Has calm returned to ‘Kumasi Legon’?

BY: Collin Essamuah
 Vice Chancellor of KNUST, Professor Obiri-Danso
Vice Chancellor of KNUST, Professor Obiri-Danso

Today, I had really wanted to wax lyrical on the ideological front regarding social interventions in our national development and the controversy sparked by the comments of Vice President Bawumia.

Then our collective attention was dragged to happenings on the campus of our second public university, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).

A demonstration ostensibly called by the students to draw attention to mistreatment by campus security turned violent and a lot of public and private properties were destroyed.

This, as is to be expected, has dragged in several layers of discontent from all the sides in this unfortunate incident.  More on that later.

There is deep doctrinal confusion in the land when trusted and beloved public figures of a certain ideological bent are heard happily praising and practising policy options which are only entertained by their opposites in the political spectrum.

Ideological foundations

I am still wondering if or, just maybe, the ruling NPP is undergoing an ideological conversion where the provision of popular welfare is paramount, not the sanitisation of the regulatory environment for fat cats to prosper unchecked by social conscience or public problems.

This led me to think about how our ideological choices sometimes confuse the ordinary Ghanaian, and eventually, at least since 1966, has made us destitute in both thought and action.

What would our Vice President have said and done with the 300 or so Nkrumah-era factories divested by the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) in obedience to the dictates of the IMF-inspired Economic Recovery Programme in the face of real unemployment and lack of industrialisation in Ghana?

The PNDC followed the advice of the IMF, which is not known for giving advice to solve the real problems of the many, but to defend the tastes of the middle class which are invariably, Western consumption products and lifestyles.
 
That class, mainly urban, in spite of the direct benefits by way of exchange rate rationalisation, gravitated towards the ideological adversaries of the later NDC electorally.

Such are the ironies or our politics eloquently exemplified by the Damascan conversion message of the Vice President.  

KNUST

Ah let me rest my mind here and move to Kumasi. Only a few questions come to mind in any discussion of the crisis sparked by the demonstration last week Monday at KNUST.

I am still very surprised that campus security personnel have rights to arrest, manhandle and detain students for any infraction whatsoever.

Three years at Legon myself, I had only one brush with campus security, when I was ordered off a university bus for university staff going to town.

That was the regulation then, that the buses were for staff, not students, but in my case, other workers pleaded for me and we all had a smooth ride to Accra.

The times have really changed for the worse when security have such powers as was claimed in the KNUST matter.

University students are adults.

Full stop.

I understand the problem of having mixed halls had been resolved before the demonstration, so why do some of our commentators on the airwaves bring it up?

Benefit?

This is done to paint the students as backward, chauvinistic and anti-diluvian.

But women were involved in the demonstration.

I cannot support unisex halls because at the end of my Legon education in 1982, I had had 10 straight years of unisex education without any discernible benefit to my being.

I practically wept in happiness and wistfulness when I found women living in my old hall, Akuafo, in 1992.

But the opponents of co-educational halls said something useful about the numbers of women in our higher institutions and living environments, something practical and targeted at our political class which deserves attention; that GETFUND resources can be used to add more female halls in no time to balance the two needs for co-education, and increase women in enrolment.

The argument of tradition is completely indefensible; there were no qualified women in the past struggling for equal access to higher education because they suffered discrimination in educational opportunities, and it is foolish today arguing that we must keep out women to reduce our productive capacities by half.

The most interesting aspect of this entire matter is the role of the removed, sidelined and now hopefully reinstated Vice Chancellor of KNUST, Professor Obiri-Danso and the attendant politics.

Running a university is a very complex business, and I am surprised that our government will allow itself to be tarred with the charge of wanting the ouster of the Vice.

Are the rights of the universities to run their own affairs not adequately enshrined in their statutes? And who in government advised that the immensely respected Chancellor of KNUST, Otumfuo the Asantehene, be left out of the initial executive moves to resolve matters? We knew in advance of an impending demonstration, why wasn’t it averted by the powers that be?
 
Indeed, as I write, we do not know if the university authorities explicitly invited the police and the army to restore order.

We know KNUST was closed down by the Regional Security Council, not the university administration.
 
We have all been involved in demonstrations before and know exactly when mayhem breaks loose; the unwanted intrusion of foreign forces allegedly to restore law and order.

In sum, I am very happy good counsel has prevailed and government has returned the university into the capable hands of its revered chancellor.

We all pray for the speedy resolution of this eminently avoidable mess.
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