UTAG-gov't 'brawl': A potential 'Putin's poison' in Ghana

UTAG Logo UTAG began its strike action on 10th January

Thu, 10 Feb 2022 Source: Iddrisu Abdul Hakeem

With educational standards at both the basic and senior high levels deteriorating faster than a misguided opinion, one last straw that would finally break the camel's back of Ghana Education is the continuous strikes of University Teachers at the tertiary education level. And the consequences are promising to be more disastrous than “Novichok”, a chemical weapon that has been dubbed "Putin's Poison" by the West.

Fellow university students, our current situation has rendered us look like motherless children. Undoubtedly, we have found ourselves in an obvious quandary with the ongoing industrial action of the University Teachers Association of Ghana, UTAG, launched against the government. And if your mother and father are fighting you have to be careful about who you support or place your thumb on who to blame. Otherwise, you may exacerbate the problem. However, if your father has been a constant wife-beater, for whatever reasons, it is only appropriate that you support your mom at least without blaming your father.

Wait a minute. What if your mother is an NPP sympathizer and your father subscribes to the NDC? And what if you are the TESCON or TEIN President in your university? Who are you going to support?

In this case, the government is our father, a constantly merciless wife batterer, and UTAG is our mother who has been abused just too badly that we have no choice but to come to the aid of our mother. I find it cowardice those students who think students should neither support nor blame either party. That’s irresponsible.

You see, the display and flex of muscles by the government have taken a very entrenched position already on the issue is what is provoking UTAG not to compromise. We have a government that is so full of itself and parade itself as though it’s the wisest entity in the country. These gimmicks of trying to outsmart the only intellectual community of the country are what is most provocative and I believe the government itself would not have tolerated such a position and posture were they in the shoes of the UTAG.

Government attitude of the arrogance of recalcitrance and opulence yet wanting the rest of Ghanaians to be humble and listen to them and sacrifice is one painful nonsense anybody would readily kick against. It appears they see the members of the intellectual community – the lecturers – like some over-pampered children who are fighting over a misplaced promised candid. And like a dishonest parent who deceives his child over such a favorite candid in the umpteen times, but never buys it for him or her, the child has become so disinterested in the promises of the parent. He or she is now willing to throw nasty tantrums! Because he or she must get their candid.

Sometimes, it takes humility and even feigning of ignorance to win at the negotiations table. But the arrogant and belligerent stance of the government and its bullying attempt to use the legal apparatus of the state to coerce these aggrieved lecturers back to the classroom is simply intolerable. Nobody would compromise like that. In his Art of the Deal, President Donald Trump shows the ways in dealerships in order to win any deal. It doesn't take rocket science to challenge conventional thinking and win over adversaries; to get someone off guard and softened their stance for you. In our local parlance, we say two wise men can't live together. It takes a deliberate fool and a "fictive wise" man to work together.

The government being the servant of Ghanaians should have taken the pain to play the role of the deliberate fool to keep governmental activities running, especially in delicate matters like this. Nonetheless, like Novichok, these strikes government has failed to address and contain may eventually decimate Ghana's educational system in its entirety.

Because the university level is now what we pride on. The basic and senior high schools have been mortgaged for political aggrandizement and cheap politics. If the quality of tuition is diluted at the tertiary level, too, Free SHS beneficiaries are doomed; Ghana is doomed; Africa is doomed, nay the world! And that would not portend well for us in the long run. Because quality graduates and education, in general, would have been condemned to the backwaters of civilization in our 21st century and beyond.

However, I am personally aghast and utterly astonished at the laid-back attitude of student unions, especially the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), and various Students' Representative Council (SRCs) leaders in the universities. They have been quieter than the cemetery. And even those who have spoken, like NUGS, made what was clearly partisan demands asking lecturers to rather compromise without rebuking the government! Come on! What has happened?

I thought the time would have been quite overdue for NUGS to call on all university students to replicate what had happened at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, KNUST, when university properties were vandalized to register the disgust of students over frivolous issues of so-called brutalities. Even though the leadership of SRC at KNUST never expected what students did on that very black Monday morning 22 August 2019, many Ghanaians including some NUGS executives congratulated those who carried out this "enough is enough" "demolition exercise” mistaken as a demonstration. Why are students very calm today when their very future is being “smoked” on the stove of the government's aggrandizement and selfishness?

