The ‘Sad’ Case of the Hon. M.P. for Tamale South-Haruna Iddrisu

Sat, 14 Feb 2009 Source: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw

I woke up one fine morning, a couple of days back, to read from the internet that a pressure group is questioning the suitability of some ministerial nominees due to some ‘sins’ from their past. I was surprised to find Hon. Haruna Iddrisu’s name among the list.

I was even more surprised when I read what the charge against him was. The University of Ghana (UG) had pulled his MPhil because he was discovered to have plagiarized portions of the thesis he submitted for the MPhil. How could this be? This is a sitting member of parliament and a soon-to-be cabinet minister. The tone of the story suggested that this had happened a while back, but for some reason I didn’t catch it when it first broke. I will explain why his was the name that caught my attention. I have followed, with keen interest, the career of Haruna Iddrisu as an M.P. I must confess that he had proven to be quite different from what I expected. In many instances, he had been the sole voice of reason within the NDC parliamentary caucus (when they formed the minority). On radio and T.V. he appeared objective in his analyses of issues. But there was something else that made this ‘new’ information, regarding the alleged plagiarism, of serious concern to me.

I first heard the name Haruna Iddrisu when some students from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) recounted an incident, which happened in the school, to me. The National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) has a system where its executive committee is rotated amongst the public universities in Ghana. It was the University of Ghana’s (UG) turn and they had elected one Haruna Iddrisu as the NUGS president. And as was normally the case, he was to go round the universities that constituted NUGS to present himself to students of the respective institutions. His ‘reputation’ had preceded him to the campus of KNUST. Students there had heard so much about this new ‘fire-spitting’ NUGS president from UG and they couldn’t wait to see and hear from him.

The Great Hall was packed. Haruna Iddrisu took the stage and true to form he started going through all the ‘ills’ of the government (the NDC was in power then). So on and on he went, I was told, through the usual list of charges against the government and the problems facing the educational sector in particular. There seems to be this unwritten code that the success or otherwise of a student leader depends on how he/she confronts the government or calls the government to order on issues important to students. Basically a student leader is to ‘fight’ for students. The definition of ‘fight’ in this case is subjective though. Student leaders always know better than their senior colleagues (the university administration) and even the government itself. They have solutions to all the country’s problems. But amazingly, the same people get into government and nothing changes. We are still grappling with the same old problems since the Totobi Quakyis, the P.V. Obengs and the Dan Botwes. One wonders why!!! Anyway, back to the story.

Then came the bombshell- on the issue of inadequate textbooks in the libraries, the honorable NUGS president told the packed audience that when they go to the library and identify any textbook of interest with the relevant information, they should go ahead and tear the pages they need. And when all the leaflets are gone, maybe the authorities will then be forced to buy new books. I hear you could have heard a pin drop. The hall was silent. They couldn’t believe their ears. Then students started walking out, so disappointed. Is this the NUGS president from UG they had heard so much about? Is this the best University of Ghana could offer? They asked. But their disappointment was just beginning.

Not long after that incident came news that Haruna Iddrisu had attended an NDC-organized conference at Akosombo, and had actually accepted an amount of money (specific amount withheld) from the NDC. Was this man an NDC man who had successfully portrayed himself otherwise to win the NUGS presidency, and was only now showing his true colours? Or had he just been ‘bought’ by the NDC with the ‘transaction’ at this meeting at Akosombo? Was he promised other ‘gifts’ in the future should he play his ‘role’ to the satisfaction of his benefactors? We may not know the answers to these questions but we do know that after this Akosombo meeting, the NUGS president never engaged in any ‘wahala’ with the government. Nobody should get me wrong. As NUGS president, that is your job. Nobody is saying that you should confront the government when there is nothing to confront about. In our part of the world we do acknowledge that there is always a whole lot to fight with the government over. Again this was clearly a different person from the one they had voted into office. What did it say about the man’s personal integrity? Students from Tech never missed the opportunity to bring this subject up, anytime they met their counterparts from Legon, and they (Tech) castigated them (Legon) for such a ‘poor’ choice.

Having been told this story, I was little surprised when he became the youth organizer of the NDC. He did a good job, apparently, and so was rewarded with the opportunity to contest for the parliamentary seat of Tamale South. He won the seat and has since been in parliament. As I said from the beginning, his record as an M.P. is much better than most and so, in spite of the earlier NUGS matter, I had given him the benefit of the doubt and had moved on. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for this other incident. Plagiarism is a whole different ball game. When I read the ‘plagiarism’ story the other incident came rushing back to my head and I began to wonder. What do the two stories have in common? Clearly the principles of integrity and honesty were missing in both instances. But in academia, plagiarism is like cold-blooded murder. You just don’t do it!! If these are allegations why hasn’t he sought to clear his name? I really want to hear what he has to say about this charge. It is that important. But universities, by form and function, do not come to such conclusions without solid basis.

Our inner man (true nature and character) has a funny way of showing up to confront us (at least expected times) to cause anxious moments for us and this might just be his turn.

In light of this, does he have the moral right to continue as MP? Ordinarily no, but in a world where people who do not pay their taxes could become Treasury Secretaries of the US, and where ‘Leaders of the House’ who have ‘inappropriate’ relationships with their sisters-in-law could remain in office, in Ghana, there is absolutely no reason why the Hon. Haruna Iddrisu cannot continue in office and even survive vetting to become Ghana’s Minister for Transport. This is a young man I thought was full of promise, both for his constituents and for Ghana and for something like this to be hanging over his head is very sad indeed.

Yaw Opare-Asamoa


Written and submitted on February 7, 2009

Columnist: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw