The siting of the University of Environment and Sustainable Development (UESD) in Somanya has nothing to do with politics, Deputy Minister of Education Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has said in response to claims to the contrary by Akyem Abuakwa South MP Samuel Atta Akyea.
In a recent interview with Class News’ Ekow Annan, Mr Akyea had lamented: “Look at the siting of the university for the Eastern Region. Okyehene has been good enough to have piloted an agricultural university and the majority carries the vote. If you measure the population strength of Somanya as against Akyem Abuakwa and the biggest paramountcy in the Eastern Region, logic alone should inform everybody that the best place to site a university for the Eastern Region should be in Abuakwa South, my constituency, and probably you partner with the Okyehene and have the university.”
The Akyem royal alleged that “because they [government] see us [Akyems] as electoral liability, they sited the university in Somanya and not in Okyehene’s kingdom”.
But Mr Ablakwa has disagreed, saying his colleague MP’s comments were “most unfortunate”.
According to Mr Ablakwa, political interests did not influence the decision to locate the UESD at Somanya. “It was a very objective exercise,” he said, adding that at the end of deliberations by a technical committee for siting of the university, Somanya and Donkorkrom, both in the Eastern Region, were settled on.
He told Chief Jerry Forson on Monday January 25, 2016 on Accra100.5FM’s breakfast show, Ghana Yensom that in line with the NDC’s policy to ensure each region had at least one public university, as contained in its 2008 and 2012 manifestos, the government had rolled out plans to open such institutions in the Eastern, Brong Ahafo, and Volta Regions – the only parts of the country which lacked public universities.
It was for that reason, he continued, that the University of Health and Allied Sciences at Ho (UHAS) and the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) at Sunyani, were set up.
Siting the UESD at Somanya, Mr Ablakwa explained, could not have been motivated by electoral gain. “If you look at Sunyani, the NDC does not win in Sunyani, but we have put up a public university in Sunyani – the University of Energy and Natural Resources. UMAT (University of Mines and Technology) began in Tarkwa. It was established by the NDC, but it was not the NDC winning in Tarkwa. So, when you make such arguments it is most unfortunate,” he said.
He also stated that the siting of the UESD at Somanya would not prevent the establishment of a satellite campus in Okyeman in future, saying: “If a university council in place decides to expand its campuses, nothing in the Act 890 (which approved the setting up of the university) forbids that.
The North Tongu MP said his colleague legislator’s comments could be interpreted as telling the people of Somanya, the Krobos, “that they are not deserving [of a university] and you just whip up ethnic sentiments. I am very disappointed honourable Atta Akyea has taken that line and it is very regrettable. I don’t think it is a line that he should pursue.”