UNILAG – MAULAG: I Almost Died When President Jonathan Renamed UNILAG – Prof. Ibidapo-Obe

A former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos and now Vice-Chancellor of Federal University, Ndufe-Alike, Ebonyi State, Prof. Oye Ibidapo-Obe, in this interview with PUNCH’s Olabisi Deji-Folutile says universities  are usually named after cities because they play historical roles:


How did you feel when you learnt about the change of name?

I almost died when I heard the announcement.
The university community would have buried two people. It was  really painful and for me it was double pain  because I was mourning my friend, the late VC. My consolation is that it will help me to retain the memory of my friend, at least each time this issue comes to mind, I would remember it was the time my friend died.  And that is what we are saying. Again the timing was very bad. Here is a community mourning the VC and just this devastating news again, it is bad.

Some people have argued that there is really no big deal about changing the name of the university and that the international community will easily adapt to the new name, what’s your take on this?

You ask me, 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.

Let me share my personal experience, when I graduated from UNILAG in 1971, I went to the University of Waterloo in 1972. Each time I told them I was from UNILAG, they would say Oh; University of Lagos in Ibadan. The only university they recognised then was the University of Ibadan and they refused to accept UNILAG as a separate university. It took long years of persistence to get the university recognised in the international community.

Why do you think the President’s decision is out of place?

The President is the one that talks about due process and the rule of law and in this case he has faulted himself. He didn’t go through due process. He didn’t consult with anybody, he didn’t consult with the university council, he didn’t consult with the university authorities, I am a stakeholder in this university, my reputation is based solely on this university, but I didn’t know anything about this. The late VC was my very close friend, if the President had consulted him, he would have told me. Nobody knew anything about this; even the military did not behave like this when they wanted to change the name of the University of Ife.

When the former military head of state, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida wanted to change the name of UNIFE, he consulted widely, he had a think tank and the people were consulted, the university authorities were aware, there was wide consultation, but there is nothing like that in this case. To me, this is a reflection of the level of disdain that our leaders have for us. I  have never seen a father that renames his child on his 50th birthday.  It is only in Nigeria that university names are changed. Where else does this happen? It does not happen in Canada, it does not happen in Europe

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