Calm after storm
Our elders understood too well the challenges of leadership, especially in times of crisis, when they stated that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.
Recent developments at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) have brought into the fore some of the challenges that confront leaders in times of crisis.
In the circumstance of the bestiality of the KNUST students, if the government had not acted with despatch, there would have been complaints. The government acted and some have expressed ill-feelings.
Those opposed to government’s dissolution of the board, justifiably so, maintain that under the law it is the Chancellor, currently the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, who has authority to dissolve the board and take all concomitant action, but when the incident happened, he was outside the jurisdiction.
What is important is the Akan saying that "akyea na emmui sene abebuo nyinaa", meaning it is bent but not broken surpasses all proverbs. Put another way "akura se maka nna enso menwee ye," meaning the mouse says I have bitten but not chewed yet, and so the government has reverted matters to the Chancellor to deal with.
It is a clear demonstration that in a constitutional democratic dispensation the rule of law must prevail in all situations of conflict or disagreement. All the daggers that were drawn must thus be returned to their sheaths.
It must also be made clear to all those who were against the actions of government concerning the dissolution of the council and suspension of the Vice Chancellor that in much the same way that they wanted the government to follow the law, they also erred in demanding the removal of some persons from public office outside the law. The rule of law must apply equally to all Ghanaians.
There seems to be lack of mutual respect and trust between the students and the authorities. The students are adults, but were referred to as ‘kids’ by an accredited official of the university. It means the students are taken for granted.
Similarly, some students interviewed on radio referred to the security personnel as mere and ordinary, which demonstrated contempt for the security personnel, who are full adults in gainful employment.
Whatever brewed the hatred must be uprooted because the students are not more nor less important than the security personnel.
The Ghana Education Service (GES) has banned corporal punishment, so if it is true that KNUST students could be caned and their dues are exclusively managed by the authorities, with no student as a signatory to any account, then these are unthinkable and unimaginable.
But none of these could justify the level of vandalism carried out by the students. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a former Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, has argued to the effect that if in the name of free expression you make a false alarm about a fire outbreak and in a rational attempt to escape from the danger someone becomes a victim of the hoax, the one who shouted fire must be held liable.
The same principle had been espoused that "A free man, when he fails, can blame no one." The students decided to enjoy their freedom of assembly and demonstration and must thus be prepared and ready to pay for whatever they destroyed.
In fact, this is one of the feelings that suspending the Vice Chancellor, for whatever his fault, could have been misconstrued as endorsing the bestialism of the students and tacit approval of violence and impunity as acceptable means of asserting a right.
Again, Justice Holmes maintains that the enjoyment of freedoms does not mean that a driver who jumps the red light at a traffic intersection must not be
held liable or accountable.
The Chancellor of the KNUST, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, is set to reconstitute the Council, but we should not take it from government the mandate to withdraw its representatives and replace them.
The expectation is that the Vice Chancellor would be restored and ensure that all the policies that appear obnoxious and dictatorial would be reversed.
Students must be allowed to manage their own affairs and resources and not be subjected to inhuman treatment.
It does not make sense for first year students to constitute the executive of the Junior Common Rooms and authorities have no role in deciding who can contest student leadership positions.
On the other hand, while no student must be victimised for the demonstration and whatever statements they might have made as part of the process, they must be held fully responsible and accountable for whatever property got destroyed from their free but wanton acts.
After all, as they rightly maintain, they are mature.