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NUGS Congress 2009: Bad Omen For The Future.
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Opinions of Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Columnist: Obour, Samuel K.

NUGS Congress 2009: Bad Omen For The Future.

Having recently returned from the 43rd annual delegates’ congress of the National Union of Ghana Students, where I participated in almost all activities with enthusiasm, I’m in perfect position to state that those who look up to the youth of Ghana for that change or transformation that would bring development, joy, and satisfaction to the good people of Ghana in the near future, should start looking for ways of erasing those expectations from their minds so that if things don’t go according to their expectations, they would neither be devastated nor psychologically destabilized.

There is no doubt that many people look up to the youth of Ghana for a better tomorrow where politicians would place the interest of the country ahead of their own parochial interests; because having entrusted the responsibility of managing the affairs of Ghana into the hands of the ‘old men’, for many years, the country has refused to develop; corruption and bribery, perpetual embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds by government officials, and gross insensitivity of government to the plight of deprived Ghanaians, have plagued the country.

It is sad to state however, that the corruption that has enveloped every sector of the Ghanaian economy has caught up with the very youth we are looking up to for a better tomorrow. What happened at NUGS Congress 2009 is an indication. You wouldn’t believe if I told you that all forty-two aspirants who contested various positions on the NUGS executive committee spent a collective amount of over a hundred thousand cedis by my own estimation. Where they got the money from, only God knows. There have been suggestions that some of them were funded by politicians; this is may be true, but there is no evidence to prove it. The bottom line though, is that the cost of winning any NUGS executive position is becoming increasingly expensive. If you are neither financially sound nor backed by someone who is financially sound, you waste your time if you attempt to contest any NUGS position especially the presidency. This is because an aspirant needs to spend thousands of cedis on delegates before he or she can be assured of their votes. As an aspirant, you will have to pay capitation fees for some delegates if not ‘close your mind’ as the Akans would say. ‘Capitation’ is an amount a delegate has to pay before he can participate in any NUGS congress. A sparsely populated institution such as the Ghana Institute of Journalism is required to present ten delegates at any NUGS congress while a bigger institution such as the University of Ghana, is required to present twenty-five. If for one reason or the other, any of these institutions or any other institution is incapable of paying for capitation which is eighty cedis per head, an aspirant quickly offers to pay for them so that they vote for him or her in return. Therefore, if the institution has ten slots like the G.I.J, the aspirant pays eight hundred cedis as capitation for all ten heads. If that institution has twenty-five slots like the University of Ghana, the aspirant pays two thousand four hundred and eighty cedis or twenty-four million, eight hundred thousand old cedis as capitation for all twenty-five; I should quickly add that those delegates also vote for such aspirants in return. Some aspirants pay capitation for as many as eight institutions by my estimation. In the case of the institution having money to pay for capitation, aspirants are obliged to pay them ‘motivation’. This usually ranges between fifteen and twenty cedis per head. All these are done covertly so nobody can provide evidence to substantiate them. Suffice it to state that, this is what characterized NUGS CONGRESS 2009.

Many delegates voted for certain aspirants basically because those aspirants paid their capitation fees. In essence, some aspirants won NUGS executive positions because they had money to spend. Aspirants who were not financially sound were ignored by delegates. ‘No money, go away!’ they were told. One aspirant who contested the position of NUGS presidency is reported to have ‘fainted’ immediately after reading his manifesto. He had expressed his sadness at the corruption and bribery that had characterized the congress and other NUGS congresses for that matter. He then admonished delegates to ignore those who would come with money to bribe them. ‘Instead, vote for those who are indeed competent and can take NUGS to the mountain top.’ He said. His remarks were received with hostile chants: ‘go away with your sadness’, ‘don’t bring your sadness to NUGS’, ‘no money, no vote’ etc. The guy was devastated; he knew he had effectively ended his own campaign. From where I was sitting, I saw him stagger dangerously as he descended the podium on his outside the auditorium. Some guys who ostensibly, had anticipated something evil, rushed after him to attend to him.

What I realized, rather sadly, at NUGS Congress 09, is that not only have the youth of Ghana lost their ability to discern, they have also adopted the corrupt practices that have characterized politics at the national level.

No matter how qualified, capable, or competent you might be as an aspirant, you efforts will be futile if you don’t have money to satisfy delegates. Essentially, it is better to be an incompetent but rich aspirant than to be a competent but poor aspirant. As a result of this situation, there were many shocking results at this year’s NUGS congress. Some were as shocking as ‘NDC winning the Ashanti region in a general election and NPP doing the same in the Volta region’.

The greatest shock came in the International Relations Portfolio where I expected Daniel Yawson to win. This was a student who as the CEO of Eaglesflight Student travel has helped numerous students travel abroad for holidays, internship, and conferences. He has also, in collaboration with other agencies abroad organized numerous seminars for students in Ghana. Not only that, he was also awarded the best student entrepreneur at the NUGS national award and the KNUST excellence awards 20009. All these clearly indicate that the guy is a genius whose expertise in international relations would have been of immeasurable value to NUGS as a student body and a civil society for that matter. Sadly, however, many delegates for certain reasons I have indicated already, voted for someone else without regards for the fact that Daniel Yawson was the best of all the aspirants who contested that position if track record is anything to go by, and that NUGS’s portfolio of International Relations would have fared better under his leadership. I should hasten to add that two of the four aspirants who contested that position (‘Major’ and Wilberforce) are my friends; I didn’t know the other two which includes Daniel Yawson anywhere until I saw them read out their manifestoes at the congress. This in my humble opinion is sad news for NUGS and students as a whole. This is the same thing that happens in national politics where the best of honest intellectuals who have the key to unlocking Ghana’s economic potentials and helping her attain some level of development are forced by similar circumstances to remain in the background thereby allowing people who mostly seek their own interest to take control of the affairs of the country. The question I seek to pose is, ‘for how long are we going to continue sacrificing competence and ingenuity for incompetence and mediocrity just because of money?’ In conclusion, I should state that the corruption and bribery which has always been our bane has caught up with our dear youth. You wouldn’t disagree with me if I said ‘it is bad news because it’s a threat to the future of Ghana.’

The good news however, is that not everyone in society is corrupt; there are religious leaders and other professionals whose integrity and sense of judgment cannot be undermined. These are people who remain incorruptible in spite of the pressure that emanates from society. The onus therefore, lies on these individuals to encourage our youth to live decent and upright lives. ‘Eschew corruption’ is what our honest fathers and mothers should tell them; hopefully, things would change for the better. This is important if we are to rest assured knowing that there is a better tomorrow in today’s youth. God bless our homeland Ghana!

Samuel K. Obour samuelkwason@yahoo.com The author is studying Communications Studies at the Ghana Institute of Journalism.

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