Changing the name of University of Lagos to Abiola University is not a very smart thing to do. In fact changing the name of any university or institution should be considered very, very carefully because a university, especially one with a long history, has a history. It connects many events, names and incidents that would be impacted by a simple name change. My name is Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba. I am an Aduba. My son Obiajulu Aduba is an Aduba as was my father Uzodinma and his father. We have been Aduba for several centuries.
For me to suddenly become Mr. Obiajulu or some other name creates confusion. For instance those who have known me from grades school would suddenly not know me any more unless somebody reintroduces me to them. The previous memories of pranks played; of soccer game worn and lost in high school; of love approaches made to some girls would be lost when my new name Mr. Obiajulu is mentioned even in the ears of those who have been reintroduced to Mr. Obiajulu. It will never be the same.
My son would have to explain to people that he is actually my son and I will have to tell people who know me that we are father and son even with different last names AND that I did not adopt him.
The same goes for a change of a university’s name. Graduates of UNILAG will now say that they graduated from Abiola University formerly known as University of Lagos. In a competitive job search or research grant application, not many people would have the time to see when the change was made and most probably would get on with people that have less need for research of their history. University of Lagos is the fifth oldest university in Nigeria and therefore by Nigerian standards it is an old institution.
It has, in the minds of many people, a lot of memory which the Abiola version would not carry.
One has to do a mental double take to recognize that both universities are one and the same. When one says Professor Aluko (the real one) my mind goes to University of Ife where he taught. And when I think of him I think of him along that line. When I hear Obafemi Awolowo University it does not conjure the same memories or the same adoration. I see only one of those new Nigerian universities. Which is not true; for OAU is really not new. But the name is. When University of Ife was change to OAU I was not in full support but was understanding of the reasons. Although Awolowo did not live and die on the campus as Nnamdi Azikiwe did at Nsukka he did give the university every ability he had.
It was his singular accomplishment in Education. He fathered it and so I could reluctantly see how a son would bear his father’s name.
But even then, I would have preferred that it remained University of Ife, the name given to it at birth.
I will be joining the picket line anytime anybody proposes changing UNN to Nnamdi Azikiwe University in spite of their close relationship.
There is no Awo/University of Ife relationship in Abiola/University of Lagos. Nothing to warrant erasing the memory of Sowore uprising at UNILAG or Ifejika revolt at the same university or the sacred names of Eni Njoku and others which are evoked whenever one mentions UNILAG. How can I relate to Abiola University and make the connection with Chike Obi, the old mathematician who told us in Lagos, after the war, that we have as much right or even more right to apply to UNILAG as every other Yoruba kid in Lagos.
And which we did.
Paper trails might do that but my memory would never. I can never feel that I was admitted to Abiola University but chose to go abroad nor retain the emotion which I have retained with UNILAG. That feeling is completely eradicated. And I doubt that I am alone. I wish that Mr. Jonathan would change his mind and restore the dignity of UNILAG.
Mr. Abiola deserves a memorial. If an educational institution is the way to do it, I recommend that Federal University of Otueke or any of the nine new institutions being founded, be named for Abiola. They would start from the scratch to build a history worthy of Abiola. It would be better than taking some one’s own history to honor a man who despite his many accomplishments did absolutely zero in the education area. We can call the Business Department at University of Lagos Abiola Business School, University of Lagos. We would be recognizing a great business man and honor him in a business environment.
It would be a perfect match.
If we need a full university to do that let us look towards Otueke and if it must be in the South West land let us think of the new Federal University of Ekiti. Mr. Jonathan is getting too involved in too many puny things. We have agriculture to do, we have infrastructure to develop and we have education to take care of.
Honoring Abiola by desecrating UNILAG is stretching it.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
May 31, 2012