The National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) arguably is the largest student movement in Ghana and a dominant force in student activism on the African Continent and beyond. NUGS was formed in 1959 with the aim of gathering all Ghanaian students under one umbrella to fight for the rights and interests of students, offer a common platform for the discussion of issues and problems affecting students, inculcating in students the spirit of solidarity and patriotism and to a larger extent representing Ghanaian students on national and international issues of interests.
Truly, NUGS has over the years lived up to its creed and moved beyond that to be a nurturing ground for astute political leaders for our dear country, Ghana. Sincerely, there is no gainsay that, political leaders such as Dan Botwe, Haruna Iddrisu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa and Dr. Arthur Kennedy among others carved their political career whilst serving as executives at NUGS.
It is also evident that NUGS has over the years been able to influence policies that saw massive improvement in the infrastructure of majority of schools dotted around the length and breadth of our country, as well as keeping our political leaders on check and at various times contributed their quota in building the democracy that we currently enjoy.
Unfortunately, this piece of writing which may be called an article is not designed to spotlight the achievements of NUGS but rather to highlight the challenges she currently faces and how that has damaged her legacy and ultimately make propositions that are essential to reclaiming the legacy of our mother union.
It is an undisputable fact that, despite the gargantuan achievements of NUGS over the years, she is increasingly becoming irrelevant and a white elephant to the course of Ghanaian students in lieu of the myriad of challenges she currently faces. Indeed, many are those who contend that the flame of student activism which was set ablaze and handed down to successive generations of Ghanaian student leaders began running out of steam from the early 1990's. Unfortunately, I am sometimes tempted to agree with this view in toto for obvious reasons. Apparently, NUGS has become redundant and dormant, ineffective and inactive as a result of political infiltration, “greed and monecracy'' instead of democracy. This has rendered NUGS handicapped in its quest to address the myriad of challenges confronting the Ghanaian student. Lest I forget! The issue which is of importance to me and key to NUGS' reclaiming her shuddered legacy and central to this article, is unity within NUGS. This is however an alien if not a mirage to our present day NUGS.
Colleague students, comrades! Not too long ago, the whole world and for that matter Ghana woke up to the news that Cote d'Ivoire had two presidents, a fallout from the disputed presidential elections in that country. Indeed, many, including student – leaders of Ghana were of the opinion that such a situation was unacceptable and that it was time African leaders eschewed such selfish and ambitious moves which culminate into conflicts. As the memories of this tragedy still linger fresh in the minds of many, even the feeble minded still recalls the precious lives and valuables it cost Cote d'ivoire to appease for the harm caused .Do we as leaders and members of NUGS envision the propensity of our actions in that dimension?
Several months down the line, the National Union of Ghana Students was caught in the same web where there were two claimants to the NUGS' presidency, a fallout from the impeachment of Anthony Abotsi Afriyie and the election of Hamza Suhuyini as NUGS president in the 2010/2011 NUGS year. Unfortunately and for the purpose of this article, I state without any equivocation or mischief that NUGS 2011/2012 has two presidents: NDC – Ho based NUGS led by Osman Ayariga and NPP – Accra based NUGS led by Peter K. Kodjie. Sad revelations! Indeed, very very sad revelations. Quelle domage!!
Surprisingly, many of our students – leaders do not want to eat humble pie and accept the reality that there is a problem in NUGS and that there is the need to reclaim the legacy of NUGS. Indeed I remember putting this issue to Mr. Gbadago Francis, the indefatigable SRC president of GIJ at a student gathering in October, 2011. Interestingly, he was of the view that NUGS is not in crisis since Peter Kodjie is parading as NUGS president and that Osman Ayariga is the legitimate NUGS president as he was elected by majority of the membership of NUGS in HO. Surely, such a statement from Francis was pleasing to the ear but it is not soothing to the soul when we hear Peter issues statements to the press, produces quarterly reports on the activities of NUGS and grants interviews to the press as part of his responsibilities as the substantive NUGS president? Just like Francis acknowledges Ayariga as the NUGS president, I am pretty sure other SRC presidents also adore Peter as the incumbent NUGS president.
