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MANASSEH’S FOLDER: Easiest way UTAG can stop the Public Universities Bill

Dear Member of the University Teachers’ Association (UTAG),

I must commend you on your sustained fight against the Public Universities Bill. The Bill, as you and other experts have explained, will further destroy our universities, some of which are already threatened by various interference.

I have lived long enough in this republic to know that there are those in every society or institution who are willing to betray the collective interest for their selfish gain. Some of such people are in your fold – lecturers and vice-chancellors. They are prepared to sell their dignity to politicians, some of whom were your students and may have not contributed anything to national development apart apart from the toxic products of their razor-sharp tongues.

A sheep will not change the way it bleats just because it’s been taken from Fankyeneko to New York. You will by all means have some of your members who will not see the right cause and fight it no matter how highly educated they are. Such people–lecturers, vice-chancellors and student leaders –may be obstacles that would work to sabotage your collective interests, but you must not allow this bill to be passed. The freedom and dignity of academia is being robbed in broad daylight and must fight for it.

I am very familiar with how politicians can manipulate and undermine the leadership of universities in this country.

Political Interference in Universities

I attended the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) for my first degree. Before the shameful compromise and greed that allowed politicians to reduce the University of Education, Winneba (UEW), into a pile of mess, I witnessed how political control and interference of a university could undermine its structures and tame the freedom of thought, opinion, and expression necessary for intellectual discourse to thrive.

The Rector of GIJ was a man called David Newton when President John Agyekum Kufuor came into office in 2001. David Newton had been appointed by the National Democratic Congress (NDC)  government led by Jerry John Rawlings. In the era of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), David Newton was removed and replaced by a senior lecturer called Kweku Rockson. It was rumoured that Mr Rockson had links with the NPP and Mr Newton had links with the NDC.

So?

The chess game was politically motivated.

If the political interference was any reason for the changes at the top, then it would not remain a rumour forever. It became a reality.

When Professor John Evans Atta Mills was sworn in as President in January 2009, the attention was on GIJ. The government removed Kweku Rockson and brought back David Newton as a rector. They executed this as though it were one of their most pressing manifesto promises in the education sector.

When David Newton retired, the NDC was still in government so they appointed Dr Wilberforce Dzisah, whose links to the NDC was no secret.

When the NPP won the 2016 election, Dr Dzisah was removed from office as quickly as they could. He’s contesting his “unlawful” removal in court.

I have no idea how it will end in court. And I have no idea what the NDC would do to the current rector even though my sources in GIJ say he is a professional and does not openly display partisanship in the running of the institute.

The NDC and NPP do not forget to interfere and change the leadership of GIJ, but both parties have neglected their promises to fund the institute’s project at its new site.

With this experience, I was not surprised at the allegations of political interference in the UEW impasse, which resulted in removal and dismissal of lecturers and management members, including the vice-chancellor. The NPP brought in a Vice-Chancellor who was familiar with the content of the current government’s hymn book.

The violence and the closure of the university and the open media war that raged for more than a year have irredeemably damaged the reputation of that school, at least, in this generation.

While the flames of interference and its devastating effects were still raging at the UEW, the government announced the dissolution of the governing board of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). This followed disturbances that occurred when students violently demonstrated against the policy of the university to convert single-sex halls of residence to mixed ones.

The government-backed off shamefully with a bloodied nose when it was pointed to it that the statutes of the university did not allow it to do what it wanted to do. But it would not give up.

Not long afterwards, the bill currently before parliament was drafted. If it is passed, it will allow the politicians to take control and do what it pleases in the universities.

A lot has been written about the bill and your good selves have explained and know the consequences better than I could imagine. You have stated how the bill will, among others, destroy academic freedom, stifle innovation and hamper initiatives by the management of the public universities.

If that bill had been in place, we could not have witnessed the transformative and developmental  leadership of Professor Ernest Aryeetey at the University of Ghana. His policies, such as tolling the roads on campus, were staunchly opposed by the politicians who wanted to please the students and the motorists for political capital.

