University of Education, Winneba, the institution that fate and privilege sent me to, is on recession and it is a period like this that student-hustlers like me get extremely busy. I get busy when school close down than when I’ve to stay awake in the name of '6AM quizzes'
If I wouldn’t miss registration deadline, if I would be able to fulfill the numerous financial obligations that has been wickedly hanged on the neck of university students, then I’ve to spend every bit of my time towards maximizing profit in my casual business. This is the story of many students in Ghana. We go through a lot of stress besides the tedious academic work.
The foregoing implies that when student leaders fail, its students like me who suffers the most. We suffer the brunt more than anyone else. The hidden cost of leadership fiasco is paid by the poor student. It is for this reason, among others that impelled me to allocate time out of my busy schedule to write this article.
The National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), is a notorious hegemonic force in this country. History eloquently testifies that NUGS was a brute force that once gave counter-hegemonic response to government’s harsh educational policies, among other issues, which had implications on students. The enormity of the achievements of student activists from the days of nationalism to post Independent-Ghana cannot be disputed but that is beyond the scope of my article.
The empirical segment of my article seeks to look at the current fractured state of NUGS, those liable, and possible remedies.
The albatross and bone of disunity in the ranks of NUGS has often been attributed to political interference, sheer bigotry, lack of patriotism and corruption. The potentials of NUGS has been severely marred by the disunity in its leadership front.
Currently, NUGS is in crisis, however the problem of dual presidents today is not new. Today its about Lukman led NUGS and Julian led NUGS, in the 2010/2011 academic year, it was about Mr Anthony Abotsi Afriyie and Hamza Suhuyini led NUGS, the former was elected as president during the 44th congress of NUGS at Wa and the latter was his runner up. Mr. Anthony was removed from office through a vote of no confidence, see (NUGS passes vote of no confidence on president- Ghana Business News: www.ghanabusinessnews.com ) and subsequently, Hamza Suhuyini was elected as president of NUGS by the same body that passed the vote of no confidence on Mr Anthony.
Mr. Anthony and an alleged judicial committee declared the congress as illegal and still held himself as president of the Union. Its worth noting that the leadership front was engaged in this reckless power struggle amidst cornucopia of problems being faced by the students they represent.
Mr. Anthony accused members of the then ruling party, NDC, of influencing the vote of no confidence against him and orchestrating divisiveness on the student front. See (Embattled NUGS President points accusing fingers at government officials- My Joy Online: www.myjoyonline.com ). Whether it was true or not remains a public question.
The circumstances from which the current problem arises is different from that of the 2010, in that, unlike Mr Anthony who was elected by central committee members and later removed, Abubakar Lukman led NUGS, unquestionably has no constitutional authority. They are just a team with common interest who converged at Ideal college and nominated themselves as NUGS executives. That congress was unconstitutional and lacks legitimate authority.
The 50th NUGS congress was organised under the supervision of the Electoral Commission at St. Francis college of Education in Hohoe, where all central committee members converged, elected, and sworn in the following as National Executives of NUGS for the 2016/2017 academic year:
Julian M. Cobbinah – President
Akwasi Opoku Agyemang – General Secretary
Mabel S. Acheampong – Treasurer
Andrews Agyei – Coordinating Secretary
Elorm Hubert Adehokey – Financial Controller
Betty Adjoa Eshun – Women’s Commissioner
Isaac Nyame – International Relations Secretary
Yeboah Nana E. Amankwatia – Projects and Programs Secretary
Kenneth Sarpong – Press and Information Secretary
Saliu A. Wahab Bawah – Education and Democratisation Secretary
Anthony K. Baah – National Youth Authority Representative.
Where then from Lukman and his executives? It is evident from unfolding events that Lukman led NUGS is only an appendage of the NPP. In October last year, Lukman was arrested after he clashed with the NUGS President, Mr. Julian when the latter was about to speak on News @ 10 by TV3. The deputy National Youth Organiser of the NPP, Mr Salaam Mustapha issued a statement after Lukman’s arrest to condemn what he described as selective justice, because the NDC side of the issue was walking freely, whilst his side is languishing in Police cells. See (NPP condemns arrest of NUGS president – Ghanaweb: www.ghanaweb.com ).
This is an empirical confirmation of my position that Lukman and his executives are an appendage of the NPP camouflaged as a faction of NUGS.
The various political parties have tertiary education networks which serves as avenues for mobilizing students’ support for their respective parties. The NDC has Tertiary Institution Network (TEIN), the NPP has Tertiary Education and Students Confederacy (TESCON), the CPP has Tertiary Students’ Charter (TESCHART) and the PPP has Progressive Youth Movement (PYM).
What is astonishing is despite having a strong representation at the tertiary level, political parties are still entrenched to disunite the ranks of student activists, an indispensable component of our democracy so as to weakened them. They do this through appointments and other inducements. The student leaders then subsume students interest to prepare the grounds for their political ambitions.
The case is no different at the local level, the local SRCs have been paralyzed by similar factors. I’m increasingly compelled to see student leaders as the primary obstacle to student activism, their misdemeanor has barricaded students with untold hardships that are severely felt on daily basis. Among them are severe shortages of water, intermittent power supply, cripplingly high fees, delay of financial aid etc.
The war at the local level is about power and resources not ideology, the SRC executives want to spend resources in any manner they desire, milking students in the name of dues and embezzling same with impunity, neglecting their core mandate of improving the welfare of the ordinary student and opposing the implementation of harsh policies.
There has been a fundamental shift in political thinking, one that has a serious implication on student activism. The nature of opposition to policies in a mature democracy is more about dialogue than demonstrations. Successful dialogue requires thought and insight about issues, this demands critical thinking and pragmatism.
Most of our student leaders today are yet to read about good governance, they have extremely little knowledge about leadership, perhaps what they are best at, is how to create a fertile ground for loot and share. To them, leadership is the fastest route to riches, money first, every other thing second. This is the default state of leadership at the local level.
Its evident from the foregoing that, unless student leaders unite around the truth, our efforts would be in vain. An Ethiopian proverb rightly puts “when spiders unite, they can tie down a lion”. It implies that, though the challenges that have engulfed students are quite numerous, when students unite, the struggle, however laborious, victory would be achieved.
In order to achieve unity, all the dissatisfactions, murmuring and grumblings must be addressed, narratives that divide us must not be pursued, people may disagree with each other vehemently, but a good leader can convince them that their differences are minor in comparison with their mission, he will help compromise differences and prepare a common ground for action.
In furtherance, our leaders must be tolerant, tolerance has been declared to be a virtue of great merit, they need to embrace criticism, especially when done constructively. Criticism, far from being an impediment, is a catalyst and the surest way they can polish their leadership skills and lead their students to the promised land.
I end by calling on discerning Ghanaians and authorities concerned to call Lukman and his self-acclaimed executives to order, they should stop the political chest-thumping and join their brothers in the TESCON family because the distinction between them is practically irrelevant.
NUGS, Aluta continua! Victoria ascerta (The struggle continues, Victory is certain).