Student Politics and Activism

State of Affairs on the Hill

“We are losing sight of civility in government and politics. Debate and dialogue is taking a back seat to the politics of destruction and anger and control. Dogma has replaced thoughtful discussion between people of differing views” — James McGreevey

No true society can be successful without politics. Politics is the basics through which a successful society or nation can be built. Because, like Aristotle rightly asserted “ Man is by nature a political animal.” The word politics is derived from the Greek word Politika which means “affairs of the cities”. It is simply the process of making decisions that apply to all members of a group. Politics has its history of shaping mankind and the world in which he lives. The Israelites in theological times had to legislate laws to govern their own behaviors after they came out from the wilderness, and every one of them actively engaged in deciding what was right and what was not. So did the Roman, the Egyptian, Byzantine and Achaemenid empires.

In the quest to make his life better and ensure equitable distribution of power and resources, man will have to engage in politics. The problems we face in our most endowed continent today is because very few people engage in the politics of the continent. In Ghana, after independence in 1957, we adopted a set of rules in our constitution to guide our behaviors in our sovereign state .As in many other African countries, however, politics of the state is left in the hands of few people. It is viewed by many as an act of sin and many pastors preach against it. It is rather unfortunate that our past and current leaders have made it seem like that through their diabolic acts. I remember my Dad warning me never to partake in politics. Ever. Our repulsive behavior towards politics is the reason we still remain in our current state. Because, apparently, the good people who can make significant changes are against the very idea of politics. And the ordinary citizens too are with the notion that, politics belongs to certain group of people — the dark souls.

This is, indeed, very unfortunate.

A country that’s extensively endowed with vast natural resources, a vibrantly youthful populace, expansive flora and fauna, huge deposits of minerals not to mention the very rich cultural heritage, Ghana –Africa’s hallmark of democracy- cannot quite be spared from the vicissitudes of political fallibility that has compounded the country’s state of affairs since its adoption of self rule policies. Despite all these endowments, corruption has assumed cancerous proportions impeding economic growth and development. If I were to be asked on how to deal with corruption, like most of my classmates do, I’d go ahead to give examples of world leaders such as Lee Kuan Yew and Paul Kagame who have been unforgiving in their brutal approach to expunge this economic disease from their countries, and of course, with justifiable examples, elaborate how their leadership models could be a perfect benchmark for our leaders.

Former Ghanaian president, Mahama, on invitation, visited Ashesi during his reign as president and promised a bucket of goodies among them being the construction of the Berekuso-Kwabenya road that leads to this “world renowned college”. His successor, during the campaigns, visited Ashesi, too. They had a very healthy chat with the school president, evident from the loads of Kallipo boxes all over. We all know of leaders who never desire to be questioned of their decisions, OR implications thereof, especially after they assume office.

My school is no exception to this status quo. With a full four-year course in leadership, at least, one will expect that students will actively engage in issues affecting student lives on campus. But it’s not the case. This further begs the question, how does the course prepare us to assume the affairs of a world that is marred with corruption, nepotism, cynicism, cronyism and prejudice?

Recent developments on campus have had a few section of students stratified on the raised issues. The student representatives feel aggrieved about this, because, just like their predecessors, they have been brought up in a jurisdiction that does not question anything. Where leaders feel entitled about anything, and are not answerable to anyone so long as it is not the campaign season. Throwing tantrums all over, calling people at night to impose their filthy ideologies on them is what they are good at. It’s a sad thing to know how the school prepares students to engage in the leadership of the continent in the quest to create a renaissance devoid of bad leadership, and yet students show indifference towards relevant issues, because, apparently those issues does not affect them in any way. Or maybe because those issues are matters of precedence and cannot be questioned in anyway -the infallibility of the school-the new dogma.

What is more shocking is the silence of the Student Executive Council(ASC) over the recent happenings on campus. At the very least, the role of the student government (ASC) is to serve as a platform where students grievances can be head and addressed by the institution. To rephrase that, the role of ASC is to work with the school so that student matters can be addressed, efficiently and satisfactorily. It is supposed to be an autonomous body, actively engaged with issues affecting students lives on campus. But what do we see with our ASC?

A bunch of barbecue specializes, actively engaged in organizing entertainment programs. Apparently that’s what I can think of, I actually thought there were more things they did but I just realized. What the ASC is failing to understand is the fact that there are pertinent issues affecting students more than the issue of entertainment. Major issues like the ones raised in the anonymous AAZine. Major issues like why faculty handpicked a bunch of students to go for the upcoming MCF summit without a proper criteria. Issues of inclusivity and bias exhibited by some staff and faculty. Issues of how we can get the best out of our diverse and “liberal” ecosystem. Speaking of the zine, the ASC has failed me. The least they could do was to address the entire students body, after the town hall meeting was held. But they rubbished the issue as if nothing is currently happening on campus.

