Ghana’s Doctorate Degree Epidemic: Phony Awards for Wontumi and Sonnie Badu
The desire to be called a doctor undeservedly is leading some Ghanaians to adopt new strategies toward the attainment of their goal. These individuals and their accomplices seem to be telling themselves that since men have learned to shoot without missing, they, like the birds in Chinua Achebe’s adage, have also learned to fly without perching. In this case, however, the hunters have caught up with the slyly birds in their attempt to outwit the hunters. To be blunt, the so-called honorary doctorate degrees for Mr. Bernard Antwi Bosiako, alias Wontumi, the New Patriotic Party Chairman for the Ashanti Region in Ghana and the Ghanaian musician Mr. Sonnie Badu are both phony and smacks of deception and criminality.
First to appear in the news was Sonnie Badu who had been reported to have received multiple awards—“Doctorate of Divinity, UN Ambassador of Sacred Music, CDSE (Commander of Most Distinguished Order of Special Envoy Expert in the Field of Sacred Music Key to the City of Brooklyn,” for the Ghanaian gospel musician—in the United States for his musical prodigy (http://sonniebadu.com/sonnie-badu-honored-with-doctorate-degree/). Flying from his United Kingdom-base to the US, the gospel musician was shown in a video shedding tears uncontrollably as he walked across the stage for his phony honors. For a phony degree from a diploma mill, International University and Seminary, Sonnie had a message for the mother who rejected him from marrying her daughter. According to him, “At a point the mother of a young girl I wanted to marry in London told me never to step foot into their house simply because I had nothing to my name. I think she provoked something in me. Today [,] by the grace of God, I am a CEO of almost 10 companies, with an honorary Doctorate, a UN Ambassador with an ‘honorary key to the city of Brooklyn.’” Unfortunately, Sonnie Badu’s honorary doctorate is from a diploma mill that has been awarding phony honorary doctorate degrees to unsuspecting members of the public to promote its own visibility.
For the United Nations (UN) ambassadorship, after several calls and emails to the UN headquarters in New York City and the UN’s Ghana office, it emerged that the UN doesn’t have any honors by name UN Ambassador of Sacred Music. According to Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, “the title mentioned in the links you have sent, of ‘UN Ambassador CMSE,’ does not exist in the UN system. The UN does not confer any doctorates in music or designate ambassadors in ‘celestial music.’” Clearly, if the United Nations, commonly referred to as the UN, is what Sonnie Badu and his benefactors and their accomplices referenced in their award, then this borders on not just public deception, but it also smacks of criminality. Thus, we would expect the UN to take action on this matter to protect its image.
For the honor of the “Key to the City of Brooklyn,” we are still awaiting a response from the President of the Borough of Brooklyn. But in any case, that is not our main concern in issuing this commentary/statement. If Sonnie Badu has become so big that he could be awarded UN Ambassador of Music, Honorary Doctorate, and the Keys to the City of Brooklyn all at the same time, one would expect the musician to have astute media managers who should have done their homework well in ensuring that scammers do not deceptively lure the music prodigy into any phony awards, particularly with the issue of phony and questionable honorary and earned doctorates still fresh on the minds of Ghanaians. We were wondering if Mr. Sonnie Badu was racing with the only Africans known to have accumulated titles to the point where all the titles lost their relevance. The late former President Idi Amin was known to have preceded his name with a long list of titles: His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, CBE, Lord of all the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular (http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-18855099). Similarly, the former president of the small West African State of Gambia preceded his name with titles and appellations that were that require rehearsal as poems do, according to the Ghanaian clergyman, Mensah Otabil (http://www.classfmonline.com/1.9422743). The ex-president was referred to as His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Bridge Builder Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Junkung Naasira Babili Mansa Deen Jammeh.
With the foregoing precedents, it is possible to artfully couch befitting titles out of the three awards for the music prodigy. The music prodigy can now be referred to as “Doctor of Divinity UN Ambassador of Sacred Music Commander of Most Distinguished Order of Special Envoy Expert in the field of Sacred Music and the Holder of the Key to the City of Brooklyn Sonnie Badu.” What kind of a mess is this?
Who would blame Sonnie Badu for this faux pas if a phony doctoral degree holder from the Swiss Management Center (SMC) could become the Vice-chancellor of the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA)? Who will blame Sonnie Badu when even the Ministry of Education and its leadership look on helplessly while other countries are taking serious steps to confront the next most disturbing challenge that all African countries face now and in the near future?
