For as long as the Rawlingses give us cause to question their motives, we will continue to write on them. We already know as much as we can about them but shouldn’t just sit back to look on idly as they take us for the kind of ride that we don’t want or won’t enjoy.
Without any shred of doubt, I can say with evidence that Rawlings is Ghana’s bugbear. Since he shot into the limelight on May 15, 1979, he hasn’t ceased being so in several ways. The fire that he has lit may end up scalding him if he continues playing with it. For far too long, he has been in the news mostly for the wrong cause, and he is working feverishly to carve a very horrible niche for himself as a former President.
To his credit, though, I must acknowledge some good aspects of his political career, some of which include the raising of political consciousness of the people (through measures for empowering them such as participation in local-level governance through the PDCs/WDCs or CDRs and the Decentralization programme that led to the establishment of the District/Municipal/Metropolitan Assemblies).n fact, he spearheaded the campaign to demystify governance and reached out to Ghanaians in a manner not known before or after him.
Other major achievements undertaken by Rawlings included the provision of social amenities to rural communities (rural electrification and potable water, telecommunications, etc.) as well as the massive infrastructural development that endeared him to the hearts of many.
Rawlings restored dignity to Ghana in international circles to an appreciable level, making him the toast of citizens of countries in dire straits who don’t hesitate to wish that he were their leader. I have heard many Nigerians, among others, say so.
He has other good aspects too; but putting everything together, he is fast eroding all that credit because of his unbridled overzealousness to be the holier-than-thou of Ghana politics. Rawlings has chosen to be the Godfather of Ghana politics and acted in a manner uncharacteristic of someone who had ruled the country for nearly two decades and is expected to give others the breathing space to contribute their quota toward solving the problems that he either helped to create or couldn’t solve while in power.
That is where the negative aspects of his political career threaten to drown his creditworthiness. I want to be blunt to raise some of the self-created problems that are fast eroding that creditworthiness with the view to establishing that Rawlings is sliding into the political squalor and creating needless conditions for hatred.
It is a sad commentary on what he otherwise would have been to Ghanaians, most of whom sacrificed their lot to follow him but have now seen good reason to turn coat, not because they don’t like the ideals that undergird the politics that he introduced but because of the manner in which he is prosecuting his agenda.
I am one of those Ghanaians who unflinchingly supported him, based on his call for action to redeem the country and work hard to improve the lot of the population. Just like me, many others heeded the clarion call and played their part in diverse ways.
So, for us to turn away from Rawlings, especially in his post-Presidency period means much. We have done so because we think that he is still living in the past and refusing to reform himself to be able to remain relevant to contemporary Ghanaian politics. Speaking hyperbolically, I must say that he is many light years behind the reality of today’s Ghanaian politics.
By not reforming himself and still seeing every Ghanaian problem as a nail, he is still wielding the hammer with which he entered political office as the solution to those problems. That’s the core problem he has. And that is why he is still bent on using the very methods that he used to enter political office, and which enabled him to instill fear in the people for all the long period that he ruled Ghana.
By insisting on “punishment” for functionaries of the Kufuor government and using President Mills’ reluctance to do so as the major bone of contention, Rawlings has broken all bounds (of decency) and caused much havoc to the NDC and pain to those whose sacrifices have led the party thus far. That is the problem that some of us have with him.
He is still cast in the mould of a “strongman” and has allowed that mentality to overstretch him into thinking that he has been ordained by God to salvage Ghana. This mentality is tormenting him and he finds it difficult to be at peace with himself or anybody who holds different opinions on how to tackle national problems. Certainly, Rawlings cannot dispose of his hammer; and he is angry that all doors are shut to him to reach those for him he has been wielding this hammer.
Still determined that his hammer reach those people, he has adroitly found ways to circumvent the Constitution so as to return to the corridors of power through the backdoor—using his wife as the conduit. The current vigorous campaigns that he has mounted with the support of those who think and act like him to vilify President Mills and make him unattractive to the NDC delegates at the party’s July 8–10 Congress has only one objective, which is that his wife will be endorsed to lead the party to next year’s polls.
