Ever since he shoots into the Ghanaian political scene some 23 years ago, with images of hunger and anger and frustration, John Jerry Rawlings, charismatic, energetic, and high driven has become some kind of an obsession in the Ghanaian psychic and political journey. A two-times successful coup maker, Rawlings projects what is best in Ghanaians, a distinctive Ghanaian endowment of youth and ideals and luck and the hunger for progress: the revered Ghanaian stuff.
In the ensuing years he has been called all sorts of names: rabid juju-marabou dabbler, bastard, Togolese, brutish; and compared to all sorts of great people: Jesus Christ and Kwame Nkrumah, the high-driven first Ghanaian president. Rawlings simultaneously flashes Ghanaians hope, aspirations and frustrations, Ghanaians fears, Ghanaian darkness and light, Ghanaians successes and failures, Ghanaians stability and instability. I know a former senior officer of the Ghana Armed Forces who happens to be in Rawlings' second military junta, PNDC, who hates Rawlings so much that he wishes him instant death. I know another similar officer who wishes Rawlings was still the President of Ghana. Rawlings simultaneously reflects Ghana's democratic aspirations and undemocratic yearnings. I know a man who voted for Rawlings and his party because of their social democratic manifesto. I know a woman who voted for Rawlings simple because he is handsome.
Such contradictory feelings and images of Rawlings by Ghanaians reflect the Rawlings mystery in Ghana's existence. Some Ghanaians don't understand how can half-European, half-Ghanaian (some say half-Togolese) rule at all or rule for the longest a proud people like Ghanaians. Some elites think as Achimota School sixth former Rawlings does not have the breadth of intelligence to rule Ghana. Some too argue despite Rawlings not having a BA or MA or PHD he is an extremely intelligent man, street-wise, have thorough grasp of Ghana and that these skills made him to rule a difficult people like Ghanaians, and seeing him thwart several deadly attempts to overthrow his regimes, and laying the foundation for the on-going Ghana democratic dispensation. Some say a fool could not have survived where the brilliant Dr. Kofi Busia and Dr. Hilla Liman and Dr. Kwame Nkrumah failed miserably.
With his long-running rule, unpredictably interesting personality, mystery surrounding him, his jagged and tumble history in a nation which political terrain is bumpy, his youthfulness and restlessness, Rawlings' statements, actions and movements sell newspapers at home and abroad. At the same time as Ghana's democracy grows and security becoming increasingly a deciding factor in a region mired in fragile security, Rawlings's statements, actions and movements have become a headache for President John Kuffour and his National Patriotic Party (NPP), which it appears, considering newspaper advertisement in the Monrovia, Liberia-based “The Analyst” that Rawlings's National Democratic Congress (NDC), an opposition party, is planning to hire mercenaries from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire to attack Ghana and overthrow the Kuffour regime, is employing any tool to weaken Rawlings and his NDC. It appears the Kuffour regime has learned heavily from Ghana's history of coup detats and is prepared to play the security game squarely, sometimes dangerously, with Rawlings and his cohorts, seeing Rawlings sometimes crying foul.
Ever since Kuffour's NPP came to power three-and-half years ago and in the run up to the impending general elections in December, it appears Ghana's security policy is wrapped around Rawlings. In this regard, his statements, actions and movements are teleguided. Even when he travels abroad it appears he is kept under surveillance. It is not surprising to hear Ghana's Internal Affairs Minister, Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, warning Rawlings not to attempt any coup detat since the NPP regime is not taking anything light as some past governments did which saw their overthrow including the political party Hackman's NPP grew out from, the Progress Party (PP), which was overthrown by General Kutu Acheampong in 1972.
Despite Rawlings and his NDC repeatedly saying that they will not use the barrel of the gun to change the NPP; that they will use the ballot box for regime change; and that they are the ones that laid the foundation for Ghana's on-going democratic dispensation and so they wont destroy it, the Kuffour regime appears not to trust Rawlings and his NDC. After all Rawlings has successfully toppled two regimes: the General F.W.K Akuffo military junta and President Hilla Liman civilian regime which Rawlings had handed over power but came back to topple it barely two years in power. Over his almost 20 years rule Rawlings contained coup attempts and invasions. He is still extremely popular not only in Ghana but also the entire West Africa. Such credentials make him an impresario of coup making not only in Ghana but also the whole of West Africa.
Added to this is the general view among Ghanaians that despite ruling for almost 20 years Rawlings still harbours the hunger and the feelings to come back to power. His “boom” speeches, which sometimes come close to sedition, over the years, have made the Kuffour regime feeling bad and hatching one security scheme after another to contain him. The result is the Kuffour regime increasingly casting Rawlings as a threat to the stability of Ghana's growing democracy and using any trick in this regard, including what is becoming increasingly clear that the dangerous advertisement carried in “The Analyst” about some West African mercenaries being recruited to attack Ghana was planted by Ghana's National Security adviser Francis Opoku.
For Ghana's good or for Ghana's bad, Ghana's obsession with Rawlings, as the Kuffour regime work hard to contain the real and imagined Rawlings, and stabilize the country, will demonstrate how they use the Rawlings obsession to develop effective and efficient long-running security policy, which is realistic and informed by Ghana's history and culture, to stabilize and entrench democracy in Ghana. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.