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Opinions of Thursday, 10 September 2009

Columnist: Awuni, Manasseh Azure

NUGS Congress Controversy Climaxes at GIMPA

: Wonder Madilo is President!

By Manasseh Azure Awuni

“If you have no respect for your Vice-Chancellors, then certainly not the Rector of GIMPA!” that beautiful young lady who had been doing the registration when we entered the Executive Conference Hall of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration retorted. She was referring to three NUGS national executive who she thought were treating her revered rector with contempt. There were exchanges! I mean the big English! Just then, some private security personnel stormed the hall. (Forgive my use of this journalistic cliché – storm). A uniformed policeman joined them later and the instruction was that the three executive should be shown the entrance of the conference hall for the programme to continue.

“Do not manhandle us,” one of them said after their insistence that they had the right to be there as NUGS national executive failed to make sense to those detailed to show them the way. I did not know whether it was a plea or a command. But they were led out of the hall, and by the time they descended the last staircase, the number of police officers on the campus had increased. There were hot exchanges between the lady who insisted that GIMPA was not the right venue for any undisciplined behaviour and the executive who were bent on disrupting the swearing-in ceremony of national executive of NUGS who were elected at the 43rd Annual Delegates Congress of NUGS in Kumasi recently. They had sworn that the event would take place over their dead bodies. Their colleague on radio said, “Then they will kill us.” Who will kill whom? “Officer, walk them out of this campus! They are not needed here,” Bright Tsadidey, the SRC Vice-President of GIMPA ordered an armed policeman. “Who?” the policeman asked.

“One, two, three. Walk them out! They are not needed here.” Finally, three police officers escorted three NUGS executive out of the premises of the conference hall. But before that the president had ordered that the NUGS bus be seized from the executive because in a few minutes time they would cease to be NUGS executive. Another Victor Smith-like manner of retrieving state property? “Power pass power!” someone remarked.

When I got to GIMPA that eventful Monday morning, the three national executive of NUGS were standing by the NUGS Toyota minibus. A phone was put on loudspeaker and they were applauding one of their colleagues battling it out of with the NUGS president, Ishmael Tweneboa-Kudua on Vibe FM. Armed with the constitution of the union, they were prepared to resist any handing over. The executive were equally divided into two. Numerically, it was not equal but authority wise, if you drew the line of symmetry, it would pass through the middle. The three who were there to stop the programme were those who were not on the president’s side. They had “genuine” reasons to back their claims.

A proper handing-over should have been preceded by a formal meeting between the old executives and the newly elected ones. But were these not the same people who swore that they would not recognize the executive-elect? This was the argument from the other side.

Another reason was that the results had not been declared. But the electoral commissioner had declared the results? Other members of the commission had disassociated themselves from that Radio Ghana Declaration in a press statement dated 24th August, 2009. Who has the power to declare electoral results of NUGS? Is it not the electoral commissioner?

Yes, it is the electoral commissioner. But she must do that at Congress and not on Radio Ghana.

The argument rages on and on, about the legality or constitutionality of the declaring NUGS results on Radio Ghana. But events of the day seemed to justify the rumours that were mongered after congress.

The accusation was that Ishmael Tweneboa-Kodua the former NUGS President had interest in the election. That is perfectly true. It is also perfectly true that those who claimed they were interested in the right procedures also had their interest, or preferred candidate to be specific.

Aside that, there was this monetary issue that did not go down well with the executive and they were sharply divided on the matter. The president had cashed money and used it to pay a particular debt. This is the gist of the story. Both sides agreed the money was used to pay a debt.

The other side said it was wrong in the first place for the president to disburse funds of the union. The conclusion was that the president had a special interest in that debt. One of them told me there were debts which had been outstanding for more than six months and should have been paid first. Unoka the father of Okwonkwo’s said it many decades ago in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. The sun shines on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them.

What I heard from the president’s camp was that the money was used to pay for the cost of congress brochure and the Students’ Observer, the NUGS publication. The other executive, according to what I heard, were aggrieved because they had suggested that the money be given to them as ex-gratia. Here too?

Well, the truth became a casualty and a matter of subjectivity. Information I have gathered, however, indicates that those who were pushing for an emergency congress were planning to go and nullify the election results. If that is not the case why should they be so interested going to another congress just to announce the results? Would that change the results? The results declaration form I have with me has been signed by all the polling agents of the ten presidential aspirants. I mean that of the presidency, which is the contentious one. Under it reads:

“Declaration: We the undersigned do hereby declare that the results shown above are true and accurate count of ballots at this polling station.” One camp of the electoral commission says there were some hitches but the Electoral Commissioner, who is mandated by the constitution to declare the results, was at GIMPA to read out the names of elected candidates again before the swearing-in took place.

“They are, Wonder Madilo; President.” Applause! She went on to call the rest, some of whom still did not understand the reason some people would not just allow wounded, sleeping dogs to lie.

They included Ms. Rebecca Abed, General Secretary; F.A. Ansah Banasco; Coordinating Secretary; Robert Mawuenyegah, Press and Information Secretary and Bismark Kapuochieneh; Programmes and Projects Secretary. The rest were Opuni Nkansah Antwi, Financial Controller; Bonaventure Anane Queba Treasurer; Evelyn N. Aponsah, Women’s Commissioner; Eric Paintsil, Education and Democratisation Secretary and Ivy De-Souza, International Relations Officer. They took the oath, but not with the usual joy with which one takes the oath of office. I anticipate hard times.

A lot of issues will follow. The legal battle has just begun. If it fails, these national executive will still not find it easy. CC will not enjoy constructive and objective debates. The motto will be: If we can’t get it, let’s destroy it. And that alone is enough to explain the woes of this seemingly accursed continent of ours. And we are the future leaders – the youth.

But whatever we all do today, we must always remember that posterity will forever remain the truest judge. I didn’t know Kweku Tuoho Bombason was such an iconic leader of NUGS until I went to this congress. His name was and is still all over for his objectivity and boldness to comment on pertinent issues, including the call on the then IGP to resign because he was an apparent disgrace to the police service. Bombason left office without a bicycle. He is one of the very few impossible-to-find former NUGS presidents in recent times who still board trotro after leaving office, but his image has not parted company with him.

Another team has taken the most sacred oaths in student politics in this country. They have started on a good note. Wonder Madilo announced before we left the hall that the Rector of GIMPA, Professor Ageyman Yaw Badu, had Given NUGS an office complex. “Action beyond the talk!” someone shouted from the audience.

This is a new era. Will it be a new dawn or doom? Posterity still remains the truest judge. But if mother Ghana thinks she has suffered enough from dirty politics, then she should brace herself because the trouble that will soon hit the national political stage is wearing a hat.

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