|Join Nairaland / Login / Trending / Recent / New|
Stats: 1062507 members, 1234935 topics. Date: Thursday, 23 May 2013 at 11:31 AM
APC Rejects INEC's Call For Name Change / Nigerians Will Decide UNILAG/MAU’s Name Change - Senator Gbenga Ashafa / Buhari Causes Riot,forces GEJ To Change UNILAG Name To Moshood Abiola University (1) (2) (3) (4)
|University Of Lagos’ (UNILAG) Name-change: Why Should We Grieve? by abudugana: 6:09am On Jun 17, 2012|
Since Goodluck Ebelle Jonathan’s (GEJ) announced the name change of UNILAG to Moshood Abiola University, Lagos, (MAUL, Akoka), the university’s Professors, its alumni association and students have been protesting this decision. As one of the university’s stakeholders, in this article, I seek to challenge the basis of the UNILAG stakeholders’ dissenting views and argue otherwise.
In a press release co-signed by Professor Olayide Abass and Femi Oladimeji, UNILAG Alumni Association’s National President, and National Secretary, it was argued that, “The University of Lagos is the first University to be established by an Act of Federal Parliament in 1962 and has built a strong brand name (emphasis, mine) in its 50 years . That is why it is the University of First Choice and the nation’s finest.” What catches my attention in these lines, are the parts that read: “… has built a strong brand name in its 50 years;” and “That is why it is the University of First Choice and the nation’s finest.” These parts of the press release forced me to think about the following issues: why and how was UNILAG able to build a strong brand name, which as claimed, made it assume a self-venerated status as “University of First Choice and the nation’s finest?”? Does that acclaimed strong brand name truly exist over fifty years of UNILAG’s existence?
Based on informed and privileged discussion I had years back with some respected professors and stakeholders, among whom were Professors Olayide Abass and Oye Ibidapo-Obe, I was made to realize that what made UNILAG were the core values that make the attainment of excellence possible. These include quality and dedicated staff, quality students and supportive learning environment.
Also, I have heard people argue that UNILAG’s strategic location play a role in the university’s ascend to a place of pride. However, that seems superficial and will merely open up discussion on whether UNILAG’s image was deservedly or superficially earned. Universities, unlike markets, are not made by their locations; Universities earn their locations, prominence.
If a university’s deserved place as one of the nation’s best is determined by its location, OAU ought not to have been on the radar as one of Nigeria’s world-renowned prides. If location is a factor, then why is it that Lagos State University (LASU) and Lagos State Polytechnics (LASPOTECH), which are also strategically located in Lagos do not have the venerated status of UNILAG? This is not to say that a university might not benefit from its strategic location to attain excellence. What is being implied is that, it is impossible for a strategically located university to attain excellence in the absence of those core factors of excellence earlier mentioned. Location is not a substitute for the drivers of excellence. While the excellence attained by a university can transform its un-strategic location into a strategic spot, a strategic location factor without those drivers of excellence cannot earn a university a place of pride. In college towns or university towns, exist a number of veritable historical evidence, which substantiate my argument on how a university earns a town or its location prominence and why the reverse is never the case.
The location-excellence argument seems relevant to the hotly contested UNILAG name-change issue. Gown-town relations which is embodied in the concept of college towns/university towns may earn a university its name. This is the case with the Oxbridge- University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford-, University of Birmingham (UK), Auburn University (USA), Tuskegee University (USA), University of Gottingen (Germany), National University of Singapore (Asia), Uppsala University (Sweden), Leiden University (Netherlands), and Stellenbosch University (South Africa). These are all world-established citadels whose names are rich historically rich, logical and substantive. Given whatever circumstance, universities so named will never undergo a name change. Does the name UNILAG fall into this category?
To provide an evidence-based response to the above question, I was compelled to go through volumes and articles that seek to fully or partially tell the history of then named UNILAG. Of these reference materials, I find “A History of University of Lagos, Lagos, 1962 -1987” that was edited by Profs A. B. Aderibigbe and T. G.O Gbadamosi and published as the most authoritative. Although I read this particular work eight years ago, during my situation compelled third reading of this volume and other ones, I find no hard or soft evidence, explicit or implicit which suggests that there is any logical or substantive basis why the name UNILAG came into existence in the first instance. Nobody seems to know. May be no one even exists. One of the probable explanations seems to be because of the university’s location in Lagos. Another plausible rationale is that which those dissenting GEJ’s name-change decision have quoted severally- the establishment of the University of Lagos by an Act of the Federal Parliament in April 1962. While this provides the legal basis underlying the existence of the University of Lagos, it tells us nothing about how the name UNILAG came about in the first instance, therefore, it may not be accepted as a veritable reason why UNILAG must not be renamed. As we shall come to discuss later, in different countries, universities that are creations of an Act of the Federal Parliament, have undergone a name change for various reasons herein articulated. Consequently, in the absence of any alternative explanation of the origin of the name UNILAG, it is better concluded that the name UNILAG does not have any substantive historical basis that makes it perpetual.