ASC! you are not employees of the school. We elected you to represent us and if you think you are there to organize barbecues, bouncing castles and parties, the least you can do is to allow students to voice out their opinions through means they deem it necessary. They(ASC) have done very little to make the student-run-radio station, and they have literally done NOTHING to make sure that the student-magazine, the INK, is running to represent voices, disgruntled or otherwise. And all they care about is to overlook the real issues, or hoodwink us that there are no issues whatsoever save for the gate (which of course is every student’s right).

Another particularly shocking thing is how students are divided when it comes to the state of affairs on campus or at least, recent happenings. We have these 10% of students who have bought into the idea that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the current state of affairs, another 10% who think that there are few issues concerning the current state of affairs and hence, seek to challenge the status quo, and the huge 80% of the students who are just indifferent. The i-don’t-care,-give-me-my-degree-and-let-me-go type of student or maybe the it-does-not-affect-my-GPA type of students or the i-am-an-mcf-so-be-grateful type of students, i have no idea.

What is strange is the behavior of the school and the other 10% of students against the 10% of students who seek to change the status quo. A behavior i call the BOLITO of holding a dissent opinion on the hill or maybe that word is too much. Students are called in by their lecturers simply because they hold different opinions to that of the current status quo. Student activism is seen as an act of cynicism and a breeding ground for destruction. The zine which has provided a safe platform for students to air their grievances in the absence of an effective platform is deemed as against the values of the school. And just the other day, we saw a student collecting and burning the anonymous zine, a sign that some students are not still ready to accept diverse opinions in our very diversified liberal environment.

Here’s my recommendation, thus;

Dear fellow disgruntled commoneer,

I am equally very optimistic about the future of this noble institution and the cause which it stands for. I am also very hopeful of the education receive cos it is definitely the best I could ask for, or so I am told. It is, however, only human to err in our quest to make society more habitable to everyone. This noble environment been a human institution is no exception.

I am with a deeper conviction that the current circumstances of the school are but passing, and hopeful that this is a moment for us all to reconsider the way affairs are conducted on campus.

No matter how odd and supposedly cynical we think of these ideas on how state of affairs on the hill might be, the are the stepping stone to the better society we all hope to create. It is in having diverse perspectives on issues, that we can create a more habitable liberal environment. The recent sabotage of the zine and the prejudice of student holding contrary opinions on the current state of affairs will not provide a conducive environment to create a far better Ashesi.

And the least we can do is to allow such students to freely express their grievance, no matter how abstract we may deem their opinions. Or even how mundane their arguments are.

I am convinced that, a more vibrant campus will be reached when students engage in talking about issues that not only concern them, but also others too. When we learn to voice our opinions on the current state of affairs on the hill, we can produce a greater Ashesi. Let us engage with issues on campus and take part in issues that affect student lives, no matter how little the might seem.

Dear ASC,

I truly understand that you are working hard(at least, for the school). And that you have done a great job sofar. Like opening the gate leading to Big Ben which has saved me a lot of energy and time. You have also organized more than five parties for us just yet. And just recently we also enjoyed the activities that came with the ASC week. It was really super cool, especially the Carnivore that ushered the weekend with a bang.

However, there are equally very legitimate and more pressing issues which I think you have appeared to be indifferent about and deliberately oblivious to. Examples are the issues raised in the anonymous zine affecting student lives which you deem as cynical and a breeding ground for destruction (as per the email sent by the ASC and school’s president). I honestly thought you were going to organize a forum to address us, the entire student body after the town hall meeting with the school’s president. And i was very disappointed to see your email, and frankly, i didn’t know what you said in the email. It was unfortunate that the president of the school had to address us and you never said anything afterwards. Not even a word.

But at least, the least you can do apart from the regular barbecue and party, is to stop preventing students from devising means to communicate their grievances.We can together promote a far better Ashesi, it is not a monopoly of the president of the institution and its employees.

In the prescient and immoral words of one Daniel Patrick, “passion is easy; reasoning is difficult. We can be passionate about something effortlessly because emotions occur naturally, but thinking, problem-solving, and reasoned debate are hard work. They require not only effort but intelligence. Being dispassionate involves setting aside personal emotional biases long enough to examine and evaluate facts and opinions on all sides of an issue. We have lost our willingness and our ability to do that.”

It is our responsibility to restore the sanity that we think has been strangely violated. Before we take our issues to the administration and yell the hell out, we ought to reexamine our own role in sorting out the issues that strangle us. We have a lot of in-house keeping business to sort. The student council cannot assume the moral pedestal to determine what they assume to be a real problem or not. Whatever issues are raised require a deliberate effort to examine whether they hold water.

We all owe it to Ashesi to make it a bit better than we met it.

Long live Ashesi!