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08.05.2000 Feature Article

Kwame Pianim's Specious Doctrine Of National Reconciliation.

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A reply to Kwame Pianim's article on National Reconciliation in the Accra Mail. Another government, another caretaker of the debilitating economic legacy of colonization has brought the colonized state of Ghana into crises again. This time, the crises is sending tremors and potential shocks through the ranks of the self appointed ruling elites of the country. The classic signs that have heralded the fall of all the post-independent governments are all manifest: cocoa and gold prices, on which the economy is dependent have fallen to unprecedented lows and thrown the economy into financial jeopardy. Combined rising prices in oil and imported manufactured goods, and the general cuts in government expenditure on social services have produced massive unemployment, non-payment of salaries of workers, rising corruption in high and low places, increased poverty and a severe polarisation of society into haves and have nots. Often times the former are fuelled by corruption and government and ruling party patronage. All this and many other signs have in the past sounded the tocsin of the fall of another colonized government.

It is against this background, and the peculiar circumstances of a post-Rawlings aftermath, that Kwame Pianim seems to have evolved, in the name of National Reconciliation, his ideological agenda for the intellectual and professional elite of the country. This ideology advocates an alliance of intellectuals and professionals with the business class, to seize control of the unitary state at the exclusion of the military, who since independence, have become a force to reckon with among the self appointed legatees of the colonial state. The only reconciliation sought by Pianim is one among the elite not among the masses of Ghanaians. And it is aimed both as an appeasement and fear of Jerry Rawlings and his friends, military, business and intellectual, who have shown such a penchant for longevity, and a proclivity for destabilization in their quest for the control of the colonized state, a penchant that has become a palpable threat to the elite in the imminent post Rawlings era.

In propounding his ideology of the elite, Pianim is able to give a correct explanation of the economic malaise of the country, but what he sees as causes of the country's economic difficulties, are actually symptoms of the illogical nature of the colonial state and economy. In the end, the solutions he proposes, even though he denies it, amount to a ‘business as usual' continuance of the economy of dependency, with the professional, intellectual and business classes at its helm.

Having established the tune of Pianim's rather egregious agenda, let us strike a proper keynote by providing a historical basis of the struggle for the control of the colonized state of Ghana. In the colonial days, the protagonists of this struggle were the traditional leaders who were for the most part, accountable to their people, the educated and business elite, who aloof from the masses, had become the parvenu self appointed successors to the British, and lastly, the British colonial authority itself. The Armed Forces had not emerged as an independent player in this drama to dispossess the peoples of our nation space. They were, however, the coercive arm that made the ascendancy of the British colonial government possible. Up until the beginning of the 20th century, the traditional leaders were in unanimity with the elite in opposing British rule in the nation space. This unanimity was instrumental in the successful resistance to the seizure of our lands by the colonial, in opposing the poll tax, compulsory labour and in the resistance to the colonial Town Council ordinance, and eventually led to the great Fanti and Accra Confederations of the late 19th century. Fearing a united front against their rule, the British succeeded in breaking this alliance by using divide and rule tactics to isolate the chiefs from the elite. Through knighthoods, creation of new paramountcies, demotions and promotions and exiling of recalcitrant chiefs, all backed by intimidation and outright use of force, traditional leaders became instruments of British rule and lost that accountability to the people that had always been the cornerstone of traditional leadership. Gordon Guggisberg, the celebrated colonial governor from 1919 to 1927, created the Provincial Council of Chiefs to consolidate this divide. Representation in the Legislative assemblies of the colony was heavily skewed in favour of the chiefs at the expense of the intellectual elite, and Guggisberg warned chiefs like Ofori-Atta I of Abuakwa and Ayirebi Acquah of Winneba that the educated elite were out to usurp their traditional authority. In reaction to the growing sycophancy of the traditional leaders, the elite despised them and accused them of being willing instruments of British oppression. These recriminations led to a divided front in the independent struggles during which, as a result of this divide, a delegation of traditional leaders begged the British to deny independence on the grounds that Ghana was not ripe for independence.

Kwame Nkrumah and the CPP's ascendancy in the politics of independence changed the dynamics of the struggle for the control of the colonized state. For the first time a new coalition of "verandah boys", traders and intellectuals had built a mass party that had sidelined the traditional intellectual elite. The CPP, however degenerated into a dictatorship of its leadership that killed of its mass following. Eventually, the top party leadership substituted itself for the whole party and the state itself. But the departure of the British also contributed to the new dynamic. The new elite of CPP functionaries and ‘verandah boys' had the same mistrust of traditional leaders as the traditional educated elite. So with their mentors, the British, gone, the chiefs were given the coup de grace by the CPP. They were stripped of any functional legislative authority and banished into talking shops in the various regional houses of chiefs. But the armed forces, without the British to direct their violent and dissolute proclivities, and the post independence governments unable to define a meaningful national role for them or disband the institution, began to realize their power and potential in playing a role in the organization of the colonial state. Soon after independence and several times after, they have exercised this potential and have now become a force to reckon with in the adjudication of the colonized state of Ghana. All over colonized Africa, the military has made its presence felt in the control of the state either directly as in military governments or through the ballot box as retired Generals, Captains and Flight Lieutenants.

