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13.01.2003 Feature Article

GIFTS: Are They Enough Signs Of Reconciliation

GIFTS:  Are They Enough Signs Of Reconciliation
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That gifts are symbols of love and goodwill no one can deny. Yet, whether gifts are enough symbols of reconciliation, maybe, a clue to that is what God almighty has intended to offer Ghanaians. Maybe God has a few lessons for us in the recent incident where the former president and his vice both rejected gifts from the government, and the turn of events.

The matter indeed calls for a dispassionate assessment in the interest of our reconciliation exercise, which is on-going. Perhaps, the perception by the opposition NDC and some political analysts that the reconciliation exercise is just a surrogate for other hidden agendas has also been recalled for deeper examination if the aftermath is not to leave us more divided than we perceive we are today.

The subject that has sent tongues wagging is that our custom does not permit people to refuse gifts. As such, two prominent citizens of our land are being sent to the gallows for doing the abominable. They have no counsel, and none of their plea or explanations would be taken. But like some of us always want to do, we maintain that it is equally abominable in our custom to kill a fowl without first giving it water to drink. And besides adherence to culture, it would be foolhardy not to do some dialectical reasoning on the matter to enrich our knowledge.

Coming back to the story, assorted drinks were sent to the former president on the occasion of Christmas. He was alleged to have instructed that the drinks be returned by the state protocol to where it came from. They did. And, coincidentally, the former vice president also refused to take another consignment of the drinks. So the simple conclusion is that Rawlings called Mills and commanded him: “don’t receive those gifts since I have also done same. Right?”

That suggestion would be too naive since the above example is the only diatribe the law professor has been grappling with, and his headache has been how to prove that he is not the former president’s pawn as his opponents would want the world to believe.

To me, Prof. Mills with all his intelligence (something his arch enemies hardly deny) would have done otherwise to prove to his accusers, at least for once, that he is his “own man”, if the former president had called and inform him earlier. It would have been easier for him to convince his former boss: “this is the best ever opportunity for me to disarm my opponents and render worthless their assertions.”

Very much convinced by the dire need of the Professor to disentangle himself from the Swedru boomerang, I can say with confidence that the myopic interpretations that have seized the thinking of some journalists and social commentators have come home to roost.

What then could the issue be? The option is to take the explanations offered by the two senior citizens, analyse them, assess the merits and demerits and come out with the implications there are for our young democracy.

In essence, we must regard the rejection of the gifts by the two personalities as a means of communicating something back to the NPP government. For it is held that a gift that is freely given, gives pleasure to both the giver and the receiver. So in a case where the receiver sees no pleasure in the gift, and therefore returns it because he or she perceives it not to be given freely, it would be unfortunate to see the giver rejoicing for one reason or the other. But, at least, the matter in question has offered the givers an opportunity to make a political capital out of the situation. Reference Dr. Addo kufour’s dropping of the clanger during the NPP congress, as foretold by Mr. Kwaku Baako Jnr.

In contrast, any God fearing individual would normally grieve over the matter, and make sure he or she resolves any issue that prevented the two from sharing the pleasure and blessings in giving and receiving.

Starting with former president Jerry John Rawlings, his aide suggested that his boss feels hurt and vilified, leaving him with a greatly damaged reputation both nationally and internationally.

What could he be referring to then? Among all the clarifications given on various radio stations, I have selected a few for examination. The first one says that the NPP government has made calculated attempts to disgrace the former president as a filthy person.

Throwing more light on the assertion, the source said that when President Kufour decided to operate the presidency from his own house waiting for a rehabilitation of the castle, the government decided to justify that by video taping some areas that the former government was unable to refurbish due to capital rationing decisions.

Then with a comment that the castle only befitted a museum, the clip was shown on the national TV, which for the first time demeaned the glamorous features we used to see when international dignitaries visited the castle. “Maybe, that was the only political explanation that could defend the huge expenditure in direct contradiction with the proclamation that the NDC left the coffers dryly empty, demanding that Ghanaians brace austerity”, the source concluded.

Another matter some commentators brought up was the “Gyemfi Paul” issue. This had it that official documents alleged to have been released to some journalists by the government were adduced as evidence of impersonation by the former president.

Other instances added beef to the allegation. One tried to prove that by announcing that the former president allotted himself five houses and twenty one (21) cars, the government intended to depict him as a greedy, covetous and selfish individual who would do anything to enrich himself at the expense of the citizenry. It maintained that whilst some of the apartments served as offices, and his security personnel who travel with him used some of the cars, the broken-down vehicles (in the majority) were all reckoned and projected as signs of greed.

Almost biting his lips, the narrator added that, as if that was not enough, the new cars bought to replace those the government collected from him also became a subject of vilification. He was arrested for making a boom speech while the cars were viciously reported as being bullet proof ones.

“There are even attempts at ostracizing and blacklisting the former president in the international community, preventing him from meeting friends like former US president, Bill Clinton, and aborting invitations to certain international functions”, the source peeved. But before the complainant signed off, he put a rhetoric question: “So who on earth would wholeheartedly receive a gift from another person who is bent on poisoning all the sources of one’s food and drink?”