Probably, the VC at the time was considered to be in the paraphernalia of a certain political party. It was fine for "students" to vandalize university properties over frivolous issues amidst standing ovation and clappings. Today, the very existence of tertiary education in Ghana is under threat and "students" do not see the need to send a warning to the government? I know few have been speaking with rather trembling voices of fear of losing political favors from the government though. I doubt if Ghana could dare win independence with the sort of youth we have today. Not that students have lost their spirit of activism, it’s because a certain political party is in government. Is it not disturbing that today even traditional rulers are fighting over politicians? Shame!

As a result of the over politicization of everything in this country, nobody fights for Mother Ghana anymore. No matter the evil that is being perpetrated, if the perpetrators have political coloration we favor, there's no evil done: It’s brushed aside.

Despite Fufu becoming increasingly difficult to be pounded in many homes in the Ashanti Region today, people think there's no hardship in the country!

I think the attempt to make everything NDC or NPP in Ghana has been another Novichok that if we don't rise above excessive partisan politics, our case shall be worse than Alexey Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who was poisoned with that chemical weapon in an assassination attempt in 2020.

If you are familiar with not too recent developments in Russia and its celebrated leader (or dictator?), Vladimir Putin, you might have heard about the West accusing Russia and Putin of violating the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Convention (OPCW) for manufacturing Novichok that has been credited to the Russian leader. According to Colonel Hamish De Bretton Gordon, a chemical weapons Expert, Novichok is one sophisticated and deadliest chemical weapon that can decimate an entire city, killing millions of people with just a cupful of it. "If Chlorine is toxic 61, then Novichok is 100,000 times more toxic than molecular Chlorine"! He analyzes. It is a fourth-generation chemical weapon ever made furthermore poisonous and technical than those used in World War II.

Fellow Ghanaians, while we are still unable to reach this level of scientific sophistication and excellence, if there's anything that can be equivalent to Russian Novichok deployed by the Ghana government, it’s its inability to meet workers' demands that often leads to the most costly strikes in the country. It is often sickening, poisoning, and killing our progress as a country, slowly but painfully.

While the lion's share of the blame must be tabled at the doorstep of the government, I think it is also important that institutions charged with the responsibility for admitting students to be trained as professionals should go beyond academic performance to considering of character as well. Students who intend to go into law, medicine, teaching, banking, or individuals who want to serve in the national security agency must be vigorously examined beyond the pale of academic qualifications. Ethical, emotional, and psychological considerations must take priority.

Please don't get me wrong. Lecturers have every right to demand what is due them, health workers such as nurses, doctors, the latter in particular, have every right to bamboozle the government into listening to them. However, we must not risk Ghana's future for the sole veneration of the god of the Mammon (money)!

For example, if someone who could have made millions of dollars, be able to employ Ghanaians, pay taxes to the state if he had been treated and recovered, has been left to die because of a strike over "vehicle maintenance" allowances, what would such doctors have done to Mother Ghana? This does not mean when the government is being stupid industrial action must not be taken.

Also, if universities have been shut down for two years because of the government's inability to increase their due salaries, and many graduating students miss scholarship opportunities to study elsewhere abroad. Who loses? Ghana! Not these her criminal managers.

However, if it has become convincingly apparent like we are witnessing right now, that a certain government just doesn't care about the well-being of the citizens but is interested in "selling" them due to officials of government excessive desire for money, the workers must ignore the government and go back to work for the interest of Mother Ghana.

A cursory glance at the activities of this Nana Addo-Bawmia government exposes their self-seeking, self-serving and lackadaisical attitude towards the plight of Ghanaians. Fundamentally, it's been about themselves and not the suffering masses. That's why they refuse to pay heed to what president Woodrow Wilson of the USA said in 1917, "the ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people".

On this note, I humbly plea that the lecturers should kindly persevere and pray with discerning Ghanaians for the next government to take over in order to address their situation as an association. Likewise every striking worker in the country. Every Ghanaian knows government did not outsmart you as intellectuals and dispassionate workers of our nation. You want the good of Ghana, your country. You should not allow any selfish government to provoke you into extinguishing this intellectual light you have candled in Ghana.

Please rise above the nonsense of government! Do not smuggle "Putin's Poison" into the country in the academic circles. Do not allow education in Ghana to be decimated by Akufu Addo's Novichok - the arrogance of power, recalcitrance, and display of (ill-gotten) opulence.

Remember, two wise persons can't live together: one must become a "deliberate fool". I, therefore, call on you with humility and respect to please resume academic activities.

It is the “deliberate fool” who certainly lives with the fictive "wise man".

Long Live Ghana.

Columnist: Iddrisu Abdul Hakeem