Three themes have been constant with whoever has presided over the colonial state of Ghana, whether military, educated elite, business classes or the various combinations of the three that we have seen in our country. The first is their concordance in keeping traditional leaders out of the power structure by denying them any functional legislative or executive authority. Rather all the governments, like the British before them, have manipulated the traditional leaders to curry their favour, through bribes, token positions in the government and elevation to paramountcies. The second is their continued maintenance of the colonial economy of dependence on a few primary products for export and the import of foreign manufactured goods. Not one of these governments have attempted any significant diversification of the economy. On the contrary, they have exhibited clearly that their very survival in maintaining control of the colonized state depends on the effective maintenance of this colonial economic imperative. Paradoxically, the adherence to this imperative is precisely the reason for the eventual fall of these governments. For when the sails in the ship of the colonial economy have become buffeted by the ravages of the world market place, conditions of general economic hardship have been visited on the mass of the people and prompted military take overs. The third theme common to all the post independence governments has been the exclusion of the masses from the legislative and decision making process in the country. It is true that the NDC governments District Assemblies are meant to address this exclusion, but in reality, the, Regional Co-ordinating Committees, DCEs and the assemblies are no more than rubber stamps of central government policy. They operate on such puny handouts from the central government and in most cases are only able to contribute to non productive activities like the building of public latrines or the funding of operations of existing ministries like Health and Education which are already grossly under funded.

The Rawlings (P)NDC government has outlasted previous governments even though they have been subjected longer to the ravages of the crises of the colonial economy. This is not too surprising for the reasons are quite obvious. Where other governments were overthrown in military coups when crises conditions came along, Rawlings has survived mainly because of the huge injections of foreign aid into the country and his governments' successful deepening of the tax base. The combined effect has been to buy the government some time in the escalating crises. Also an effective security machine has staved of the flood of coup d'etats that have sometimes threatened the Rawlings government. But it is not for want of trying. There have been over 19 coup attempts in the Rawlings era alone, one of which was allegedly led by Kwame Pianim himself. Another reason for the longevity of the Rawlings regime has been the broad coalition he seems to have achieved among the different sections of the elite in forming his government. This has been quite an easy undertaking for Rawlings because of the crass political licentiousness that a colonized state generates in its peoples. The Ghanaian elite, in order to further their self aggrandizing aims, have been known to support even reactionary governments like Kutu Acheampong's, in order to be called to the table of spoils from the colonial economy. So have the business classes who will support any government that makes available the import licences that ensure the domination of our economy by foreign goods. Also by rewarding military men with political and public appointments, Rawlings has been able to achieve that broad coalition that is now beginning to feel the pinch of the crises of the colonial state. The grass roots support and seeming popularity of Rawlings, especially among rural folk, is an example of this licentiousness. Only in a colonized society does one observe the phenomenon of poor and deprived masses, who are passionately polarized between antagonistic political camps, that are presided over by people who tend to flaunt their ill gotten wealth with impunity.

But the imminent departure of Rawlings raises many questions about the future of this broad coalition and it is this succession that seems to occupy Kwame Pianim. His rather strange theory of "co-petition" is a clarion call for the intellectual, professional and business elite to form a united resolve to control the state. The underlying reason he gives for this resolve, is the destabilisation and chaos that could occur if some of the elite who suffered materially or otherwise under the revolutionary years of Rawlings decide to prosecute him once he retires from power. The possible return of Jerry Rawlings and friends, should a witch hunt occur against him, is seen by Pianim as deleterious to the hegemony of the elite over the state.

