On April 22, 1962, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah made a very profound statement to a CPP study group. Hear him:
“ Fellow friends and comrades, Africa needs a new type of man, a dedicated man, modest, honest and devoted man; a man who submerges self in the service of his nation and mankind; a man who abhors greed and deter vanity; a new type of man whose meekness is his strength and whose integrity is his greatness. Africa’s new man must be a man indeed”.
Friends and comrades, I tell you today: Legon needs a new man; a new type of man. Legon’s new man must be a man indeed.
Year after year, we go through an annual ritual of electing new students’ leaders to be the standard-bearers of students’ plights, grievances and sentiments – a leader to shoulder the burden of students. Yes, burden indeed we have, because history has shown us that our leaders are the very burden we carry. We elect persons who are so much consumed with self-conceitedness; seeking their own myopic and parochial interests.
They come clad in the cloaks of the avenging angel ready to draw sword into the throat of the vice chancellor to make university education virtually free. Then comes –teasers teasing students all around campus, and flyers flying over every nook and cranny: “Selfless advocacy”, “It’s all about you” “Vim dey”, “Yes, We can”….these among many others are the usual solemn platitudes and clichés they employ to woo their prospective victims (students). At least, for the continuing students, the intentions become so clear and obvious. However, for the fresher, he brushes his eyes over the teaser in perplexity at the heat of rigorous unfinished registration process, yet with keen interest. When they (the freshers) have settled, their lecture rooms become a recapitulation of ancient Aripagus – a place of uncalled philosophies and sometimes misinformation. And for the vulnerable fresher, any of such familiar faces is a TA. But that will be by way of a familiarity tour. As may be determined by proximity and number, the teaser would either want to “chop” JCR money or that of SRC.
Indeed, VIM DEY because Selfless advocates CAN now chew chicken ties and ride in flashy cars. After all, IT’S ALL ABOUT US. Their litany of promises and policies soon draw in on impossibilities. Now at their comfort zone, they carefully accumulate our dimes to pounds and soon turn untouchables. This has been the synopsis of leadership we have witnessed and experienced year after year. This black-leadership attitude has sublimed students into a seemingly unrecoverable apathy. The rituality of such experiences has made students grow even more apathetic towards issues bordering on students’ leadership. For some, they are simply not interested in politics, period! But believe it or not, “anyone who says he is not interested in politics is like a drowning man who insists he is not interested in water” (Mahatma Gandhi). The startling truth is that whether we are interested in politics or not, we are always “the suffering grass”. Our apathy will end up not only breeding and nurturing corrupt leaders for our dear nation but also intensify perpetration of corrupt practices in perpetuity. Friends and comrades, the earlier we wake-up to the occasion to nip corruption in the bud, the better.
As to whether or not the reader recognizes the intensity of corruption and the degree of financial malfeasance which has plagued students’ leadership today is not the aim of this piece. No! General failure in students’ leadership however, remains paramount to this discussion and a critical issue of major concern. To this extent, our preoccupation is rather to ignite students’ interest in issues bordering on them and to revive students’ consciousness generally. And maybe Eric Arthur Blair, aka, George Orwell (the author of the famous dystopian and political allegorical novella ‘Animal Farm’, 1945) was not far from the truth: “We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men”. “Our politics”, the thoughtful Umair Haque opines “has produced many winners but not enough leaders”, Friends and comrades, this has been the trend and generation of leadership we experience even in our country today. Year in, year out, we are coaxed to vote against our will, begrudgingly we do but only end up electing winners than leaders. The paradoxes of this can though be measured only in performance; the truth is that our leaders have failed us big time!
Friends and comrades, we have borne the patience of braggarts and their smooth talk. “I don’t tolerate liars. When somebody lies to me, that’s really like just unbearable” (John Lydon). Enough is enough! We now call for a new man; a new type of man. A man who will walk his talk, a man who asks the right questions and stay through to the end even when hounded by critics for his insistence; a man who will be “ our ambassador without kente, a foreign minister without frills, the plenipotentiary without pleasantries and a brand ambassador without budget ”. Legon’s new man must inspire us become better versions of ourselves. Legon’s new man must walk his talk. Legon’s new man must hit the ground running. Legon’s new man must be consumed with selflessness. Legon’s new man must abhor greed in all intents and purposes.
Friends and comrades, we need leaders who can stop the chameleon GPAs from changing grades; a leader who can close the chapter on the indifferent GPA which is quick to condemn our failure yet turtle-moves to appreciate our effort; a leader who will see to the end of the ‘unintended holidays’ of incessant power outages; a leader who will settle peace with the erratic water supply which make our bathhouses smell foul and our bodies, choky; a leader who will improve the forgetful MIS WEB which deletes a dropped course today and restores it as Resit the next day….we need, we need! These are what we need and not passive bus stops or purposeless, yet dud SRC week celebrations for which we cannot even account.
The issue of GPA is an untold story of a graduate who but for the indifference of the GPA could have gone home with a better class. GPA is not “jollof rice” but deny it or not, no employer will easily handpick a Pass graduate over a First class graduate. And those who dismiss this claim with a wave of hand that Legon students are lazy are not only cruel and vile but also by far insensitive. Legon students sleep and dine in the 24 hour reading room just to understand what the confused lecturer cannot explain himself and you still call them lazy?
Established in 1948, the university has always lived under the mercies of Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), bringing into question how visionary and proactive the think-tanks seated around the decision-making table of the University Council have been. To think of how short-sighted the university has been to envisage something like a ‘constant variable’ lends itself to further questions. And since yesteryears, we have been silenced with the excuse of an unending feasibility study on plants installation. We are fed up! Let there be light! As normal and usual blackouts have been made to seem, the worse can always happen. We recall with deep sympathy the incident of the student who was attacked at the school of nursing during one of these blackouts. We say, “Get well soon”. We also recall with deep regrets an incident of a student who could have met her untimely death simply because she could not cook as a result of the intermittent power supply. She had to contend with the ever teeming crowd at the Night Market competing for food. Unable to further endure the hunger, she passed out. In this very scenario, the worse could have happened. But thank God she only passed ‘out’ and not ‘on’. Over and over again, lectures have been called off because of power outages. We have enjoyed enough of these “unintended holidays” of blackouts. How??? Is it that we cannot afford alternative power supply in our lecture theatres too? What a pity!
As if this is not enough, water, a basic element of life has also assumed an economic model of a luxury. It is sad to record that some halls would have to do without water flowing for days. For how long will our bathhouses stink and our bodies smell foul and choky? For how long will our water closets get filled up with the abuse of shit-on-shit (SOS), and carry the foul stench to our already unventilated rooms. Making University of Ghana a world-class institution neither begins with the institution of a Collegiate System nor making the roads asphalt! No, far from that! Provision of such basic necessities as water, shelter and a better lighting system is rudimentary. Let’s get our priorities right!
It is not as if authority is unaware of these happenings. No! They know as much as we do. We only need a man; a new type of a man who can stand against all odds and ends, in selfless dedication to the common good and interest of the people to ensure that the right things are done and the sacrifices of parents for their children are duly reciprocated. We need leaders who will submerge their self-interest in the service of this community; leaders who will resent and abhor greed and vanity; a new type of man whose meekness is his strength and whose integrity, his greatness.
Friends and comrades, Legon’s new man must be a man indeed!