After the UEW disruptions, the rational thing to do is to prise the control of universities from the government by amending the statutes of universities to further insulate them from the political chessboard. But the government wants to do the exact opposite.

UTAG has made your position convincingly clear. A number of civil society groups and the few men and women in our land who possess both good conscience and voices have spoken against the bill. This bill is not meant to cure any mischief. It’s not popular among academia and should have have been withdrawn by the government.

If we had a parliament that were independent of the executive and MPs independent in thought and action, this bill may not have sufficed. But in Ghana, we operate a dictatorship veiled as a democracy because of our periodic elections..

If the president wants something done, he will get it passed by parliament if his party has the majority as has been the case since the inception of the Fourth Republic.

For this reason, this bill is still being entertained by parliament despite the immense opposition and outright condemnation by academia, the opposition NDC and a section of the Ghanaian populace. The people will have their say but the politicians will, as usual, have their way.

However, UTAG and the Vice Chancellors have a say in whether this bill is passed into law and allowed to ruin our tertiary institutions or whether it is dumped where it truly belongs – the dustbin.

Here’s the easiest and best way to do that:

If the government become adamant and proceeds to pass this bill into law, declare a nationwide strike. Withdraw your services until it is revoked.

A handful of politicians should no be allowed to hold the fortunes of many generations to ransom for their selfish interests. Democracy is meaningless if it does not provide avenues for consensus building. It should not give a handful of people the unfettered power to undermine structures.

It is meaningless to have a say when the politicians will always have their way.

My GIJ Aluta Experience

When I was the Students Representative Council (SRC) President of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, there was a problem the SRC discussed with management a number of times but didn’t find a solution. Classes closed at 8 pm, but the library closed at 4 pm.

One Friday, I went to the library alone and said nobody would go out until 8 p.m. By Monday the problem was resolved and the library closed at 8 p.m. A problem that took more than a year of failed negotiation took a weekend to be resolved.

Sometimes, the only language those who wield the power we give them to exercise on our behalf understand is protest.

No government, whether military or civilian, can dismiss all university lecturers or endure a perpetual strike from university lecturers.

You have power. Don’t be the Essau of this generation. Don’t sell your birthrights for a morsel of bread that will leave you hungrier and deprive you of your dignity.

Compromise, Divide and Conquer 

I am aware some government officials have started contacting some vociferous individual members of UTAG and talking to them slow down. I have lived long enough in this land, where integrity and good conscience mean very little or nothing to insatiable stomachs of greed. I have come to know that there will be attempts to compromise some vice-chancellors and leaders of UTAG to back off and allow this bill to be passed into law the way it is.

There are also some UTAG members or Vice-Chancellors whose blood is of the same colour as the governing party and they reason like rented party serial callers when their political parties are involved. They have no minds of their own on such occasions.

But UTAG should not allow this to happen. Prove to the politicians that, for once, there is some value in your degrees and you deserve some respect.

Universities, by their establishment, are avenues where vestiges of freedom of thought should remain in this era when it is only the politicians who must be heard. The culture of silence, like a dark, sinister cloud has enveloped our republic and the few rays of light in our academic institutions should be be dimmed.

Some state-owned media houses have now become an extension of the communication wings of the government and governing parties with the help of their management. Private media have either aligned or are being coerced to fall in line. This is despite the fact that the constitution makes the media independent.

Civil servants, public servants and the security agencies cannot express their minds on issues that do not favour the government without being victimised. Nurses, medical doctors, teachers, would tell you their challenges, but warn you against publishing them with their names because of the consequences of being perceived as exposing the government.

If you the university lecturers allow this bill to take effect, you will soon lose your voices. If you make comments in a lecture room that do not favour the government, you may be dealt with. If they do not favour the opposition parties, your punishment may be deferred, but you’ll surely be served when they win.