Then again, it is evident that the internal wrangling within NUGS has had a negative toll on its blocs, particularly the Ghana Union of Professional Students (GUPS) where Charles Amponsah and Louisa Atta Agyemang are equally having an “Azonto challenge”. Who wins the competition? We shall find out!
Colleague students, Comrades! It is disheartening that we have an ailing, dysfunctional, disunited and shuddered student front at a time when the educational sector in Ghana is bedeviled with a lot of challenges, ranging from high rocketing school fees, poor or inadequate infrastructure on our campuses, late payment of student loans, rampant strike actions, poor WASSCE and BECE results and the unwarranted infringement of the rights and sovereignty of students all of which impact negatively to the success of students and our nation at large.
The American Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King jr. once said that “we must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope”. Despite these difficulties, we are facing as a union; I believe that we can rise above the challenge to reclaim the fragmented legacy of our mother union.
For NUGS to relive its former glory and reassert itself as a formidable student front, I propose first and foremost that we should as a matter of urgency kick out this NDC – TAIN- NPP – TESCON sponsored elements from frontline student leadership and activism for dedicated, selfless, indefatigable, effective, efficient and above all, non-partisan leaders to rebuild, reunite, ignite and reclaim the crushed legacy of NUGS.
Secondly, unity within the rank and file of the union is key to the survival of student activism and essential to the pursuance of our goals. Indeed, it is true that NUGS' key strength is its numbers which it employs as a bargaining tool to negotiate for the supreme interests of students at all times. How can we exploit our numbers to overcome our challenges in the wake of the disunity that stares us in the face? Unity I repeat is key!
Also, we should adopt strategic diplomacy as an immediate step to bring the various factions to forge a common front in the upcoming congress.
Lastly, the alumni of NUGS have a key role to play in resolving this impasse. The likes of William Yamoah, Kweku Tuoho Bombassson, Kofi Totobi – Kwakye, Emmanuel Domson, Haruna Iddrisu and Wonder Mandilo have a responsibility to intervene because as to whether Peter Kodjie or Osman Ayariga is parading as NUGS president or not, who is legitimate and who is not, is irrelevant since our inability to unite these forces betrays our unions formidability and raises questions as to their capacity to represent the students of Ghana. Alumni of NUGS, your intervention is vital!
In conclusion, even though I have made an attempt to provide solutions to the problems confronting NUGS, they may not be enough as the problems may be bigger than we already know. However, as NUGS leaders and members, let's take a snappy discerning pause to evaluate the legacy we succeeded and that which will bequeath those in posterity. As rational as we all may be, our conscience and sub-conscience will not give us a breathing space to scramble this legacy but instead bring all the fragments, fractions, pieces and crumbs to the negotiating table for re- framing. In doing so, I therefore challenge the leaders of the student front in Ghana which include Osman Ayariga (NUGS), Peter Kodjie (NUGS), Charles Amponsah (GUPS), Kingsley Baffoe (USAG), Gbadago Francis (SRC – GIJ), Daniel Theobiano (SRC – UG), Fred Amese (SRC – UDS), Philemon Laar (SRC – KNUST), Kwesi Otchere (SRC-UCC) and Fred Atiga (SRC – CUC) among others to bequeath us with a better legacy, for nothing is easier than blaming others for our troubles and absolving ourselves of responsibility for our choices and actions. Anybody can do that. Responsibility in the 21st century demands more. The time has come to realize that the old habits, the old arguments are irrelevant to the challenges faced by Ghanaian students. They in fact lead us to act in opposition to the very goals we claim to pursue. They built up walls between us and the future that our people seek and the time has come for those walls to come down. Together we must build a 'new NUGS' that bridges old divides.
Long live the National Union of Ghana Students, Long live Ghana.
Aluta continua, Victoria Ascerta.
STEVE KUBATE SALIFU
GHANA INSTITUTE OF JOURNALISM