GHANA: Report on Aryeetey’s Chancellor Appointment Fails Journalism 101

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

First of all, we must take this prime opportunity to congratulate Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, the prominent Ghanaian economist, on his appointment as the next Vice-Chancellor of Ghana’s flagship academy, the University of Ghana (See “Prof. Aryeetey Is New V.C. For University Of Ghana” 4/15/10). The next story that I was going to write about the University of Ghana regarded the widely publicized booing of the sitting Chancellor and former United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan. This unmistakable national contretemps, we understand, occurred during the most recent convocation at Legon. We learn that just as Mr. Annan, among other distinguished invitees were about to enter the arena of graduation festivities, a group of rowdy students swamped the route of the guests bawling out linguistic vulgarities and obscenities. Precisely what these urchins were protesting was not clarified in the available news reports, although the University’s top administrators later issued an official statement apologizing for the boorish misbehavior of the students and pledging to promptly bring the culprits to book. We fervidly hope that the Legon administrators are still standing by their pledge.

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In the interim, we are virtually left with nothing but the most rational and plausible surmises as to what might have actuated such unprovoked and clearly untoward act of unpardonable disrespect to Mr. Annan and his cohorts. And on the latter score, knowing what we do know about Ghanaian political culture in the Fourth Republic, particularly vis-à-vis the highly polarized political landscape, we can almost logically suggest that most of the students involved in such rather uncouth behavior likely were recruited by some ardent operatives of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC).

We make the foregoing observation with convicted certitude, bearing squarely in mind that, indeed, it was the Kufuor-led New Patriotic Party (NPP) that auspiciously, albeit rather belatedly, named Mr. Annan to the chancellorship of Ghana’s premiere academy. And as we vividly recall, Mr. Annan’s appointment came in the wake of a lengthy and gaping vacuum created by the demise of Nana Wereko-Ampem, a major divisional chief of the Okuapeman State.

It may also be significantly recalled that at the time, we emphatically lauded Mr. Annan’s appointment and even wondered loudly why it had taken so unnecessarily long for the Kufuor administration to decide on such an obvious choice. We also highlighted the fact that, practically speaking, the University stood to gain in both moral and material terms by having Ghana’s lone Nobel laureate head that august institution. If anything at all, we further noted, the real favor came from Mr. Annan’s side rather than vice versa.

And so, naturally, the rather disturbing report of Mr. Annan’s booing – or was it heckling? – by some Legon students came to us as nothing short of an angry surprise. Maybe these largely adolescent and barely adult students had yet to fully appreciate the indispensably beneficent implications of having the former UN Secretary-General as their Chancellor.

On another score, not altogether unrelated to the foregoing, however, we felt more than fully convinced that this gross student misbehavior had either and/or both the instigation and backing of a highly placed element of the ruling National Democratic Congress. And here also must be promptly recalled the fact that in the past the founding patriarch of the NDC had not missed any opportunity to bitterly carp Mr. Annan for what Mr. Rawlings termed as the former’s glaring partiality towards the Kufuor-led New Patriotic Party. The wicked irony of it all, for those of our readers who may not readily recall, is that upon his “revolutionary” accession to power, one of the stand-out agendas of the so-called Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) was for Togbui Avaklasu I to position one of his clansmen-henchmen for the top United Nations job. Back in 1982, the PNDC would name its first and most powerful – or “plenipotentiary” – diplomat in the person of Prof. Kofi N. Awoonor; and so, obviously, it must have come as an inconsolable heartbreak when the Kumasi-Fante-Newtown boy comfortably secured the same a decade on. Of course, even in retrospect, we know for an absolute fact that none of the “Avaklasu Boys” had a shot at the UN Secretary-General’s job, not even a long-shot!

We can, however, reasonably and accurately surmise as to who the Dzelukope Mafia would have as Chancellor of the University of Ghana if Togbui Avaklasu had his way. Recently, we witnessed the same lurid game at play in Abuja, when one of the Avaklasu Boys, a longtime career diplomat, to be certain, was named President of the ECOWAS Commission, replacing Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, a man roughly two decades the former’s junior! Needless to say, we can also fairly accurately speculate about the latter affair. And it is that not quite awhile ago, when he also served as Member of Parliament for Keta, Mr. Victor Gbeho both deviously and gratuitously described the man who single-handedly attempted to destroy Ghanaian entrepreneurship as easily the greatest Ghanaian leader after Mr. Kwame Nkrumah.

Anyway, in the news report heralding the appointment of Prof. Ernest Aryeetey as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, the writer woefully failed on several fronts. First of all, rather than solicit comments from the appointee himself, the anonymous reporter chose to interview Dr. Ellen Bortei-Doku Aryeetey, wife of the newly-appointed Legon chief executive, without even alerting readers as to why s/he had not spoken to the newsmaker himself.

Then also, regarding a public institution and a post with a mandatory retirement age, the reporter glaringly failed to tell readers about the age of the new Legon Vice-Chancellor. Furthermore, the reporter kept endorsing the spousal claim that Prof. Aryeetey was obviously a stand-out among the five candidates who applied for the job, without informing readers about both the identities and credentials of the four losing candidates.

It was also not quite clear to some of us readers, the repeated assertion that Prof. Aryeetey is “currently a member of the American Economics Association,” rather than the appointee’s being more relevantly identified with the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, for example.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI), the pro-democracy policy think tank, and the author of 21 books, including “Selected Political Writings” (Atumpan Publications/, 2008).


The opinions expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position or have the endorsement of the Editorial Board of AfricaNewsAnalysis.