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17.08.2002 Feature Article

Democracy and the Toleration of Nonsense

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I agree with President Kufuor that Rawlings, in spite of the absolutely damaging period that he took us through during his 20 or so years as mostly self-imposed leader, should be given the dignity and respect of a former president. Obviously, that position by President Kufuor its a hard, yet sophisticated one to adopt given what kind of ‘dignity and respect that he received from Rawlings when he was a presidential candidate. But while Kufuor is looking to avoid a future in which leaders, fearing maltreatment at the end of their tenure will find ways of refusing to leave office, Rawlings is looking to send us back to the past during which mere displeasure by some constituted grounds for a change of government even if by force. The latter outlook must be seriously discouraged. Agreeably, democracy allows for freedom of expression, but please someone should take the microphone from that loose canon. Rawlings’ speech in Kumasi borders on treason, and I am not so sure he did not cross that line. Put a couple of warped minds together with his statements, and you have the beginnings of plans to destabilize the country. This time we really should do something about it. How could Rawlings have the nerve to criticize this current government? Yes, he is a citizen, and therefore, entitled to his expressive opinions. But very few Ghanaians will disagree that he put us in this mess in the first place. If he had any shame, he would be the least public of all past leaders. Now, not only is he public, he is nonsensically vocal and threatening to our young democracy. Let us draw some comparison, or shall I say, contrasts between Rawlings and Kufuor. Rawlings ruled for 20 years during which people were killed mostly for no reasons, and sometimes for vocally expressing their displeasure in the mildest form. Kufuor has now led for one and a half years during which former presidents who terribly misruled can destructively, and baselessly criticize the government in a manner that borders on treason. An Accra cab driver I spoke to contrasted the two eras best: “During Rawlings’ time, we were poor, and we were not free; now, even if we are still poor, at least we are free. I don’t have to look over my shoulders when I am talking about the government.” During Rawlings’ era, embezzlement ran wild. The country accumulated $5.8 billion in debt. Enough state-owned corporations were sold in the name of privatization to generate a healthy bank account for the nation. I challenge anyone to look all over Ghana and show us where that money is. It is certainly not found in development, not in the value of the cedi, not in the infrastructure, nowhere. Now we have a government that has successfully restored enough confidence in us from the international community to warrant a write-off of $2.8 billion of that debt. The benefits of that write-off to us as a nation is that we can now direct the $200 million that we spent every year just to service that debt to other developmental uses. During Rawlings’ era, we had the value of the cedi hopelessly falling. Our currency went from being pegged at 2.7 to a dollar to 7,200. During Kufuor’s era, the cedi had been held in check until the recent downturn in global economy in the last six months dropped it to 8,000. Considering proportionality, and the reality that fixing what is broken takes longer than breaking it, I’d say Kufuor has performed remarkably with the cedi. Before Rawlings came in, The Castle was the symbol of our sophistication. It was really a castle. Today, to think that is the seat of our government makes one cringe. The dilapidation to the monument explains why President Kufuor worked out of his private home for nearly a year. During Limann’s era, Parliamentarians held their head up high with for being our nation’s lawmakers. Today, as a result of the fleecing of our nation’s treasury, they are begging for a ‘loan’ to buy vehicles with which to do the nation’s work. Let’s not talk about civil servants reduced to corruption because their salaries had not been paid for months under Rawlings. Today, under Kufuor, their salaries are getting paid up. And Rawlings can, with a straight face, declare Kufuor’s government as “one of the worst in Ghana’s history?” There is an element of democracy that calls for decency and properness. Whatever Rawlings has to say about the Kufuor administration is better said by the likes of the more realistic Bagbins. If the objective is to criticize, the mission will be accomplished without the display of utter disgust that parallels a W. Bush criticizing the Clinton administration on economic policy and results. Now the subliminal message behind Rawlings’ speech in Kumasi. The usual Rawlings is so unsophisticated and blunt on his intentions, or aspirations to come back. This time, he appears to be setting the stage for it. By saying we should “find ways and means to prevent this rot from going further,” by saying “we don’t have to wait for the next election to prevent this rot,” and by saying “let’s take the necessary action to prevent any further rot,” there is little question that Rawlings is trying to insight the only thing he has ever known how to do – and that is a violent overthrow of a government. That, my fellow Ghanaians, is treason. It is our hope that the Kufuor administration does not treat this menace with the same kind of kid gloves that the Limann administration did. Mind you if you keep doing the same things, you will keep getting the same results. The last thing that Ghana needs right now is the kind of results that the Limann government’s treatment of Rawlings brought about.

Jermaine Nkrumah
Jermaine Nkrumah, © 2002

The author has 27 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: JermaineNkrumah

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