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Speech delivered by the Rev. Prof. Emmanuel K. Larbi, Founder and President of Regent University College of Science and Technology, Ghana, at Maastricht, The Netherlands, During the Graduation Ceremonies of the Maastricht School of Management, on Thursday


Chairman of Board of Trustees of Maastricht School of Management (MSM) (Mr. P.R.H.M. Van der Linden)
Dean-Director of MSM (Prof. Peter P. De Gijsel)
Your Excellencies
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Faculty and Staff of MSM 
Graduation Class of 2011
Students
Members of the Press
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

I bring you warm greetings from Ghana, a land of great opportunities. I also bring you felicitations from the Board, Management and Staff of Regent University College of Science and Technology, an institution that holds much promise for our nation, Ghana. We highly appreciate the relationship we have developed with MSM, and the friendship we share with the Dean-Director and some of the academic and administrative staff of this great institution. 

We are particularly delighted that MSM has chosen Ghana to be the place it will celebrate its 60 years’ anniversary. We wish MSM success as it plans for this great event. It is my considered opinion that this will be the best time to launch the proposed joint DBA programme in Ghana. We are looking forward to a continued, mutually-beneficial relationship in the years ahead. It is indeed a great pleasure to be part of today’s important ceremony; it is an honour to be asked to be here as Guest Speaker. I express my deepest appreciation to the Dean-Director, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and all those who made this invitation possible.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, for several decades now, the Maastricht School of Management has operated as a world leader in the provision of high level management education. As a leading, globally-networked management training institution, with partners all around the globe, it has contributed in no small way, in raising leaders who will help in the shaping of the destinies of the nations around the world. The strength of MSM is in its global presence, the international nature of its faculty and staff, and the quality and prestige associated with its programmes. 

Present and past leaders of this institution must therefore be praised for their efforts. The Dutch government must also be praised for setting up such an important institution and also supporting it over the years. It is hoped that, in spite of global economic trends, the Dutch government will continue to support it because of the important role it plays in leadership development around the globe.

Ladies and Gentlemen, of the things that determine the progress and development of nations and organisations, LEADERSHIP plays the most critical role. It is from this perspective that MSM and other related institutions must be concerned about the calibre of leaders they churn out.

If there has ever been the time for an urgent need for ethical, visionary, and self-less leaders, it is now; for our world is in dire need of them today more than ever before. This is because in spite of all the sophistications that our world has become accustomed to in our time, there is strong evidence of the dearth of strong ethical leadership. Developments around the world in recent times are indicative of the fact that our world is losing its moral fibre, and it is heading towards a dangerous end.

The malpractices of the CEOs of certain companies around the world that almost led to the collapse of the world economy; recent happenings that affected a CEO of one of the powerful financial institutions in the world; the forgery of expense claims by some law makers in certain countries; the shameful display of moral turpitude of some known political and religious leaders of our time; the ongoing political and civil upheavals elsewhere around the globe, and the selective nature and manner of responses of some world-leaders to these local and regional upheavals, are some of the indicators of what is wrong with leadership today. Our present world seems to be in the control of men and women who are themselves controlled by base instincts, with no reference to morality, ethics, and justice.

Ours is a world controlled by injustice, greed, inequities, hypocrisy and self-seeking leadership. A world in which those who are powerful militarily and economically control, dictate, and indeed subjugate those who are economically and militarily weak; ours is a world in which the opinion of the weak and the less powerful can be ignored with impunity; a world in which leaders, in pursuit of self-interest, are willing, and indeed determined to kill, maim, and inflict pain on both the guilty and the innocent who stand in their way.

It appears leadership in our world today is defined by the dictum: “If it pleases me, or if it serves my interest, then it is good.” It appears if you have military, economic, or political power then you can do what you want, without reference to any ethical or moral code.

The failure of leadership at the top level affects majority of our people. Educators of leaders at the highest level should therefore be concerned about the quality and calibre of leaders they produce for our world today. The time has therefore come for institutions of higher learning, especially management and leadership development institutions, to incorporate into their curriculum, issues of character formation, ethics and morality. I believe MSM, with its global outreach, can play a leading role in this crusade. 

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is when conscious efforts are made by governments, public-spirited individuals and organizations to address inequities and injustices of our world, that there shall be peace in our communities and in our world. The good Book says that the “fruit of justice shall be peace.” This we ignore to our peril, for our peace and prosperity is linked up with our just social relations, and the peace and prosperity of others with whom we share common humanity. Let us therefore insist on ethical leadership that will work for a just and prosperous world for all.

Mr. Chairman, it is my understanding that students from about 12 African countries are graduating today. I will therefore want to take this opportunity to speak specifically on some issues affecting the continent.

Africa is one continent that has been gravely misunderstood and misrepresented. It is amazing how very little the world knows about Africa, the cradle of humanity. The things that are normally highlighted by the media are the paradoxes, the problematic, the bizarre, and the enigmatic. Africa’s true story is yet to be told.

