Why we must not neglect the Rawlingses

For whatever he may be to them, some people may quickly downgrade the former United States President, George Walker Bush. But here is something from him that is so instructive as to earn him some credit. No one can begrudge him for the wisdom in it because it raises an important lesson that people like former President Rawlings and his wife have refused to learn:

“David Sherzer, a spokesman for George W. Bush, says the former president has declined an invitation from President Barack Obama to attend an observance at New York’s ground zero this Thursday in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin-Laden. The spokesman says the former president appreciated the offer to attend but has chosen to remain out of the spotlight during his post-presidency” (BBC news).

The lesson is in the last part of the statement, which reads: “… has chosen to remain out of the spotlight during his post-presidency.” That is the mark of a sensible former leader, which speaks volumes of how one should conduct oneself after many years in leadership. Other former Presidents (including our own John Agyekum Kufuor) have also chosen to lie low. But not the Rawlingses, who have set up a parallel administration to that of President Mills purposely to foment trouble in the country.

The discourse on why the Rawlingses have found it difficult to relegate themselves to the political background to allow others use the people’s mandate for national development must not end for as long as we haven’t yet understood clearly the “Rawlings enigma” or solved the problems that the Rawlingses continue to create for us with their loud claims and undermining of others in authority after them. I understand that there are other issues to concentrate on but we must not neglect the Rawlingses for now.

I am convinced that they are being motivated by nothing but paranoia and a dangerous greed for power to exact vengeance which, if allowed to mature, will cause more havoc than the violent streak of character that propelled Jerry Rawlings’ May 15, 1979 failed military action or the June 4 and December 31, 1981 coups d’état whose negative impact we still feel in many departments of our national and private lives.

I implore readers to be patient and bear with me as I raise some of these thorny issues for discussion. I do so not because I claim to be the know-it-all or because I hate the Rawlingses so much as not to wish them well. It’s not so. I do so because of my conviction that we have to diagnose the problems that their persistent interference in our national politics continues to cause. It is only then that we can appreciate its depth, impact, and possible future directions to be able to determine the appropriate antidote for it.

I believe strongly that there are many Ghanaians out there who harbour similar sentiments but don’t have the means to let them out. These pent-up sentiments cannot be stored forever and are likely to fester into dangerous physical acts if not released on time. Translating such pent-up sentiments into unpleasant acts must be curtailed before the unthinkable happens. With this conviction, I launch my scrutiny.

I am guided by the fact that just like many others who rose up in support of Rawlings when he surfaced in the pre-June 4 era and thereafter, I have identified with the ideals that initially guided his appeal to the Ghanaian psyche—the need to rid the country of corruption and all other vices, hardwork to rebuild the country’s economy and to provide development projects and utility services for the underprivileged rural communities, and the imperative to create opportunities for all to live their lives in dignity.

These ideals were couched in the language of “probity and accountability,” whose appeal was difficult to resist. I have not ceased praising Rawlings for achieving the goals that have positively affected the rural communities or those that led to the establishment of the 4th Republic. He has played his part.

But other happenings, especially concerning what he does or says in his post-Presidency period don’t endear him to my heart; hence, my decision to take him on. I do so with a clean conscience and will continue to write to draw attention to what I perceive as problematic about his manner of doing politics so that we can inform ourselves about how to deal with the danger that he and his wife pose.

The spotlight is on his wife too. She and her backers are on the trot, intent on pursuing an ambition “to take the NDC back from President Mills”; hence, her motivation to challenge him at the July 8–10 Congress of the party. Her hope is that the delegates will prefer her to the incumbent for her to lead the NDC at the 2012 elections. She has chosen to be audacious and tenacious in this resolve, defying all odds and sound suasion from all quarters, which raises serious concerns on why the Rawlingses aren’t content with all the cares and fears of their long hold on power for 19 years.

The main substance on which Nana Konadu has based his dare-devil political pole vaulting is the claim that President Mills was destroying the NDC for the benefit of the CPP. Coupled with other analogous charges, she and her husband have concluded that the only way to return the NDC to its keel is to lock horns with President Mills and dislodge him.

