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Opinions of Monday, 31 October 2011

Columnist: Asenso-Boakye, Francis

TESCON is 10 Years - A Decade in Perspective

On Saturday, the 8th of January 2000, the Tertiary Students Confederacy (TESCON) of the New Patriotic Party was inaugurated at the courtyard of the Independence Hall of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, Kumasi. On 31st October, 2011, TESCON, under the auspices of the KNUST branch is holding a student rally to climax its 10th anniversary celebrations. And on this occasion, I congratulate all past and current members of TESCON for their role in the political development of Ghana.

The Formation of TESCON

As the Fourth Republic grew, the students’ wing of the NPP assumed certain distinct roles. Not only were they watchdogs and advocates against the educational policies and decisions of government, they were also effective advocates for the party on various national issues on the campuses.

Prior to the 2000 general elections, the NPP had lost in two elections to Rawlings' National Democratic Congress (NDC), amidst widespread controversy. Among the reasons assigned to the two consecutive defeats were rigging on the part of the ruling party, arising from the inability of the Party to mobilize its members to serve as polling agents. As a matter of fact, the 1992 elections were comprehensively rigged resulting in the boycott of the parliamentary elections by the then opposition parties led by the late Prof. Adu-Boahen. This was even corroborated by the international elections observers. Also, in the 1996 elections, there were series of irregularities reported by international observers, but the then opposition leader J. A. Kufuor accepted defeat – contrary to the expectations of some party hard-liners – in an effort to avoid possible crisis in the country.

When he was launching his first bid in 1998 to context the NPP presidential primaries, Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, declared that “it takes two to tango” – meaning, it takes two to rig elections, and that if we were to beat the NDC we had to work harder to avoid another rigging. For those of us who were NPP activist at the tertiary education institutions at the time, that was the greatest inspiration for us to come together and reorganize the then latent NPP branches in the tertiary education institutions into a formidable branch of the party that was capable of mobilizing its members to serve as pooling agents across the country, and also disseminating the party’s manifesto and campaign message.

The idea to form TESCON was, therefore, conceived at a meeting at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) branch of NPP at the Republic Hall of KNUST. At that time, the NPP group on the campuses was known as the NPP students wing, and such the name lacked the vitality and vigorousness that would make the group stand up to the challenge posed by the then vibrant TEIN of NDC. Under the leadership of Mr. Sam Cudjoe (then a graduate student of the university) members of the then KNUST NPP students wing started having discussions to plan for its formation. Other executive members of the KNUST student branch included Joshua Okoto, Peter Twumasi, Sani Mahama, Effah Ameyaw, and other prominent members such as Kwaku Kwarteng, Peter Abban, Kwame Appiah Kodua, Francis Asenso-Boakye (Kabila), Osei Akoto, John Krugu, Maisie Banka and few others.

The meetings took place at the courtyard of the Republic Hall obviously because of the hall’s central location on the campus. On the evidence of the numbers that attended party gatherings when national party leaders visited, NPP supporters on KNUST campus run into many thousands. However, the Republic Hall meetings were attended by a much fewer number, about fifty. It was these meetings that constituted the framework for what has come to be an influential organ of the party.

At one of the initial meetings, a committee was set up to work out the modalities for the inauguration of a national body of all tertiary students of the NPP in all the tertiary institutions of the country. It was chaired by Francis Asenso-Boakye. Asenso-Boakye and his team worked hard to network with other NPP students in Ashanti region, including Kumasi Polytechnic, University of Education (Kumasi Campus), Institute of Marketing Studies, Agricultural College at Kwadaso in Kumasi, and the University of Education (Mampong Campus). They also established contact with NPP students in the University of Ghana and University of Cape Coast.

Name and Slogan Progress was made quickly. And soon, the question of a durable name, national in meaning, to embrace NPP students in all tertiary institutions in the country came up. The initial suggestion was for the adoption of the name Tertiary Education Institutions Network (TEIN) of NPP. But this suggestion met opposition. The basis for the resistance to the name “TEIN” of NPP was that it had been contaminated by the NDC and their proxies among students, and could therefore not be accepted by a party like the NPP. I commend Kwaku Kwarteng for the role he played in this particular discussion.

That argument won the day, and a committee chaired by Peter Abban was charged to come up with a better name and a slogan for the group was set up. Peter Abban and his committee did the necessary consultation and proposed the name Tertiary Students Confederacy of the New Patriotic Party (TESCON). They also proposed “Commitment without Inducement” as the slogan.

The slogan was consciously selected to make the point that the TEIN of NDC was not a true student movement. They were a bunch of students who had been induced by government largesse to dilute student opposition to the NDC Government. TESCON, on the other hand, was a body of students dedicated to the development of their party and country, and determined to work for this cause without any inducement.

Inauguration

Initial attempts to raise funds for the purpose proved unsuccessful. In late 1999, the issue of inauguration was raised at a TESCON meeting attended by Hon Dr Richard Anane (then Member of Parliament for Bantama) and the Late Hon Osei Kwaku (then Member of Parliament for Asokwa West). The two MPs offered some financial support towards the inauguration and further pledged the support of their colleague MPs in the Kumasi Metropolitan Area who were not present at the meeting. Subsequently, Hon Dr Addo Kufuor (MP for Manhyia), Hon S K Boafo (MP for Subin) and Hon Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu (MP for New Tafo Suame) contributed financially towards the inauguration.

TESCON is grateful to these MPs without whose initial financial support the inauguration would have delayed unduly. TESCON is equally grateful to Mr Dan Botwe, then General Secretary of the party, Abeiku Dickson, then Youth Organiser of the Party and to Professor Albert Owusu-Sarpong, then Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at KNUST for their support and guidance throughout the formative stages.

The 8th of January 2000 was a bright Saturday. At the courtyard of Independence Hall, KNUST, TESCON was inaugurated with Francis Asenso-Boakye as its first President. It was a splendid occasion. The New Patriotic Party descended on the campus in its full force. Party colours were all over. Coming events, they say, cast their shadows. Truly, the subsequent victory of the NPP in the December 2000 general elections did cast its shadow that beautiful Saturday. For those who were witnesses, it was an announcement that the party was on its way to winning the impending general elections later that year.

The occasion was graced by the then presidential candidate of the party, John Agyekum Kufuor who inaugurated TESCON. He called on the confederation’s leaders to extend their educational campaign to the rural areas where the party was less formidable. He pledged his personal support and that of the party so that TESCON could play its role in the development of the party and the country (Daily Graphic 12/01/2000).

The day saw the assembly of such party giants as Hon J H Mensah, Hon Dr K K Apraku, Hon Dr K Addo Kufuor, Hon S K Boafo, the Late Hon Osei Kwaku, Dr Dsane Selby, Mr F F Anto, and many others.

Following the inauguration of the TESCON at KNUST, the inauguration of the other institutional branches quickly followed. On the campus of the University of Ghana, Isaac Asiamah (now MP for Atwima Mponua), then a branch President supervised the inauguration of the local branch of TESCON after he had been introduced to the TESCON Project by Francis Asenso-Boakye.

The Way Forward

TESCON has since become the best organized student organisation in the country and an important organ of the party. It is now operating in over Eighty (80) tertiary institutions across the country. It has, among other contributions, been fighting the party’s corner on the various campuses and playing vital roles in our general elections, acting as polling agents in some of the remote parts of the country.

In the 2000 elections, TESCON members from Ashanti region and the University of Ghana, for the first time, volunteered and served as polling agents for the NPP in the three Northern regions and in Volta region respectively. This monumental service rendered by TESCON, under the leadership of my successor John Krugu, contributed to a large extent, in avoiding another rigging in the 2000 elections, which led to our party’s first electoral victory under the 4th Republic. The following party giants deserve commendation for their support and oversight: Dr Kwame Amoako-Tuffour, Dr Kwame Addo-Kufuor, Jake Obestebey Lamptey, Dr K. K Apraku, F. F Anto, Asuo Banin, Kwabena Agyapong, Kwame Owusu, Alhaji Akwasi Yeboah and Andy Appiah-Kubi. I commend Stephen Amoah, a member of the team that went to the North. Stephen travelled to the North with his personal car, and lost it in the process. Such was the passion for service and sacrifice at the time.

In the constitutional amendments of the 22nd August 2009 Extraordinary National Delegates Conference in Accra, the efforts of TESCON earned it significant representation in the electoral colleges for selecting party executives and presidential candidates.

Going forward, the most critical role of TESCON is the conducive grounds it provides for grooming leaders for both party and country. By default, our educational institutions are the place for preparing our human resource to manage the country’s future. There could not be a better environment for preparing future political leaders. Without doubt, students politics, especially at the tertiary level offers students the opportunity to understand the dynamics of competitive national politics. The emergence of young Isaac Asiamah, not just as a Member of Parliament, but also a ranking member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Youth & Sports is instructive. Same can be said of the likes of Anthony Karbo, now NPP National Youth Organizer and John Krugu, now Deputy National Organiser, Martin Agyei Mensah, now Director of Research, Kwaku Kwarteng, Director of Policy, and Charles Owiredu, Director of International Affairs.

Next year is an important year in the political calendar of Ghana. The political circumstances of today are similar to that of the year 2000. Ghanaians will be presented with the opportunity choose between four more years of economic hardship and failure of leadership; and four years of hope and unlimited opportunities. My message to the current crop of TESCON executives is that they have a charge to keep. A charge to travel across the country, and disseminate our candidate’s message of hope and unlimited opportunities. They should go back to their various constituencies to campaign and serve as polling agents. This is the surest way of playing a meaning role in the forth coming presidential and parliamentary elections. The national leadership of the party ought to take even greater interest in how TESCON functions in the various institutions and offer more support and guidance.

But TESCON itself needs to do some self-renewal. There are increasing numbers of TESCON members who have only a loose relationship with the party structures at the constituencies in which they normally reside. That is anomalous. Constitutionally, all members are admitted into the party at the constituency. Thus, every member of the NPP ought to be able to trace their membership to a particular constituency. More importantly, every member has the duty to build the party at the constituency and polling station levels. That is where the votes are. In the end, all politics is local. When party members graduate from their tertiary institutions of learning, they should work within party structures in the constituency of residence.

On the whole however, members of TESCON, in the last ten years have acquitted themselves very well. Their contributions to the party’s growth have been immense. They have really justified their inclusion. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary, I congratulate all those who have played diverse roles as far as the growth and sustenance of TESCON is concerned.

Long live, TESCON!

Long live, NPP!!

Long live, Ghana!!!

• The Author is the founding president of TESCON, and currently political aide to Nana Akufo-Addo. He can be reached on email: asenso@gmail.com

Mr Francis Asenso-Boakye (aka Kabila), the founding President of TESCON welcomes President John Agyekum Kufuor at the inauguration. Following him is John Krugu, now Deputy National Organiser of NPP.