Oliver Barker-Vormawor, lead convenor of the #fixthecountry movement is torn between continuing his doctoral studies or abandoning the campaign to pile pressure on government to fix the country.
In a Facebook post he disclosed how the University of Cambridge where he is currently a student has refused to give him a year off thereby putting him in a dilemma between his education and huge movement.
See his post below:
Yesterday, I had a bit of difficult news that has made me very sad.I have been thinking whether to talk about it publicly. This morning, I resolved to open up about it. There are difficult decisions I need to make, and I am very conflicted. As many of you know, for the past 6months, I have helped convene #FixTheCountry. Within that time, we have seen over 15 million tweets on #FixTheCountry and helped organize two huge demonstrations; on August 4th and September 21. The first has just been described by the foreign press as the largest and most organic non partisan political demonstration in Ghana’s history.
Today, no other issue or political movement has had the same impact on public discourse in Ghana in a sustained way. And it all started with just one tweet; and folks like me sitting in my study one midnight and saying, what If I called people on the internet and told them to help me organize a demonstration. Gradually more and people came to believe in this project; and we have brought on more people, even as we have lost some to violence; threats of violence; and consistent abuse. We have had our personal communications comprised by illlegal government surveillance. We have been followed by national security operatives and we have been warned off severally.
Kaaka lost his life over this! And the people of Ejura were slaughtered by a State that was supposed to protect them. Through it all, nothing concerning my personal expenses have come sponsored. All of this has been carried at great personal cost and only in the belief of an ideal. The belief that change is possible; and that Ghana can reform itself. A belief that our democracy has the resilience to renew itself in a way that produces justice for all. I believed it so much, I spent nearly $15,000 of my personal savings, covering all my expenses in connection with this activism. Professionally, FixTheCountry has taken over my life. For the past six months, I have done FixTheCountry related activism almost exclusively. I pushed all my consulting projects aside and my research commitments at the University of Cambridge took a huge hit. All this I did, because I wanted a reason to believe in Ghana. To inspire myself and hopefully others. To regain my own voice and make others regain faith in the transformative potential of their voices and in their role as citizens. To get them to despise their apathy and indifference. So many people have been convinced that all what we are doing and have done will come to nothing.
That Ghana is too broken. That it is too disinterested! That Ghana is a lost cause. That the people are the worst enemies of progress. That the people you claim to fight for do not care and will much sooner turn on you. But I have always trusted the power of ideas. Yes, there were moments when I had doubts. But it was especially in those moments that I redoubled my efforts and reminded myself that we cannot give up hope. Yet, despite all this, I decided to take another gamble. I wrote to the University of Cambridge asking for a year off to stay in Ghana and focus exclusively on FixTheCountry. I did it because I consistently maintain hope. Yesterday, the University responded. That based on the advice of the University’s Safety Office, they are denying my request. As I have come to understand, the University has been very worried about the negative Press they have received after one of our doctoral researchers was abducted and killed in Egypt while following labour unrests in that country. Also, because another Cambridge Researcher Peter Biar Ajak was arrested by the South Sudan authorities and kept in jail for over two years in connection with his activism; there has been a lot of attempts to dissuade me from this path. The University has given me the option to withdraw, temporarily if this is the cause I want to pursue. I understand that the University after having reviewed the conduct of the security authorities in Ghana, Ejura, and the persistency of the calls by members of the current administration for me to be arrested and charged with treason; felt compelled to reject my request.
There is an option on the table that I could be reinstated after I come back in a year’s time; but an temporary withdrawal could have a huge implication on my funding. It will also mean a withdrawal of all support to me by the University. (Eg. If I am unjustly arrested, they won’t press for my release; as I won’t be their affiliate)I am honestly conflicted. People make more fetish of doctoral degrees in Ghana in a way that doesn’t align with my values of the world. So that isn’t what conflicts me. I am conflicted most because I love my research and what I am doing. And letting that go feed like launching myself into a void. It’s not about money; or the promise of it. I will be fine and I have always been fine. In fact, Money has never really motivated me much. I turned down the World Bank to accept a less paid role once; and I turned down Big Law offer to accept a lesser paid role as law Clerk to the Vice President of the International Court of Justice. So it will always be about more than money.
This is the time I wish I could also be visited by whatever spirit that moved Kwame Nkrumah to leave the London School of Economics and sail for Ghana. All in the hope that perhaps Ghana could be différent! That Independence was a real project and that it was achievable. Is a much fairer and just Ghana achievable? Someone give me Nkrumah’s foresight! Shalom