Come May 29 (tomorrow) it will be exactly one year ago that President Jonathan attempted to rename the University of Lagos as Moshood Abiola University. We remember vividly how that day, we (as undergraduates) had reacted angrily to that presidential broadcast, how the school authorities and the alumni association had responded with a strong campaign of UNILAG FOREVER.
The speed at which we all gathered in unison was amazing; we went in all directions and to nowhere in particular to express our anger peacefully. It was as if we were matching straight to Aso Rock from the Main Gate. Our law students took it upon themselves to educate us on the legal implication of the presidential broadcast, reminding us that UNILAG was established by an Act of Parliament, therefore a mere presidential broadcast was not enough to change the name.
In UNILAG, the month of May stands out as a month to be remembered for two significant events. One was the untimely death of Adetokunbo Babatunde Sofoluwe, professor and vice chancellor, and the May 29 Presidential Broadcast where the purported name change was announced. The two events shook UNILAG to its foundation and also showed the love that the entire academic community holds for our departed vice chancellor and the school name. The month of May 2012 was indeed a trying time for the University of Lagos.
It is a fact that we don’t have any misgivings about the person of MKO Abiola, his contributions and his ultimate sacrifice for Nigeria is noteworthy and highly appreciated. But for us, UNILAG is too big for an experiment on name change having built a strong reputation for over a 50-year period.
The question now is between then and now, what has changed? To us, a lot has really changed. The school authorities have been ever more cautious about the way they respond to issues relating to attempted name change. Among the students, you dare not joke with the name. In life, we attach great importance to names because nature has made it like that; so it is no surprise that the attempted name change was greeted with instantaneous protest by the university community.
To the entire academic community, it is now more of a collective responsibility to ensure that UNILAG remains UNILAG forever.
Recently, on our way to Lekki after several months of graduating, we passed through one of the express roads that was blocked during the protest and we could only but smile when we remembered that not too long ago we were part of the students that blocked the road in protest to the President’s action.
One thing raced through our minds: what on earth would have made us as undergraduates block the high way if not an issue that is dear to our hearts? We would never forget to tell the story of one of our friend who was about having his bath when he heard the announcement; he abandoned his bucket in the bathroom, joined the protest march and walked several kilometres with only his towels wrapped around his waist. That for us was the height of the love for our dear university.
In commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the no-name-change protest, we want to salute the courage of all those that took part in the struggle to make sure that UNILAG remains UNILAG forever and we also want to salute the Nigeria Police for conducting themselves in a responsible manner when they were drafted in to quell the protests. And to our dear President, we haven’t asked for too much by requesting that UNILAG remains UNILAG forever.