This week, my pick is on the recent spate of renaming and consolidation of public universities by the current government after the Danquah-Busia-Dombo political tradition.
This has erupted public uproar and a vehement protest by academia. There are parliamentary plans, backed by the president, H.E Nana Addo, to name the University of Energy and National Resources after Ghana’s second prime minister, Dr. Busia. The Ghana Institute of Journalism, the Ghana Institute of Languages (GIL), the National Institute of Film and Television (NAFTI) will soon be called something close to the ‘University of Media Arts and Social Sciences’. The University of Development Studies (UDS) is still UDS just because the former president JJ Rawlings rejected the offer saying it was against his principles.
But UDS’Wa campus has been renamed after Simon D Dombo as well as the Navrongo campus after C.K Tedem. The University of Ghana is rumored to be the next renaming project with names like JB Danquah, one of the founding fathers of Ghana, becoming highly considerable.
Government and sympathizers of the establishment say it was not an arbitrary decision taken by the president and his minister. The state explains the president only sought to welcome the resolution of the Governing Council of UENR to consider renaming the school.
Swift reaction as this may be, it is a mundane PR because,practically speaking, there is no such thing as academic freedom in our politics, rather there is highly polarized and weaken institutions. Government has always interfered from the backdoors and primarily through appointments.
Most sensitive decisions which has political twists in the boardrooms of governing councils either were hatched by the representative of government. Moreso, the president appoints Chairs to public institutions.
A sponsored research recently conducted by my boss Manasseh Azure(aided by me) on the autonomous of governing boards of state-owned enterprises confirms this. Using some major state institutions, it became evident that these appointees to the position of the chair often champion the wishes of the appointing power which affects the independence of the bodies they find themselves managing.
The University Act of 1961 which sought to make the head of state the vice chancellor of all public universities and today’s public university bill(under the current regime), which merges the autonomies, statutes and mandates of every public university are policy ideas nursed and prepared by government with narrow consultations.
Many have trolled the government on social media and said such moves are not only petty and irrelevant to the current plights of Ghanaians, but significantly the leadership trend being exhibited by the president is a dare and a trap to whoever is likely to take over after 2020.
The current government is in a rush to leave a legacy, it is cheating time and pushing a lot of things across, some of which I am of the view should be prioritized in a possible second term.
First, there was a special levy on luxurious cars based on engine capacity and energy.Pronouncements by the leader of the largest opposition party, John Mahama and the general resentments by Ghanaians led to the suspension of the levy. Then there were changes of one of the historic celebrations of Ghana from Founder’s Day to Founders’ Day. Some holidays were cancelled from history like a page could be tore in a used exercise book.
In democracies like Ghana, the excesses of power by the president and the lack of separation of powers particularly among the legislature and executive, does not make it impossible for the next government to change some of these policy direction if he so wishes.
The next president decides whether or not he intends to continue certain projects begun or executed by the previous regime. The current haste to release hooks-with-worms for 2020 is too tempting and nauseating for any possible replacement to the current regime in 2020.
Obviously, the next possible colossal option is John Mahama, if things continue this way. From few public interactions, Ghana seems not ready to change the next possible option.
Yes, the grassroots usually laments at the middle of every regime about the two-party politics but suddenly, they come into terms with the dual multi-party system on election day. Communicators of the ruling party say the alternative (John Mahama) is scary, but I believe the alternative (either him or any other) is rather trapped due to recent drastic and dramatic policy changes and institutionalization of names in the education sector.
If we all agree these naming and change sprees by the current regime are too much acts of bad faith and pettiness, whoever inherits this mess should be careful he is also not caught meddling in pettiness in an attempt to unmake the wrongs. As said, it is tempting and annoying though.