Those disputing UNILAG name change have also been contextualizing the place of the name UNILAG in the university’s making as a place of excellence. I find instances of this in Oye Ibidapo-Obe’s interview with Olabisi Deji-Folutil and in narratives such as that written by UNILAG Alumni Association and Soyombo, a UNILAG professor of sociology. Soyombo argues, “So, what is in a name? The Yoruba believe that a name has implications for a person’s behaviour (This is what they mean when they say oruko nro omo). Moshood Abiola University, Lagos (MAUL) – what does it mean to maul somebody or an institution?”. Soyombo, like other aggrieved UNILAG stakeholders, is simply highlighting the place of the name in the making of the university as a place of excellence?
However, I wonder how rationally placed is Soyombo’s contention that, name-changing of UNILAG to MAUL denotes the same thing as “to maul somebody or an institution?” Soyombo, a university don who spent a lot of energy to argue the name imperative thesis in the making of UNILAG’s greatness seems to be unfair to truth by failing to highlight that, even with the name UNILAG, cases of deadly attacks have been recorded in the university. How come that the name UNILAG did not prevent those attacks?
Like Soyombo, Oye Ibidapo-Obe also argues, “what’s in a name and I tell you that everything is in a name. Name is everything. Your name is your identity. You change name to make products do well, if the university has not been doing well, if it has not been producing the kind of graduates we want, we can change the name to give us what we want but that is not the case here. Those who say there is nothing in a name are jokers. It will take another 50 years to adjust to this new name.”
If name is everything and further that a name needs only to be changed when a product is not doing well, I dare say for the past twenty years or thereabout, UNILAG has not been doing well. During this period, the quality of education offered by the university has dropped drastically. Students have been educated in overcrowded classrooms and under severely constrained learning environment. Our libraries became repositories of old and irrelevant books. Laboratories were either underequipped or equipped with obsolete/non-working equipment. This situation reached an alarming proportion in the early part of the 2000s when students have to write laboratory reports using dictated data from experiments, which were conducted at a time that no one knows. I witnessed this unfortunate situation as an engineering student at the then UNILAG. I also heard from my seniors that they had to endure the same travail.
During this period, the university’s staff quality has also dropped. For the past twenty years, I doubt if any of the university academics have produced widely cited or regarded work locally or internationally. I am also not aware if the university or any of its staff have during this period won any valued international award that is dedicated to academic excellence and valuable contributions to knowledge. I do not also think during this period, the university has attracted the best of brains as faculty.
I am also aware that during this period, the then UNILAG has admitted students that have no business coming near the gate of any decent university let alone going through the university system to earn a degree. It amounts to saying the obvious that during this period as well, the UNILAG Aristo Babes market has also peaked. UNILAG Aristo Babe is a brand name for UNILAG female students who specialize in trading their bodies to earn money and class. Can anyone dispute the immeasurable social disruption those ladies have caused the immediately UNILAG environs and the nation as a whole. My reservations seem to be fully captured by Oyindamola Adegboyega, a UNILAG student who once wrote,” They warned me, O!, feeding me with countless tales of the widely publicized escapades of the well-known UNILAG ‘big’ boys and girls or “chicks” as they are fondly called. They informed me of the ARISTO girls, the fashion and blackberry craze, the endless parties, the list in fact is also endless. The quest to be the ultimate has overwhelmed the hunger for academic success. The well-known University of Lagos is a place where you would find it all. The high, classy, sassy and what have you. You not only find the young and restless, you find the aging and agile.”