Second, following closely on the heels of Sonnie Badu’s phony award, is another honorary degree that took the practice a notch further down the abyss. On June 1, 2017, Ghana’s so-called most authoritative newspaper, under the leadership of Ken Ashigbey, without the proper checks, once again carried the news of a phony honorary doctoral degree to be conferred on Mr. Bernard Antwi Bosiako, the New Patriotic Party Chairman for Ashanti Region. Like the canny birds that have learned to fly without perching, a phony Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by name Alliance Creative Community Project, which, by design for media effect, added international to its name, written as Alliance Creativity Community Project International (ACCP), has used the name of the United Nations (UN) to promote its sham on Ghanaians.
Clearly, for those implicated in media performance who take their profession seriously, it didn’t require any analysis to detect the sham. The calculation of the NGO was to precede the announcement with the name of the United Nations to clear any doubts in the minds of the reader. If the United Nations is associated with our organization, then it must be a credible organization (Please follow the link to the news http://www.graphic.com.gh/news/politics/chairman-wontumi-to-be-honoured-with-doctorate-degree.html).
Once again, the Daily Graphic by carrying this news item has demonstrated that its reporters lack the capacity to detect the activities of these scammers and to save the public from reading these embarrassing publications. First, if the journalist couldn’t pick up the attempt by the organization to invoke its association with the United Nations as a clear signal to usurp the image of the UN to promote its sham, a simple Google search of the organization’s name would have revealed a lot to the journalist about the organization. Second, an astute journalist would have asked the following questions:
i. What is the core function of the organization that is conferring the award?
ii. What is the history of the organization, has it done anything of the sort before?
iii. Who are the faces behind this organization?
iv. When have NGOs also started awarding honorary doctorate degrees?
v. On what basis is Mr. Bernard Antwi Boasiako being awarded the honorary degree?
vi. How is the UN associated with this organization and will the UN be happy that its name is associated with this award?
Third, a journalist who understands his/her work would pick up a phone—since the email culture is still many light years away from us—and call the organization that is awarding the degree, call the National Accreditation Board (NAB), call the UN and triangulate the information from all these sources before heading to press with his report. But as it were, at Daily Graphic, anything goes. Does Daily Graphic have a manager who reads what the paper publishes? Does Daily Graphic have editors who carefully examine what their journalist put before them prior to heading to press? What at all is wrong at the Daily Graphic?
After calls and emails to the UN, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) indicated that even though the Alliance Creativity Community Project International (ACCP) is in a consultative status with it, its name should not have been included in any honorary doctorate degree award. It has nothing to do with such an award. According to the ECOSOC, “This is to inform you that the first paragraph of the article, “Chairman Wontumi to be honored with Doctorate degree” was wrongly written. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) does not nominate and neither provide Doctorate degree. I suggest that you contact the Alliance Creativity Community Project International (ACCP) for further information. The ACCP is in Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC since 2013.”
Critical evaluation of the website of the ACCP reveals that it is an NGO with registration number G-32, 597 with the Registrar Generals Department and the Ministry of Social Welfare (Please follow the link to the website of the organization (http://www.cop22-morocco.com/repertoire/alliance-creative-community-project-46.html). There are other important observations on the website of this organization but we would leave that for the Ghanaian security services to unravel. This is again another opportunity for the Ministry of Social Welfare, the Registrar General Department, the Ministry of Education (acting through the National Accreditation Board), and the Ghana Police Service to work in collaboration to investigate the activities of this NGO and bring the faces behind it to book, if they are found culpable.
We are however aware of the political affiliation of the man involved in this second case. If NDC couldn’t investigate its Chairman Kofi Portuphy and former Minister Sherry Ayittey and bring them to book, why would an NPP government be interested in a case that would bring the name of its functionary into disrepute?
While some African countries have recognized the magnitude of the problem and are taking serious steps to correct the nonsense, NGOs have also jumped on the bandwagon, taking the title-hungry Ghanaian for who he/she is and fleecing s/he of his/her hard-earned resources and decorating s/he with bogus titles. The nonsense, just in the name of being called an undeserving Dr., must stop.
Prosper Yao Tsikata, Ph.D.
A. Kobla Dotse, Ph.D.
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