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13.04.2003 Feature Article

Leadership, Free Speech, Rawlings' Press Conference and Ghana's Democracy

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The former President of Ghana Mr. John Jerry Rawlings today finds himself in the opposition to African 'rulership'. It appears he may not have expected it happen so soon however he is experiencing how it is to be in the opposition party to African's type of 'language conflict democratic governance'. War of words by supposedly politicians and elite often dominate one party's effort in power than appreciating what they do and assisting the party in power with subjective criticism. So sad is political hatred at the acme accepted as part of democracy to the detriment of vision and direction of the country. Nonetheless, there is 'little something' for one to be happy of in every political party that assumes leadership and in Ghana too.

On 7th April, 2003 the former President called for a press conference and gave his view of what he decries of in the current administration. He used his right as a citizen this time more appropriate than the usual forms which calls for his gradual realisation of Napoleon's comment that brute force can never be used to achieve anything durable. His comments did not go down well with the ruling NPP government and the outgoing Minister of Information and Presidential Affairs, Mr. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey came out with NPP government's reaction to Mr. Rawlings' address. In his press release headed "A Leopard Does Not Change Its Spots - JJ Rawlings", Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey had this to say:

"It is the hope of the government that the former President’s statement will be treated for the little that it is worth".

This writer does not feel comfortable with this kind of comment reflecting NPP's opinion. Both the title of the press release and the comment is not worthwhile for building the best democratic environment for the posterity of Ghana.

What is sad and indeed disturbing in African democratic path is the unconventional grasp to 'power' through streamlining the state armoury to suit and help push the views of the ruling government. By such act politicians who one time hanged at the tail end of a mini jalopy pickup truck and begged with his life and emotions becomes a dictator overnight. Then the state's resources are pumped into party activities and the mass is tossed around being offered expandable white T-shirt with the grim and wry portrait of a new African 'terror' at the centre. Few local currencies and a car to convey local people to party grounds in the sun is part of the deal. The poor folks shout to justify the wealth of T-shirt and free ride to party grounds. The result is another resounding victory at elections. Poor we!

Political tolerance and the curse of being at the opposition party is today the web former president Rawlings and his part NDC may find himself. That may not be pleasing for him, as he has used his whole time off the seat of presidency to campaign for his chosen one and whom he thinks should lead his legacy and dreams to remain forever. Today he finds himself being challenged by his cronies like Dr. Obed Asamoah, Dr. Kwesi Botchwey and others. But he has not taken time off to re-assess what is wrong with the 'system'. He still tries very hard to bulldoze his way through the mass and crushes whoever fails listen to him or has even better ideas than what he cherishes. Why not, for he for some 20 years built around himself a 'political maize shed' and sat at the top with fist hands. He failed to listen to others and so the people around him chose not to talk as long as the 'rats and mice' may not be able to destroy them and they can hang up there in power for long. Tolerance never cropped up and when the shed collapsed he shrouds in shock to see his 'preserved maize' being destroyed by 'termites'. His anger is yet to be pacified.

Surely, it is this kind of political aftermath and the abysmal trampling upon by all and sundry which shudders the intestines of even confused and some hollow-minded leaders elsewhere to clinch to political power. In one of the richest continents or perhaps the richest, African leaders have neatly ensured that the resources are highly thieved and saved at the banks in the 'so called developed and democratic countries'. But political power is not permanent. However, our leaders simply refuse to see that. So leaders like Mr. R. Mugabe, Mr. Gnasingbe Eyadema, Brother M. Ghadafi etc continue to treat their countries like their gardens. Huh! Mr. Mobutu did go. Mr. Sanni Abacha went peacefully. Sargent Doe died weeping like a trapped antelope in the forest. (Teacher) Mr. Arap-moi may be in his ranch waiting and soliloquising what the ruling government may pack for his response. Even apartheid is gradually off the necks of South Africans. So why not and who can forever clinch to political power?