If these indeed are the very issues boiling in the hearts of the former president, then there is more to our reconciliation exercise than meet the eye. My fear stems from the fact that some government officials have also admitted that the relationship between the President and his predecessor had strained. That being so, I feel it was ungodly and provocative for the government to advance a present in the light of this smouldering animosity. At best, the former president could perceive such a gesture as another attempt to blackmail him or see it as hypocritical.

On the other hand, Prof. Mills explained that he made a vow not to receive any gift months earlier. That sounds strange. But he has his own reasons. Though his reasons were also founded on similar incidents, his caution was more of a political one.

He alluded to instances where he was asked to return certain facilities given him as a former vice president because he had criticised the government. And as he has now become the main contender against the NPP presidential candidate in year 2004 elections, he would want to play it safe since he is bound to critise the government more than before.

He believes that it takes two to tango, but explained that many a time, what has mutually been agreed on in the closet of the government finds its way into the public domain to his embarrassment. As such, his intention was not to hurt anybody, but to forestall hurting himself.

From the government side, the story is different. The assorted drinks were meant as goodwill gestures for the Christmas season. Nonetheless, the issue has struck doctrinal chords since it is on the occasion of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Surely, Christmas is a season of goodwill and love for one another. However, would Christ exalt us for giving alcoholic beverages to people we are aware have a matter at heart against us? Would he not rather suggest we refer to what he said in the Scriptures (Matt.5:23-24) “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

At a point, government functionaries claimed the gift did not come from the government but from the state. So I begin to wonder if it is the government, and the NPP for that matter, that has to take offense. Yet it is they and their journalists who seemed to have been bruised by the rejection of the gifts.

Dr. Addo Kufour asked on NPP platform if the people would give their vote to someone who refused a gift of drinks from the state, whilst his brother, the president, in addition to beating war drums admonished the electorates not to vote for “Terrorists, Bullies, Liars, etc (as reported by Dispatch under the Banner headline: Kufour Hits Rawlings).

I find these statements non-reconciliatory more than I find the refusal of the alcoholic beverages. Whilst someone asked Prof. Mills on one of the radio stations to quote where in the Bible it is written that a Christian should reject a gift, I was expecting the same fellow to advice the president that the Bible does not ask us to insult those who rejects us, but rather enjoins us in Rom.12:18 that “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Remember the president said it is God who brought the NPP to power.

When we turn round, we find wars and rumours of wars in our sub-region. In my previous article entitle “What Magic Is In A 'BOOM' Speech?” I referred to La Cote d’ Ivoire as a model of democracy with its people ready to do all in their power to reject military adventurism. Though I sounded a warning that no one can cause a bush-fire by dropping a lit match on green leaves, little did I know that the grounds in that country were so dry to go ablaze. Today, the saying that humans are unpredictable has just splashed in our faces.

And now that we have evidence of people being tempted to feed on the downfall of their opponents for their own interests, we should be careful about the unwieldy nature of our reconciliation exercise. For, reconciliation is divine. Human mind and institutions alone cannot handle it. It demands more than mere forgiveness. It demands strict adherence to what Prov. 24:17 says: “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles do not let your heart rejoice”, and “The hardest trial of the heart is whether it can bear a rival’s failure without triumph” – Aiken. (courtesy Spiritual Vitamins for Godly Thoughts by Rev. Simon B. Dzidzornu).

In spite of their idealistic dictates, the two quotes above are the very core of what we are calling reconciliation. Reconciliation calls upon both victims and perpetrators to see each other as victims of circumstances they are prepared to explore so as to forestall the repetition of history. And having arrived at such a conviction, both become willing to erect monuments in memory of the evil that had once visited society, not to the memory of Angels that have suffered the atrocities meted out by Satans.

In our case on the contrary, some interest groups believe that such as the target period and the commission membership have flawed our reconciliation exercise. Another issue that has been cited as an indictment is the persistent statement by the Senior Minister, Mr. J. H. Mensah, that the NDC would be dead after certain events, presumably including the reconciliation exercise. We may take these concerns lightly, but the truth is that Ghana needs real reconciliation.

Perhaps, I need to dedicate a separate article on the subject under the title “The Harmony of Unadulterated History and Reconciliation.” In that article, I will share with my faithful readers the divine therapy of true forgiveness and reconciliation.

But for now, I hope no one would call me a prophet of doom if I caution that we might be treading on dangerous grounds. I hope we have taken a clue from the various dramas that ensued at the Wuaku Commission. Some witnesses probably brought to the probe just concocted stories, but justice in its essence may be stymied if the stories were and are discarded just because of inconsistency.

Consequently, some groups are still believing that the truth, as they perceive it, have been buried. That means reconciliation could be elusive in Dagbon.

Would it, therefore, not be wise for us to extrapolate these developments to the possible aftermath of a reconciliation exercise that has started on a tone of distrust in view of its national dimension? Raymond Tettevi Website: www.geocities.com/raytet/mypage.html ,

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