The Head of Department, General Studies, Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), Dr. Dele Omojuyigbe has called on the federal and state governments to stop renaming public universities after individuals.
He made the call while reacting to a recent call on the federal government by the governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose to rename the Federal University, Oye Ekiti as Adeyinka Adebayo University.
He described the practice as “detestable and unacceptable; because “it has never truly excited anyone except, perhaps, few associates of the beneficiaries.”
Omojuigbe, an alumnus of former University of Ife now renamed Obafemi Awolowo University said that “an institution’s name is part of every student’s reasons for choosing to attend the institution and so when that name is taken away, a bond is broken, a filial attachment is removed, and an indelible injury is inflicted on the psyche of the involved.”
He recalled that few weeks ago, the Federal University, Ebonyi, was renamed Alex Ekwueme University by the Buhari administration.
“It was posthumous honour for the former vice-president,” he said. “And taking a cue from that, Governor Ayodele Fayose, few days also called on the federal government to consider renaming the Federal University, Oye Ekiti, Adeyinka Adebayo University.”
According to him, “it was a justified call, one might say, but the expediency of all the renaming deserves scrutiny.”
He said that just a little introspection would reveal to any government that the few Nigerians honoured posthumously with university names are unnecessarily exposed to disdain from the alumni who graduated under the old names.
“When the University of Lagos alumni came out vociferously to reject Moshood Abiola University as its new name, it was because of their bond with the university called the University of Lagos,” he said.
“The Babangida administration changed the University of Ife to Obafemi Awolowo University in 1987 without consulting the stakeholders. Even with Awo’s mighty stature, the renaming unsettled many alumni. When your university’s name is changed, something dies in you. You are sad and desperately want to announce your ‘superiority’ to the new generation.
Omojuyigbe said that school’s name was part of every student’s story. “The late Chief Bola Ige said it many times that, “I did not attend the University of Ibadan; I attended the University College, Ibadan,” as if saying indirectly that The University College, Ibadan was superior.
“It is time our governments realised that changing a university’s name is like fiddling with the souls and spirit of its alumni. If an institution must be named after a person, let it be at inception like the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University in Niger State.
“It also makes more sense to honour the living than the dead. IBB is lucky to witness such honour; not even Awo was that lucky when the Ondo State University was initially named after him. The state assembly turned it down on the premise that since the Ogun State government couldn’t deem it fit to name the Ogun State University after him, it shouldn’t be Ondo’s business.
Omojuyigbe wondered why an academic institution is the target of posthumous honour to prominent people. Can’t airports, theatres, hospitals, assembly complexes etc do?
He suggested that the billions of naira spent on changing logos, letter heads, sign posts, inscriptions, seals etc in each department, faculty and the university itself could be pumped into research for scholars.
According to him, “government even gives the impression that it is only politicians that love this country. Great vice-chancellors have died and the best honour they have received is to name libraries or halls of residence after them in their respective universities.