The foregoing is a pointer to the fact that UNILAG has not been doing well for the past twenty years or thereabout. Given the veracity of this claim and Oye Ibidapo-Obe’s proposition, which reads, “if the university has not been doing well, if it has not been producing the kind of graduates we want, we can change the name to give us what we want but that is not the case here,” there is a genuine reason why UNILAG name must change. Although I do not share Ibidapo-Obe’s logic, the issue is that if our university has not grieved for loosing those core values that earned it a place of pride, why must we grieve for losing a name that lacks substantive historical basis
If name has earned UNILAG its pride place as fiercely argued by Ibidapo-Obe, Soyombo and other aggrieved stakeholders, they could have done better by intellectually engaging the issue through the following questions. What is the history behind the name UNILAG? How relevant is the name UNILAG to the core values that earned the university a place of pride?. How central is the name to what the university has/is producing? Can a university's name be changed and yet, its place of excellence be sustained?; why and under what circumstance(s)? Has this ever been done locally and internationally? What were the reasons for taking such decision? I will attempt to address some of these questions, hoping to provoke further debate that might prop up the insightful deconstruction of the name change controversy.
Just like the University of Ife’s name was changed to the OAU, so was the case with the eight ivy league schools in the US that include Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, Brown University, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Dartmouth College. As noted by the Rita Kennedy, “all Ivy League schools take their name from the ivy that grows on their buildings”. These world-widely regarded university of honors all changed names for various reasons that include, as a mark of honor for a philanthropic businessman or someone from whom the university first benefitted (Brown University, Harvard University, Dartmouth College, Yale University). Princeton was renamed to honor a town, Cornell University, after its founder and the University of Columbia, after a heroic figure. These universities changed name to new ones that are substantively rich in history. Changing such historically rich names will be nearly impossible. I am not aware how such name changing has played any role in the making or de-making of any of these Ivy League schools as internationally acknowledged citadels of learning. I am also not aware how name change has affected our own University of Ife whose name was changed to Obafemi Awolowo University. Why should UNILAG be an exception, after all, the name UNILAG lacks any known or written about historical substance that should make it perpetual? Our case must be intellectually engaging, historically situated and not merely romanticized.
If there is a need not to change UNILAG’s name, I suppose, we should take the issue beyond simplistic arguments such as oruko nro o- name has implications for a person’s behavior- and UNILAG is a brand name? Bringing in an argument such as oruko nro omo shows how the university has lost some of the sparks that earned it, its now faded glory. It shows how quality staff remains a critical issue that our university must address as one of its lost values.
Predicating our dissenting voices on the logic “UNILAG is a brand” also makes me wonder what our scholars of old glories and Akokites think of what a university is? What is a brand and how relevant is that to the academia? A brand name sustained by its quality or past glories? Academic institutions should not be described by or seek to define their existence based on a loosely deployed term such as UNILAG is a brand name. Such usage of the word signifies how the place of our university’s core values has been taken over by marketing philosophy or those elements that indicate the core presence of commodification of education as the driving force of the academia. Such argument amounts to indirectly admit that we have lost hold of the core values- quality and dedicated staff, quality students and enabling learning environment- that earn UNILAG its identity as one the nation’s best. Better said, we seem to be telling the world that with our university’s name change to MAUL, our weakness as a university that is living on its past glories will be exposed. We seem to be telling the world that we cannot get there again because we have lost those core values that once got us there.
UNILAG’s stakeholders (now MAUL’s stakeholders) should look inward may be our university’s place of pride has been outlived. We should reflect whether what sustains a university is the name or quality of what it produces?. Students should reflect whether they have demonstrated against mere paper holders that the university has been producing over the years. Ex-Akokites should reflect whether they are satisfied with the quality of the university that gave them a not a too good education and whether they want that changed?
In conclusion, it is my view that what should not change are the core values that drove us to greatness. If our core values are being threatened, it is worth bringing down the heavens to make our case. When we lost those values, nobody grieved. Now, we are grieving because we lost just a name whose existence in the first instance was not informed by any veritable logic. Dissenting voices may want to tell us why UNILAG in the first instance and why the name may not change. This is the time to reflect and not emotionalize our already battered future.
Adebiyi Jelili Abudugana was a former UNILAG student leader.
* It should be pointed out I have deliberately refused to look into the legality of the name change for two reasons. I am not a learned fellow, so I will await a competent court of the land to pronounce on the legality or otherwise of the decision. Secondly, it amounts to fooling myself that GEJ who neither respected or honored his party’s constitution nor an agreement to which he was a signatory will honor due process. In my view, until he mends his ways, GEJ remains a personality without honor.