Enoch Lelabi: No one in UCC can stop students from electing their leaders

Enoch Lelabi: No one in UCC can stop students from electing their leaders

The University of Cape Coast is a community of Students, Lecturers and Administrators. As we are a diverse community, it is necessary that we live by standards of proper conduct so that one member’s freedom will not impinge on another member’s right. It is hoped that staff and students will work together to maintain discipline and courtesy in all University affairs.

I will like to begin my submission taken into account the prologue of the revised edition of the students’ handbook above. It is clear that the Students are the first and the fountain head of the existence of the university. Undoubtedly, without the students, it will be like playing hockey without the prince of Denmark.

Therefore, it was not for nothing that the university statute itself recognizes students and its leadership as such. However, the recent happenings and the lacuna created in the students leadership are enough indications of an attempt to undermine the relevance of such an important organ of the university structure.

The notice must be served that attempts over the years to render the students’ leadership useless has never been successful not even under military regimes and it will never be successful today. It is trite that, the SRC is the official organ of all junior members of this university and are responsible for promoting the general welfare and interests of students. This obligation imposed on the SRC is enormous and critical such that there should be at all material times, reasonable steps to ensure that there is no vacancy.

Due to covid, there were some frustration of the electioneering process for the 2020/21 SRC/LNUGS/GRASAG/JCRC elections. This we all admit is an unforeseen circumstance which required pragmatic measures to ensure that students representation at all levels of the university management is not derogated upon. But the continuous change of time, date and other processes leading to the election without the consent of the aspirants raises issues about the respect the university management have for the students of this university.

On The Issue Of Eligible Students To Vote

It is quite preposterous if not absurd for the ‘Dictator’ of Students and the Electoral Commission to be confused as to which data should be used for the elections. When it is basic knowledge that any regulation or rule made should be prospective and not retroactive. The elections were against last academic year but for covid. So why will anybody contemplate on using the data of this academic year in the conduct of the elections.

It has always been the position of the courts that, persons clothed with administrative powers should act fairly and reasonably in the exercise of such functions. Also, persons vested with discretionary powers should not do so arbitrarily or in a capricious manner whatsoever. The conduct of the ‘Dictator’ of Students and the election management body taking arbitrary decisions without the consent of the aspirants defies due process, good governance and respect for the students’ body.

I acknowledge that the right to vote is not absolute. However, several judicial decisions have expatiated on the principles which cumulatively said that,” where the right to vote has been conferred on the citizen of Ghana by the 1992 Constitution, whatever is provided for by law to enjoy the right, should aim at complementing to the full, promote, enforce, facilitate and encourage that right to vote.

Anything done by any person or authority to fetter that right is inconsistent with the constitution and will attract the sanction of being declared unconstitutional, null and void, to the extent of the inconsistency.”
Therefore, I do not see the suggestion that the only eligible students to take part in the election should be only those who have registered for this academic year as being progressive and reasonable enough. Especially when this situation was not in contemplation of the aspirants at the time of picking and filing of nominations last year.

On the issue of the eligibility of level 100s, others contend that, the moment the level 100s get matriculated they are eligible to vote. I beg to differ. The statute expressly provides that, no student is allowed to remain in the University or take any university examination unless he/she has been duly matriculated. Nowhere did it mention elections.

That notwithstanding, the question of eligibility was put to test in the case of Anthony Nyarko & Anor. v Jude Sekley & ors, where justice Barbara Ayisi of Accra high court held that, the RELEVANT TIME that the 1st respondent filed his nomination papers to contest the elections, he knew or ought to have known that he was not a student even though he is now a student. The test emphasized on the RELEVANT TIME. Therefore, the data of the RELEVANT TIME at which the election was to be conducted must be used and the actions of the authorities must be seen to promote, facilitate, enforce and encourage same to protect that right to vote and be voted for.

On The Issue Of Personnel To Run The Elections

The claim that the personnel who are to conduct the elections at the various halls of residence are unavailable due to the ongoing strike action of some workers in the university is the weakest link in the reasons being advanced. The personnel are duly remunerated for their work on the election day and therefore, it will not be out of place for the university to get temporal staffs or national service persons on campus to work on the election day.

Cost On Aspirants

We have always complained of exorbitant nature of campaigns and the kind of profligacy we witness in our student body politic. This often leads to the infiltration of political parties since they have the bigger purse. The more the election is postponed the more costly it becomes to these student aspirants. For how long should we continue to chat on this path. Our country today is the reflection of our universities. The kind of leaders we are training and churning out will become leaders of the country tomorrow and will act without recourse to best practices. The risk associated with campaigns amidst covid is unquantifiable.

Precedent

I have heard people talk about precedent. Isn’t that shameful to tell the whole world that the University is a banana republic. That for the past five years, university academic board has not been able to approve a constitution for the running of affairs of students. All this lacuna could have been cured with interim student leaders in charge not the power drunk ‘dictator’ of students. It is clear that, the argument of precedent has been jettisoned and thrown into the metallic dust bins that the so called corrupt precedent regime produced.

It is therefore my respectful view that, DoS and management should not continue fueling the speculations with their actions that there is some ‘chop chop’ ongoing of which they are buying time to clean up the mess before handing over to the student leaders. I shudder to think there are some powerful cabal behind this whole debacle. I just saw a notice of postponement of the elections when only today ATL FM kept announcing 28th Jan. as the date of elections. Shame on all the conspirators who want to collapse the students front. I promise you once again that it will never happen!
Students are suffering and they need leadership to address their concerns. They are not comfortable with your continuous stay as Junior common leader prof. ‘dictator’ of students.

Yours Truly,
Enoch Lelabi, 287 Casford Avenue

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