This intolerance and the lack of respect for leaders and parties have not helped to strengthen African and surely Ghana's developing democracy. NDC did what it could but Ghanaians know very well when the former president often mounts the podium and assaulted opposition parties particularly the NPP. One recalls how the president used Independence Day celebration to attack the former Vice-president Mr. Ekow Arkaah. The assault was the overdose or the final touches to cabinet beating he gave Mr. Arkaah which NDC cabinet party members refused to tell the truth till today what really happened at the meeting. For sure that arrogance did germinate very well in the NDC party especially among the leadership. Mr. Rawlings will today find the truth within his 'NDC garden' the fine products of resistance party members have carved. It may be a shock to him but it the beginning of a fine woven material he manufactured.

As a former president, Mr. Rawlings no matter his pros and cons in political life will ever and shall remain under the shadows of that title. Some people may disagree as to whether he genuinely won the election or not but that is not the scope of this article. What remains the truth is that he served as a president and swore by the oath and the constitution of Ghana. He handed over his tenure of office as required by the guidelines in the constitution. He is not the first and shall not be the only former president. As long as democracy begins to win the heart of Ghanaians towards a positive societal direction there are many more Ghanaians who will soon become 'former presidents'. It is important that respect is accorded this title in our society no matter our differences in politics. Giving respect to title and the person who bears it should be seen differently from the thoughts and visions of such a former president.

It is within this scenario that this writer finds the out-going Minister of Information and Presidential Affairs' comments as reaction to Mr. Rawlings' press conference very worrying indeed. One cannot discern the raison d'être of a government's press release headed in proverb. For one thing remains to be answered that in Ghana's cultural pluralism proverbs carry meanings from one tribe to another. Secondly, two people from the same tribe or language may even interpret a proverb in different ways. So on what justification should a Minister of Information address a whole nation based on his tribe and knowledge in proverbs?

Furthermore, if really the said press release has been accepted by President Kufour as the official ruling government of Ghana's reaction and not NPP's then we as Ghanaians ought have a rethinking of our political path. If not then we should be bold enough to inform NPP that they have perfectly entered the shoes and nicely developing what NDC was doing best. In his article 'Talking to Wake up the Chief Justice Wiredu and Leaders' published at www.ghanaweb.com on Friday 21st March, 2003 this writer enumerated as a way of re-echoing to the leadership mind the victory of 2000 election and who were behind. It is being re-posted here and again that NPP did not win the 2000 election because of the party's organisation or the number of NPP followers. It was victory by voters of the following category:

a). people who were tired of the downward trend of the economy and lack of vision for Ghana

b). all party members (including some NDC members) who were willing to try other parties the chance and see what the future will hold for Ghana

c). people who simply want a change to avert anarchy in Ghanaian politics

d). people who want change for the sake of it.

It is this variety of people's vote that catapulted NPP into office as the ruling party. It is expected that Mr. Kufour's administration would confluence his will and diversity to such Ghanaians into a new political front hitherto constituted in our wanton desire for change. Quite ironically to say the least, the efforts of the party has been to settle the scores through words with the NDC particularly devoting attention to the threat if any to NPP. Many of the old things have never changed. It is like handing over power to simply new faces and not what the voters expected to see. But this writer has always shorten his words of criticism against NPP due to the short period of time in office but one cannot hide the disappointment in the perpetuation of the very old past. It does little or nothing to justify the voting of NPP by Ghanaians.

It was expected that the party will transform and send democracy to the doorsteps of all Ghanaians by integrating views through effective organising of non-party lines and build understanding of politics. Secondly, the ruling government will streamline development policy through culture and participation, developing and supporting local capability efforts through long-term capacity policy and responsiveness of the civil society. Thirdly, that efforts will be made to revitalise the educational set up than the present system that keeps students at school till they are old enough only to marry or get only 'certificate' through unnecessary examinations, which offers no guarantee for employment by the market. So students with good grades but without funding wait all through their lives at home for their contribution to be nicely wasted until they through frustration become arm robbers and trouble hardworking individuals. Then loans are sort for from Nigeria to assist Ghana with used Peugeot cars to help Ghana police. That is called good governance, yeah! Fourthly, the government will initiate policies to enhance local industries in expanding portfolios and increase production for self-sustenance among sectors of Ghana in the few years. Sadly no!

