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Turning down offer; what is Rawlings up to?

botchway April 15, 2019


News sprout out that ex-President Jerry John Rawlings had turned down an offer to have the University of Development Studies named after him. I may be the only person who finds this conduct very strange and wonder what the gentleman is up to this time.

There was an allegation that during the Limann administration, the government awarded all the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) members with a total of $1 million to share as ex-gratia, but Rawlings rejected that offer on principle. What was his principle? Not to go for the golden egg, but for the hen that lays the golden egg, and that was Ghana. Rawlings took Ghana and made it his own for nineteen years. In the end, he was many times richer than his colleagues in the AFRC. The question here is what is he eyeing now?

If, indeed, he is acting solely on principle, then Ghanaians have the need to have their minds cleared on the following.

  1. In the Accra Business District, the AFRC, of which he was Chairman, first demolished a market, Makola No. 1, and later the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), of which he was also Chairman, demolished a mosque in the same vicinity. That bare ground was developed into the first parking lot in the city center, and is officially named Rawlings Park.

Also, somewhere in Madina, trekking from Atomic Junction through to this suburb with Presec on the right, one will run into a small roundabout with the third exit leading to the Madina Mosque area. This roundabout is officially called Rawlings Circle.

Rawlings could never have lost sight of these two national ‘icons’ named after him, and Ghanaians wonder why he did not reject these, and demanded they should be named after him. More strangely, the Ga traditionalists have not called for the Rawlings Park to be named after King Tackie Tawiah, whose cenotaph adorns a garden nearby, however, they insisted that the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium be renamed Accra Sports Stadium.

Does Rawlings want to forever live in the memories of the ordinary people, but not in the minds of academia?

  1. If Rawlings wishes not to be associated with academia, then why did he accept a host of honourary degrees from far and near? (1). He holds an Honourary Doctor of Law Degree from Medgar Evers College, City University of New York. (2). An honourary Lincoln University Doctorate Degree for Diplomacy and Development. (3). In 2000 he received an honourary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Glasgow in Scotland during his visit to Britain. (4). A doctorate degree from the University of Education, Winneba, and (5). An honourary Doctorate of Letters degree by the University of Development Studies, the same university he has decided not to have his name attached to in anyway at all.

What is it about these honourary degrees Rawlings cherishes so much to acquire? It all began at Harvard University in 1692, when the Ivy League school gave the first honourary degree in the United States to Puritan Clergyman Increase Mather. However, honourary degrees had been granted for over 200 years before this (the University of Oxford gave out its first honourary degree in the 1470s). Then, the degree was given mainly to scholars.

While they’re a nice recognition and probably look good hanging on the wall, honourary degrees are not ‘real’ degrees, in other words, being awarded an honourary degree is not the same as earning an actual doctorate. In fact, an honourary degree is a degree honoriscausa, Latin for ‘for the sake of the honour’. They are not used to further one’s career, fatten one’s bank account or dress up one’s resume. If anything, honourary degrees draw more attention to the college or university bestowing the honour, since it ties them to the usually famous or well-known recipient.

So whether Rawlings loves it not, all the five or maybe more high academic institutions which awarded him honourary degrees are in fact the beneficiaries, and not Rawlings himself. In politics we have persons called sycophants who align themselves to the powerful and famous and gain more than their contemporaries. I am not in any way suggesting that these institutions of learning are like sycophants, but, in a way, when they produce a list of those who they awarded honourary degrees, the ones with the most famous recipients can pull up their collars with pride and say they are or were well associated with such personalities.

In a way, it could also pave way for a flooding of new in-takes into these universities who would be considered as most endowed.

With the UDS having already awarded Rawlings with an honourary doctorate degree, he must as well know that that award has fully placed his name on the university, and for eternity he will be associated with the UDS. Because, it could be possible that in some day in the future, academics and politicians would remove his name from the university for good reasons. But no one can revoke that honourary degree, except Rawlings himself, who can return that honour, and that will, indeed, be the most principled way of conduct than merely refusing his name on the university.

Having said that, Rawlings should be aware how names can be removed on icons. He renamed the Redemption Circle to Sankara Circle, and today, it is now the Ako Adjei Interchange; Rawlings renamed the University of Science and Technology (UST) to Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).

If he could rename national icons, why is Rawlings having fears that probably one day his name will be removed from UDS, and that could be a great dishonour to him if he is alive to meet that day, or is he up to something again?

Hon. Daniel Dugan


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