| Updated Jun 24, 2018 at 11:16pm



It gives me great pleasure to join you this morning at this impressive campus of Ashesi University for an important milestone in the lives of our young people – hearty congratulations, Class of 2018!

I am always excited to be amongst young Ghanaians, young Africans, to tap into their energy, their hopes and their aspirations. The smiles and anxieties of young people tell you all you need to know about the future of the country and the continent, a future I care so much about.

We are gathered here, today, primarily to celebrate the end of your preparation for the start of your independent lives. This preparation has taken place for the past four years under the care and protection of Ashesi University in this scenic atmosphere of Brekuso’s awesome landscape. Nana Brekuso, thank you for that.

You are graduating today, as well, at a special moment in the life of this University, when it officially comes of age, and receives its own Presidential Charter. Henceforth, Ashesi would award its own certificates and degrees.

Ladies and gentlemen, identity matters, who you are matters, where you come from matters. An Ashesi degree should stand for something distinctive, and it should be different from other degrees. The surroundings, in which you have been taught, and the way you have been taught, should help to present the products of this institution as distinguishable from those of other universities.

Each one of you, that carries an Ashesi degree, represents the remarkable Ashesi story that needs to be told over and over again, to ensure you are never tempted to stray from what the Founder and the President, Patrick Awuah, has created here. I am sure that, sometimes, when the going was rough, he must have been sorely tempted to cut corners, for, after all, others may have been doing so all around him, but he kept his eyes firmly on his stated mission, and he succeeded in establishing a world class university. It, thus, came as no surprise when he was named as the 6th winner of the WISE Prize for Education by its founder, Her Royal Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar, a fellow member of the Group of Eminent Advocates of the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals. I was on an official visit to Doha, the capital of Qatar, when this honour was done to him and to our country. I remember a Qatari, on being introduced to me, saying “You must be the President of Patrick Awuah’s country.” That Qatari clearly had his priorities right!

We have seen other institutions where standards have been compromised in the rush to increase numbers, and where new courses are added without the provision of adequate facilities and faculty.

I am particularly delighted with the setting up of the Engineering School here in Ashesi. It provided the proof, if some was still necessary, that, indeed, Ashesi was set up to meet the needs of Ghana, and of the continent. Within the short period of its existence, the University made a name for itself in the fields of Business Administration and Computer Science. The University could have chosen to stick to those and other areas that did not require very expensive inputs, but you remained true to your mission. And, so, today, Ashesi has an Engineering School, and a first class one at that.

One of the most admirable traits of Ashesi has been that it decided, right from the beginning, that its work was not done the day degrees were awarded to its students; it took and retained a keen interest in their fate outside the institution. Ashesi was interested in knowing if their graduates have jobs, how long it took them to find jobs, and how they fared once they got jobs. It is not surprising, therefore, that employers also took notice, and Ashesi graduates have been doing well in the job market.

Perhaps the most visible proof of the Ashesi story is this extraordinary campus in which we are gathered. It is beautiful, it is serene, and the environment tells you this is a suitable place for teaching and learning. Patrick Awuah could have chosen to stay in the temporary buildings he started with in Labone; they are certainly not much worse than the places where some other universities are operating from.

But Ashesi does not cut corners, does not settle for the mediocre, and insists on long-term good quality. All students that bear the Ashesi name and that carry an Ashesi degree must shoulder the full weight of the investments made by Patrick Awuah, and do justice to the Ashesi story in all they do. I am glad that his efforts are being recognised and praised around the world, and I am proud to share in his glory as a Ghanaian. I urge you, the Ashesi Class of 2018, always to keep in your mind that you will be judged by the high standards set by your University.

I started this conversation saying that identity was important – it helps to give you self-confidence. Identity is not only what you say you are, but also what image is evoked by this identity that you claim.

An Ashesi graduate is expected to be well-equipped and well-versed in whatever area of study he or she has offered. An Ashesi graduate would be relied on not to cut corners and not to be afraid of hard work, and an Ashesi graduate would be expected to have a firm moral compass.

These attributes should apply to all of us in our various areas of work and enterprise. I maintain that it should be the greatest honour to be able to say I am a Ghanaian, and we should have no difficulty in identifying a Ghanaian not only as a legal entity, but also through his or her behaviour.

I had hoped that the exercise to provide all citizens with a national identity card would receive the enthusiastic support of all of us as the project finally gets off the ground, after years of wilful stagnation and neglect. Unfortunately, we seem to have become embroiled, once again, in another of those full-scale manufactured storms deliberately engineered to slow down progress in everything we try to do. If we, as a people, had been conducting our affairs properly throughout the years, there should not be any argument in determining who is a Ghanaian. But we have not.

There is a point of view being argued vociferously that the possession of a voter’s ID card should qualify one to be issued a national identity card, even though that view was never canvassed during the parliamentary consideration of this matter. I do not think I say anything contentious if I state here that it is well-known that many non-Ghanaians are in possession of voter’s cards that they obtained by offering NHIS cards as proof of identity.

