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Opinions of Friday, 4 September 2009

Columnist: Awuni, Manasseh Azure

Vandals Admired, Katanga Mess Up at NUGS Congress

By Manasseh Azure Awuni To say that tension was high is an understatement. Though there were a lot of empty seats in the auditorium of the Kumasi campus of University of Education, Winneba, many preferred to stand. Those who caught the eye of the Chairman of the steering committee spoke their minds but there were a lot more others who could not be allowed to speak even if the duration of the meeting was to outlast eternity. So they stood imploding with rage, cursing, hissing and swearing. We had been in the auditorium for close to three hours but the reason for which we assembled that evening was yet to be achieved and it was as if everybody was prepared to forfeit his or her supper.

In the heart of the placid night that preceded that turbulent day, a vetting committee had come to drop a cluster bombshell when the chairman read out the report of the vetting. Many candidates were disqualified for inexplicable reason and after venomous outbursts, everybody dispersed. But many did not pay heed to their drowsy eyes. Few hours later, rims of A4 sheets filled with legal terms began to fly from all directions towards the Judicial Committee. The Judicial Committee sat on the innumerable petitions and decided there were constitutional breaches in the formation of the vetting committee and therefore redirected the National Executive Committee (NEC) to again constitute a vetting committee for approval by CC. It was when NEC failed to act on the JC’s directive that congress was asked to choose between two options. Congress was to either allow all the aspirants to go through without vetting or to constitute a vetting committee to re-vet the candidates. It was the choice between these two options that sparked the unwarranted debate because delegates came there with positions that were entrenched like the roots of the silk tree. When the tension reached its peak, these boys from Katanga Hall of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology decided to add their unprovoked potion of confusion to what was already happening. They had started firing an ear-spluttering cannon made of concrete in a hollow steel metal two days earlier to announce their presence. They were among the three jama groups brought in by some aspirants to cheer them on to victory. The Zulu Boys from Accra Polytechnic and the Bobo King and his subjects from IPS were a delight to watch on their Kpanlogo and adowa respectfully. The boys from Katanga were however lost in the show but they attracted a lot of thankless attention due to the firing of the object that made you shiver each time even if it was fired hundred times with prior notice at each time. They were a nuisance, for they fired continually at close intervals of at times less than a minute just outside where all important deliberations of congress were taking place. No one, however, had the guts to ask them to stop despite the fact that all victims were enraged by that harmful noise.

But on this evening they decided to carry their trouble into the auditorium, singing and firing at the same time. They succeeded in holding the meeting to ransom for some minutes. Colleagues had to plead for them to leave. But that was not until they were sure that this lady, the lens of whose camera phone had no respect for uncapturable images, had deleted all the shots she had taken of them. Bathed in their own unpleasant sweat and as if possessed, they did the last thing one would expect one’s son in the university to do. Everybody loves a fool but no one wants him for a son, so say our sages of old. “After all, they are cowards,” a young man standing next to me muttered to himself. “If they are really men, why should they fear being captured?” Despite their sometimes rowdy natures the Commonwealth Hall of the University of Ghana, Katanga of the KNUST and Casford of the University of Cape Coast add to the taste of university life. Their names connote something similar. Anyone who follows development in the media will realise that they take turns to make dishonourable headlines in the media in each semester. I’m told that if you are contesting a position in the university and you have these halls behind you, then your victory is as secure as an NPP parliamentary seat in Bantama. If you want to know how loyal their alumni can be, then keep an eye on stickers you see on the windscreen of cars. About ninety percent of university halls proudly advertised belongs to them. They also have a lot of big men in society so one cannot say they are just rowdy-for-nothing.

But what these guys did was an indictment on the image of Kats. They were not provoked to act like they did and looking at the prevailing conditions, these honourable fellows could have left a better impression on the minds of those who were encountering them for the first time – like the Vandals did.

They were only four stocky fellows wearing serious looks. There was no hair on their heads and sweat poured out of the pores of shiny skins covering their skulls whiles they were voting.

“That is the Chief Vandal,” someone said pointing a finger at the four Vandals. “Which one?” I asked.

“The sakora one.”

“But they are all sakoras?”

“I mean the one sweating more than the rest.” They followed one another in the voting process and when they finished, went out of the scene in one line in a seemingly rehearsed fashion. So spectacular was their movement that every gaze was fixed on them, temporarily leaving the ballot boxes. A photographer around thought it would look spectacular to have such a rare pose captured but a stern wordless warning made him change his mind and stood still while they filed past. These are the vandals! While the Katanga boys left a nasty mess about themselves in the minds of delegates at the congress, the no-nonsense boys from Vandal City showed that at times, silence could be more than golden.

Anyway, the KNUST must be commended for being ranked the best university in Ghana. I have stated somewhere in a previous article that the discipline in the so-called Kwame Nkrumah University for Spiritual Training, as some of them call it, is there for all of us to learn. Visit even Katanga Hall on an ordinary day and you will be amazed at the serenity of the atmosphere and how gentle they are. That is KNUST for you.

The sad news, however, is that the best university in Ghana is ranked 30th in Africa and this must be a source of worry to anyone who recites our national pledge with pride. If the best university of the Gateway to Africa is ranked 30th on the continent, then where lies our pride?

Credit: Manasseh Azure Awuni []

The writer is the SRC President of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, Accra.