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Opinions of Sunday, 9 August 2009

Columnist: Manasseh Azure Awuni

GUPS Congress 2009: A Bad Omen for NUGS?

By Manasseh Azure Awuni

When I looked at the time on my phone, it was 1:47 AM. The night was unusually chilly and the cold was biting deep into the skin. The pitch-dark sky was starless, for it was as if Oboade The Creator had sympathy with the heavenly bodies and had called them to roost. The guys, especially NUGS aspirants, had to remove their coats in order to save some of the ladies, who were the worst victims of the cold. You know our ladies and what they wear! Ladies wearing halters and the good Samaritans who relinquished their coats went about shivering like feverish fowls. I must thank the SRC Vice-President of Ghana Institute of Languages, Nii Armasah Dagadu, for saving me with his political suit. The savanna blood in my veins was not accustomed to that cold which could only be endured by stoic Eskimos.

The venue was University College of Management Studies (UCOMS), Kumasi Campus. The purpose of gathering was the 7th Annual Delegates Congress of the Ghana Union of Professional Students (GUPS). Election of GUPS national executive, which started at 10:36 PM was still ongoing and no one had the slightest idea as to when counting would begin. Sleep was out of the question because the time the election started alone was enough warning that if you winked, you would wake up to find the sun journeying from the West to the East instead of the other way round. Here, “Mafia” is both a noun and a verb and those conversant with Ghanaian student politics in recent times will tell you that mafia is an advanced form of rigging.

At the far end of the compound, opposite where the voting was taking place, was the IPS jama group which stoked life into the lifeless night. They defied the cold and with time they were drenched in sweat as some of them removed their shirts and displayed their sweaty masculine features. Their drumming, dancing, and singing rose to heaven like smoke but they were far from glorifying God; the lyrics were too ‘holy’ to be repeated anywhere. Here, the womanhood (I mean the part of the female body which rhymes with Regina) was the casualty. There was much joy because from time to time someone jumped into the arena to display his or her dancing skills. This did not, however, belie the fact that this year’s congress was poorly organised, to say the least. It, however, provided enough clues to the nasty fireworks of student politics to expect at this year’s NUGS congress.

The last General Assembly (GA) of GUPS congress and Central Committee as in NUGS are usually the most terrible times in the reigns of national executive. Delegates would always want to know where each pesewa went and the executive must tell what they have done. Delegates were imploding with anger and made up their minds to clear their chest at the last GUPS GA, but our leaders once again showed us another of their Kwaku Ananse hallmarks. The GA was shifted to a time when witches meet, for so it is said witches’ time of meeting. “By that time, the troublesome ones will have gone to bed and the venom spitting delegates will be too tired to be on our necks,” they agreed, I think. The buses crawled out of the West End Hostel to the congress ground at about 12:30 AM, carrying in its bowels a few drowsy die-hard delegates. I personally boycotted it. The toad likes water but not when it is boiling.

The main Congress meeting had to be cut short in order to make way for the reading of manifestoes and voting. Meanwhile on Friday 24 July, the whole day was wasted. Nothing took place. The few meeting hours which could have been used for fruitful deliberations were also wasted by constitutional experts and grammarians. Thirty-five minutes was used to debated and discuss the five-year strategic plan but it took delegates all the time needed to manufacture spacecraft to agree on the right procedure to adopt it. Student politicians seem to be so infatuated with the intervention signs that they go to meeting armed with them instead of any meaningful contributions. This will be repeated at NUGS congress I know.

Whatever has a beginning, they say, has an end no matter how crooked and rugged the beginning may be. So at the time the creaky crows of cocks began cut through the placid Kumasi night like sharp knives, announcing the arrival of another turbulent day, Michael Yomo, a Level 300 BSC Accountancy student was carried shoulder high. He had pulled 74.1% of total valid votes cast to become the President of the Ghana Union of professional Students for the next academic year.

Other winners included Peter Kodjie from IPS, General Secretary; Ms. Monica Agana (UCOMS, Kumasi) Coordinating Secretary; Abubakar Abdul-Fatawu from IPS, Treasurer and Ms. Cynthia Boamah from Jayee University College, Press and Information Secretary. The rest are Ms. Vivian Amuzu from IPS, Women’s Commissioner; Bernard Attiah Donkor from AUCC Programmes and Projects Secretary; Isaac Agyiri Danso from IPS, Financial Controller and Joseph Sarpong from Jayee University College, International Relations Secretary.

The congress, apart from the organizational lapses, was also characterized by vile propaganda and mudslinging. First was the issue of IPS trying to monopolise GUPS. It is true that looking at the results above, 62.5% of the positions were won by students from IPS. It is however interesting to note that the competition was open to all and as many as five out of the eight positions at stake had candidates going unopposed. This argument that IPS was trying to monopolise GUPS had no strong grounds. Joseph Nana Sarpong, the International Relations Secretary was branded the “Criminal Candidate” just because the newspaper he had worked for published a disclaimer when he was no longer with them. That too did not make any impact and he went ahead to win.

What, however, gives cause for alarm in the impending NUGS congress is the fierce battle of propaganda that was witnessed at GUPS congress targeting some known NUGS aspirants, especially the Presidency. Mud was flying from more than three different camps. There is a lot to expect at NUGS congress. It is going to be more than student politics. Apostle Paul captures it well in his letter to the Ephesians.

“For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12). Who are these forces of darkness? The DNC and the PPN have another seat to grab, besides Akwatia, Bawku Central and the newly vacant Chereponi seat. This seat is the biggest constituency in the country and its strategic nature makes it more important than Bantama and Ketu North and South put together.

The only piece of advice I have for the candidates is that they should conduct an enlightened campaign, devoid of violence and rigging. After all, the “race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favour to the men of skill, but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

Political parties will come and go, but as long as Christ the saviour continues to give the young ladies of Soldier Bar that seemingly eternal grace period to repent of their sins and enter His eternal Rest, NUGS must remain a strong, vibrant and uncompromising student movement. A word to the wise is in Bongo, where Hon. Albert Abongo comes from. NUGS: Aluta Continua!

Credit: Manasseh Azure Awuni [azureachebe2@yahoo.com] The writer is the SRC President of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, Accra.