President Mahama dedicates honorary doctorate to Ghanaians

President John Mahama, who has just been awarded an honorary Doctor of Law in Scotland by the University of Aberdeen has dedicated the award to Ghanaians.

The president during his acceptance speech said, “I consider this an honour for all Ghanaians and it is a reflection of the strides we have made as a people, both internationally and at home.”

“I, therefore, dedicate this Doctor of Laws honorary degree to the people of Ghana.”

He also said the University of Aberdeen has contributed greatly to scholarship and knowledge not only in the United Kingdom but in Ghana as well, hence, the honour bestowed on him was a humbling one.

Below is a copy of the full speech

Distinguished Scholars
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
Members of Faculty
Ladies and Gentlemen
Let me express, on behalf of the good people of Ghana, my wife Lordina and my family, appreciation to the Faculty and Staff for this recognition and honour done me.

I consider this an honour for all Ghanaians and it is a reflection of the strides we have made as a people, both internationally and at home.

I, therefore, dedicate this Doctor of Laws honorary degree to the people of Ghana.

When I received information of this conferment, I reflected on the things that make Scotland unique. I remember the whole world remaining riveted to TV sets and waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the Scottish referendum on independence.

I remembered also that Scotland had become the breeding ground for new Ghanaian stars, breaking new barriers in sports.

Jedidiah Amoako-Ackah who has been living in Glasgow since he was 10, was the first Ghanaian to compete in track cycling at the Commonwealth Games. Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, born in Glasgow, became the first Ghanaian to ever compete in winter sports in the Olympics. He took part in slalom skiing at the winter Olympics of 2010 in Vancouver.

But my reflection took me further back to my days in university studying for a first degree in history. My young mind working through my course papers on European history.

Studying the complexity of the reign of King James VI or James I depending on which period of history you were studying, 1567 as King of Scotland, or 1603 as King of Great Britain, uniting the crowns of England, Scotland and Ireland. Guy Fawkes and the conspiracy to blow up the Parliament.

But I also reflected on sayings by Voltaire the French Philosopher and Winston Churchill the famous British Prime Minister.

Voltaire said “we look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilization’. And as if in support of Voltaire, Churchill said: “of all the small nations of this earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scotts in their contribution to mankind”.

With as rich a history as Scotland itself and a contribution to learning over the last 521 years, I speak for all the students whose intellect have been molded by this great university, when I say that I am proud to be associated with this great and historic centre of learning.

The University of Aberdeen in its sixth century of existence has contributed greatly to scholarship and knowledge, not only in the United Kingdom but the world at large, including my country Ghana.

To be associated with this ancient and renowned University through the honour bestowed on me this morning is a most humbling experience. This is especially because the University of Aberdeen aside from its rich history has also produced several distinguished personalities including five (5) Nobel Prize Laureates.

Many of my compatriots have also passed through the gates of this great institution and carry its badge of honour with much pride. Ghanaian students have benefited from the world-class tuition provided here in Aberdeen.

It is also a trite knowledge that the success story of Ghana’s new oil and gas sector cannot be written without mentioning the University of Aberdeen. Ghana entered the oil and gas era only in the year 2011 and is still nurturing a fledgling industry.

While we may have missed the halcyon days of the industry where the commodity dominated the world’s energy choices like a colossus, we have benefited from the experience of many countries like Scotland on how to manage our oil and gas resources better and how to avoid the Dutch disease.

Having passed a local content law to better reap the blessings of this resource we have, together with the many companies investing in my country’s oil and gas sector, been scrambling to develop the human resource capacity to fulfil this regulation.

Scotland and Aberdeen have been a major helping hand in this endeavor. I daresay you may hear a hint of a Scottish accent or a little Scottish Gaelic on a rig, or in a boardroom or two back in Ghana.

This is because of the rich tradition we have established with you in building this precious human resource capacity.

Ghana, under my leadership, will continue to enhance the governance credentials of the country in the management of our oil resources.

Just as we have learnt from the likes of Scotland and Norway, how to better manage our resources, Ghana is working to be a shining example for the many other countries in Africa that have recently also discovered significant hydrocarbon resources.

Ghana, thanks to a large number of graduates from Aberdeen, and the focus we are putting on skills training in the oil and gas sector is fully developing local involvement in the sector.

That is key to ensuring that our people benefit from the oil resources we have discovered and how we are able to backward integrate it into our economy to create sustainable job opportunities for our young people, so they do not have to risk their lives in crossing the Mediterranean to seek new opportunities in Europe.

I thank the Faculty and Members for the citation, which is a recognition of the leading role Ghana continues to play in the affairs of our continent and on the global stage as a champion of world peace, respect for human rights and democratic governance.

Finally, as I receive this honour, I reflect on fate and destiny.

In my book, “My First Coup D’etat”, I write about how I ended up not studying law and instead graduating in history for my first degree and specialising in Communication Studies at the post-graduate level.

I loved studying history and realised at the postgraduate level that I had a natural flair for communications. Destiny took me down a different road than I had intended when as a young teen I graduated from the sixth form. This stroke of fate has made me who I am, leading me into the world of politics.

Today, I stand here in the realisation that your destiny will move you in the direction it is minded to, but if you follow your passion and put your heart in what you do, it will still bring you full circle.

I stand here in fulfilment of destiny with my initial desire in hand, a law degree in the form of an honorary Doctorate of Laws from- as prestigious an institution as one can find – Aberdeen University.

I hope to be guided by the motto of the University, ‘Initium sapientiae timor domini’ (“The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord”) to keep this auspicious occasion alive forever.

With this honour done me, I might as well spend the rest of today going the full Scottish hog.

Fetch me my kilt, bring out the bagpipes and the scotch, and let’s have some haggis.

I thank you for your kind attention.

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