Rawlings’ acceptance speech after Winneba Doctorate degree
Ghana’s former President, Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings has charged Ghanaians to embrace truth, integrity and transparency even as they confront their leaders over the manner they are managing the country.
President Rawlings also called on President Mahama to set his eyes on some appointees who practice “unprecedented levels of corruption, and offensive show of power and opulence” at a time when Ghana needs “prudence and frugality”.
He said: “The time has come for less speak and more action; for us to look into our little areas and identify the corrupt tendencies that have metamorphosed into a national crisis and combat them. We have a moral right and duty to confront our political leaders and insist on transparency, accountability, equity and fairplay. That right will have more value if we as individuals are incorruptible and conscionable. Our society and by inference our politics will be devoid of greed and corruption if we develop a conscience as a people.”
The former President who spoke in response to a Honorary Doctorate Degree conferred on him and two others by the University of Education Winneba (UEW) on Thursday, also criticised the manner Western governments and media were manipulating the flow of information and criminalising genuine freedom fighting. he was particularly unhappy with the United States support for Israel in the ongoing Gaza conflict which has claimed over 2000 lives.
Please find below the full text of President Rawlings address:
ACCEPTANCE SPEECH DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY
FLT. LT. JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS, ON BEHALF OF THE AWARDEES, AT THE SPECIAL CONGREGATION OF UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION, WINNEBA HELD ON 14 TH AUGUST, 2014 TO CONFER HONORARY DOCTORATE DEGREES ON THREE DISTINGUISHED PERSONALITIES OF AFRICA
His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama;
His Excellency General Abdulsalami Abubakar;
Professor Jophus Anamuah-Mensah,
The Honourable Minister for Education;
The Chancellor of the University of Education, Winneba;
Chairman and Members of the Council of the University of Education, Winneba;
Neenyi Ghartey the IV, Omanhene of Effutu Traditional Area;
Honourable Ministers of State;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Vice-Chancellor, Staff and students of the University of Education, Winneba;
Vice-Chancellor and Staff of Sister Universities;
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is an honour to join such an august audience here today and in the midst of some of my colleagues and former partners in the quest for national and continental development. I refer to an officer and fine gentleman, His Excellency General Abdulsalami Abubakar and accomplished scholar, distinguished scientist and administrator, Professor Jophus Anamuah-Mensah. I am in very good company.
The University College of Education of Winneba was established with the mandate to train competent professional teachers for all levels of education, as well as conduct research, disseminate knowledge and contribute to educational policy and development. The establishment responded to the demand for improvement in the quality of education through the upgrading of teachers on the field in addition to training new teachers to fill large vacancies in the classroom.
It is a source of national pride that what we started as a University College in 1992 has grown in stature and form to become an institution of excellence and is impacting the lives of individuals, communities, our nation Ghana, as well as Africa and the whole world today.
What we did was to build on the foundation laid by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah when he established the constituent colleges of the University: Advance Teacher Training College, the Specialist Training College, National Academy of Music (all in Winneba), the School of Ghana Languages (Ajumako), the College of Special Education (Mampong Akuapim), Advanced Technical Training College (Kumasi) and the St. Andrews Agricultural Training College (Mampong Ashanti). Today, some of these constituent colleges have developed into campuses of the University, making it the first multi-campus university in Ghana and the first university dedicated to teacher education in West Africa.
I would like to pay tribute to the leaders who championed the course of the University, namely, Professor N. K. Pecku the first Principal, Professor Jophus Anamuah-Mensah the last Principal and first Vice-Chancellor, and Professor Akwasi Asabere-Ameyaw the current Vice-Chancellor. Their leadership roles can be likened to taking over a nursed seedling that has been transplanted and nurturing it to maturity. While they expanded the University, they kept their focus on the original mandate and continue to train the requisite teachers and educational administrators imbued with analytical, creative, critical, leadership and problem-solving skills.
Despite all the achievements of this University a lot more remains to be done if we want to achieve 100 per cent teacher sufficiency and to satisfy university education requirements of Ghana. Again, the University should work hard to tackle the problem of teacher inadequacy especially in deprived areas of Ghana, poor performance of pupils in the classroom, moral decadence, indiscipline and corruption in society through the production of quality teachers who will serve as agents of change in our communities.
An institution such as the UEW also has an obligation to inculcate qualities such as a strong sense of ethics into its trainees.
