No matter what anyone thinks of former president Jerry John Rawlings, there is one thing that is indisputable; his handing over power after 20 years was classy by African standards. There are those who would say he had no choice. There are those who would not even give him that credit because he had left such a bad taste in their mouths for so long that nothing he does would be seen in good light.
While they are entitled to their opinions and feelings, they do not have to look far to find examples of power drunkenness. Some 2,000 miles southeast of Accra, there is wretched-looking Mugabe with no sense left, but still doing WHATEVER it takes to hold onto power. That shameful history includes the likes of Mobutu Sese Sekou, Idi Amin, Babangida, and Abacha. Notice there are no titles preceding their names. They did not deserve any. In short, former president Rawlings could have followed their path, and the nation would have suffered more.
As gracious an exit as Rawlings may have followed, however, indications are that he may be tarnishing it. President Kufuor has bent over backwards to accord him a post-presidency treatment that, while arguably generous, may not be yielding the results for which it was intended. Rawlings’ legacy, regardless of where anyone stands on his record of 20-year rule, could turn out be a whole lot better if he builds on what the rest of the world now knows him for, which is the peaceful transition. Again, not even some of the staunchest adversaries can take that away from him.
Instead, the former president engages in utterances that unfortunately have the potential of derailing that legacy. The threats must stop. By now, most Ghanaians have become confident in the stability of our government. Most people view Rawlings’ threats of coming back as attention grabbing, and even immature. They pay little attention it. They read them in the newspapers and continue on about their business with barely a blink of an eye.
Unfortunately, that cannot be said about the rest of the world, particularly investors. We must remember that Rawlings engaged in similar threats when he first handed over power to Dr. Hilla Limann in 1979. Two years later, he made good on those threats and overthrew that government. How then are investors, who are barely warming up to the idea that Ghana is a bona fide democracy where investments can be considered safe, supposed to delineate between the Rawlings of 1979, and the Rawlings of today? They would rather maintain the hands off approach and keep their money elsewhere.
Even most Ghanaians cannot tell the difference. To this day, many of us are still skeptical about making any major business moves towards Ghana in spite of the fact that we are one of the oldest democracies in Africa. One Ghanaian told me our nation is still unstable for him. Another recommended sending Rawlings out of the country on a permanent vacation even though that may be easily seen as an exile, which would further poison investors’ confidence in our democracy.
But it does not have to be like that. As we rebuild our nation together, it is the responsibility of all of us to look out for the nation’s interest. All of us, including Rawlings and the NDC, must put the nation above partisanship. President Kufuor has made no secret his intention to encourage foreign investment as one of the key areas of his economic revitalization program. In short, if foreign investors move in, the infusion of capital and the positive effect that it would have on unemployment would go a long way to making him a successful president.
Of course the selfishness in all of us would call for us to wish for our opponents’ failure so as to create an opportunity for ourselves. There is an aspect of human nature in that although there is a limit on how far people take that selfishness. Some may not even wish for that failure, but others would help bring it about if they could. Whether or not that could be what is playing here is hard to tell. But after leading a nation for 20 years, it is hard to imagine that Rawlings is completely oblivious of the broad implications of his threats as they affect the confidence of potential investors