TIME WITH PROF. EBENEZER ODURO-OWUSU
Who is Prof. Ebenezer Oduro-Owusu?
Prof. Ebenezer Oduro-Owusu was born to a Kwahu father and a Fanti mother; Kwahu from Mpraeso and a Fanti from Elmina. I started my education at the Cocoa Research Institute, New Tafo-Akyim. I then went to st. Peters Secondary School for my O-level in Science. From there, I went to GSTS. I was there from 1980 to 1982 for my A-level educaton. I read Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. I then went to KNUST to read Mining engineering as I didn’t quite cut it for medical school. After many ups and downs I moved to Japan in 1989 to pursue my masters. In 1992, I started my PhD which I completed in ’95. I taught in Japan for almost two years. Then I left and joined the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics in Niger. I moved to Niger to work for two years because I wanted to understand poverty. I learnt that life is not all about money. I subsequently joined the University of Ghana in 1998 and haven’t looked back since. It’s all been to the glory of God.
What does leadership mean to you? And what are some of the leadership portfolios that you have held so far?
In the University of Ghana I have been the Chair of the Volta Basin Research Project. I have also been Head of Department, Vice Dean, Dean, Provost, and finally, Vice Chancellor. What this means is that I have gone through the ranks. Apart from holding leadership positions in the University, I’ve had stints with the private sector as Country representative for two Japanese Companies. Throughout my life, let me indicate that from Class 1 till I left school, I was Class leader. I attend Trinity United Church where I’ve served as a Church steward.
Leadership is about providing good conditions for people to thrive in terms of their potential and abilities. As a leader, you are supposed to make sure you mould people. You have to be selfless. You have to have a vision for the people that you lead. You also have be dependent on God for direction as a leader. I never leave my home without committing my institutions and all those that are in the institution into the hands of God. Whatever it is that you have, the ability to move, the life you have in you, the blood that runs through, those are all provisions from God. And you need all those things to lead.
Leadership is about providing good conditions for people to thrive in terms of their potential and abilities.
— Prof. Oduro-Owusu
What has been your greatest influence as a leader?
My mother used to tell me good leadership required patience.
A person who inspired me later on in my life would be Nelson Mandela. One of his latest books Leading like Madiba is so inspiring that it gives you the practical orientation of life. The sum total of it is that if you are a leader, you must be selfless, you must be a unifier, a team player, and must be courageous. My greatest experience as a leader– my greatest test– was in the church. In a church you expect everyone to be Christian, right? But then you notice there’s corruption going on in the church. How do you handle that?
I have been inspired by my mother throughout my life. I have also been inspired by Nelson Mandela and the way he handled South Africa at the time, fostering unity and making sure that he prepared South Africa to be a better place.
Having being a leader both in secular and christian circles, do you think there’s anything either side could learn or should embrace from each other?
The biggest test of human character is financial discipline, and to some extent, time management. Proverbs 22:1 basically says a good name is better than riches. And that is how I live. Never be pushed by money into doing things that will mar your name in the long run.
We look at money and say that is the Lord’s blessing. When we say someone has been blessed, most often than not, we are talking about money. But that shouldn’t be the case. The Lord’s favours, doors opening for you, opportunities to open closed doors… these are more significant, in my view. But because we are unable to quantify them, we think they are come just as they are supposed to happen. Money should not be the primary motive in leadership.
Are we facing a leadership crisis in Ghana? And if there is, how do we solve this issue?
I wouldn’t say there’s a leadership crisis in Ghana. We have potential. The problem is our attitude. We don’t train people to come out as clear leaders. The entire atmosphere is a corrupt. The negativities are just too many. And the evil hearts dominate. A good person with good intentions is quickly put down. It is extremely difficult to lead in this country with truth and honesty. You constantly have to pray for the Lord to show certain signs to His people. And if you are not careful, you may even lose your life. And this is what gets people scared. There are so many people with good hearts, good intentions but who are unable to stand the pressures of the evil in society. That is our major problem as a nation.
How many people can stand? I’ve been able to stand up against some of these evil, knowing very well that we need to build a very strong institution to be able to build a stronger nation… knowing very well that this is the place where we train our children. I have constantly depended on God for direction. Faith keeps growing day by day. You get the moral advantage to lead through as a good leader if you start doing things right. Even as student leaders, make sure you leave no cobwebs in your wardrobes. You must operate a very transparent system. You must account for your stewardship. Once you walk on that path, mindful of the fact that the devil is always watching and hoping to destroy, you build your faith every step of the way. And once you get there, just like Joshua, the Lord will grant you the boldness and the courage to break through. Even where it’s impossible, the Lord will show you what to do just like He did for Moses so that he found a path through the Red sea. This should be your faith as you walk into leadership.
Your leadership stint at the University of Ghana has clearly been one marked by excellence. What do you think are some of the challenges young people face in their pursuit of excellence in leadership?
A lot of us are not patient. We want it, and we want it now. We must wait on the Lord. We must pray. And we should be able to discern.
Psalm 23 says, “…I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” Then the remainder of the chapter says, “I shall fear no evil, for the Lord is always with me… He prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies”. That is a sign of victory for you. Do not concentrate on the negativities around you. If you know you are doing the right thing and you have the conviction, keep at it.
Is there hope for leadership in Ghana?
Hope depends on the youth. We (the older generation) are almost done. I’ve always encouraged the youth to get out of their shells and try to project a decent Ghana for themselves. If you’re unable to take those bold steps to change your attitude, you will truly suffer. Other countries are doing well because of discipline, and absolute regard for the rule of law. If we sit with disregard for the rule of law, this country is surely going to collapse. I believe we can build a better country if we do away with the fear of doing the right thing– that’s our biggest enemy.