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Unilage Brohaha And Akoka Obsession: Akokite - Wife, First Daughter And Other Three Children All Akokites

08 June 2012

By Abdul-Warees Solanke

I am an Akokite; my wife, Monsurah Modupe (Nee Balogun) is; my first daughter, Aishah also is; my other three children, Aasiah, Abdurrahman and Hameedah  all daydream of being   Great     Akokites as well. Akoka is where I have my roots as a fine artist who paints in words with pen as my brush. Akoka is both my past and every day, where I met the best of my friends and soul mates, where I learnt to fly as a bird without perching for days and nights as a journalist. In Akoka, I found true fellowship of faith and brotherhood of Islam as its radiant masjid was my first hostel while waiting to be housed in one of its halls.

 There is something infectious about Akoka. Akoka as we fondly call the University of Lagos is not just a citadel of learning, of excellence. It is a home, a city of refuge, of fulfillment. Akoka is where you dream, and just before you leave its gates, your dream is a reality. Akoka puts the world on your palms, opens the skies for you. Akoka is where great names are made, where raw gold gets glittering at the first touch of a smith. When you enter Akoka, you never want to leave. When you leave Akoka, you always want to return. When you return to Akoka, you return with pride and relish. You rejoice at its trade marks, trademarks that new features never efface but makes even more beautiful. You revel at the grace it gave you.

Many of its solid unpainted structures are not defeated by age; they bring back the memories of the past, vividly. For every Akokite, nothing really changes even though there are many changes. Baluba Kingdom remains Baluba, a hall of first class students, Elka, built of wooden prefabs, retains its humble origin. The ageless Jaja, never loses its attraction as the gentlemen's hall; Moremi still glows and glitters with bevies of damsels, fresh as the morning dew, as pomegranates waiting to be plucked. Amina always draw inmates as queens and princesses. No one ever wishes the pride of Akoka to be offended. No Akokite ever contemplates the change of its simple and stylish nomenclature, LAG, to a new one. We hold the belief that LAG is forever living.

But you are proud of Unilag only if you succeed in your career or whatever you lay your hands on. Most Akokites are successes. You are passionate of Akoka if you shine all over the world. An average Akokite is a star any day in any clime. Akoka is to us what Cambridge, Oxford, MIT and Harvard together are too many who fancy studying abroad. Akoka builds character, strengthens faith in God and teaches love and concern for fellow man. Akoka unites the poor and the rich. GREATEST AKOKITES, we salute ourselves. For many, it is still a shock that LAG may never be called LAG again.

Personally however, I am at the crossroad of the crisis caused that the change of University of Lagos to Moshood Abiola University. While I am a proud product of Akoka, I am equally a protégé of Bashorun MKO Abiola, the man in whose honor my alma mater is being renamed. In working for National Concord, MKO Abiola's influential newspaper, powerful as Rupert Murdoch's media empire,   I received my first meal ticket, fresh from NYSC in 1990, having graduated from Akoka with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication in 1988, until the newspaper empire crumbled in the beginning of 2001, for me to begin a new search for a new employer. While working for Abiola as National Concord correspondent in Yola in the early 90s, I was addressed as Wakilin Abiola within the Adamawa State Muslim Council headed by the Lamido himself. For, I was MKOs representative by the virtue of the yearly zakat his zakat committee sent through me for distribution to the poor and the needy in Yola. 

The search for a new meal ticket eventually landed me in Voice of Nigeria where I am now wielding my pen as a writer and public opinion canvasser, and my feet established as a media trainer in heading VON Training Centre, in fulfillment of my vision of sharing knowledge of media practice with others. President Goodluck Jonathan as the Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the ultimate authority on VON where I now receive my meal ticket.

When the Federal Government decided to honor Bashorun MKO Abiola as our hero of democracy, it found in the University of Lagos a most befitting memoriam. Ideally, this is a deserving honor for a man who was passionate about the University of Lagos in the 80s as many of its older stake holders can testify. But many are questioning the context and timing of the change. This is understandable because our public sphere is too fluid to pin any policy initiative or change on a particular intention. Policy changes in Nigeria are usually victims of political complexities. So, while there might be a genuine intention for a policy, its public perception and acceptance is usually a different ball game. A rational policy is hardly understood in the first instance while a political policy is always controversial.

Where do we locate the change of Great Akoka to ABIOLA UNIVERSITY of LAGOS in the Nigerian public policy discourse?  To me as a third generation Akokite (counting eras in decades), a second generation journalist of MKO Abiola's Concord and a new generation public service broadcasting practitioner in Voice of Nigeria, the change is neither here nor there. However, the question which all who are concerned about Akoka should ask is: Unilag as a federal university, would the federal government sustain its investment in the university? Would it continue to provide the required funding for the University of Lagos to retain its prime position? Would the government continue to ensure an enabling environment for the managers of the university to continue nurturing Akoka as a centre of academic excellence?

These are not questions to be answered in a jiffy or to be rationalized pros or cons at emergency stakeholders meetings or in street protests. They are enduring questions for all stakeholders in any public sphere including academic institutions like Unilag and others in its ilk,  especially in a  complex society such as ours where change and reform projects are usually misunderstood and are thus prone to controversies, even if they will be beneficial.

As all UNILAG stakeholders, including the Federal Government, enter the arena of deliberation on the future of the institution, the agenda should go beyond the politics of nomenclature. It should be an agenda to propel up Unilag (or whatever name we agree to call it now or in the future) in the World University ranking. No Nigeria or African university is in top 10 yet. Unilag or (Abiola University of Lagos, AUL)  can enter the Ivy League if  the Federal Government's honor and memorial of MKO is converted to an opportunity to raise the excellence bar at this university of first choice for most young Nigerian students scrambling for university education in Nigeria. So, let there be peace and understanding over the Great Akoka as we call UNILAG.Grrrreaaatest Akokites. GRRREAAAAAAAAT!              

Abdul-Warees is the Head of Training, Voice of Nigeria, Ikoyi, Lagos, (korewarith@yahoo.com korewarith@voiceofnigeria.org  , abdulwarees01@gmail.com ) 08090585723

 

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