What will be the motivation for President Mills or any other member of his government perceived as a CPP activist to turn the NDC into a recruitment ground to boost the CPP’s membership drive or reorganization bid? Is it because such a person considers the CPP as more viable than the NDC? What is the proof of that viability or vibrancy when we all know that the CPP is dying very fast because of several factors, the most important of which is that it doesn’t have any more attraction for Ghanaian voters many years after the spirit behind that party (Nkrumahism) has died?

History tells us that names alone don’t attract voters to a political party’s cause. Attracting new members or retaining old ones depends on the activities of the leadership of the party and how appealing that party’s structures, modus operandi, and manifesto are to the people. More importantly, it depends on the people’s perception of the party. If the people don’t have any confidence in that party’s ability to win political power or to be ever able to form a government (because it lacks what it takes to win elections), they will not join it.

No matter how much the party’s organizers spend or how much politicking they do, the party will not attract the kind of following it needs to be in power. That’s the fate of the CPP. It didn’t just happen overnight. It has taken many years to reach this nadir of hopelessness. And is this the party that President Mills will take two years or so of being in power on the ticket of the NDC to resuscitate or use to destroy the NDC? What malarkey!

Then again, what is it about the NDC that will make President Mills turn away from it to give his blessing to the CPP instead and to want to win souls for it? Who will want to peg his political ambitions on a dying party? It is insane for anybody to accuse President Mills of nurturing the CPP on the NDC’s turf, knowing very well that it won’t build up the requisite support base that he needs to remain in power at the 2012 polls. This accusation is contemptible and must be dismissed outright as the figment of a fevered imagination. It can only come from people who are desperately looking for every opportunity to cause mischief.

The Rawlingses are a major threat to our peace of mind and we shouldn’t neglect them. We do so at our own risk. The basic question to ask is: Why are they finding it difficult to lie low as others elsewhere do when they leave office? More importantly, having ruled Ghana for almost 20 years, what new development agenda will a Rawlings element bring to the corridors of power to complete the equation and speed up national development efforts?

Nana Konadu may work against the incumbent in a vain attempt “to take back the NDC” and tuck it under her husband’s armpit; but the end of the road for her and her husband is in sight. Discerning NDC activists know better and will not entrust their destiny into their hands.

Inferring from the personalities who accompanied President Mills to pick his nomination form today—and considering the huge crowd that participated in today’s events up to the mini-rally at the NDC’s Kuuku Hill office—I am guardedly optimistic that Nana Konadu will not make any headway. Granted that most of those personalities with President Mills are members of his government who might be there as a matter-of-course or risk losing their positions (the Ghanaian politician won’t do what will dislodge him/her from the gravy train), one may be tempted to suggest that the show of solidarity is a mere ritual.

But not for some of them who have been close friends and confidantes of Nana Konadu (among them, Sherry Ayitey, Cecilia Johnson, and Betty Mould Iddrissu). They turned the table against her, not only with their declaration of support for the President but with their utterances too, which pointedly undercut the Rawlingses. The writing is clear on the wall that those well-intentioned NDC functionaries backing Nana Konadu will eventually desert her, which will be good news to celebrate. Many are seeing the light already and should have no other option but go where that light shines. No need to remain in the dark.

As the campaigns gather steam and more of the Rawlingses’ associates and sympathizers desert them for President Mills, they will be doing the right thing to close the chapter on them. That will be a good effort to prove to them that their political sun set long ago and will not rise again. I am waiting for that moment.

I will keep making my voice heard on these issues because that’s my contribution to the national discourse on how to grow our democracy. Let nobody think that I have too much and too little to do in this effort. I am waging a crusade for Ghanaians to place the Rawlingses where they belong. The political dust bin is not yet full. Let’s consign them there. Gradually, they are pushing themselves toward it, and we should all collaborate to stash them in there, away from the public domain. That’s where they belong.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com

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