Dr. Abubakr Alhassan, a member of the Professor George Benneh Committee on the Establishment of the University of the North (the original name of the University of Development Studies (UDS)) and Chairman of its Sub-Committee on Physical Facilities, has come out firmly and fiercely in favour of the decision of the Council of the UDS to confer an Honorary Doctorate degree on former President Jerry John Rawlings, saying, “all those who have been directly or indirectly associated with the process leading to the establishment of the UDS fully recognise the extraordinary contribution of His Excellency former President Rawlings”
Speaking at a Press Conference at the Tamale Centre for National Culture on Tuesday March 22, 2005, Dr. Alhassan, immediate past National Chairman of the CPP, one-time PNDC Secretary (Minister) for Works and Housing and an architect by profession, recalled that when the idea of establishing the UDS began receiving serious official consideration, some obstructionists complained about scarce national resources and argued for any available resources to be applied to the then existing Universities in the south.
Dr. Alhassan recounted the firm position of the former President in countering these obstructionists, and his instructions for the Chairman of the main Committee, Professor George Benneh, through the then PNDC Secretary (Minister) for Education, Mr. K. B. Asante, to identify any suitable government structures in the Northern Region, Upper East and Upper West Regions as well as Kintampo in the Brong Ahafo Region to serve the purpose.
Among other personal initiatives and interventions by former President Rawlings, Dr. Abubakr mentioned the following:
(i) On numerous occasions when deadlines were to be met, he put an Air Force plane at the disposal of the Professor George Benneh Committee;
(ii) He made sure visits to the sites of the University featured prominently on each occasion that he visited the North;
(iii) He took particular interest in the Medical School component of the UDS and set up a Special Task Force with membership including Professor Kofi Awoonor and Mrs. Valerie Sackey to oversee its establishment;
(iv) He set up an office at the Castle, Osu, for the Task Force;
(v) He brought in a team of Cuban Professors to assist in the establishment of the Medical School.
Given all these contributions, Dr. Abubakr Alhassan said he found it appalling that crude attempts were made to mar an occasion in which a young University wants to show its appreciation to someone who contributed so much to its founding.
He condemned the attempts by the Chairman of the University Council, Mr. Daniel Kofi Charles Gyimah, to cancel the award ceremony and described his excuses for doing so as “flimsy and totally untenable”.
Dr. Alhassan found it strange that the Chairman would admit that the decision to confer the award was a collective UDS Council decision and yet would unilaterally cancel it allegedly on receipt of purported petitions from anonymous groups of students and lecturers.
Dr. Abubakr Alhassan called on the Regional Houses of Chiefs of the three Northern Regions “to add their authoritative voices to that of the authorities of the UDS so that we can collectively contribute to honouring this great individual who has offered such invaluable service to the overall development of the North and the development of education”.