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Opinions of Monday, 10 May 2010

Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina

RE: Arthur Kennedy Is Being Sexist And Petty

7th May, 2010

I write in response to Dr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe Jnr’s article of the above caption published earlier today in response to my call for Commonwealth Hall to be left alone.

While I thank him for commenting on my piece, Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe makes the following points that I wish to respond to.

- He accuses me of Sexism for opposing the conversion of Commonwealth Hall into a mixed Graduate Hall.

- He charges that I have the “Chutzpah to imperiously inject Mr. Annan amidst an affair of which the latter’s name and personality are only tangential and incidental.”

- He implies that I have made heckling the cardinal ethic of vandalism.

The charge of Sexism is false. The esteemed Doctor misses the central point of my argument entirely. My quarrel with the decision by the Legon authorities is not with their desire to make Commonwealth a mixed Hall--- My quarrel is with their desire to use that, by their own admission, as a punishment. Indeed, by framing the introduction of women into Commonwealth Hall as a punishment, the University authorities have demonstrated a sexism that should trouble all of us. It is offensive to tell women who are being sent to Commonwealth Hall that they are being sent there as punishment. The addition of women to Commonwealth Hall, if it is ever done, must be done for positive reasons.

Next, I am baffled by Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe’s claim that I have injected Mr. Kofi Annan’s name into the crisis unnecessarily. Right from the beginning, it was the University authorities who made the heckling of Mr. Annan one of the key reasons for their action. Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe himself wrote in his article that “The Legon Executive Council’s decision to gender-mix Commonwealth Hall follows the inexcusably boorish heckling of former UN Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, and other dignitaries of both national and global renown, by a group of student residents of the Hall during the University of Ghana’s most recent graduation exercise. It is also significant to highlight the fact that Mr. Annan currently serves as Chancellor of Ghana’s flagship academy.”

These words by Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe should settle the question of Mr. Annan’s involvement in the crisis. I assert, respectfully that the Legon authorities, by their pronouncements, have irrevocably linked Mr. Annan to this crisis and that he must let the public know where he stands on it.

As for the charge that I implied that heckling is a cardinal attribute of vandalism, nothing can be further from the truth. When I referred to the heckling of Prime Minister Busia and then Chairman Rawlings, I made it clear that Busia had been heckled by Legon students and not just by Commonwealth Hall students and Rawlings by KNUST students. Since Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe, by his own admission was not educated at Legon, he may be pardoned for confusing some of the details.

As for the question of whether the decision of the University of Ghana authorities is a good one, I think we should let Ghanaians judge that for themselves.

Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe has an unfortunate tendency to see many things around him in the context of his family and his tribe. The history of Commonwealth Hall and Legon is not a history of his family and the institution we are discussing is not “The J.B. Danquah Academy”--- It is the University of Ghana. While I join him in honouring the contributions of his illustrious ancestors to Commonwealth Hall, I yield no quarter to anyone in my contribution to the Hall and its history. I served as President of Commonwealth Hall and can assert that in the eyes of true Vandals, we are all equal in the eternal Vandal family. It should trouble all of us that some members of Mr. Danquah’s family seem to share Nkrumah’s unhealthy penchant for naming things after himself. Unlike Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe, I believe that in the modern Ghana that we seek to build, each and every one of us must be judged, not by the deeds of some illustrious ancestors but on our own merit.

Finally, I urge Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe to mind his language. His disagreeable pieces do not serve the causes and the people he supports well. It is the misguided effusions of people like him that tends to give credence to the unfair pejorative appellation of members of his esteemed family as the “Kyebi Mafia”. As Ghanaian patriots, let us disagree if we must but let us do so with courtesy. I thank the good Doctor for his attention to my opinions and wish him well. Let us move forward, together.

Arthur Kobina Kennedy