This is the time for UTAG to stand up to the political forces threatening to ruin academia. They want to pump into its veins, the poisonous opium that would eventually carry it into its shallow and shameful grave.

Posterity will not forgive you if you let the nation down.

Yours faithfully,

Manasseh Azure Awuni.

The writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni, is a freelance investigative journalist and editorial consultant for theghanareport.com. His views do not reflect the editorial opinion of the news portal.

30 Comments
  1. Emmanuel says

    Very good writeup, Manasseh. Keep it up. This is the most pampered government under the fourth republic with majority of citizens quiet because they belong to the NPP. Posterity will always be the judge. Keep up your good work for God and country.

    1. Abdul Aziz Ayyub says

      Well done for this intellectual writeup.

  2. Anonymous says

    Thought provoking piece. I hope some lecturers with conscience and ltitle integrity will stand up for Ghana’s academic frendom so that posterity will remain on their side.

    God bless our homeland Ghana

  3. JohnBosco says

    All hopes are not lost. At least we the younger generation has some people to look on for moral lesson. Manneseh God richly bless you

    1. Anonymous says

      Manasseh, your writeups are always thought-provoking. UTAG must not let the nation down this time round. We are all looking up to them to stand up as men with balls and resist the oppressors rule.
      God saves our homeland Ghana from these vampires called politicians. Shame on them all.

  4. John A. H says

    You have said it all but my question to you is, will they listen?

  5. Clement AYAMGA says

    I totally agree to these ideas and i strongly oppose any move that aims at diminishing the autonomy of public universities.

  6. Hilary Konkuri says

    Well said my brother. We indeed in some dictatorship vailed as democracy. God safe us all.

  7. Anonymous says

    Manasseh well done. You couldn’t have echoed it better enough. He who has ears let him hear.

    1. LotomeBee says

      An excellent write up. The fact that you are a sympathizer of a particular political party doesn’t mean you keep mute over bad governance or accept policies that you know will wreck your country.

  8. Prosper Setsoafia says

    I was nodding like agama, sipping my water like yakayakɛ as I process these facts into my core i7 processor. Humbly, this is a delicious meal serve hot. Thanks

  9. Babugu Dimah Fatawu says

    You always have a beautiful opinion

  10. Anonymous says

    If this bill is allowed to pass, I will call UTAG: Useless Teachers Association of Ghana!

  11. Anonymous says

    Thank you so much for your well organised thoughts properly directed at the core issues begging for attention with your apt proposal as a remedy. We need independent best minds like yours to compel government to do things right

  12. Nartey says

    Manasseh Azure Awuni, you are a gem. You are full of wisdom and honest. I hope the UTAG will heed to this urgent call. This government just want to destroy everything including higher learning. They behave as if they have never travel abroad before. Its even astonishing that the President schooled outside the country and enjoyed academic freedom at the highest learning there but now have his government championing this dubious bill curtailed the academic freedom in Ghana. Manasseh Azure Awuni, you have said it all and I associate myself with your write up. Well done dear. We need more of your kind of journalists in Ghana for growth and developmen

  13. Ama Lydia says

    The best way to scrap this crap is for the intellectuals who are sympathetic to the NPP to oppose this damn bill. If they keep mute, they should forever remain dumb because if NDC takes over they will use the law to deal with them. Truth be told, NPP sympathizers are voceferious when in opposition and this law come in handy to sew their lips up when the tables turn. Mark my words

  14. FREDOLINE EMPEH says

    Manasseh keep it up,.Exellent write-up irrespective of its political undertone. I knew u would measure up to expectation so late happy now

  15. YAHUZA Berkhoff says

    Very insightful!
    God bless you

  16. Anonymous says

    Manasseh, your writeups are always thought-provoking. UTAG must not let the nation down this time round. We are all looking up to them to stand up as men with balls and resist the oppressors rule.
    God saves our homeland Ghana from these vampires called politicians. Shame on them all.

