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Obasanjo Gives ‘Sleeping Tablets’ At UDS Lecture

Sat, 27 Apr 2013 Source: Ziem, Joseph

Coming events, they say, cast their shadows and this old adage horribly manifested itself at the maiden African Leadership Lecture Series organized by the University for Development Studies [UDS] on Tuesday 23rd April, 2013. It was an event that sought to be an eye-opener to many public and private tertiary institutions as well as leadership at all levels of governance on the African continent; be it institutional leadership, political leadership, religious leadership, community leadership, managerial leadership or Traditional leadership.

Indeed, the theme for the event was: “Leadership In Africa From Pre-Colonial To Contemporary Times”. It is the conviction of UDS that African leaders have the opportunity and the resources to transform the continent by pursuing prudent scientific and development policies as well as nurturing indigenous talents. The UDS holds the view that, African leaders can transform their individual nations and the continent by recognizing and harnessing the contributions of experts and individuals inside and outside their national universities. It said, in Africa’s quest to achieve internal integration and become a key player in global affairs, there is the need for deep reflection on the sort of leaders the continent requires. The continent, it said, requires innovative leaders and thinkers who will drive its development and growth. The African Leadership Lectures, it explains, is therefore a platform to subject the issues of leadership and development in Africa to the required critical thought. The lectures intended to contribute to a national and transnational discourse on productive leadership culture that will support and enhance African development; facilitate and create an environment for a discourse and action on leadership; create a forum to inspire positive and innovative leadership initiatives as well as stimulate and initiate a platform for an action on constructive leadership in Ghana and Africa.

But surprisingly and regrettably, the somewhat well publicized event turned out to be a disappointment to a lot of participants including me, considering the fact that this was the maiden edition and was expected to leave a good and lasting impression on the minds of many people who thronged the UDS in their numbers to catch a glimpse of the former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who was Guest Speaker of the event and listen to his supposed powerful speech.

I arrived at the premises of the UDS Central Administration in Tamale at about 3:45pm where the event was to be held and as soon as one of the ushers saw me, she welcomed me and led me into the poor acoustic proof Academic Board Chamber [ABC] of the university.

Soon as I entered the ABC, I was greeted by some unfamiliar melodious tunes supposedly “imported” into Ghana by the authorities of the UDS or Chief Obasanjo himself, for that particular event.

Music, they say, is universal. But at that particular instant, I personally thought that, authorities of the UDS were completely wrong or they simply missed the point and many professional event organizers or managers would agree with me.

Chief Obasanjo has been listening to Nigerian music all his life; whether as military man, President of Nigeria, former President and now a Diplomat. So, how could he have found himself in Kwame Nkrumah Ghana and Northern Region to be precise, at the invitation of the UDS to deliver a public lecture and instead of serving him and his entourage with some local Ghanaian tunes from the likes of celebrated musicians such as Amakye Dede, Paapa Yankson or Charles Kofi Man, authorities of the UDS decided to play Naija music. I think that was very unpalatable, to say the least. An academic institution such as the UDS which offer tourism as a course should know its significance and be in good position to promote it well to any foreigner who visits this country.

Another unfortunate incident, that appeared to have delft a hefty blow to the above stated mishap, was the poor sound quality that was transmitted to the over 200 dignitaries from the university community, corporate institutions, media, public institutions and among others, who attended the lecture.

Frankly speaking, the former Nigerian Head of State is one particular person, that whenever he is speaking or giving a public address, one perhaps would need a hearing aid in order to hear him very audibly or clearly because of his poor diction and eloquence; whether he is reading or speaking extempore.

But during the lecture, almost everything Chief Obasanjo said [in spite of the cluster of microphones that were mounted behind the lector] was hardly heard by most people including me. What even worsen the situation were the echoing sounds that accompanied every word he uttered. I like most of my colleagues, were sitting not far from a big speaker, yet we hardly jotted down anything that was let out from his lips because of poor sound quality from the public address systems [PAS].

At a point, even the Vice Chancellor of the UDS Professor Haruna Yakubu had to punctuate the guest by descending from where he was sitting to draw his attention to the fact that, a large section of the audience including members of the high table, could hardly hear him. This explains the reason for writing this article as a way of expressing my frustration over that mishap that should never and ever happen again.

As expected, many people started dosing off midway Chief Obasanjo’s lecture. Those who did not sleep perhaps were facebooking, WhasApping or twitting. This is because the about one hour lecture which was highly anticipated with a lot of enthusiasm, turned out to be a boring one and before it even ended, some people had already left.

In fact, there was not a single clap from the audience in the course of the lecture as it often happens in most lectures until the Guest Speaker grounded to a halt with the closing remarks “Thank you”, then came what I term as a clap for nothing from some section of the audience.

In an attempt to salvage the situation, the Governing Council Chairman of the UDS Dr. Abdulai Baba Salifu at the end of the lecture, had to re-echo almost half of all that Chief Obasanjo said for the benefit of those who did not hear the latter when he was delivering the lecture.

By the time everybody was leaving the ABC, many people had to decide as to whether they would attend the rest of the lectures because it was a three-day event. For me, I made up my mind that I would not be attending the lecture on the next day and the final day which was 25th April, 2013.

In conclusion, I will like to suggest to the authorities of the UDS to consider hosting similar events in the future at a different venue in order to avoid further embarrassments.

Also, although it may be too expensive to redesign the ABC to make it acoustic proof, authorities can consider buying a totally different set of PAS that are of high quality and fix them in the ABC in order to make audio sound transmission better for important events such as the African Leadership Lecture Series. For instance, some of my colleagues thought that a chest-microphone could have made things even better for Chief Obasanjo because his head was almost down throughout the lecture.

The writer is a freelance journalist but regularly writes for The Daily Dispatch Newspaper. Views or comments may be sent to him via ziemjoseph@yahoo.com/ +233 207344104.

Columnist: Ziem, Joseph