Opinions Tue, 16 Jul 2013

On the Contrary, Adofo, Ghanaian PhDs Are Worth Their Salt

I am unashamed to eat a humble pie. And frankly, I like my pies quite humbly baked. That means I am always learning new things or unlearning some firm convictions. A well-intentioned Ghanaweb commentator once wrote that he suspects I may be learning from the criticisms that my writings receive, especially those from Paa Kwesi Mintah, who finds my constant references to professors and doctors and universities very annoying. I have had reason to respond to Mr. Mintah in these columns, but I would confess the Fanteman has been a source of education. I dug into my archives to read some of my old writings, and well, there were lots of professors and universities. If I am able to wean myself completely off the professors, I would be a professor.

Well, I am fascinated about professors and PhDs because they are worth their salt, contrary to what Mr. Adofo Rockson wrote on Ghanaweb recently under the caption: “Do Ghanaian PhDs worth their salt?” Adofo’s title gives him away that he may, in fact, need a PhD to be worth anything. And as if the Pentecost had meant nothing for Christians, Adofo shamelessly lies his way through the article, citing the tale of a Professor Dr. Doctor at UST, who feigned deaf and dumb in a banking hall because he had not been addressed by all three titles that deservingly prefix his good name.

To begin with, Mr Adofo, a PhD is a particularly difficult undertaking. You would respect any PhD if you have ever witnessed a PhD defence before a greying panel of fastidious academics. It is a harrowing adventure. If Adofo has ever tasted the Golgotha of having to rewrite an entire chapter of some 150 pages, because your supervisor had faulted your theoretical framework, he would learn to respect Ghanaian PhDs. That would also mean the analysis may be affected, because it has implications for chapter 3–the methodology. You hand over the corrected version only to be corrected again and again. The fainthearted cry out while the brave-hearted weep though their moustache.

When he was going through the final stages of his PhD at a Canadian university, my friend had become a born-again-sheer-believer. He had plastered Romans 8:18 on every space in the Ottawa west apartment he shared with his young family. The glory in the end is what gave him the enablement to bear with the difficulties of the present. He almost gave up, like most of his mates. He wanted a-not-too-compelling reason to ditch it and come back to earth. He has two master’s degrees; he could afford to, but he had gotten too far to return. His wife decided not to attend the defence. She had seen the husband endure six years of academic hell at the hands of a professor who was going through a divorce and didn’t quite care what happened to any mortal. Oh yes, your supervisor’s marriage can affect your analysis in the chapter 4 of your thesis. It was all worth it. Today, he has a PhD to his name. Well, Mr Adofo says he is not worth his salt.

The ordeal humbled my friend forever. He doesn’t care if you insist you would not call him Dr. or professor. He would rather he were a chartered Christian (if there was ever such a thing) than an accomplished academic. Yet, he knows he worked hard to earn it. And he also knows that I am yet to earn one. Most PhDs, Mr Adofo would find, are very humble and unassuming people. And if he knows Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobby even from a very long distance, he would find a particularly jovial and humane person who does no wear his PhD on his sleeves. Mr. Adofo would also find that a PhD at age 25 is quite an accomplishment. That means the person may have commenced the venture at 21 or even 20, when many youngsters may still be fantasizing about their first kiss or rehearsing the first two lines of their chat up lines to approach the girl next door.


It is interesting that Mr. Adofo cites examples of entrepreneurs who have done great things while others with PhDs have invented nothing. Well, if Mr. Adofo had gone through even the proposal stage of a PhD, he would know that you do not need a Doctor of Philosophy degree to invent anything. He would also know why the Harvard Business School or the Kennedy School of Government would invite Bill Gates to speak but would not risk giving him a module on business entrepreneurship to teach for a semester. Academics remain academics whose research fertilise the grounds for innovation in industry. That is why most accomplished entrepreneurs emphasise a strategic partnership between academia and industry. Adofo can start something, too.

You see, when Dr. Charles Yves Wereko-Brobby says he does not suffer fools gladly, he actually does well to tolerate folks like Mr. Rockson Adofo, who today are free to write away and be published on many media platforms at no cost at all. Otherwise, why should Mr. Adofo be permitted to carry charity this far and still be indulged to write this sacrilege: “I personally do not have an iota of respect for most Ghanaian PhD holders for being useless as most of them are…I shall never respect them.” Adofo warns: “Woe betides any of them that crosses my path to boast about his qualifications, I shall cut him down to size. I have not come to Long John’s country to learn foolishness but intelligence and wisdom.” Let’s be kind enough to pardon his wisdom and intelligence.

At this point, I am confident that Mr. Adofo would not meet any Ghanaian PhD walking his path, certainly not Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobby. Mark that I don’t write PhD holders, but simply PhDs, because they do not hold their titles; they are a part of them. A PhD, Mr. Adofo would learn, sets a person apart. And while he would not respect our PhDs, Hilary Clinton respects Prof George Ayittey enough to invite him for talks on global economics. Mention Dr. Yao Graham in Kenya and you are forever proud to be a Ghanaian. Cross over to the Lui Centre for the study of Global Issues at the University of British Columbia in Canada, and you will discover Prof Atta Mills still lives. The latest PhD to sign his name in the sands of time is Dr. Felix Kumah-Abiwu, who graduated from the prestigious West Virginia University only last week. A big Mazal tov Dr.!

Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin, Orleans, Ottawa.


Columnist: Tawiah-Benjamin, Kwesi