It's that time of the year - in temperate, northern hemisphere countries anyway - when the snow has melted and even the cool spring mornings are getting to be a thing of the past as we herald the start of the 'fun' season known as summer. In the tropics, the heavy rains and attendant clean fresh air have swept in (along with the attendant flooding if you happen to live in a place where the government is more interested in lining its pockets than shoring up drainage systems). Quite literally, change is in the air.
For students and alumni of the University of Lagos, Nigeria, this change came about in a more shocking way when they woke up on May 29th to find out that their dear alma mater had been renamed Moshood Abiola University.
Public opinion in Nigeria has been split, with many accusing the government of renaming the university, unconstitutionally they righteously add, as a way of currying favour from the South-West of the country ahead of the 2015 elections. These folks forget that the region, with the exception of one state, voted wholesale for the President (aided by the rigging machinery of both the PDP and ACN) during the last general elections. Others are against the move because they feel that it does not do enough to honor the name of Moshood Abiola, especially since the government is yet to acknowledge his win in the aborted 1993 elections. If we are to believe Mr. Abiola's daughter's twitter spiel, the government are "bastards who stole her father's mandate." Of course, Ms. Abiola and her ilk conveniently forget that this current regime - incompetent, corrupt and wretched though it may be - had nothing to do with her father's 'stolen' mandate. History also recalls that Mr. Abiola spent most of the years before his election 'win' financing coups and hobnobbing with the very same military who ended up stabbing him (almost literally) in the back. Maybe if he was a real democrat, rather than one who simply fought for his all-consuming desire to rule Nigeria, this corner would have more sympathy for him...
Most of the protesters are upset, though, because they feel that the 'good name' of UNILAG has been "tainted" and as a result, they have taken to the streets to protest the sullying of the great name of their school.
Yes, you read that right. Tainted.
The same school where tenured Professors routinely coerce female students to sleep with them in exchange for good grades, where they receive cash and car bribes from male students in exchange for First Class or Second Class (Upper)-quality marks; where most computer labs belong to the 1990s and where natural and physical science labs lack both proper equipment and competent lab personnel. Dare we even talk about the libraries, where the term "under-stocked" would be credit to the quality of their stacks? A school whose graduate doctors are forced to retake at least 2 years of medical studies if they decide to seek greener pastures in G8 countries because their degree is considered lowly?
Have the students carried out mass protests on the scale Nigerians saw this week over any of the aforementioned issues? No. Can neutral observers take their desire for 'justice' seriously? No.
Once again, the priorities of the Nation - both the leadership and the led - have been called into question. Just like in January when the fuel subsidy issue (rather than corruption, insecurity and tribal intolerance) drove the protests and led to its untimely demise when a compromise was reached.
Corruption is rampant at all levels of government, infrastructure development continues to lag most of the African continent despite the fact that the country's GDP is second only to South Africa and to compound matters, there is no credible opposition that can bring the country together with charisma, competence and a strong will to do the right thing.
So yes, a season of change, but in the sleeping giant of Africa, so much remains the same.