Tribalism, Nepotism, Ineptitude Destroying UDS
Feature Article of Friday, 22 March 2013
Columnist: Ziem, Joseph
By Joseph Ziem
I had no idea about the existence of the University for Development Studies (UDS) until late 2006 when I decided to travel up North of Ghana from Kumasi to search for greener pastures, since I wasn’t given the opportunity to ‘feed on the grass’ in Oseikrom.
Having had the opportunity to launch my career as a journalist few weeks after arriving in Tamale, I established a working relationship with many private and state institutions including the UDS through my workplace, and that was the time I began learning about the history and almost every happenings of this university on daily basis till date and perhaps, it will continue for years to come.
I learnt about how individuals and groups of people selflessly sacrificed their time and resources to ensure that the foundation of this great academic institution was laid and like the baobab tree, grow gradually to become a bigger tree that can provide enough shade and shelter for all and sundry without any form of discrimination, just as it has made it so in almost every community in the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions of Ghana.
In fact, the UDS has gone through thick and thin since 1993 when it begun academic activities, with leadership after leadership trying to increase the height of the walls of the building after a very solid foundation was laid.
Undeniably, the UDS is a university with matchless qualities. Presently, it is the only university in Ghana that runs trimester programmes. Indeed, it is an institution that irrespective of the course one enrolls to read, be it medicine, nutrition, agric, statistics, applied science, land management or sociology; the person would eventually come out with an added advantage as a researcher at the end of the four years besides what s/he learned. Students live both on campus and in communities within the UDS catchment area, and conduct research on various development challenges affecting those communities and make the outcomes of their researches available to university authorities for policy formulation in future.
But, just as the walls of this university, still under construction, are about to reach lintel or roofing levels, a canker identified or yet to be identified by authorities of the UDS, has hit the foundation of the entire building structure and like termites, destroying volumes of printed research materials that contain the destiny of a whole society. This canker is hydra-headed, thus it will be difficult to kill it without applying patience, openness, tactfulness and above all wisdom. Indeed, whilst some people including myself think the unidentified canker is TRIBALISM and NEPOTISM, others think it is INEPTITUDE.
Tribalism according to the Macmillan English Dictionary is (a) a way of thinking or behaving in which people are more loyal to their tribe than to their friends, their country, or any other social group or (b) very strong loyalty that someone feels for the group they belong to, usually combined with the feeling of disliking all other groups or being different from them.
Nepotism on the other hand is defined by the same dictionary as; the practice of using your power and influence to give jobs to people in your family instead of to people who deserve to have them.
Unfortunately, there is a perceived tribalism being fueled by one tribal group at the UDS and for some obvious reasons I choose to call it X. The X tribe does not understand why two particular tribes or tribal groups, Y and Z, have dominated the whole university hierarchy across all the campuses, faculties and schools of the UDS.
As a result, members of X in recent years in one way or the other, have been complaining bitterly but in the quiet, about this development and continue to grumble over it to the attention of eavesdroppers of Y and Z. For their understanding (X), members of Y and Z are considered to be super-intelligent or more capable than them (X) and that is why they dominate the university. Secondly, aside the UDS, Y and Z tribes according to members of X are found in almost every government institution and department in the area they (X) hail from and this is threatening their future in terms of job placement for themselves and their unborn children.
Having realized the amount of water that has passed under the bridge (in their assumption), members of X tribe now seem to be saying no way, no more mistakes. They also appear to be saying that, this is also our time and let no one stand in our way, because we’re going to fill our people in available vacancies and key positions before any other persons or group are considered. Thus, all of a sudden there seems to be a change in the status quo.
Interestingly, I have also learnt that all three tribes, X, Y and Z are descendants of Naa Gbewaa, founder of the Mole-Dagbani ethnic group. So, the questions I ask myself are, (i) Is that the way to go about the management of an institution that recently celebrated its 20th anniversary? (ii) Are lecturers, administrative officers and other essential staff at the UDS recruited on the basis of merit or tribalism and nepotism? (iii) Besides, if members of Y and Z tribes were or are the only people showing interest in positions or jobs being advertised and are applying for them, should they be disqualified because members of X tribe are not applying? (iv)Assuming past administrations engaged in tribalism and nepotism, should the current circumstances be corrected or addressed with the same mistakes of the past?
The Macmillan English Dictionary also defines ineptitude as; lack of ability or skill. My friend Prosper (not his real name) has no hope in the UDS at all even though I have tried on many occasions to play the role of a spokesperson for the institution by trying to tell him that the university is the best in Ghana at the moment if he puts together the University of Ghana, KNUST, Cape Coast and among others. Many doubting thomases like Prosper would argue with me, but I think the UDS is incomparable considering the fact that it blends the academic world with that of the community in order to provide constructive interaction between the two for the total development of Northern Ghana, in particular, and the country as a whole. This is not done in any university in the country.
But Prosper’s beef or worry is that, if for instance some of the lecturers at the Department of Nursing of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences of the UDS could not handle the courses they taught him at the Tamale Nursing and Midwifery Training College very effectively when he was a student there, how could they lecture students who are pursuing degree programmes? This is where the issue of ineptitude is suspected.
Having listened to Prosper and a couple of people talked to me about the UDS with such bitterness, am tempted to believe that authorities of the university are not doing a lot of diligence when it comes to recruiting the BEST lecturers for the various faculties of the university.
This notwithstanding, I have personally seen jobs advertisements on the university’s website in recent past and the caliber of people they were looking for, in my opinion, were undoubtedly the best. But, could it be that behind the scenes (during short-listing of such applicants) nepotism and ineptitude take centre stage whilst a sense of fairness and merit is thrown to the dogs? Your guess is as good as mind.
So before I end, let me call on the Governing Board and all who matter in the affairs of the UDS, to take bold steps to diagnose this dangerous canker very well and find a complete cure to it before it spread and permeate all structures of the university like a malignant tumour.
The time has come for all of us (me inclusive) to bury any differences and champion a common objective that will define our destiny. We should not destroy what hold us together in the name of tribalism, nepotism and ineptitude. Lest we forget, the words in the anthem of the UDS especially the following stanzas should remind us of our oneness “We’re a Light, And a Pride, And a Beacon of Development; Our Knowledge is For Service; Herein Lay The Cradle of Academic Excellence; Practicalising Education For Life; Uniting The People in Development; Inspiring Every Mind, Every Heart And Every Hand; Providing The Best of Our Higher Education; Praise Be to God For The Blessing Over Us;”. Has anyone heard of the saying that, “If you want to deny northerners something valuable, give it to them to share and they will fight over it till you come back for it?” They that have ears let them hear, and if they that heed are wise, let them act.
The writer is a freelance journalist but regularly writes for The Daily Dispatch Newspaper. Views or comments may be sent to him via firstname.lastname@example.org/ +233 207344104.