The University will have to expand its programmes to give the opportunity to every Ghanaian to have the alternative programmes they desire, while maintaining its ethos. In order to maintain its relevance to our society, the University will need to evolve by creating innovative programmes relevant to the times and aimed at resolving problems affecting Ghanaians, Africans and humanity as a whole.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Education is key to improving quality of life, consolidating a real sense of a participatory democracy with a well informed electorate; curbing detrimental acts of fundamentalism and the likes of Boko Haram and the violent abuse of power in every form, including rape as well as the restoration of the dignity of the Ghanaian and African at large.
It is sad to note that our universities, which were once the conscience of society and served as an accurate political barometer, have today become an unfortunate extension of the indiscipline and greed eating into our society like a malignant tumour. Many of our students and regrettably some of our academics have become unconscionable tools of the political pettiness of our day. There was a time when, many opinion leaders and agents for change in society were groomed within the various student unions.
Conscience is priceless and cannot be exchanged for a pot of gold.
Ghana is facing huge challenges economically, socially and politically. Many are quick to zero in on the almost desperate economic circumstances we find ourselves in and blame government. Sadly like the parable of the mote and beam we have conveniently forgotten to first look for the log in our own eyes. Governments are hugely responsible for the economic circumstances of the day and should always be ready to accept the challenge and work towards social and economic substenance. I am however not confident we can achieve much if as individuals we do not tackle the level of indiscipline that is engulfing us. Why are our communities filthy and our gutters choked? What happened to good neighbourliness and the sense of communal spirit?
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;
We have never paused to quantify the huge costs of such levels of indiscipline and indiscretion and until we revive our conscience and sense of individual responsibility and start policing each other, we will continue to build a tight economic and political noose round our neck.
The time has come for less speak and more action; for us to look into our little areas and identify the corrupt tendencies that have metamorphosed into a national crisis and combat them. We have a moral right and duty to confront our political leaders and insist on transparency, accountability, equity and fairplay. That right will have more value if we as individuals are incorruptible and conscionable. Our society and by inference our politics will be devoid of greed and corruption if we develop a conscience as a people.
Our leaders must also learn to play by the book. People with conscience are sometimes appalled by the extreme insensitivity displayed by some political appointees. The unprecedented levels of corruption, offensive show of power and opulence by some at a time when our country requires prudence and frugality is an issue that I call on President Mahama to set his eyes on. The people need to see a sign that the government is seriously committed to cleaning up house, so they can follow suit; that is not too much to ask for.
We cannot fight the various forms of corruption if we do not take on leaders and so-called untouchables who have sought to institutionalise it. We need to restore Ghana to the status of a country worth dying for.
Ladies and gentlemen I am keen to comment on disturbing developments at the global level, but before I do that allow me to comment on the growing debate on inclusive governance and the call for a multiparty governance review of the winner-takes-all concept, because of the bitter polarisation it cultivates. I have always been a firm believer in the kind of governance that is inclusive and consultative for national progress, rather than working against each other in our quest to perpetuate our stay in power or to get into power. Such tendencies breed corruption and under-development. I wish to commend the Institute for Democratic Governance and its partners for the ongoing campaign for multi-party governance and constitutional reforms. I hope the process comes out with some concrete suggestions on the way forward and I call upon all Ghanaians to participate in the debate on how best to reform our political process to conform to the specific needs of the Ghana of today, with a keen eye on the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
We now live in a world where many of the challenges we face are inextricably linked to developments within the global community. Today we face a major health threat in Ebola, which has also emphasised the fact that none of us exists in isolation. The fact that Ghana has apparently not recorded the disease yet does not imply that we are Ebola free. It is imperative that the relevant institutions intensify their readiness to confront the disease. Educating the public to maintain good sense of hygiene is integral to the non-spread of the disease. I feel sad when I hear medical personnel talk of how they will flee if they suspect a patient to be infected with the virus. All medical personnel need urgent education on their responsibilities as far as the disease is concerned and protective clothing should be provided to all medical facilities. I am calling on corporate Ghana to support the process as a matter of national urgency. While we are on the subject of Ebola we cannot overlook the cholera epidemic which takes several lives every year, 40 of which were in Accra this year alone. Cholera is an embarassing reflection of our poor sanitation practices. We all have a responsibiity to protect our communities by keeping them clean at all times and dispose of refuse properly instead of dumping them in gutters and other unprescribed places. Let us also practice good personal hygiene by washing our hands before eating, drink clean water and eat hygienically treated food. Let us all be alert and follow strictly the guidelines on how to prevent the spread of such diseases.
Distinguished L & G,
There are issues on the global front that are causing me much distress, which I would like to share some facts and thoughts on; I have chosen this occasion to share this because it is important for our young people to understand the stories untold behind the propaganda we are all exposed to in regards to global issues. Given that the UEW is an institution of excellence whose products are charged with the responsibility of educating many of our future leaders and citizens, I feel the occasion is quite apt.
