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Illegalities and the rule of men; UG SRC is heading into an abyss. I don't care anyway

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Wed, 8 Jul 2020 Source: Bismark Kwaku Asante

Last Sunday, 28th June, 2020, I hosted the Speaker of the General Assembly on my Radio Univers show; Leadership Focus. Usually the show doesn't dabble in student related politics - the focus of Leadership Focus has usually been topical national political issues. But on that Sunday, I decided to segue into what exactly the challenge was that had even aspirants, a very important part of the process, not knowing what their status was.

I made a few calls to some aspirants that I knew personally and whose contacts I had, and for those I didn't have a personal relationship with, I looked for their contacts and sent them messages. Some of them got back to me, others didn't; the female aspirants particularly. I thought they should have agreed to come forward and make their challenges known, but for whatever reason, some decided to stay back; if that was their decision, then I respect it. However we did the show regardless with those who decided to come forward.

On the show, many issues came up; allegations against the Speaker Emmanuel Owusu Agyei more known as Kwaku Ampem by the deputy speaker and before that his Clerk, that he used a rigged Google Form to conduct the election of the General Assembly that was to approve Electoral Commissioners, which usually is a very important part of the process. I don't think my own value judgment on these specific issue is important, but those who have paid attention will know that the General Assembly and its leadership of this academic year have really not done much to serve the so called interest of the student body like they so much profess.

It's also a price to pay for when partisan politics and casual friendship is placed above knowledge and competence. Indeed, for some who who will bear the harsh brunt of this haphazard way of doing things, they can have themselves to blame. They had a chance at a point to make a right decision and make this system work, but infantile distrust and egregious thinking led them the other way. They have paid the price!

But the most shocking of everything was when the Speaker of the General Assembly claimed that "we have invoked article 25" - that left me scandalized! Who were the "we" and how had they done this so called invocation? I would find out later, much to my chagrin that the JCR President of Akuafo Hall had been appointed to be the acting president of the University of Ghana SRC per some fliers going around and for which the University of Ghana campus based Radio Univers had made a news story out of. Stories that go on the Radio Univers website go through very rigorous checking, so I have no doubt as regards its authenticity.

But what does article 25 say? Let me issue this disclaimer first before I proceed, I am not a lawyer and I have never been to law school, but aside the fact that I have been a member once of the legislative house of the SRC and even served as a leader of the house before, I think that laws can be interpretated with common sense, aside the legalese way it is written, and when you pay much attention, you'd realize that the law is really simple a matter to comprehend except that in some instances, because of mischief and evil, so much spin is put on the words in constitutions and other such laws.

Art. 25 of the SRC constitution in my opinion as is seen in the text deals primarily with when SRC executive officers are removed en-block and the processes for their replacement. Among other things, this said provision (Article 25 (c)) provides that where there's an inability to hold an election to elect new executive officers a JCR president shall be appointed from among the Executive Committee to act as SRC president, a JCR Secretary who shall not be in the same JCR as the appointed president shall also act as SRC Secretary. For the office of Treasurer the Constitution provides that the head of the Finance Committee shall act in that stead. But my knowledge of the current SRC administration is that the Finance Committee head is a final year student, so it remains to be seen what action would be taken in that regard.

So from the Constitutional provision above, these questions suffice:

1. Has there been commencement of processes that usually lead to the election of SRC executives; 2. Has the Academic year ended; and very importantly; 3. Has there been the inability to elect new executives?

In my opinion, the third (3rd) question is the most important, but an answer to that will necessarily require answering the first 2. For Question 1, the answer is yes, by the General Assembly's decision to appoint a committee to vet prospective Electoral Commissioners and set the vetting committee, the process had started but has largely remained inconclusive. To be able to answer Question 2, we have to refer to a communication from the University's Academic Affairs Directorate that varied the Academic calendar of the University because of Covid-19 - the said release signed by the acting Academic Affairs Director noted that the semester will conclude on the 1st of August, 2020 as that'd be the last day the last exams should have been taken.

Then comes the search for answer to Q3 - can we from the above, given that the process has started but has really stayed on ground zero and the other fact that the academic year has not ended, can any person of sound mind and thinking reasonably infer that there has been an inability to elect new executives? No. Any reasonable mind will agree that the thinking that there has been an inability to elect new executives would have been an attempt to forecast into the future. How's that permissible? But this is Legon, and everything is possible.

So in my opinion, all that has happened is really not lawful and leaders who claimed to have the interest of the student at heart, must have considered all these issues before rushing off to make a decision whatever the motives may have been.

The General Assembly Speaker, has no role in triggering Art 25 in my opinion neither does the current SRC administration whose tenure has ended anyway. So who were the "we" the speaker referenced anyway? The Dean of Student Affairs? I hope not. But even if it's not him, he has a bigger role to play here than just rubber stamp this process. For a Dean that claims so much to want the best interest of the students political circle at heart and has taken a lot of rash and unlawful decisions from the granting of stays of execution (he is the chief executioner, haha) and other decisions including stopping the impeachment processes against the current SRC president, I should not be worried at all in his role in this, if any; I am probably expecting way too much from that office.

So what should have been the way forward: I think the processes leading to the election should have started properly, the ECs and vetting committee must have been appointed, nominations must have been received and vetting conducted. This way, even if the election was not conducted because most stakeholders probably don't trust the idea of an online election, (never mind that the University of Ghana School of Law and the Ghana Law School and other institutions have had a seamless online election), next semester the process would have just kicked in and the issues of disqualifying aspirants because they'd be in final year then and cannot contest because the constitution bars final year students.

But I don't care at all that is happening. Yesterday I took my last examination, technically, I'm done with my undergraduate studies at the University of Ghana, a lot of these decisions won't affect me directly but I think the University of Ghana SRC is degenerating into a deep abyss and well meaning stakeholders must rise to the occasion and ensure that the laws are respected.

It seems to me that these days, all that matters is that when a partisan faction is in control then they can do whatever they want, regardless of what the rules demand and on top of that when they have the Dean's office's backing then that's two chickens from Jaydels.

I hope though that those who will be affected directly by this stand up to be counted, the aspirants especially given all their 'investment'. There must be rule of law, not rule of men, and I expect the General Assembly membership show the way by demanding what is right.

Congratulations to me on completing my undergraduate studies.

Columnist: Bismark Kwaku Asante