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12.04.2004 Feature Article

Something Has To Give, Pres Rawlings.

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I choose to address our former head of State as President Jerry Rawlings because of the great respect I have for the highest office of the land-an office he once held for almost twenty years. It is a courtesy extended to former Presidents in all of the free world from where it has evolved over decades to become a tradition and an established norm even to this day. However unlike a gentleman's agreement there is a written in clause that requires the party-in this case the former President to stay as far away from the political fray as much as possible in deference to the office he once held.

This is done to insure the former President from partisan attacks and also to portray him or her as a statesman who can be consulted by the sitting President on pressing national issues and even sent to represent the President and the nation at International functions.

As the only surviving former President this nation has, President Rawlings has to be accorded all the niceties and privileges that go with his former position. These privileges are not supposed to be advanced to him at my say so, neither do they require the express orders of the sitting President to act. The constitution makes it mandatory for certain privileges to be extended to any former President to make it easy for them to ease into the somewhat sedentary life that awaits them.

Under the law he is to be given protection by the state, medical and health care among other great benefits. But recent incidents that have involved the former President have left many scratching their heads over the propriety of extending that courtesy to him. Most people don't want these privileges extended to him stopped.

That would require a constitutional amendment-which would be the height of stupidity if the hawks in the Kufuor administration would want to travel that road.

The bottom line is that President Rawlings is not conducting himself in a way that is presidential at all. I am not going into the substance of the Ashaiman incident because it is still in the realms of contention which means it is yet to be proved, substantiated and corroborated.

Above all it is under investigation, which makes it difficult for one to conduct an honest, impartial analysis outside of the facts or before the facts are fleshed out after the investigations have been concluded. What I cannot fathom is the incessant refusal of President Rawlings to cooperate with the officials tasked to investigate his alleged misdemeanour. He is alleged to have stated some misgivings about working with the head of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) who personally signed the letter inviting the former President to help in their work. Now I cannot tell whether the alleged victim was coerced by some political opportunists to lodge his complaint in order for them to make political capital out of the situation neither can I tell what his motivation is. Howbeit I would give him the benefit of doubt which every victim of a crime is entitled to as we await evidence to shore up his case or otherwise.

However I can understand the stance of President Rawlings. Under the Provisional National Defence Committee (PNDC) and later under the government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) nobody trusted the police and for that matter the security apparatus to be fair and open minded when they dealt with cases involving the political opponents of the ruling government.

Remember the days of the dreadful Bureau of National Investigations (BNI). Those were the days Nanfuri under the express orders of the political leadership could detain political opponents for God knows how long without regard for due process. Today no self-respecting Ghanaian would rejoice over these and other dark days in our history. That is why I see the reaction of former President Rawlings as symptomatic of a psychological hangover that flows from the workings of his own security network during his reign. If the security organizations are not functioning very effectively we don't have to look any further for the person to cast the blame on. Institutions are like habits- they develop over time and once they have attained maturity they become hard and almost impossible to shed off. For almost twenty years the government of President Rawlings was the monarch of all it could survey as far as the development of these institutions are concerned. If it is the contention of President Rawlings that he cannot trust the police, one of the institutions that have been shaped one way or the other by the many years he spent as leader of this nation then we have to be very skeptical about his statements and claims.

The modus operandi of the police today is a manifestation of the investment his government put into it as an institution.

This is one of the legacies of the Rawlings Presidency. Unfortunately the former President doesn't seem to get it.

President Rawlings is one person who is supposed to be on bended knees thanking Ghanaians for their passion to forgive his many infractions instead it seems he rather loves to thump his nose at us and the constitutional arrangement he himself superintended over.

As a former President and one who once occupied the highest office of the land, President Rawlings is expected to conduct himself in a way that exudes respect, decency and honor.

It is not for nothing that one of the grounds a sitting president can be removed from office is when he conducts him or her self in a way that exposes the office to contempt, ridicule and disgrace. If the way President Rawlings is reportedly conducting himself doesn't end and becomes a trend he could kiss any goodwill he enjoys among Ghanaians who need an alternative to the ruling government goodbye.

This whole incident is a public relations nightmare for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and particularly for its Presidential Candidate, Professor John Evans Atta Mills. In a campaign season preceding a very crucial election it is the former President who is hogging the limelight instead of the party's flag bearer. Well that looks just like a great political strategy that would land the Ekumfi boy the castle.

Hmm. I will leave it there. By Paa Kwesi Plange For Gye Nyame Concord. Email: [email protected]

Paa Kwesi Plange
Paa Kwesi Plange, © 2004

The author has 52 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: PaaKwesiPlange

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