Today it took me an hour more than usual to get to work because the roads were blocked by students of the University of Lagos protesting President Jonathan’s bombshell name change during his Democracy day speech yesterday. Apparently I was one of the lucky ones. People have had to abandon their cars and walk because Third mainland bridge, parts of Herbert Macauley and Ikorodu road have been taken over by multitudes of protesters. The lecturers, non academic staff, old students and postgraduate students haven’t been left out as the crowd constitutes a mix of the old and young, learned and not so learned all united in a common cause.
Did Jonathan err by changing the institution’s name? Are UNILAG students making too much of a big deal about it? Democracy is government of the people, for the people and by the people. Isn’t it an irony that on Democracy day, a singular action could cause such an uproar? Or are the people fighting another fight?
T.O was one of the people that started a petition against this name change yesterday and so far 5000 people have signed it (http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/referendum-against-unilag-change.html). She says most of the people fighting this battle are doing it for the wrong reasons. Here are excerpts from her note titled “Shame on me, Shame on you. Shame on us!”
If you think your school UNILAG too good to be renamed after MKO Abiola, shame on you!
If you protested because you think being called a MAULITE is too razz shame on you!
If you supported GEJ and said, this rebranding is a good way to honour MKO Abiola, shame on you!
If you protested this name change under the delusion that UNILAG is a ‘brand name’ shame on you!
If you have said this PDP people again, shame on you!
If you have said, this yoruba or south westerners people again, shame on you!
If you jeered and laughed at ‘dem UNILAG people’ shame on you!
If you said Ife was changed to OAU so what is the big deal, shame on you!
If you made jokes and created bb images disrespecting UNILAG, shame on you!
If you have said, 3 days from now it will all be over, shame on you!
If you as a UNILAG patriot have exchanged words with non UNILAG students on this matter, shame on you!
If you viewed the referendum but ‘yimu’ at us saying, there is no point, shame on you!
If you shook your head, sighed and said “jobless people, this would lead no where”, shame on you!
If you have said let me see how far they will go before I sign shame on you!
If you said this is their problem, shame on you!
If you have said, kini big deal, shame on you!
Shame on you, shame on me, shame on all of us.
Well shame on almost everyone then! She outlines her reasons for wanting the petition signed and the old name restored and they are mostly centred on the poor quality of our educational systems, the breech of protocol involved in the name change as UNILAG was set up by an Act of Parliament and she amongst others believes a bill should have been sent to the National Assembly for the change of name and lastly, the government’s marginalization of the late MKO Abiola’s recognition to only the South-Western regions of the country.
Every protester on the street today has a reason for braving the cold rain and walking miles just so their voices can be heard. Like all issues in Nigeria, those not directly affected have scorned, jeered and chastised. The protests remain peaceful and only time will tell if they shall be fruitful but I believe that this is more than just the name UNILAG. This is about President Jonathan painting a wrecked car. This is about him sweeping under the carpet issues that are of utmost importance and again focussing on the mundane. Will the name change solve the problems in our country’s educational sector or in the institution for that matter? Will Boko Haram stop killing the innocent or fuel prices come down? Will the name change eradicate corruption? The country is neck deep in trouble, debt and dirty politics and this has just given a group of Nigerians another reason to #occupy. My friend K says “If you can’t help, do no harm!”. Many Nigerians are starting to dread Presidential speeches and this defeats the purpose of the speech. Speeches should give the nation hope and something to believe in and Nigerians desperately need this.
We appreciate the gesture behind the name change and the fact that the President sought to give honour to whom honour is due and I believe that all the students acknowledge and respect this but Nigerians want more than a name-changer, they want a situation-changer and they do not see how a name-change will better the standard of education at the UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS! A few like my friend F, see it as a good thing and the beginning of new things for the institution while some see this as mere political propaganda but the majority fear that the new name will affect the international brand of excellence the school has struggled to create against all odds, over decades. While this may be an accurate prediction, some consider it plain vanity but all agree that we as a people are tired of Nigeria’s method of re-branding. If my car’s bad, fix the engine, don’t paint the car. Don’t use an expensive rug to cover a man-size hole in the floor. We need solutions, we need change! We are tired of pilot programmes, we are tired of commencements of new projects, we are tired of launches, we are tired of naming ceremonies for middle-aged men! Let’s see a project through to the end. President Jonathan we beseech you to proudly work towards being able to show us all the achievements of your government before 2015 and not what you were able to start because “It’s not where you start – it’s where you finish that counts.” When Nigerians are happier, you’ll discover they are much easier to govern. The staff and students of UNILAG are unanimously against this decision, only a strong president will give in to his people, only a great man will relent on a decision- ego aside, if it will bring peace and harmony. Are you that man? I’m very sure there are other ways to honour a great man. How about making June 12 a public holiday? MKO Abiola day perhaps?
And as for the UNILAG staff, students and alumni my friend B has this quote by Shakespeare for you; “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” No name change can take away what UNILAG stands for or what it represents. The people make the school. Yes the constitution allows for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly but please keep it peaceful, enough blood has been shed in our nation already. Do not taint the name of your great school by acting any less than a GREAT AKOKITE would and if the new name persists, remember that; ‘The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance’.
And to the rest of Nigeria remember that: “Nothing great has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstances.”
Have a great day peeps…xoxo 😉 😉 😉
I am proud to be a UNILAG alumnus!!!