We are likely to see the zeal and venom with which Rawlings will campaign for his wife if she gets the nod (May God forbid that, though!!). In his scheme, an electoral victory for Nana Konadu is a visa for him to return to the citadel of power to exact vengeance and complete his unfinished agenda.
There is no doubt about why he is so much emotionally, physically, and financially invested in his wife’s rise to power. Nana Konadu herself has been reported as saying that the decision to contest President Mills was made for her by Rawlings. Again, Rawlings himself has stoically defended his wife’s right to do what she is doing and repudiated any call for her to step down.
Of course, Rawlings knows why she won’t step down and made it angrily clear to the NDC Majority in Parliament that interacted with him two days ago on that score. Rawlings thinks that Nana Konadu will be the best goose to lay the golden egg that will help him re-invent himself in Ghanaian politics. He will defend her to death and do all he can to paint President Mills black and carry that spirit over to attack the NPP’s Akufo-Addo if the Presidential race opens to Nana Konadu and Akufo-Addo.
We are seeing clearly the instincts that are driving Rawlings’ politicking long after the curtain on his own rule had been drawn. Like the proverbial Oliver Twist, he is still hanging at the fringes, extending his hand for more power.
We shouldn’t be those to advise and forewarn him because in his particular condition, he should be the first to know—and admit—that whatever is blown beyond its elastic limits explodes into fragments. The power that he is so avid for is a double-edged sword that can help its wielder do whatever he/she wants with it but it can also turn round to destroy that wielder.
History has given us innumerable records of people like him who refuse to know their limits and do things to destroy themselves. Like a fish in a pond that refuses to act when the water around it begins to dry and ends up dead on dry land, Rawlings is tempting Fate. He has for far too long, taken Ghanaians for a long, rough roller-coaster ride and survived in circumstances that are not the same as what we are in today.
The negative influence of his politicking is felt in many sectors, especially in the lives of those whose loved ones perished during his rule. The irreparable damage that his use of power did to many people—those whose economic lives were shattered as a result of the draconian measures that his government took against private business owners, or those who faced extra-judicial stern punishment, or those who suffered injustice at the Public Tribunals on trumped-up charges and wrongfully jailed for long years or executed by firing squad, and many more—are still embittered. These are the people who don’t want to have anything to do with anything with which Rawlings is associated. They are in their millions.
I have recalled the above sordid instance just as a proof of the problems that Rawlings has constituted himself into. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that the measures that his government used to solve national problems were ineffectual. For example, did the execution of the former three heads of state and Army Generals stop corruption in Ghana? Did the execution of armed robbers by firing squad end armed robbery in Ghana during his tenure or thereafter? Or did the economic policies that his government implemented resuscitate the country’s economy?
There are many questions concerning the role of Rawlings in Ghana politics that defy answers, which confirms the claim that Rawlings shouldn’t behave as if under his rule, life was rosy for Ghanaians—and for which matter he must be allowed to dictate how the country should be governed. To those who regard him as an anathema, he will remain as such no matter what he does to re-engineer himself politically or socially.
Let me end this analysis with only one caveat. Between May 15, 1979, and January 7, 2001, Rawlings took it upon himself to carry Ghana and its problems on his head, and Ghanaians gave him the pad and supported him to do so. Unfortunately, he couldn’t do it all alone. If, after leaving office unscathed, he now wants to challenge Ghanaians again, he will not have it easy-going. He has for far too long tempted Ghanaians; and peace-loving as Ghanaians are, they contained him.
He is abusing that leniency and misperceiving it as a weakness. If he wants to live the rest of his life in some kind of peace, he should not continue treading where he will not be tolerated. The political graveyard has been reserved for him since he left office, and he should just let his political career reside there.
If he thinks that he can outwit Ghanaians, he will realize rather too late that the “Halleluia” that he has been signing everywhere does not prove his piety to Ghanaians. And for digging too deep for a fish he will only come out with a venomous snake to bite him. That bite will not give him life. He is 64 years old now and must take caution.
By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor