The Tertiary Students Confederacy of the New Patriotic Party (TESCON) was inaugurated on the 8th of January 2000, at the courtyard of the Independence Hall of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, Kumasi. It was a momentous occasion for many people, young and old, who had tirelessly worked for months to birth a vibrant tertiary body capable of meeting the demands of a changing political landscape.
As the Fourth Republic ushered in a period of political liberty, the students' wing of the New Patriotic Party assumed certain distinct roles. In addition to being watchdogs against the educational policies and decisions of government, they also became effective advocates for the party on various national issues on the campuses of our tertiary institutions.
Prior to the 2000 general elections, the NPP had lost the two previous elections to Rawlings' National Democratic Congress (NDC), amidst widespread controversy. Among the reasons assigned to the two consecutive defeats were rigging on the part of the ruling party, due in part to the inability of the NPP to mobilize its members to serve as polling agents. It is, of course, widely accepted, as corroborated by international election observers, that the 1992 elections were comprehensively rigged, resulting in the boycott of the parliamentary elections by the then opposition parties led by the late Prof. Adu-Boahen. Also, the 1996 elections was fraught with widespread irregularities, yet J. A. Kufuor, then the leader of the opposition NPP, in a show of statesmanship accepted defeat to avoid a possible upheaval in the country.
When he was launching his first bid in 1998 to context the NPP presidential primaries, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, declared that “it takes two to tango”, meaning that if the NPP was to avoid the same fate as in the two previous elections, its members had to work harder and eschew complacency to prevent the shameless rigging of elections. This was a clarion call to NPP activists at the tertiary education institutions to come together and reorganize the then latent NPP branches in the tertiary education institutions into a formidable branch of the party that was capable of mobilizing its members to serve as polling agents across the country, and also as canvassers to disseminate the party's manifesto and campaign message.
The idea to form TESCON was, therefore, conceived in a meeting at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) branch of NPP, at the Republic Hall of KNUST. At that time, the NPP group on the campuses were known as the “NPP students wing”, a name that seemingly lacked the vitality and vigorousness that would make the group stand up to the challenge posed by the then TEIN of NDC, who were adequately resourced by the government.
Under the leadership of Mr. Sam Cudjoe (then a graduate student of the university) members of the then KNUST NPP students wing started having discussions to plan for its formation. Other executive members of the KNUST students branch included Joshua Okoto, Peter Twumasi, Sani Mahama, Effah Ameyaw, and other prominent members such as Kwaku Kwarteng, Peter Abban, Kwame Appiah Kodua, Francis Asenso-Boakye (Kabila), Osei Akoto, John Krugu, Maisie Banka and few others.
The meetings took place at the courtyard of the Republic Hall, obviously because of the Hall's central location on the campus. On the evidence of the numbers that attended party gatherings when national party leaders visited, NPP supporters on KNUST campus run into many thousands. However, the Republic Hall meetings were attended by a much fewer number, about fifty. It was these meetings that constituted the framework for what has come to be an influential special organ of the party.
At one of the initial meetings, a committee was set up to work out the modalities for the inauguration of a national body of all tertiary students of the NPP in all the tertiary institutions of the country. It was chaired by Francis Asenso-Boakye, who together with his dedicated team, worked hard to network with other NPP students in Ashanti region, including Kumasi Polytechnic, University of Education (Kumasi Campus), Institute of Marketing Studies, Agricultural College at Kwadaso in Kumasi, and the University of Education (Mampong Campus). They also established contact with NPP students in the University of Ghana and University of Cape Coast.
The question of a durable beguiling name, with national scope, to embrace NPP students in all tertiary institutions in the country soon engaged our attention. An initial suggestion for the adoption of the name Tertiary Education Institutions Network (TEIN) of NPP met fierce opposition and duly rejected. The basis for the resistance to the name “TEIN” of NPP was that it had been contaminated by the NDC and their proxies among students, and could therefore not be accepted by a party like the NPP. I commend Hon. Kwaku Kwarteng for the role he played in this particular discussion.
Subsequently, a committee chaired by Peter Abban was charged to come up with a more appropriate name and a slogan. Peter Abban and his committee did the necessary consultation and proposed the name “Tertiary Students Confederacy of the New Patriotic Party (TESCON)”. They also proposed “Commitment without inducement” as the slogan.
The slogan was consciously selected to make the point that the TEIN of NDC was not a true student movement. They were to all intent and purposes, students who had been induced by government largesse to dilute students' opposition to the NDC Government. TESCON, on the other hand, was a body of students dedicated to the development of their party and country, and determined to work for this course without fear or inducement.
In late 1999, the issue of inauguration was raised at a TESCON meeting attended by Hon. Dr. Richard Anane (then MP for Bantama) and the Late Hon. Osei Kwaku (then MP for Asokwa West). The two MPs offered some financial support towards the inauguration and further pledged the support of their colleague MPs in the Kumasi Metropolitan Area who were not present at the meeting. Subsequently, Hon. Dr Kwame Addo Kufuor (MP for Manhyia), Hon. S K Boafo (MP for Subin) and Hon. Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu (MP for New Tafo Suame) contributed financially towards the inauguration.
TESCON is grateful to these honorable personalities without whose initial financial support the inauguration would have delayed unduly. TESCON is equally grateful to Hon. Dan Botwe, then General Secretary of the Party, Abeiku Dickson, then Youth Organiser of the Party and to Professor Albert Owusu-Sarpong, then Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at KNUST for their support and guidance throughout the formative stages.