It is estimated that about 40% of the world’s natural resources is found on that continent. Africa can boast of some of the world’s finest scientists, engineers, doctors, architects, mathematicians, and what have you. Unfortunately, the large proportion of Africa’s best brains is found outside the continent. For example, some Africans are playing key roles in NASA’s Mars exploration. These include Ghana’s own, Dr. Ashitey Trebi-Ollenu, an internationally-acclaimed space scientist and engineer, who is currently working as the Senior Robotics Engineer and Technical Group Leader, at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the United States. The list is endless.

Whereas there are more opportunities in Africa or quicker avenues for success than could be found in most places, most of our young men and women grow up thinking that they can only prosper when they relocate to the western world. This illusion sometimes forces some young Africans, at the peril of their lives, to undertake dangerous journeys across the Sahara desert, and in flimsy boats on raging oceans, in search of a better life elsewhere. I will not be surprised that some graduands hearing my voice in this hall today may have started looking for ways to extend their stay in The Netherlands instead of going back home to impact their nations.

In Africa today, as it has always been, there are great opportunities for investment in areas such as agriculture, manufacturing, agro and mineral processing, education, housing, health, waste management, and banking.
We have no illusions about the size of the problems that some African countries face; but every challenge presents a great opportunity for us to make an impact and to restore hope to the hopeless.

About six years ago, one Mr. Joseph Adjepong, a Ghanaian, saw the filth and the environmental degradation in our country. This gave birth to Zoomlion (Ghana) Ltd, a waste management company. He started small, with some daunting challenges. Today, Zoomlion has become a household name, found in almost all the cities and towns in Ghana. It is currently planning to offer its services to some neighbouring countries. Mr. Adjepong is now considered one of the most well-to-do people in Ghana. Examples of such success stories abound.

The challenges of Africa over the years, have stemmed from both local and external factors. Africa’s encounter with the global world has not always been from the position of strength, neither has it always been positive. The continent, more often than not, has been subjected to exploitation in all its various forms and shades. Africa needs a more healthy and humane encounter with her global partners. Instead of offering aid as a panacea to Africa’s economic challenges, Africa must be offered an equitable business relationship with her global partners. The more technologically advanced world must work with Africa to ensure an accelerated technology transfer to enable it harness the enormous natural and human resources that abound on the continent.

I dare state also, that Africa needs visionary leaders like Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, and Nelson Mandela, to make things happen. Most importantly, it must be emphasised that, like the rest of the world, Africa needs ethical, selfless leaders, filled with passion and vision for a new Africa, and a new world. Currently, there is a wind of change blowing all over the continent, and this cannot be reversed.

The journey for Africa’s search for emancipation has been long; the experience, sometimes bitter and tortuous. There have been decades of unfulfilled dreams. The journey has been a long-drawn battle of good over evil; a self-inflicted battle of unethical leadership, as well as an externally-imposed battle of subjugation, exploitation and injustice. But some of us will agree, insofar as human experience in this world is concerned, that good and evil will continue to engage each other. Sometimes evil will seem to be winning; however, in the Divine scheme of things, good will ultimately overcome evil. This should be the hope of all well-meaning people.

Now, Mr. Chairman, allow me to address the graduates. Graduating Class of 2011, Congratulations! You can celebrate your success. There have been challenges on the way, but at long last, today, the battle at this phase of your life, is over. There are still, however, some more territories to conquer and hurdles to overcome. So the battle of life continues, even after today’s glorious event. So fight on; for the battles that we fail to fight today, we will live to fight tomorrow! 
You are going out as leaders, trained in one of the finest management institutions in the world. You have a charge to keep, and a world to conquer. Yours is a world in which leadership is losing its moral authority. Demonstrate exceptional leadership in your various countries and organizations to demonstrate that you belong to a new breed of leadership. Let the vision of a new world be the perpetual flame that will keep your dreams alive. 

Remember, there are no shortcuts to successful living. Therefore, take as your defence, moral, ethical, spiritual and physical fortitude. Let your inspiration and perspiration be a vision and a passion for a new world and a new society; let hard-work, perseverance, and courage be your watchword. Above all, let service to humanity be your greatest preoccupation. These are the timeless truths for true living and true success. Emulate and continue in these things, and, the good LORD being on your side, you will win and leave a legacy in this world. 

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, as a people with a common humanity, we have the collective responsibility in working towards a just and prosperous society. This, however, cannot happen unless we insist on ethical and visionary leadership. This, we must do! We must commit ourselves to what makes life worth living. Life is short, but we can leave a legacy. What we do for ourselves will die with us, but what we do for others and society will remain after our journeys here on earth are over. The future belongs to those who dare to dream, and work for it. So let us dream and work for a better world.

Carl Max once said, Philosophers have variously interpreted the world, but what is important is to change it. The good Book says, “Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint (Prov. 29:18). Someone has also said that, “Ordinary people see things as they are and ask ‘why?’ But exceptional people dream about things that never were, and ask, “why not”?

Mr. Chairman, I would want to end with a quotation, with slight modifications, from the human rights leader, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.:-

“Difficult and painful as [it might be], we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future. When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way, to transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.” (Martin Luther King, Jr. A Testament of Hope: Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr, p. 509.)

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, this should be our hope and our earnest expectations!