05.09.2002 Feature Article

Mrs. Rawlings: Post Political Power Traumatic Self-Pity & Short Memory Syndrome.

Mrs.  Rawlings: Post Political Power Traumatic Self-Pity & Short Memory Syndrome.
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Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings is an interesting woman indeed! Her recent letter to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), which was allegedly published in the Crusading Guide, reads like the confessions of a person who has finally admitted her sins. According to the Crusading Guide, Mrs. Rawlings' office wrote to the UNFPA lamenting the exclusion of the 31st December Women's Movement from the Fund's country programme for Ghana. Among other things the letter stated that, "..politics in Africa, more often than not, is a hindrance to development - the viciousness that goes along with it each time one is perceived to be in an opposite political party, can be used against that person, or his business or organization in a way that also damages the country". It is a tragic irony that Mrs. Rawlings should be the person saying these things. Her behaviour, to me, shows signs of Post Political Power Traumatic Self-Pity & Short Memory Syndrome (PPPTSPSMS). This is a condition of the mind that I have recently diagnosed as affecting people who have suddenly lost political power and authority after having held on to it for a considerable length of time. It is an emotional condition which causes the victim to indulge in self pity accompanied by deliberate and selective loss of memory of their immediate past. The victim then indulges in a lot of self-pity, erroneously thinking that she is the victim, and not the people she/he has hurt through years of political abuse. Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, who ruled the Phillipines for many years, also suffered bouts of this sickness after they fell from power. What do I mean by all this? A retrospective look at the politics of the Rawlingses since coming to power in 1981 reveals that the siuation Mrs. Rawlings describes in her letter, is precisely how they have treated their opponents and perceived enemies. Now that the boot is on the other leg Mrs. Rawlings is beginning to cry foul and blame her misfortune on her opponents. I would like to examine below, instances in the past when the Rawlingses have placed partisan politics above national interest, therebt creating situations that became "..a hindrance to development".. B.A. MENSAH -- INTERNATIONAL TOBACCO, GHANA LIMITED. After Jerry Rawlings seized power in 1981, one of the people he hounded was B. A. Mensah, owner of International Tobacco Ghana Limited (ITG). Even though Rawlings had not been able to establish any credible case of subversion or tax evasion against this industrialist, he imagined, in his prejudiced mind, that with the vast wealth at his disposal, Mr. Mensah might muster opposition forces against the PNDC. Consequently, Rawlings took control of ITG, and nationalised it. The fortunes of the company from them on began to decline steadily -- a very classic case of politics acting as "a hindrance to development".

APPIAH-MINKA -- APINO SOAP One of Rawlings' obsessions was to grab all power and hold on to it for as long as it was practically possible. To achieve this aim, he worked tirelessly to undermine his opponents, many times to the detriment of Ghana's growth and development. At a time when his government was preaching the values of small-scale industrial enterprises and the crucial importance of local investments in our economy, Rawlings shocked the nation with an announcement at a political rally that people should withdraw their patronage of APINO soap, manufactured by Appiah Minka. His reason for this strange exhortation was that Appiah Minkah belonged to the opposite side of the political divide, and large patronage of his products would enrich the man who was his opponent. If this happened, he would channel his wealth into funding dissident and opposition activities. To Rawlings, the interest of his NDC party and his welding of political power far outweighed the development of the small-scale industrial sector of the economy. This is what our elders call cutting your nose to spite your face -- se wo di nwansena akyi a woboro wo kuru mu. Another real case of African politics becoming a "hindrance to development" DESTRUCTION OF MAKOLA MARKET In 1979 when Rawlings first came to power, one of his dreams was to rid the Ghanaian society of kalabule which was symbolised by the Makola market. Kalabule manifested itself in hoarding of essential commodities, high prices of basic necessities, inflation, scarcities, etc. Tragically, Rawlings and his men did not understand that these economic factors existed because of the fundamental concept of supply and demand --i.e., whenever demand exceeded supply, there would be inflation, accompanied by scarcities. In his ignorance, he set out to destroy the Makola market in the hope that that single vain effort would be able to root kalabule out of Ghana's socio-economic life, and deal a devastating blow to the makola class, whom he had grown to hate because of their mercantile success. The destruction of Makola was a total dissipation of efforts and resources. In a bid to vent his anger at the bourgeois business class that had developed during the NRC/SMC rule, Rawlings ended up destroying public property as well as slowing down the business tempo of Accra, in particular, and the country in general. Our elders always say that nea otwa sa no nnim se n'akyi akyea (it is difficult to evaluate your own performance when you are deeply involved in an activity). It also means that the unexamined life is not worth living. The Rawlingses could use their time out of office to reflect deeply on the public life they have lived since 1979, especially the second leg which started in 1981. As is often the case when people are in power, the pressures of governing, the strong desire to live up to expectation, the arrogance and trappings of high office, the competing demands of matching our rhetoric with concrete action, and the seeming invincibility of being the monarch-of-all-I-survey could dull anyone's senses and blind them to the realities on the ground. There must have been many things the Rawlingses said and did that they might say and do differently under other circumstances. So, now that they are no longer in power and away from numerous public engagements it would be better for the Rawlingses to spend much of their time reflecting on their years of stewardship to the people of Ghana. If they do this with serious circumspection and humility, they would realise that for all the boundless energy, unbridled ambition and pseudo-revolutionary zeal they poured into their national duties, there were times that they committed numerous blunders. And there is nothing wrong with making mistakes -- we all make mistakes. Except that, when the mistakes are coming from people who pontificated for many years about political performance and morality, probity and accountability, etc, and even executed politicians for failing to swat flies, after which they let buffaloes escape, it is hard to forgive them. It is even harder to forgive them when these people not only refuse to admit their excesses but, what is even worse, cover up their iniquities of two decades and start screaming at a government that is only in its second year. Now is not the time for the Rawlingses to be doing too much public talking and letter writing. Now is the time for them to shut up and observe; now is the time for them to listen carefully to the comments and criticisms that are being leveled at them; now is the time for them to glean valuable lessons from the events that are beginning to unfold. For I do believe that they have a lot of lessons to learn -- lessons in humility, tolerance of political plurality, respect for human rights, and the time-honoured philosophy of life that says, "no condition is permanent". Our elders have another saying that opanyin due mante mante. Underlying this philosophy is the belief that a respectable person in the society seldom opens his mouth to talk; that he does not respond to every taunting remark he hears; and on those rare occasions that he opens his mouth to talk, his words are weighty and full of substance. If this respectable person does not maintain a dignified posture, but talks too often, he soon loses respect in the village. As a former President, we expect Rawlings to cut down on his public appearances and utterances and keep a low profile. This is one sure way he could earn a lot of respect from Ghanaians. Otherwise he would become an opanyin toto -- an elder who has relinquished his prominent position in life, and has therefore lost all respect. If the Rawlingses decide on the contrary to ignore this common-sense approach to post-retirement life, and insist on continuing to talk, writing letters here and there, and making excessive contact with the public, they would continue to stumble from one contradiction to the other, as Mrs. Rawlings' recent letter to the UNFPA has amply shown. And the more they do this the more they would expose themselves to further ridicule and contempt. I hope they are taking notes! B.K. Obeng-Diawuoh Kentucky, USA

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