The Former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, has urged the youth to lead the crusade against social and economic policies inimical to national development, and to eschew activities that would tag them as partisan.
Ghana’s youth constitute about a third of the national population, which shows a huge untapped resource to transform the economy, she said.
“You are the engine of growth; you need to be at the forefront of our socio-economic development,” Nana Konadu said at the 14th Prestigious Lecture of the Ghana Technology University College in Accra.
The lecture was instituted by the college to bring personalities who have distinguished themselves, to share their experience with students and proffer ideas that can guide policymakers to quicken national development.
She said: “Our youth need to appreciate the fact that they are the guiding conscience of all the branches of government; you are the guiding conscience of the judiciary, of the executive, and of the legislature.
“It is not the status quo for students to remain passive to critical matters of national interest,” Nana Konadu said.
Nana Konadu said the hopes of the youth were often raised by promises and new policies and programmes, however, those policies and assurances failed to change their lives.
“As a people we need to think critically in assessing our developmental status in order to forge ahead. We need to have a national identity. Ghana needs a paradigm shift; Ghana needs a change in our social and political approach,” she said.
She expressed regret that the Students Representative Councils (SRCs) and National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) as unified and non-partisan pressure groups, had been relegated to the background.
“Historically, student bodies served as a litmus test in judging the effectiveness of government. They led demonstrations for and against government policies,” she said.
“Today, political parties have taken over student organisations and sadly, political party youth groups are much more powerful than SRCs and its mother organisation, the NUGS.
“The NUGS no longer serves as a unified politically unadulterated front; its elections are always hit by huge controversies involving external influence and inducement”.
She questioned how such a huge resource body that could help inform national debate had turned into mouthpieces for sitting governments.
“It is important to state that I am not against students and young people taking part in politics, I am against the relegation of our national student groups to the background because of the selfish interests of student groups; because of their selfish political party’s interests,” she said.
“It is indeed disturbing to see the level of abuse of both SRC and NUGS elections by political parties, which has consequently led to a situation where many right-thinking students refuse to involve themselves in such processes for the simple fear of being stigmatised by negative political campaigns and mudslinging.”
She said many countries had introduced youth policies and acknowledged the distinct roles the youth could play in development, particularly young women, and called on the leadership to accord the youth their due recognition.