The 8th of January 2000 was a bright Saturday. At the courtyard of Independence Hall, KNUST, TESCON was inaugurated with Francis Asenso-Boakye as its first President. It was a splendid occasion. The New Patriotic Party descended on the campus in its full force. Party colours were all over. Coming events, they say, cast their shadows. Truly, the subsequent victory of the NPP in the December 2000 general elections did cast its shadow that beautiful Saturday. For those who were witnesses, it was an announcement that the party was on its way to winning the impending general elections later that year.
The occasion was graced by the then presidential candidate of the party, John Agyekum Kufuor who inaugurated TESCON. He called on the confederation's leaders to extend their educational campaign to the rural areas where the party was less formidable. He pledged his personal support and that of the party so that TESCON could play its role in the development of the party and the country (Daily Graphic 12/01/2000).
The day saw the gathering of such party giants as Hon. J H Mensah, Hon. Dr. K.K Apraku, Hon. Dr. Kwame Addo Kufuor, Hon. S.K Boafo, the Late. Hon. Osei Kwaku, Dr. Dsane Selby, Mr F.F Anto, and many others.
Following the inauguration of TESCON at KNUST, the inauguration of the other institutional branches quickly followed. On the campus of the University of Ghana, Isaac Asiamah (now MP for Atwima Mponua), then a branch President supervised the inauguration of the local branch of TESCON after he had been introduced to the TESCON Project by Francis Asenso-Boakye.
TESCON has since become the best organized student organisation in the country and an important organ of the party. It is now operating in One Hundred and Eighteen (118) tertiary institutions across the country. It has, among other contributions, been fighting the party's corner on the various campuses and playing vital roles in our general elections, acting as polling agents in some of the remote parts of the country. I commend the likes of Mustapha Hamid, John Boadu and Anthony Karbo, former national youth organizers; Emmanuel Attafuah Danso, former TESCON coordinator and former acting national youth organiser, and current TESCON coordinator, Isaac Acheampong, who have directly led this charge over the years.
In the 2000 elections, TESCON members from Ashanti region and the University of Ghana, for the first time, volunteered and served as polling agents for the NPP in the three Northern regions and in Volta regions respectively. This monumental service rendered by TESCON, under the leadership of my successor John Krugu, contributed to a large extent, in avoiding another rigging in the 2000 elections, which led to our party's first electoral victory under the 4th Republic.
The following party giants deserve commendation for their support and oversight: Dr Kwame Amoako-Tuffuor, Dr Kwame Addo-Kufuor, Jake Obesteby Lamptey, Dr K. K Apraku, F. F Anto, Asuo Banin, Kwabena Agyei Agyepong, Kwame Owusu, Alhaji Akwasi Yeboah and Andy Appiah-Kubi. I commend Stephen Amoah, a member of the team that went to the North. Stephen travelled to the North with his own car, and lost it in the process. Such was the passion for service and sacrifice at the time.
In the constitutional amendments of the 22nd August 2009 Extraordinary National Delegates Conference in Accra, the efforts of TESCON earned it significant representation in the electoral colleges for the selection of national party officers and presidential candidates.
Going forward, the most critical role of TESCON should not be limited to the conducive platform it provides for grooming leaders for both party and country. By default, our educational institutions are the place for preparing our human resource to manage the country's future. There could not be a better environment for preparing future political leaders. Without doubt, student's politics, especially at the tertiary level offers students the opportunity to understand the dynamics of competitive national politics. The emergence of young Isaac Asiamah, not just as a Member of Parliament, but also a ranking member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Youth & Sports, is instructive. Same can be said of the likes of Anthony Karbo, former NPP national youth organizer and now deputy director of communications, and Martin Agyei Mensah Korsa, now director of research and elections, Kwaku Kwarteng, MP for Obuasi West, Kwabena Okyere Darko Mensah, MP for Takoradi, Charles Owiredu, director of international affairs and Sammy Awuku, national youth Organiser. TESCON should also be major agent for political change and development which is very critical, given the current circumstances of our country. TESCON must take the party's message of hope, economic transformation and good leadership to the people at the grassroots. They must make the people aware of the unprecedented levels of official corruption, ineptitude and the incompetence associated with the Mahama administration.
2016, without doubt, is an important year in the political calendar of Ghana. The political and socio-economic circumstances of today are similar to that of 2000. Ghanaians will be presented with the opportunity to choose between four more years of economic hardship, corruption and effete leadership that are the hallmarks of the NDC government under President John Mahama and four years of hope, vision, and inspirational leadership that Nana Akufo-Addo and the NPP offer. It may seem an easy choice, but if history has taught us anything, it is that we must lace our boots for a battle with those whose are determined never to relinquish power, even when the people they seek to govern have decided otherwise.
The challenge therefore is for current TESCON members across the country, inspired by the vision, courage, selflessness and the preparedness of our presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo to invoke the spirit, energy, drive, commitment and volunteerism with which we fought for the party to win power in 2000 to do same in order to win the 2016 elections in the through sense of their slogan 'commitment without inducement'. We do this, knowing very well that we have a leader and presidential candidate in the person of Nana Akufo-Addo, who is selfless, courageous, visionary, prepared and ready to lead.
The writer is Francis Asenso-Boakye, founding president of TESCON and currently political assistant to the presidential candidate of the NPP, Nana Akufo-Addo.