Prof. Kwesi Yankah shares memories of “University-Student confrontations” in his book

Professor Kwesi Yankah

Professor Kwesi Yankah

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Ghanaian Professor Kwesi Yankah, the current Minister of State in charge of tertiary education has shared memories of “University-Student confrontations” in his book in a well-woven write-up.

He is a Ghanaian academic, author, and university administrator. He is a professor of linguistics and oral literature specializing in the ethnography of communications.

Prof. served as the Pro-vice-chancellor of the University of Ghana and the president of the Central University. He is the author of several books. He was inducted as a fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999.

Professor Kwesi Yankah writes:


By Kwesi Yankah

One memorable section of my book, The Pen at Risk: Spilling my Little Beans, is ‘My Clash with the Vandals,’ where I splash the nightmares I had, dealing with the Vandals of Commonwealth Hall in my capacity as Dean of Students, and later Pro-Vice Chancellor in Charge of Academic and Student Affairs. That section exercised me a lot, bringing back memories of dicey moments in the history of University-Student confrontations.

On reading the book, one past Chief Vandal, a friendly bone in my neck those days, decides to blow the whistle in a remarkable riposte, which in his words, ‘should deepen the Vandal-Viking axis, and tell the young ones in both Halls that they should allow themselves to be mentored amidst the youthful quest to be independent.’ Read below, the rejoinder by the celebrated lawyer, Egbert Faibille Jnr, Chief Vandal in the early 1990s and currently Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Petroleum Commission:


One of the lecturers/university administrators I admired during my Legon days is Prof. Kwesi Yankah. I still admire him; for he is a very erudite, fine, excellent, humane, exemplar scholar and many more.

When word got to me that Prof. Yankah had launched a book, I had to buy one. I have just concluded reading Prof. Yankah’s latest book which he describes as a “…follow up to my intellectual biography…” and cannot but put a few words together in his honour and praise.

Though Dean Yankah writes on a number of issues from his infancy to about the present, his days as a quintessential Dean of Students at Legon is my focus.

Long before my cohort entered Legon in 1992, I, like many, had been reading his WOES OF A KWATRIOT column in The Mirror. For me, that satirical and insightful column was a weekly elixir that was a compelling read every Saturday. How Prof. Yankah never really got into any serious trouble with his writings back then, still beats imagination.

My real connection with Prof. Yankah was on Legon campus when my cohort entered in October, 1992. Fate also made it possible for Prof. Yankah to be the Dean of Students at Legon when some of us were in student leadership at Legon. That twist of fate brought Prof. Yankah very close to some of us. In that arrangement, one concluded, ” So, the Kwatriot is a human being just like the rest of us!”

Being a denizen of Commonwealth Hall, we started off being wary of Prof. Yankah because we knew he was of Mensah Sarbah Hall. In the battle for supremacy among halls of residence at Legon, we of Commonwealth Hall described all the other halls as our ‘colonies.’ Our friends from Sarbah, the Vikings, loathed that, for it meant the Vandals are the ‘colonial masters’ of student affairs at Legon. With that background and our veritable Dean of Students, Prof. Yankah, being a Viking, we had to deal with him with a lot of suspicion. I remember we had a number of meetings to plan how to outfox Dean Yankah when we had to go to him to approve permits for a number of outdoor student activities.

We always somehow forgot that Dean Yankah had been a student like us and in no other place than Legon. Whatever justifications we provided for his approvals, Dean Yankah would give a smile and suggest a variation. One had to be tough to come out of requests for approval meetings at Dean Yankah’s office

I recall an incident where as part of transportation arrangements to bus Commonwealth Hall students to KNUST campus for our CUVAA Games, we had to lobby Dean Yankah to authorise the release of a University bus as part of the fleet to transport us. We had to fuel the bus but did not have the funds for fuel. We had to find a way to get Dean Yankah’s approval. Dean Yankah wanted evidence of payment before authorising the release of the bus. In the end, we told him we had a suspense account with a fuel station to take care of that.

From the look on Dean Yankah’s face, he knew we had no suspense account anywhere. He gave authorisation nevertheless. Unbeknownst to us, Dean Yankah had approved the use of the bus as part of our fleet and given money to the driver to fuel the vehicle for the return trip from Kumasi. We ended up not using our non-existent suspense account. Thank you, Dean Yankah.