What we see and read is worrying. Ministers are now very good inter-positional players. Cabinet is reshuffled when it becomes clear that things are not clicking. Then the public is told the government is strategizing Ministers to reflect its commitment to serving Ghanaians. Yes, the government spends all its effort to say zero tolerance for corruption. Yet, corruption is seeding among its own Ministers. Only former party members face the wrath of that slogan. See, the real mothers and fathers of corruption are in the developed countries. They are places where 2 or 3 people can bring giant businesses to bankruptcy and still they roam freely since the law cannot prosecute them. If you want examples look not far but in USA.

To reduce corruption to a lower level is eminent but to eliminate or stop corruption what one cannot do. There are some people who are not just thieves but they are kleptomaniacs. So some of the best ways to handle this issue is to SEAL OFF most of the holes they quickly dip their hands in. Instead of wasting time to prosecuting past leaders, the current government should have made its Ministers, Chief Executives, Directors and all hierarchy of leadership to sign oath of safe- guarding national assets, money and glare negligence of State loss. Then the laws will be passed in Parliament as State Laws to prosecute them for failing to adhere to them. This then serves as a deterrent in reducing state loss. But the need not still open these holes and only offer verbal warnings of zero tolerance to blindfold Ghanaians is another fine mockery. How often can he, H.E. President Kufour 'open' his eyes to all the ministries and holes created for kleptomaniacs. How can he catch them when they do their own things there in acute and dark rooms?

To this writer, it is of no use harassing previous Ministers and other leaders. They cannot return the money they have 'stolen' unless to be imprisoned. But that is not a serious punishment or solutions to tackling political greediness among dry-pocket-individuals parading as intelligent politicians. Put them into prison and again use state money to finance or feed them? Does that prevent any sitting Minister from stealing when he can easily run to Europe and USA when s/he knows they are at the brim of losing the elections for example?

In another sense, any other party that resumes governing Ghana will persistent to use zero tolerance as a measure to continue harassing previous ministers. To this writer, NDC for example which may perceive this as a vendetta will one day not allow NPP leaders and Ministers to breath freely even if some have been excellent leaders. So this writer recommends sealing off many of the holes and offering respire rather than the current judicial hurly-burly characterising Ghanaian politics. But as things stand now, political parties, which in the future will control political platform will or may cover their inefficiencies and lack of direction with fighting former leaders.

Change being expected has eluded Ghanaians or to say the view of voters in the 2000 election did not convey the right message to NPP. This writer is of the view that there is no excuse for claiming slow pace achievement as 'there was so much rot in the system'. Ghanaians knew that and so they voted NPP that promised it could handle it. It is important the government from now or if it wins the next election changes its focus entirely. That is, making Ghanaians take active part in political discourse from the grassroots as a way of effective education. Not that election(s) should be organised and put at the doorsteps of Ghanaian homes. When people have no hope they lose interest in leadership. But if they take part in what is at state they appreciate little efforts. For example, at Gomoa East by-election of 07/04/03 JOY FM new reports that

"voting was generally peaceful but voter turn-out was reported to be just about 50 per cent"

Certainly this should not be a happy victory for NPP. The question should be why 50% of citizens of Gomoa East failed to honour their political right to vote? The answer is people are losing or have lost hope in the political direction of this Motherland. Surely, it is better not to vote than to vote someone whose interest is to clinch power and cause trouble to deepen people's (economic) life. The writer has stated in one of his previous articles at (ghanaweb) that if one cannot demand or wait for accountability then it is absolutely a perfect choice not to vote someone into political office. It is so dangerously to vote crooks and ruffians into political office on the slogan that 'your vote is your right to be exercised'. Such slogan is not true in democratic politics. For, democratic politics is more about accountability of one's act in office than just 'voting' as pride of exercising one' political right.

The new day is shining on the land and the nation cannot afford to be back trotting because leaders are simply war wording themselves on one thing they all cannot do. That is letting Ghanaians off the tentacles of poverty and the course for decent life through a new generation of Post-Modern Capitalist leadership for Secular Socio-cultural African State like Ghana.

Pick the scores out!

I welcome comments and criticism.

Kwame Atta Kaytu
Kwame Atta Kaytu, © 2003

The author has 21 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwameAttaKaytu

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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