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01.09.2002 Feature Article

Why This Unhealthy Pre-occupation With Rawlings?

Why This Unhealthy Pre-occupation With Rawlings?
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"The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven" With this defeatist attitude, Satan, in Milton's ‘Paradise Lost' accepts his banishment to hell, and vows to use it as a base of operations to attack God. So it is with the NPP government of Mr Kuffour. Their minds have created a hell out of the continued presence, on the political scene, of Mr Rawlings, and his every utterance - no matter how innocuous - is enough to throw Mr Kuffour's government into a frenzied fit, as if the whole security of state were threatened. Yet for us who have followed the tantrums of Mr Rawlings over the years, and have witnessed his oftentimes incoherent and inconsequential mumbling right from the day he insulted our intelligence, that his was a revolution not a coup d'etat because he did not play the national anthem, we are only reminded of Churchill's famous eulogy of Lord Charles Beresford, that "he can best be described as one of those orators who, before they get up, do not know what they are going to say; when they are speaking, do not know what they are saying; and when they have sat down do not know what they have said". However, it would be wrong to undermine the legitimacy of the fears of the Kuffour government in reaction to the sporadic muttering of Mr Rawlings. The man has shown us just how formidable he can be. He has been undisputed master of Ghana for almost 20 years prior to the Kuffour administration half of those years through the barrels of many guns and the other half as a result of the momentum of the self same barrels expressed though the ballot box. During this period the barrels - and they were loaded - have truncated many a life - corrupt and innocent alike - and succeeded in casting a stupor of a culture of silence on Ghanaians which we wore with the specially forged jewelry - ‘the Rawlings chain'. Today the barrels are empty but the noises emanating from them are creating an awful din. In all fairness to Mr Rawlings, as a free citizen of Ghana - and ex head of state - he is entitled to express his opinions without persecution, and there really is nothing he has said - not even the ‘boom' thing - that merits any charge of treason. Mr Kuffour, during Rawlings' years as head of state, once warned of ‘major explosions ‘ if the VAT was not repealed, a roughly mathematical equivalent - by quite a tortuous formula - of Mr Rawlings' ‘boom' and ‘positive defiance', which is itself equal to Nkrumah's ‘positive action', for which the latter got jailed. What is baffling is the righteous indignation that Rawlings seems to have acquired lately in his ‘boom and defiance' statements in his criticism of the Kuffour government. In his recent interview with a London-based Ghanaian FM station, he reaffirms his abhorrence for ‘injustice' and accuses the Kuffour government of ‘unfair and vindictive dismissal of workers in the ministries and food-dragging in checking his men for corruption'. Calling the Kuffour government the worst in the history of Ghana, he accuses them of committing too many ‘crimes' and advises Ghanaians to ‘stand up and speak against them'. Now, for a man who presided over an era of acronyms as diverse as pilgrims on the way to the Holy City - SAP, ERP, PAMSCAD etc, with a host of revolutionary organs just as diverse - PDC, NDC, ARDC, WDC, IDCC, CVC etc etc - all of which culminated in the greatest layoffs and dismissals in the history of Ghana; for a man in whose reign, the basis of our economic dependency was ossified,and gold gained ascendancy as the highest foreign exchange earner, which, in turn, led to massive environmental degradation and forced displacement of farmers from their lands to swell the populations of unemployed in Accra; for a man whose tenure in office saw the mass abandonement of the state by its citizens in search of even greener pastures; for a national leader who took the ‘blessed fruit of the womb' of cronysm, nepotism and patronage to unimaginable heights, creating in his wake a new brand of Ghanain millonaire - and I mean dollar ones - and a retinue of ‘friends', ‘wives' and party functionaries, who acquired former state owned industries bought with soft loans from the government; for such a man to express an abhorrence of injustice is quite an affront to the integrity of the lowliest dog-chain seller on Accra's mean streets. Junior Jesus Rawlings! The man who intervened to check the ‘rot' in two governments and became himself a victim of the same institutions that created the ‘rot' in the first place, and then proceeded to create an even bigger ‘rot' that he met. And when he was done, Ghana earned the unenviable accolades of ‘success story in Africa' and relegation to ‘Least Developed Countries' status, all within months of each other. History sometimes proceeds from farce to slapstick and the witches in ‘Macbeth' were definitely right when they sang ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair'. Unfortunately, the government of Mr Kuffour has not provided any palpable alternatives to the Rawlings era that will vitiate the sting of Mr Rawlings visceral utterances. Granted they have only been in power for a couple of years, and succeeded only in a will-o'-the-wisp macro- economic stability, but the ‘golden age of business', the Presidents Special Initiative', ‘the poverty reduction program' etc, just seem to be the recycling of the known failures of the PNDC regimes. Creativity seems to have come to a standstill, and as Mr Rawlings crosses the threshold into history's great rubbish dump, his last barbs at the NPP government must wake them up to the dire poverty of the masses of Ghanaian people. Ultimately, though, it is the Ghanaian people who will decide who crosses the chasm into this garbage heap. The mystique of JJ could flicker again for one bright spurt from a forgiving electorate that seems to have such a short memory of suffering. And if that happens,then trust our sometimes cynical masses, tired from the hardships that they live under now, to feed the frenzy of a self-obsessed ex-head of state who misses the lights of centre-stage, to throw some more ineffectual temper tantrums, whilst we self-destruct in the aura of a hot-blooded ‘copper do' ex-soldier. Hopefully, sanity will prevail and Ghanaians will wake up from their sometimes sycophantic stupor to the reality of a man who, for eight years, presided over a multi-party democracy which, by his own admission, he has no belief in. Then we can collectively ask Junior Jesus, what exactly it is that he believes in?


Kwesi Yeboah
Kwesi Yeboah, © 2002

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

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