To Pianim then, the successful political alternation of power among the elites of the country and all colonized Africa becomes the most crucial element for stability in the body politic and the crucial factor in "realizing the African Renaissance in order to claim the 21st Century as the coming of age of Africa." This ‘Renaissance' will only be achieved if the Ghanaian professional, intellectual and business elite and their political organizations bury the hatchet and "cooperate" for peace and social stability and then "compete" for the votes of the masses. Succinctly and stripped of customary verbiage, this is his doctrine of "co-petition". It is his solution to the war of attrition between the armed forces and the political elite that has engulfed the colonized state since the "independence era", a war which has seen the military gain the ascendancy over the traditional political elite and forge their own alliances with business and foreign capital. But "copetition" does not resolve the all too pertinent question of the role of a standing army in a colonized society such as Ghana. Just like the CPP and the Progress Party civilian administrations before, "co-petition" advocates confinement of the armed forces to the barracks, with absolutely no political role for them. Such an advocacy which proved fatal to the afore mentioned administrations is euphemistically justified by Pianim as the need to "demilitarize the civil administration ..... and the gradual restoration of their activities under constitutional supervision and control" He proposes the integration of the Commandos and the Panthers back into the Army and Police forces respectively, and the seizure of all arms from the para-military organizations. In essence, he would incorporate the bedrock of the Rawlings security machine into the regular armed forces of a civilian administration, a situation which apart from begging the crucial question of "who will bell the cat" is also the hanging of the proverbial sword of Damocles over the head of any civilian administration opposed to Jerry Rawlings'agenda.

The motivation behind Pianim's agenda is the traditional elites's fear of Jerry Rawlings and a military cum business hegemony that will effectively deny them the state. He advises against "going after Rawlings" when he leaves office after the next election. He virtually pleas for a safe birth for Rawlings and begs for reassurances from the elites for no retribution for any crimes or misconduct committed in the ‘revolutionary years.' No revenge, no criminal procedures and no truth and reconciliation commissions. Instead he asks Ghanaians to forget the omissions and crimes of a whole era just so the intellectual and business elite can safely take over the reins of power - a veritable insult to all in the nation in scale as pernicious as the indemnity clauses that aim at the same effects. Even though he is hardly in a position to do so now or in the near future, having been banned from holding public office by the same Rawlings government, Pianim offers a carrot to Rawlings in exchange for his safe birth. This comes in the form of a wish list meant primarily to pacify the property owning classes who suffered materially and otherwise in the overzealous revolutionary days of Jerry Rawlings. The lists include a release of political prisoners, a pardon to all political exiles, a restoration of seized property and assets to owners including ex-government officials and compensation to those who lost family members. Pianim also asks for a cessation of the celebration of June 4 and December 31 in any form and a proper burial for two former incompetent and profligate heads of state- Kutu Acheampong and Liman. As a gesture of reconciliation, he asks the Ghana Bar Association to cease celebrating Martyr's Day in memory of the murdered judges. Such wishful thinking, predicated on a desperate attempt to monopolise the colonized state, and calling on Ghana to blink away and forget the sanguinary years of our history, is Pianim's doctrine of reconciliation.

