifiable romance with names and naming as a certain, definite procedure for distinctive identity.
But why get surprised? President Goodluck Jonathan's name is in itself a nomenclatural confusion. He was apparently named after “Luck” in its good, virtuous terms.
“Good” and “Luck” does not coexist as one lone word in the English language. “Good” is an adjective that designates something of high quality. “Luck” is a noun that simply means good fortune.
Derisively, instead of spelling his first name “Good Luck”, he is “Goodluck.
” The soi-disant
“Goodluck” is indubitably a besmirched spelling of what should be correctly spelt “Good Luck.”
Although ever since our own “Goodluck” rose into the glare of publicity, Nigerians have forlornly lost their collective spell-sense of “Good luck.”
A whole new generation of Nigerians has been raised to wrongfully consider “Goodluck” as the apposite spelling of “Good Luck.”
One challenge for us is to carefully consider how we can reverse this cataleptic habituation that define us, as we evidently have been patently desensitized into accepting that the Jonathanian “Goodluck” is the correct, exact and true spelling of “Good Luck” A man whose name is lost in a tunnel of rumpus is surely inexorable of confusion in its mundane, quotidian sense. And I digress.
Nomenclatural confusion (permit my coinage) is not only atypical of President Jonathan, it is equally idiosyncratic of Nigerians.
What have we got with naming and renaming? Why don't we allow names be? A while ago, President Jonathan renamed the Federal University of Technology Yola to Modibbo Adama University of Technology.
The renaming of the university in Yola is manifest of President Jonathan's acquiescence to the imploring demands of the baronial feudalists in the Adamawa emirate's hierarchies.
Modibbo Adama was the first emir of the Fombina emirate who was sent by the Shehu Usman Dan Fodio with a flag from Sokoto.
Modibbo Adama founded Yola, but he only remained a traditional ruler, he was not so much of an intellectual or scholar.
Modibbo Raji, to paraphrase Professor Sa'ad Abubakar in his book The Lamibe of Fombina, is the most important Islamic scholar in the history of Fombina emirate.
If scholarship is any yardstick for naming and renaming scholarly institutions, in whose name should the only federal university in Adamawa be named after: the baron Adama, or the serf Raji?
But Nigeria is a country of mislaid priorities.
Modibbo Raji is the scholar whose contributions to scholarship in the Fombina Emirate compares to none. Put Modibbo Raji aside, no one, arguably, has contributed to western education in Adamawa history more than the cerebral Professor Jibril Aminu.
The university so renamed after the feudal aristocrat, Modibbo Adama, deserved been named after Modibbo Raji or more rightly, Jibril Aminu. Modibbo Raji is to Islamic scholarship what Jibril Aminu is to western education.
In fact a university under the name Jibril Aminu University would have been much timely and appropriate.
Students and young folks alike who attend such a Jibril Aminu University will, and can aspire to be like Jibril Aminu, for the clauses of becoming a Jibril Aminu or even better still exist.
But none can aspire to be another Modibbo Adama because the provisos and favorable conditions of becoming another Modibbo Adama might not be practically viable.
It is even actually an overkill to name a state after Modibbo Adama, and go ahead to still name the only federal university in that state after Modibbo Adama.
Is Adamawa a one-hero state? It is akin to, say, renaming Sokoto to Usmaniyya state (after Usman Dan Fodio) when we know very well that Sokoto's only federal university is actually Usmanu Dan Fodio University.
The fact is that these extreme dedicatory, often disproportionate, yet celebratory undertakings that seek to glorify specific individuals, at the expense of other more eligible human beings, would only heighten the needless extolment of these specific individuals thereby leading to deification, praise and even worship.
A case in point that further substantiates our bamboozled, disarrayed priorities is the naming of a market square in Kaduna after the much revered Nigerian Islamic scholar, Sheikh Mahmud Gumi.
Gumi was an influential Islamic scholar of repute who spent most of his life in active preaching, though, sarcastically, a market square was named after him in Kaduna as though he were a businessman.
The same applies to Moshood Abiola. Abiola was a businessman who later contested for Nigeria's presidency. He was never an educationalist or teacher; he never contributed to scholarship much as he contributed to business or mercantile trade.
Unfortunately, UNILAG was renamed after him. Nonetheless Abiola has gotten far too wide recognition in which case renaming UNILAG after him is, suffice it to say, overegging the pudding.
A polytechnic in Akure, a federal stadium, a foremost garden in Lagos, and a lot of famous roads in Nigeria's major cities all bear Abiola's name.
As a routine convention, June 12 is set aside every year as a day of national remembrance for the politician that Abiola was.
Isn't it too much of a good thing to rename UNILAG after this somewhat seemingly prodigious figure?
Must Nigerians worship Moshood Abiola before it would dawn on President Jonathan and his cohorts that Abiola is so thoroughly much admired, much immortalized?
If President Jonathan wants to add more decorum to the Abiola personage by insisting on bestowing on him a personal, perhaps presidential reverence, the president should have paid a more timely homage to Abiola by naming one of the newly established federal universities after this apparent mentor and guardian spirit of his.
A good example would've been the renaming of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti after Moshood Abiola.
With this emerging trend in naming and renaming universities after people (lest the institutions are seen as not fully complete and done), one can only anticipate that sooner rather than later, the University of Jos will someday be renamed Yakubu Gowon University.
Perhaps the University of Ibadan would someday be renamed Oduduwa University.
The University of Nigeria, Nsukka would straight away be known as Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University.
The Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of Northern Nigeria, late Sir Ahmadu Bello, must have foreseen this probable imaginable absurdity that he named the most famous university in the north after himself—Ahmadu Bello University—from the very outset.
Because we have constructed a parochial frame of mind, a weltanschauung that undertakes that all universities must be named after personalities, universities like my alma mater, the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) remains in constant state of susceptibility to name change.
For quite some time now the egotistical natives and autochthonous people of Maiduguri have yearned for the renaming of UNIMAID to Elkanemi University.
Until Borno State comes up with a State University, which most likely would be named Elkanemi University, UNIMAID, my alma mater, remains at risk of being renamed.
Mohammed Dahiru Aminu writes from Yola, Nigeria.