I believe it is also generally accepted that the terms of our National Health Insurance Scheme make it attractive to our neighbours, and many have signed on to benefit from the free healthcare provided under the Scheme. This is why the Supreme Court handed down a ruling that the NHIS card should not be used as a form of identification to register for a voter’s ID card.

It should not be in anybody’s interest that we bastardize the identity of a Ghanaian. It should not be in the long-term interest of anybody that we enlist as Ghanaians people whose loyalty to our nation is limited to access to our free healthcare system. I certainly have no interest, and no intention to prevent genuine citizens from being issued with identity cards. But, my oath of office is unequivocal that I owe it to the nation to uphold the law and protect our institutions from being undermined. I do not think that there are more credible, basic, documentary requirements for establishing nationality or citizenship than a birth certificate or a passport. An appropriate, acceptable mechanism has been provided in the law to verify the claims of those who have neither.

What then are we to make of the outrage being orchestrated by some high-ranking leaders of the Opposition, and some members of the Minority in Parliament, when all the evidence points to their enthusiastic support of the National Identity Register (Amendment) Bill, when it came before them in the House? I believe it is worth recalling here some of their contributions.

The Ranking Member on the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Select Committee in Parliament, i.e. the designated leader of the Minority on that Committee, Hon. Inusah Fuseini, MP for Tamale Central and former Minister for Lands and Natural Resources under the Mahama government, noted, during the debate on the floor of Parliament, that “There is no controversy in the amendments. It seeks to expand the field of information that would be required, and bring the information up to date with modern trends.”

He was supported in this by the NDC MP for Banda, Hon. Ahmed Ibrahim, who said: “Mr. Speaker, from the day of the birth of Jesus Christ, registration and census were done. Therefore, it is very pathetic that, as a country, we do not know who a Ghanaian is… Mr. Speaker, if there is something as a country that Ghanaians should come together and support, I believe this Bill is one of them.” The NDC MP for Ellembelle, Hon. Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah, the former Minister for Petroleum under the Mahama government, in his contribution, further stated “The amendment Bill is long overdue, and very critical for our country. The issue of who a Ghanaian is, is very critical in this country, especially because of the issues we face.”

These are samples of the sentiments that allowed the House to accept, unanimously, i.e. without dissent, the Report of the Committee, which stated, amongst others: “The Committee also noted that the Bill seeks to do away with the use of voters’ identity cards, drivers’ license and baptismal certificates as proof of citizenship. It, however maintains the use of birth certificates and passports. It further introduces residence permits and other documents evidencing acquired citizenship. Officials of the NIA informed the Committee that the changes are consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court in Abu Ramadan v Attorney-General delivered in May, 2016.”

I would ask you to indulge me for dwelling somewhat on this issue, but, in the light of current pronouncements in the country, I think it germane to use the occasion to draw the attention of the Ghanaian people to these matters.

There are four pages of information that the NIA officials require from us to help them determine if we qualify to get a card. There is a legal definition of who is a Ghanaian, and I pray that we abandon giving politics a bad name, and support this exercise to proceed rapidly to a successful end. The language of de-nationalisation or threats of civil war are, to say the least, extremely unfortunate. They can be fittingly described as base forms of self-serving demagoguery. I am confident that the good sense of the Ghanaian people, and the vigilance of the law enforcement agencies will, together, be sufficient to defeat any ill-conceived, destructive adventure for achieving narrow, parochial, partisan ends. The lust for power should not cloud one’s sense of judgement. To call yourself a Ghanaian means you must be a responsible citizen.

Class of 2018, as you set out into the world, I hope you will carry your identities as an Ashesi man or woman, and as a Ghanaian with pride. You may be engaged in building an enduring company, engaging a social cause, or developing a breakthrough technology that lifts Africa up. Whatever you do, remember the importance of doing it for love of country.

It has been rewarding for all of us to see Ashesi grow into such a world class institution that is confident in its identity. I am happy it has fallen on me to have the honour to present to the President of Ashesi University, this exemplary Ghanaian, Patrick Awuah, a Charter from the President of the Republic, that qualifies Ashesi University to be a fully independent university, that can now award its own degrees. Congratulations to the Class of 2018 for being the first group to receive your certificates from a fully-fledged university under the authority granted by the Presidential Charter.

Government is taking steps to accelerate the grant of Presidential Charters to other private universities, because of their contribution to education and learning in the country. Cabinet has recently approved the imminent establishment of the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission, which will, henceforth, be the regulator of all tertiary institutions in the country. The Commission is to provide regulations which will enable all universities, public and private alike, to be treated fairly and equally, and, thereby, expedite the treatment of deserving applications for Presidential Charters by private universities, which should take not more than four (4) years to acquire. The 6-year wait of Ashesi would be a thing of the past.

On this joyous occasion, I am happy to announce to you that Government is actively in the market to seek funds for the construction of the Dome-Brekusu-Kitase road, which is used by many of you to reach this campus. Hopefully, you will hear some good news very soon.

I congratulate all members of the Ashesi University Community. I trust sincerely that the receipt of this Charter will inspire Ashesi University to continue to operate with the same discipline, commitment and love of country that we have observed over the years. I wish you continued excellence in the years to come.

God bless the Class of 2018, and God bless us all, and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.

I thank you for your attention.