... Chairman of the University Council puts pressure on USD ... Government's involvement suspected THE HONORARY Doctorate degree to be conferred on the former president, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings by the University for Development Studies (UDS), for his role in the establishment of the school, has been halted by the Chairman of the University Council, Mr. Daniel Gyimah (pictured). According to reports available to this paper, the chairman has written to the Vice Chancellor of the UDS, Prof. B.K John Kaburise, expressing his displeasure and discomfort over the impending award and cited security reasons to support his stand. Meanwhile, The Chronicle has gathered that withholding of the award had been necessitated by pressure mounted on the University Council Chairman, Mr. Gyimah, to plead no consensus and also cite security reasons as grounds. Mr. Gyimah and the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Kaburise who were reported to be in disagreement over the intended award, refused to clarify the situation to the Chronicle on the basis that they had been advised not to talk to the press on this matter. The Vice Chancellor, who could not deny nor confirm the story, directed this reporter to the chairman, saying, “I have instructions from the University Council that I should not speak to the press on this matter. Kindly talk to the Chairman of the University Council,” he said.
When, Mr. Gyimah was contacted, he was very brief and said; “I have instructions not to speak to the press for now.” Mr. Dan Botwe, the Minister of Information, dismissed allegations of government's involvement in the withholding of the ceremony, adding that the government does not control the university and that the university would be best placed to address the issue. Mr. Emmanuel Victor Smith, Special Assistant to the former President, confirmed the story and said he was waiting to get the official report from the University. “We have been notified that the programme to which a lot of diplomats and dignitaries were invited, has been put on hold but we are waiting for an official report from the council.” It would be recalled that this paper reported last week that the University would honour the former President, with a doctorate degree for Development Studies (UDS) in Tamale for his commitment to the success of the university. The UDS, which will organize a special graduation on March 19, this year, observed that, “UDS recognizes that it is your baby and it records for posterity that it was you as the Head of State of the Republic of Ghana who, against all odds, founded the University. Your commitment to the success of the UDS was demonstrated by the donation of your prestigious 'Hunger Award' to assist the start up of the University. It is our belief that for these alone, you deserve to be given the highest honour by the University.” In a letter dated January 10th this year, signed by the Vice Chancellor of UDS, Prof. John B.K. Kaburise, the UDS requested the former president to acknowledge the honour, stating among other things that, there were many reasons to prove beyond doubt that he deserved to be conferred with an Honorary Doctorate degree. “You have been a staunch believer in justice and equity. Your personal interest in working towards fair play in society makes you a friend of all those who cherish collective and holistic social advancement of our country.” According to the University, Flt. Lt. Rawlings, as a three times head of state, oversaw substantial improvements in the infrastructure of the nation, more especially in rural and deprived areas. This, Prof. Kaburise noted, was evidenced in road infrastructure and rural electrification programmes which have greatly benefited all rural communities in the country. The Vice Chancellor observed that the ex-President's commitment to development of deprived communities was underscored by the development of the Afram Plains and most of rural northern Ghana. When this paper sought the opinion of some ministers on the elevation of the former president, they noted that despite all odds, Mr. Rawlings deserved the necessary commendation, but were quick to add that certain unwarranted statements directed to him were purely for political expediency. “Rawlings could be used to serve in conflict zones because he has what it takes. He needs to be encouraged but should be advised to tone down his attacks on President Kufuor.” One minister, who pleaded strict anonymity for what he termed, “certain reasons known to me,” said Rawlings is his role model! “I just like the man. I personally do not hate him but it was unfortunate that we failed to acknowledge his role. In fact, it was in a right direction that the UDS took that decision. I owe Mr. Rawlings gratitude,” the Minister stated. Mr. Emmanuel Victor Smith, Special Assistant to the former President, confirmed the story when this paper contacted him. When asked about more justifications for Mr. Rawlings' award, Mr. Smith said he (Rawlings) had directed the destiny of Ghana for nearly twenty years, adding that during that time, Ghana passed through momentous changes. He said, “Today, we acknowledge his role in effecting those changes. The start was unpropitious. In 1957,G hana became the first sub-Saharan country to regain its independence. But, by the late 1970s, the economy was in catastrophic decline, corruption and inefficiency were rife and there was widespread disillusionment with the political system. In 1979, as a young Flight Lieutenant, J.J. Rawlings made his first intervention in national politics when he became Chairman of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council.”