Historically, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the brutality by the Apartheid South African government remained a blot on the conscience of the international community for a considerable period.
It is important for us to keep reminding ourselves that Mandela was not rescued by an American President or government, a British Prime Minister, monarchy or government. Long before Mandela’s release Africa and humanity the world over had been condemning the apartheid regime and calling for the release of Mandela.
Mandela, the freedom fighter and an advocate for racial equality had been branded a communist and a terrorist by the US government and was to remain incarcerated and may well have remained so, inspite of the global changes that were taking place perceptively towards a more democratic and just world.
Let me repeat and remind ourselves that no amount of international appeal the world over was going to affect any change in the American and British governments’ attitude.
However, the catalyst that triggered events leading up to the release of Nelson Mandela was when the citizens in the United States of America began to take to the streets in New York. Then and only then did President Reagan decide to preempt what could have turned out to be one of the biggest demonstrations that America and the UK were going to witness in relation to a foreign personality and some aspects of their own foreign policy.
President Mandela had by then and subsequently become the great international voice of conscience whose moral authority could galvanise people enough to override the authority of their own governments. This is a subject I hope to treat at length on another occasion.
While he was alive and a healthy President and I was also in office, President Zuma who was by then in charge of South Africa’s intelligence called on me. In a very sombre and sober moment I spoke to him about the need for us to do everything possible to protect that African voice of conscience. The savagery of capitalism to quote Pope John Paul; the savagery of the emerging global economic impunity was going to feel threatened by that noble voice of freedom and justice.
Several years down the line as Nana and I sat with Madiba during one of our visits, I suggested to him the need to put together a group of very bold and outspoken statesmen and women of conscience to project his voice and what we all stand for.
The world is being made to believe that the American public may have changed their opinions on the current brutal treatment of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis in the current conflict. Since history has demonstrated that the voice of the world cannot change America’s position on this issue, can we expect that the voice of American citizens will bring enough pressure to bear on their government to bring true freedom and justice to the Palestinians as they did with Apartheid South Africa?
A few weeks ago when President Obama was speaking at his usual White House press briefing on developments in Ukraine and Gaza he expressed so much sympathy for those who lost their lives in the Malaysian air crash in Ukraine and yet within that same breath he made mention of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and not a word for all the innocent women and children who were being killed and injured in the Gaza. I watched in dismay.
This was the same Obama that not only America but also the world welcomed with such warmth and comfort. In those days some of us felt that if he did not utilize his national and international strength and popularity to contain Israel’s grip on America then no one else could.
The collective voice of Africa and the one time strong voice of the Non-Aligned Movement have also gone silent on some of these international developments and injustices. Western Europe whose voice could also have been heard in these unjust international developments could only utter a muted response to the Snowden revelation of spying on world leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Where is that voice of sobriety that could keep issues in a balanced perspective?
The Western governments and their media simply couldn’t exercise any restraint in the outrageous charges being leveled against Russia, Putin and the Ukrainian separatists. There was a daily barrage of these charges and all kinds of absurd accusations, clearly designed to make Putin and his country look evil. This tragedy took place in a war zone. The stresses of war and security alertness, creates an opening for men to indulge in excesses. I do not however believe that either side in the Ukrainian conflict would deliberately attempt to bring down a civilian airliner.
A few years ago, the US Navy fired a missile at an Iranian civilian airliner in the Persian Gulf, in a non-war zone, killing all 290 passengers on board; men, women and children.
Just like the Malaysian airliner, I do not believe that the US navy would knowingly down the civilian airliner.
It was unfortunate though that the Western media and governments were somewhat mute about that Iran Air incident until a Jewish–American reporter Ted Koppel exposed it.
Recently, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour true to her political nature and modus operandi recounts the downing of a South Korean passenger airliner by the Soviet Air Force. What she however isn’t saying is that on that September 11, 2001 on the day when the two airliners were flown into the Twin Towers by hijackers, the US Air Force was also given instructions to down any airliner that breached the rapidly created no-fly zones in Washington and New York. What she is also not saying is that the South Korean airliner had flown into Soviet airspace and had defied the instructions of the Soviet Air Force.
She is also reticent about the fact that prior to that tragedy, the US raised tensions in Eastern Europe by attempting to deploy intercontinental ballistic missiles in the then West Germany, targeting strategic targets within the Soviet Union. However, they ran into massive demonstrations by the German public and were therefore forced to abandon that exercise. Interestingly soon after the Korean Airliner incident the United States deployed the Intercontinental missiles and there was hardly any public protest from Germany because the Soviet Union was made to look evil by that unfortunate incident.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
The world is not unaware of the support offered by the West in ousting the previous President of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych in their aggressive bid to ensure that Ukraine joined the EU. We are also not oblivious to the fact that the West was keen to get rid of Yanukovych because of his association with the Kremlin.
