With its popularity on a nosedive, it looked like a masterstroke for the Goodluck Jonathan administration to anchor its revival on the name of Moshood Abiola.
That was the name which eighteen years ago defied ethnic and religious biases in what has remained the freest and fairest presidential election that was ironically annulled by the ruling military junta.
Faced with popular revolt over its seemingly rudderless response to the insecurity situation in the country, a listless war against corruption and the bad blood flowing from last January’s removal of the alleged subsidy in petrol prices, it could have been a politically sagacious gambit.
That perhaps may have dictated the decision of the administration to rename the University of Lagos after the martyr of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
However, as with many policies of the administration, its good intentions have been so badly conveyed and have now turned into a disastrous public relations nightmare for the government.
As President Goodluck Jonathan tailed off his May 29 Democracy Day speech two weeks ago many Nigerians were yet looking for something to go away with that Tuesday. As he rounded up his 5,636 worded speech the president crossed the line that even his more adventurous predecessors had so much ignored.
President Olusegun Obasanjo who was the immediate beneficiary of Abiola’s martyrdom perhaps for childhood rivalry reasons or some other unfathomable considerations, did not contemplate any honour for Obasanjo. Indeed for his eight years in office, the name Abiola was not mentioned in public by Obasanjo.
President Umaru Yar‘Adua who succeeded him in 2007 may have been more forthcoming but illness did not allow him to fully manifest.
So it may have seemed logical for the Jonathan presidency to pick on where angels dared to dread for a bounce in public goodwill with its decision to honour Abiola.
President Jonathan’s path to rediscover the goodwill that shadowed his emergence is now bogged with the decision to rename UNILAG after the deceased politician and international businessman who died in incarceration in 1998 following his insistence on assuming the mandate he won in the 1993 election.