The opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) through its appendage, the Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG) is crying foul over the allocation of scholarship by government to some 250 Ghanaian youth to study Medicine in Cuba, particularly, the number of northerners benefiting from the scheme.
Pressure group AFAG, widely known to be supported and funded by the opposition New Patriotic Party at a press conference Tuesday, relying on Article 35 clause (6a) of the 1992 Constitution under the Directive Principle of State Policy, is questioning government over the criterion used in the selection of beneficiaries.
AFAG is also demanding of government the cost implications for the whole exercise, claiming the “revised Ghana-Cuban governments' agreement is worrying and dangerous to the unity and harmony of this multi-ethnic state…”
Acknowledging the precarious path of their mission, AFAG said “with a heavy heart today, and recognizing how dangerously divisive the subject of our press conference is, AFAG is worried about the most blatant discrimination by the sitting vice-president”.
The group, using a supposed list of regional distribution which depicts the Northern, Upper West and Upper East as having been allocated 10, 12 and 21 students respectively stated that; “…and more worrying is the level of discrimination that has been deliberately applied in the selection of students for this scholarship programme to Cuba”.
AFAG further stated…. “But, that is not all. Our greatest concern is with the regional distributions upon which the applicants were selected across the country. According to official documents available to AFAG, of the 250 Ghanaians selected, a total number of 122 was allocated to the 10 regions, whiles another 179 was distributed amongst the office of the president, vice president, national security and the scholarship secretariat”.
In an interaction with the press, members of FAG alleged that because the three northern regions, Upper East, Upper West and Northern together with the Volta regions are the strongholds of the ruling National Democratic congress, that is why the distribution of the scholarship awards were skewed in their favour.
A full regional distribution of the scholarship awards as provided by AFAG is as shown in the table below;
Gt. Accra 17
Brong Ahafo 9
Upper West 12
Upper East 21
But the government in a swift rebuttal described as unfortunate and preposterous AFAG's claims that the award of scholarship to some 225 brilliant students in deprived areas by the state was skewed to benefit some ethnic groups to the detriment of others.
Spokesperson to the Vice President, Mr. John Mahama in an interview on Radio XYZ 93.1 FM's current affairs programme, 'What's New' said “the attempt to play tribal politics is unfortunate and Ghanaians should not stand for it. This is a deliberate attempt to introduce unnecessary tribalism into the system and this should be rejected with the vehemence that it deserves.”
Mr. John Jinpor said “this is once again another fruitless wild goose chase by our detractors aiming at tarnishing the image of the Vice President.”
He said the qualified students were selected exclusively from the Scholarship Secretariat without any pressure from government and that such an unfounded allegation must be rejected with the needed contempt.
“Scholarships have always been given by the Scholarship Secretariat. They have their criteria. They form a committee and the committee decides the criteria to use, and so we find it quite preposterous for people to say that it is cronies that made up the list. We are talking about Ghanaians,” Mr. Jinapor stressed.