A two-day series of public lectures have been held in Accra, to mark the 80th birthday celebration of distinguished Law Professor, Akilagpa Sawyerr, and a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana (UG), Legon.
Attended by friends and family as well as respected personalities from the law, economic, political, business and academic communities in Ghana, the celebration also brought together distinguished people across Africa, who had shared in the illustrious career of the professor.
They included Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) and former President of Liberia, President Prof Amos Sawyer.
The lecture on the theme: “Celebrating a Life of Academic Excellence, Public Service, Thought Leadership and Activism”, witnessed various speakers taking turns on the topic to exploit Prof. Sawyerr’s exemplary role in these areas.
Delivering the keynote address, on the topic: “Democratisation, Active Citizenship and Africa’s Transformation”, Regional Director for Africa and West Asia at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), Prof. Adebayo Olukoshi said it was time active citizenship was reinvented to drive the transformation of social and economic structures in African states.
His comments were hinged on the fact that many of our citizens have given up on governance structures and “the only way of rekindling hope in the socio-economic change of our countries is through active citizenship”.
Prof. Olukoshi pointed out that citizens occupied the highest office of the land and must therefore become front runners in the social and economic discourse.
He said that failure by most African states to make a connection between the political reforms and socio-economic change has been the “single biggest obstacle to far reaching and deep seated democratisation on the continent.”
Touting Prof. Sawyerr’s relentless contributions to the socio-economic development on the continent, Prof. Olukoshi described him “as a man of dignity and courage whose achievements were an inspiration to the new generation”.
Executive Director, Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, said in spite of the numerous challenges bedevilling many African countries, military interference must not be resorted to if democratic governance is to be enhanced on the continent.
Principal Vice President, Ethiopian Academy of Sciences Madam Zenebework Tadesse, disclosed that at a time when some Western and more entrenched democracies were backsliding, it was a delight to observe that democracy was gradually thriving on the continent.
Prof. Sawyerr, affectionately called Aki, was born on March 24, 1939, and has enjoyed an illustrious career in academia, political governance and policy development spanning over five decades.
Earning his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Durham in 1962, his most prominent works included chairing the National Negotiating Committee for the Volta Aluminium Company (VALCO) Agreement in 1982 – 1990 and also his appointment as chairman to oversee the celebration of the centenary of the birth of Ghana’s first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah.
BY ABIGAIL ANNOH