As Vandals, we loved processions (otherwise known as ‘proce’). Proce involved marching down the main University avenue in anabasis fashion in all kinds of outfits and branching off to the various halls of residence to make bombastic speeches. University rules required that prior to embarking on any proce, the organisers had to apply to the Dean of Students for a permit. Whereas, we of Commonwealth Hall had free ingress and egress of the various halls for our proce(s), we most of the times resisted the Vikings from entering our hall during their proce(s) to their annoyance. The man who mediated for a peaceful reversal of that state of affairs was Dean Yankah.

On countless occasions, whilst he was Dean of Students, Dean Yankah invited the leadership of Commonwealth Hall to his office. Some of these visits were just to chat. I became a frequent visitor to his office. His Secretary (alas the name escapes me) became a friend as a result of my visits. Prof. Yankah believed in detente.

Take for instance, a situation where in a soccer match between Commonwealth Hall and Legon Hall, some snakes (Royal pythons) found themselves within the spectators. Whodunit? At the time the snakes reared their heads, Commonwealth Hall was leading so it could not have been an act of Commonwealth Hall. In spite of this logic, Dean Yankah got down to try to find out how the snakes turned up on the field. In a chat with Dean Yankah at his office as he embarked on his private mission to get behind the snake ‘invasion’, I invoked a line from an article he had written in his column years ago when boxer Ebo Danquah won a WBC title fight in Accra. Ebo Danquah hails from Dean Yankah’s Agona area and if my recollection is right, GTV had challenges with beaming the fight live. The outcome for the situation was busloads of Agona supporters of Danquah singing accusations of GBC being ‘Sakabo.’

During the chat with Dean Yankah, I tried to dissuade him from finding out how the snakes got on to the field but he persisted. With no option left, I just blurted, “Doc, this your quest to find out how the snakes came to the field will end up sakabo!” That line from me did the trick. Prof. broke into a sustained laugh. I told him how I read his account of the reaction of his kinsmen to the no broadcast of Ebo Danquah’s victory. That ended the snake saga.

In a recent chat with Dean Yankah, I expressed my appreciation to him for the direction, care and counsel he and others gave some of us as students. One could always see sincerity in Dean Yankah’s eyes when he dealt with us. He wanted all of us to do well. I count Vice Chancellor Benneh, Pro VC Prof.

Florence Dolphyne, Registrar Ebow Daniel and later Registrar, Alfred Teddy Konu and Dean Yankah as leaders of Legon among others in our time who really looked after our interests very well.

I was junior Counsel among other Vandals under the leadership of Nana Ato Dadzie in the conduct of the case brought by the JCR of the Hall against the University and Prof. Yankah over the decision to convert Commonwealth Hall from an all male Hall into a mixed one. In court, Prof. Yankah was as reserved as ever. He did not take the case as one on which his life depended.

He, in chit chats with me during court proceedings sought to convey the rationale behind the decision. Those he has explained and conveyed once more in his latest book.

I remember the many times Dean Yankah encouraged us to channel our energies into useful ventures. The role he played in the commencement of RADIO UNIVERS cannot be ignored. Dean Yankah was a permanent fixture at RADIO UNIVERS and gave his all for its growth.

Of the Dean Yankah-Commonwealth Hall stories, telling all of them may well shift attention from the other achievements of the man. There are so many of those stories to be shared, possibly later.

Having read Dean Yankah’s book: THE PEN AT RISK: SPILLING MY LITTLE BEANS, I have no hesitation in recommending it to all. Those interested in aspects of the history of Ghana, university administration, politics, tradition, folklore, journalism/media, writing et al will find a trove in Dean Yankah’s book.

I took it with me to FPSO Kwame Nkrumah yesterday. I regret not taking a picture of it on the FPSO. I arrived in Kumasi this morning by road from Takoradi to attend a funeral. Tis with me. Twas my companion on the trip from Accra to Tadi on Thursday and from Tadi to Kumasi this morning. Very informative! I am still on it. Tis simply ‘unputdownable.’

Congratulations! Dean Yankah!

From Egbert Faibille Jnr.

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