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18.03.2005 Feature Article

Letter From The President: What’s in a ‘degree’?

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Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents,

I was very surprised when I read in the newspapers that Jerry Boom was to be awarded an honorary doctorate degree by the University for Development Studies.

Why was I surprised? Well, the man has received so many honorary doctorate degrees from various universities in different parts of the world. I think it's high time he actually studies for a real degree. I think the UDS should rather have offered him free admission and invited him to come over to study at the university – which according to the university authorities, is his “baby”. I strongly believe that Jerry Boom needs to occupy himself with something very meaningful – like an academic pursuit for a well-deserved, 'proper' degree.

I was also surprised by the announcement of an honorary degree for Jerry Boom because I am also supposed to be receiving an honorary degree at the same ceremony as Jerry Boom. “Are the UDS authorities really thinking with their heads screwed on?” I asked myself. What do they take me for? Do they think that Jerry Boom and I should have the same academic credentials? I meticulously studied for and earned a degree at… err.. Oxford. So I don't need honorary degrees – definitely not from the rundown and impoverished UDS. I think that Jerry Boom deserves a UDS honorary degree more than I do. After all, the university is his baby. I am not the midwife who helped him to deliver the baby, so why the heck am I being given an honorary degree as well? Moreover, I don't feel comfortable attending the same ceremony with Jerry Boom for the same reason. He will steal the show and I will be seriously “left ajar”.

I was therefore looking for an excuse to dodge the convocation when the news came that the event had been canceled. According to the chairman of the council of the UDS, the cancellation has become necessary for “national security reasons”. Nonsense!

I think there's more to the cancellation of the ceremony than the UDS authorities – especially, the chairman of the university council – care to admit. The chairman of the University Council claims that he had been made aware of some national security concerns that make it imperative for the university to cancel the convocation. As the president of our beloved Sikaman, I don't know of any security concerns that make it difficult or impossible for the UDS to confer Jerry Boom's honorary degree on him as planned. Jerry Boom has been traveling the length and breadth of this country without posing any security threat to me or to himself. He's even been using the ordinary folks' departure and arrival lounges at the airport without hell breaking love over security concerns. During the electioneering, Jerry Boom went to Tamale where he said all sorts of things about me to a large crowd of NDC supporters. That didn't raise any security concerns. So why has his honorary doctorate degree at the UDS become a matter of state security? Unless someone produces some solid evidence to prove that Jerry Boom intends to start an insurgency from the UDS campus – or set the university on fire – if he's allowed inside, I think the decision to cancel the convocation is ill-thought, arbitrary and totally uncalled for.

As I've indicated earlier, I had my concerns over the convocation. But my concerns had nothing to do with national security. They mainly bordered on my personal insecurity and jealousy. I don't want to attend a ceremony at which I will be overshadowed by the sheer weight of Jerry Boom's charisma. I also feel that Jerry Boom deserves (and needs) a UDS honorary doctorate degree more than I do. After all, I am told, he donated his own money as seed capital for the establishment of the university. If for any reason a very perceptive aide knows about my concerns and is trying to get me out of a potentially sticky situation, the least the people of Sikaman deserve is an intelligent lie – one with a very wide escape latch. The lie of “national security concerns” does not stick and I want it withdrawn immediately. The current lie is an embarrassment to my government. It has created the negative and damaging impression that my government (and for that matter, my excellent self) wants to write “Jerry Boom out of the history of this country”, a statement eloquently made by Tony Aidoo. Furthermore, I am not happy that a simple matter of the award of a useless honorary doctorate degree has become a national debate. Citizens of Sikaman, who were peacefully contemplating ingenious strategies for surviving the recent petroleum price hikes, are now talking about whether Mr. Boom deserves the degree or not. This has unnecessarily shifted attention to the coup maker and for the next several weeks, his popularity will soar.

In any case, I don't think that the UDS – being the most impoverished and least recognized public university in the country – deserves all this claptrap. The events which were scheduled for this weekend could have also been used to discuss the future of the university, which in actual fact, looks like Trobodom L/A Primary School – with students sharing classrooms with livestock. Before all this controversy came up, I was seriously thinking about writing to tell you about the need for us to either shut down the UDS or bring it up to standard – if you consider the shambolic 'University of Legon' as the standard for the typical Sikaman university. Perhaps, this is how things are meant to be in Sikaman. Instead of charting a course forward, we are busy quarrelling amongst ourselves over a useless honorary doctorate degree. To avoid similar occurrences in the future, I will plead with Jerry Boom to go to school and work for a proper degree.

Further, no university should consider awarding Jerry Boom and me honorary doctorate degrees at the same time and place.

Excellently yours,

J. A. Fukuor Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

J. A. Fukuor
J. A. Fukuor, © 2005

The author has 204 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: JAFukuor

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