  17. Peter Suaka says

    Free unsolicited profound ideas there for UTAG leadership and membership. Indeed Manasseh never disappoints!! But one thing is certain, the dead wickedness of this government is extremely frightening. #nanaaddomustfall on December 7th!

    1. anonymous says

      Brilliant piece! Well done

  18. Anonymous says

    Brilliant Man! Keep the flame up.

  19. Eric Sunu Doe says

    A good write up and one that reflects your stance as you clearly espoused. I am however appalled by the attempt to downplay views that are not in favor of yours on this bill. I hope it is not my understanding reading your piece that once I disagree with a position then I become a sellout. Is this not against the fundamental premise on which democratic principles are founded? To the extend that you don’t engage with the issues of the said proposed bill and to discuss the pertinent issues those who are against it strongly oppose leaves much to desire. I have listen to many of the arguments against and for, and it appears that those against are not strong enough. For instance, when it comes to the issue of putting faith in the “professional” acumen of people placed in leadership positions, it stands to reason, to me that we believe and think if it is not us, then we won’t trust whoever is appointed. I do agree that there are excesses when dealing with human institutions and the universities are not exempted. But does that mean we should not look at the bigger picture? I am a member of UTAG and I do understand some of these issues (I have been away on studies for sometime), but my observation generally is how older “institutions” are quick to oppose. The very essence of all these bickering. Manasseh, have you read the bill? What are your opinions of it. You see, we should be seen to be engaging with the issues instead of the persons involved. In any case, who laid the bill that is currently being used to govern the universities? I believe we should be engaging with the pertinent issues that the current backlashes of people we think do not support our positions. It is only when we engage with the issues critically that we move our country forward.
    Thanks again for bring the issue back up to the fore

  20. Gandalf says

    I’m lost for words at what Nana Addo and dr. Matthew Owusu-Prempeh want to do with this law. For a lawyer of his caliber to be pursuing such autocratic and dictatorial tendencies is beyond belief, revealing a dark side of his psyche. I strongly believe that one of the key objectives of this diabolical move is to put in place a governing Council at Legon who will favor and bring to fruition his avowed goal to rename the University of Ghana after his uncle Dr J. B. Danquah. Make no mistake, I am a faithful NPP voter, though not a card holder. And I am a great admirer of Dr. J. B. Danquah, having read some of his books. Indeed a man of great intellect and an astute lawyer! In spite of this, as a self respecting university lecturer, I am planning to use all means possible to mobilize massively for an uncompromising strike action and demonstrations to defeat this diabolic clothed in pseudo intellectual reasoning. Nana, please retreat while some hope remains…… Cry the beloved country!

  21. Anonymous says

    Thank you Manasseh. Perhaps, you should find time and visit UENR. The rot and stealing going on there will shock you. The acting procurement officer has the VC in his pocket. Find out how the reappointment of the Pro VC is going. Napo in connivance with the VC removed the council chairman and one council member because they were seen as friends of the Pro VC. He brought a new council chairman Prof. Kankam from UEW to do their dirty Job and ensure that the Pro VC’s second term is not renewed although he has been assessed as required.

  22. Anonymous says

    Thank you Manasseh and may God strengthen you to continue to live long and speak the truth. Perhaps, you should find time and visit UENR. The rot, stealing and cheap politics of Napo and his greedy few will shock you.

  23. Yaw Addo says

    Thank you Manasseh and may God strengthen you to continue to live long and speak the truth. Perhaps, you should find time and visit UENR. The rot, stealing and cheap politics of Napo and his greedy few will shock you.

  24. Yaw Addo says

    God bless you Manasseh. Perhaps you should take time to investigate UENR. You will be shocked at kind of monsters Napo is creating there.

  25. Frank says

    I was enjoying the article untill you advised the lecturers to resort to strike when the bill is passed.

  26. Anonymous says

    Why are people commenting “anonymously “ don’t they have balls???

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