Ukraine is currently in a civil war and those fighting for autonomy or the right to join Russia in Eastern Ukraine have the inalienable right to pursue their quest even if their actions do not please the West. Such conflicts come with condemnable but sometimes unavoidable collateral damage. Civilians are always victims of such conflicts hence our constant quest to quell such upheavals through negotiation, peace enforcement and peacekeeping. The lives of all citizens across the globe are valuable. Even during wartime situations it is criminal to shoot down civilian aircraft and the perpetrators must be brought to book. The souls of the departed on MH17 should be allowed to rest in peace devoid of the pettiness of political convenience and innuendo.
The current conflict between Pro-Western Ukraine and Pro-Russia Ukraine has led to hundreds of deaths. The government in Kiev has over the past two months mounted heavy attacks on the Pro-Russia side leading to severe civilian casualties. Is it not such a contradiction that the Pro-Western media has been muted on details of the heavy civilian casualties that have arisen from the Ukraine conflict since the onslaught by Kiev?
With the support of its unapologetic media the West has managed to criminalise all quests for freedom across the globe as long as such desires are not in its favour. Genuine freedom fighting is also now equated to cold blooded acts of terrorism.
We cannot overlook the huge collateral damage caused by drone strikes for instance. A widely circulated UK report confirmed that, as at January there had been over 390 drone strikes over the past five years with 2400 casualties. The West refers to it as war on terrorism but the question is how does one justify the hundreds of civilian deaths that have arisen as a result of such strikes?
Over the past seven weeks Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has led to over 2000 deaths and more than 300,000 displaced persons at the last count on Monday. Whole families have been wiped out but not once have the United States or its allies sought to treat Israel’s disproportionate response to Hamaz’s rocket strikes as an act of unbridled aggression and terror.
United States is a great nation with many credits to its name but its reticence over Israel, has been costly not just in terms of lives but to America’s image.
The situation in Iraq has deteriorated over the past few months and there is no doubt that the intervention by the West only created a superficial sense of order that was bound to disintegrate with time. The situation in Afghanistan is not any better.
The unipolar authority created by the collapse of the Soviet Union brought in its wake a sense of hope that the absence of tensions between the United States and Soviet Union will bring peace and sanity into world affairs. The West has failed miserably and directed us into a dangerous curve.
America has done a lot for mankind. A lot more will be required of her but she will first and foremost have to seize the moral high ground.
I do believe that all is not lost! I believe that Africa has an opportunity to rise to the occasion. We have an opportunity to affect global developments if we can simply clean up our act and restore the core values of our societies. The values that preceded the advent of colonialism and the current neo colonialism that has morphed into an insidious virus collapsing our foundations as a people.
Mr Chairman, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;
The University of Education, Winneba has honoured us by confering on us Doctor of Letters, Honoris Causa:
First, on His Excellency, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, a distinguished President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for his exemplary leadership in addition to promoting peace and democracy generally on the African Continent and specifically in Nigeria;
Second, on Professor Jophus Anamuah Mensah, a renowned Professor of Science Education, a distinguished scholar, an eminent scientist and an astute leader for his contribution towards the development of education at all levels in Africa and particularly in Ghana; and
Third, on myself for the role my colleagues and I played over the years, pursuing conflict resolution and peace-keeping in the West African Sub Region as well as laying the foundation for the University of Education, Winneba. We are most grateful to the University authorities for this great honour.
In conclusion, I will like to state that the University of Education, Winneba has an evergreen mission that will forever find relevance in Ghana, Africa and the world at large. Remain focused on this mandate with the vision of quality and we shall continue to be proud of you.
For you the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, and staff, you have become the custodians of this great dream. You have helped to light the dreams of so many people who otherwise would not have been able to achieve their destiny.
On behalf of His Excellency General Abdulsalami Abubakar and Professor Jophus Anamuah-Mensah, I wish to thank you for the honour you have bestowed on us.
I would like to dedicate my honorary doctorate award to all who in diverse ways contributed to the establishment of the University, to subsequent governments that contributed to its growth and also to all Ghanaians whose cooperation, commitment and taxes are helping to develop this centre of graduate excellence. Importantly, I also want to dedicate this award to the values of truth, transparency, accountability and integrity.
Thank you and God bless you all.
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