To be fair to Mr. Pianim, his grasp of the economic quagmire facing the nation is quite accurate and to the point. In one paragraph, without garrulity, he lists the factors underpinning the fragility of the national economy, as "...the export/import gag, the investment/savings resource gap, the resulting increase in external debt as percentage of gross domestic product, debt servicing ration, the difficulty of controlling government expenditures within its revenue with resulting debt arrears to contractors, and its implications for high interest rates, crowding out the private sector from commercial credit utilization. And the tightening foreign exchange availability posing a threat to the liberal exchange rate regime." But he sees these factors as the underlying causes of our poverty instead of as symptoms of any colonized economy that continues to export its national income through a dependence on unprocessed primary products for export and on imports of manufactured and capital goods, a dependency that subjects the economy to the precarious ravages of world commodity prices. The solutions he offers for the economic malaise do not address this fundamental problem of underdevelopment. They are the same tunes that have been sang by the educated elite over the years and actually constitute a continuation of the debilitating policies that ensure our underdevelopment. They contain the same well worn cliches of "..forging new conditions of stake holders for a second wind to relaunch the economy on a path of sustainable broad based accelerated development", and the need for a "..robust and challenging national vision to power national development efforts, social progress and growth." Loquacious in its verbiage but short on concrete specifics, his doctrine appeals for calm because continued conflicts may "destroy the fragile perception (of Ghana) as a stable investment destination." He concludes his economic solution set by pleading the need for a "perceived stability to make Ghana a platform for production for export." This hypocritical acceptance of even ‘perceived stability' is the bedrock of that elitist desperation for the control of the colonized state. This desperation takes on frightening tones, when Pianim tries to convince us that the country has made 'gains'. With all the clear evidence of bourgeoning unemployment, labour unrest, increased tribal polarization, an education system in ruins, reports of corruption in high and low places, the use of force to harass citizens, the falling currency and the polarization of society into haves and have nothings, he heralds the "beginnings of a strong civil society.........even if the apostles of this moral high ground themselves have not adhered to these principles" His answers for the achievement of a stable civil society are the same delusory echoes of the ruling class for a free and independent judiciary, free press and electoral commission and an independent council of state who will be "shamed by peer review" of their decisions in the popular media if they do not perform their duties as demanded by law. It seems to imply that the elite will be accountable to themselves and not to the people of the country. "Peer review" will be the wonderfully effective weapon of sanctioning and motivating public and state officials to do right. It seems lost on Pianim's mind that, no independent judiciaries, free media, councils or peer reviews have prevented the looting and mismanagement of the state by any of Africa's ruling classes precisely because the state was expressly set up for the purpose of looting. Not surprisingly, Pianim also shows a remarkable insight into the political harlotry of the ruling classes of the country, and he warns Jerry Rawlings of the false facade of present sycophancy from his advisors and others who have profited materially from the (P)NDC era. Such people, warns Pianim, once Rawlings is out of power, would be the first to abandon his ship in the event of any witch hunting. These "gaping sycophants who shout the loudest against reconciliation will as usual, be around to sing the Alleluia to greet the new Messiah." This sycophancy, unfortunately is not the exclusive preserve of the elite alone. The chiefs and masses of Ghana, long excluded from the control of the state and sidelined to observers of their own demise since the days of colonization, have revealed the same equivocation in their support for the different classes that have denied them the power to govern themselves. In the colonial days, as the fortunes of European traders flowed and ebbed, their 'loyal' subjects and allies in the coastal states were known to turn viciously against them, sometimes publicly flogging and executing governors and officials of the trading forts. Post independence governments have shared the same fate among the masses. Nkrumah experienced this cynicism of the masses in the public jubilations that followed his overthrow, a fact which shocked his self assuredness even though he tried to impute the jubilations to NLC manipulation of the public. "The people that will sing Alleluia, King of the Jews today, will be the same to scream Crucify him tomorrow." Excluding the chiefs and people of the country from any legislative and executive power, alienates them from any control over their lives. They subsequently show their disdain for their oppressors by this lip service to those in power and the gleeful and vicious contempt once the group of oppressors is removed. Pianim does not altogether forget the masses, however, in his push for National Reconciliation. In his single short reference, to organs of decentralized power, he rightly deplores the NDC practice of appointing District Chief Executives because of the tendency to use such appointments as rewards for political favors and introducing a high element of partisanship into District Assembly politics. He recommends the election of DCE, but makes no further comments or critiques of this all important component of people power. This leads us to believe he still supports the appointment of regional ministers by the central government, which in effect will continue the status quo of making regional policies and by extension district policies a mere extension of central government policies, and making a mockery of the devolution of political power. Or if the district assemblies do achieve a measure of autonomy through the election of DCEs, the lack of any comment by Pianim on their roles again leads one to believe they would still be dependent on those puny budgets that limit them to the building of public latrines and such as their engine of economic growth. It is obvious then that, Kwame Pianim's doctrine of National Reconciliation is only a specious effort to bring peace and prosperity to the nation. Essentially, the thrust of the doctrine is tocsin to the self appointed inheritors of the colonial state to unite for a successful transition of power from the military cum business hegemony of the NDC government. The doctrine promots a continuance of the status quo of economic dependency and exploitation of the masses of Ghanaians by the state controlled by an intellectual, professional and business elite. It must be borne in mind that the colonial state, which is essentially totalitarian in character, can exist in the guise of a one party state, military alliance or a multi party state to give a semblance of dissent being tolerated. The power elite, in order to safeguard their position and further their mostly selfish aims become a club united in the pursuit of this exploitation. But Pianim's article does raise some all important questions. Is there a need for national reconciliation in Ghana? What form should such a reconciliation take? Reconciliation means for us, a rejection of the disparate elements, attitudes and structures in the nation space, that have hitherto been inmical to the prosperity of our peoples. These include the activities of the government, elite, businessmen and the armed forces who are desperately building alliances to control the state with their petty organizations and political parties. The key structures that we must extirpate are the economy of dependence, and the extremely centralized and totalitarian state structure with its instruments of co-ercion which have acted as a brake on the creative initiative of the mass of peoples, and relegated them to subservient and acquiescent observers. The standing army is such a superfluity, that drains the economy, and exerts such a malevolent influence on the stability of the state which a developing nation like ours cannot afford to maintain. The fundamental step in reconciliation then, will be the complete devolution of power from the central government to elected legislatures and executives in the regions and districts of the country. The regions must own their natural resources, raise their own taxes, and be charged with their own developments. As a start, we call for a conference of traditional chiefs, intellectual, professional and business elite and farmers and workers in every region to map out a power sharing agreement that will see elections in every region for regional premiers and legislature that will be autonomous from the central government. Such a conference should aim at clearly demarcating the jurisdiction of the central and regional governments. In such a bold step will the negative and suffocating presence of a highly centralized colonized government machinery be broken.

Kwesi Yeboah
Kwesi Yeboah, © 2000

The author has 34 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: KwesiYeboah

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