The members of the country’s premier University Council, the University of Ghana -Legon, last week Friday, veered into divisive dirty politicking by awarding ex-President John Agyekum Kufour, an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Law, for his “Contribution to Public Service” but shockingly left out ex-President Jerry John Rawlings, Ghana’s longest serving president.
The University Council chaired by Justice Samuel Date-Bah with Mr. Kofi Annan, the former United Nations (UN) Secretary-General as the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, honoured seventeen “distinguished individuals” including Prof. Kwadwo Asenso-Okyere, whose tenure as Vice-Chancellor, brought the image of the University into total disrepute, following his son, Kwadwo Tabiri Asenso-Okyere’s involvement in massive examination paper leakage in 2005.
The award, was part of the University’s Sixty-Fifth Anniversary celebrations.
The Herald has, meanwhile, identified a long list of notable personalities, including politicians mainly from the New Patriotic Party (NPP), whom the University of Ghana, has at various times conferred awards on. These personalities include Mr JH Mensah, former Senior Minister in the Kufour’s regime, Paul Acquah, ex-Governor of Bank of Ghana, the late Peter Ala Adjetey, ex-Speaker of Parliament and Apostle Kwadwo Sarfo, father of Adjoa Sarfo, NPP Member of Parliament (MP) for Dome-Kwabenya
Others are Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia, former Prime Minister, Mary Chinery-Hesse, a Presidential Adviser and Prof. Fred Torgbor Sai also a Presidential Adviser. The list also includes foreigners who have made no known contribution to the University or Ghana.
Apart from ex-President Kufuor’s “Contribution to Public Service”, the University Council cited also his (Kufuor) decision to immortalize himself by building a leadership centre, “the John A. Kufuor Centre for Leadership, Governance and Development” through the Kufuor Foundation at the premiere University, as another reason for giving him the Honorary Doctorate Degree in Law.
The apparent snub of Mr. Rawlings has sparked debate on the Legon Campus with some students, saying he more than Mr. Kufuor deserved recognition, having served the country as an Air Force officer of the Ghana Armed Forces and later President for 19 years, where his government made significant contributions to ……….the University.
Ex-President Rawlings, some of the students argued, that during his nineteen-year rule, introduced among other things, the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFUND) which brought significant improvement in infrastructure and other facilities on the various campuses of all tertiary institutions across the country.
The GETfund policy initiative is a percentage of the Value Added Tax (VAT) promulgated by the Rawlings’ regime amidst stiff opposition, including bloody demonstrations led by the NPP and Nana Akufo-Addo. The violent demonstrations dubbed “Kumepreko and Siemepreko” led to the loss of lives in 1995.
The students further pointed out how ex-President Rawlings also selflessly donated a whopping U$S50, 000 Hunger Project cash prize awarded him for winning the competition, to establish the University of Development Studies (UDS) in the Northern Regional capital, Tamale.
However, when the UDS Council in March 2005 decided to award him (Rawlings) for the meritorious service he had render to the University, the Kufuor government through Daniel Charles Gyimah, the then chairman of the UDS Council and ex-Managing Director (MD) of National Investment Bank (NIB) cancelled the ceremony without any reason till date.
They commended the John Mahama government for not falling victim to narrow-mindedness, but allowed ex-President Kufour to relish the recognition accorded him by the state tertiary institution.
Meanwhile, sources close to the Legon Council have told ‘The Herald’ that while debating the nominations for the awards, the name of the late President John Evans Atta-Mills (an alumni) popped up but members on the university vetting panel quickly kicked against it, explaining that the Council does not award Honorary Degrees posthumously.
Prof. Clifford Nii Boi Tagoe had to take over from him (Asenso-Okyere) to invite a visitation panel from a sister-university abroad to review the examination procedures of the University to salvage the sinking image of the school in 2006.
Other personalities who have also been awarded the Honorary Doctorate Degrees are Nana Wereko Ampem II, former Chancellor of the University; Nii Kpobi Tetteh-Tsuru III Paramount Chief of La; Daniel Adzei Bekoe, former Chairman of the Council of State; Ishmeal Yamson, former Chairman of Unilever Ghana; Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Paramount Chief of Asante, Cardinal Appiah-Turkson, Ivan Addae-Mensah, former Chairman of National Petroleum Authority (NPA) and Georgina Theodora Wood, the current Chief Justice.
The rest are Sheikh Nuhu Sharubutu, the National Chief Imam; Paul Boateng, a British Senator; Dr. Ibn Chambas, former Member of Parliament (MP) for Binbimbilla Constituency in the Northern Region and Miranda Greenstreet, a former Presidential Adviser and Akilagpa Sawyerr, a former lecturer of the University.
The late Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa, former Head of State was also a beneficiary of the honorary degrees.