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25.03.2005 Feature Article

Dr. Rawlings Deserving Of Honorary Doctorate Degree From UDS, Really?

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Commenting on the recent brouhaha surrounding the suspended/postponed but not cancelled award ceremony involving the UDS and ex-President JJ Rawlings until they got the requisite security conditions ready for an expectant large crowd, the acting NDC scribe, Mr. Bede Ziedeng wrote: “The former president truly deserves the award for the contributions he has made towards the development of the country”, the NDC said, adding that in deciding to confer the award on the former president, the UDS had underscored an important principle in the world of academia of giving credit and praise where it is due".

That is a joke. What "development of the country" are they alleging to, if I may ask? Take the whole quality of Ghana Education under Rawlings as a sum and tell me if you have any idea how low this man, Rawlings, has sunk our education for the twenty years he held sway over Ghana. If you can call that development, then I don't know what the NDC will call underdevelopment or a decline or retrogression. These guys have their eyes buried in the sand. Let's see how high Rawlings thinks of the UDS by sending one of his children there.

What a bunch of sycophants. You do not string together a collection of PRE-EXISTING loosely scattered, UNDER FUNDED, DECAYING TRAINING COLLEGES over four regions - Brong Ahafo, Northern, Upper West and East Regions and call it a university. What a cacophony!

"Development of the country", my foot. Look NDC diehards and Rawlings fan-fools, Rawlings came to power just about the same time DR. Mahathir Mohamad, the Malaysian ex-prime minister assumed power in Malaysia. Our economic deprivations were exactly the same. As a matter of fact both Ghana and Malaysia achieved independence in the same year, 1957 from the same colonial master - Great Britain. By the time Dr Mahathir Mohamad left the scene which also coincided with the same time Rawlings left the scene in Ghana, Malaysia has been transformed from a mono crop cash economy - dependent on primary unprocessed export products; cocoa, gold, timber, coffee etc. exactly just like Ghana to a very strong and vibrant economy; a middle income country, to the extent that they were actually buying up Ghana, piece by piece, whilst we continue to wallow in poverty, economic decline, corruption and sense of failure in all markers of development, hauling over our sorry shoulders tons and tons of useless paper money called cedis. And you call the architect of that malaise a success, to the extent you would want to award him an honorary doctorate degree.

Listen guys, in my books Rawlings does not deserve even a JSS leaving certificate, and that is the honest truth. If our political and economic development from 1957 to 2000 were put on a continuum, the Rawlings years would be considered as a digression, a detour and lost years and opportunities akin to the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the desert for a journey that should have at worst taken them 2 weeks on foot. For twenty years we were dancing in circles at the same single spot. We actually failed to make any economic and development headway except to see our cedi take calamitous beatings and became a nation awash of paper millionaires with tons of worthless paper money in every household.

The preceding line of thought is not held by me alone. Hear what others say of the years particularly under Rawlings leadership:

Speaking on the occasion of Ghana's 48th Independence anniversary celebration, H.E. Odoi-Sykes, Ghana's High Commissioner to Canada said among other things that “Long periods of totalitarian military rule retarded Ghana's economic and political development whilst the Asian tigers were making steady progress in developing their countries. Military adventures, which unjustly ceased power from constitutionally elected governments and ruled by decree for some 22 years; are the main culprits for the political and economic under-development of Ghana today”.

Speaking at the 38th J.B. Danquah memorial lecture in Accra the Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori-Panin II “noted that Ghana's contemporary nations like Malaysia have made impressive gains in major areas of development yet "We are only boasting with $400 dollars per capita income". Compare that to $8,950 of Malaysia. He indicated that policy and decision makers have not managed the country well and after several years of independence there was nothing to show. Osagyefo Ofori-Panin II said our country with great human resource capacity and tremendous natural resources was still wallowing in poverty and was dependent largely on external support, adding, "Even countries with fewer resources have made it better than us". Since Ghana and Malaysia achieved independence together in 1957 from Britain and had identical economic conditions at birth, it is only right and appropriate to measure and appraise ourselves by comparing ourselves to our classmates. If you have ever been to homecoming for alumni you would know what I mean. And didn't a great thinker and philosopher once say “an unexamined life is not worth living?” I have forgotten who said that but we can concur with that wisdom. Post independence, Malaysia made remarkable progress; especially after the economic reforms introduced by the government of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in the 1980s. As a result of these reforms, Malaysia's economy shifted from being primarily agrarian to a more mixed one. Today, Malaysia's GDP owes more to industry than to agriculture: industry accounts for 46%, services for 41% and agriculture for 13%. The last decade of the 20th century saw a sustained growth rate of 8%, but this slumped dreadfully and declined 7% in 1998, following the Asian financial crisis. Steps have been taken by the government to arrest the downslide, including funding from internal and external sources, introduction of an expansionary budget, and attempts to curb the rising level of unemployment. Malaysia's revenue earners are tin, rubber, palm oil, timber, oil, textiles and electronics. The GDP is at US$ 171 billion; GDP per head stands at US$ 8,950 and the annual growth rate has slumped to -7% (1998 figures). Malaysia's major trading partners are Singapore, Japan and USA.

Compare that to Ghana and you would quickly come to the conclusion why nobody should rush to congratulate Rawlings just yet. Let's go the early years when Rawlings burst onto the landscape. The word “Kalabule” which was a roughly translated Hausa phrase “Kara ba ka bule ba” (Hei don't open it – an admonition by smugglers to border guards not to open their goods but to accept the bribes they readily offered) was coined to describe the widespread smuggling and corruption in the country thanks to Generals Acheampong and Akuffo NRC/SMC I and SMC II respectively. There were occasional bursts of hunger on the land and life was tough. Many young university graduates would often finish their exam papers one day and would be on a lorry bound for Agege, Nigeria the following day. We were a distraught nation and we lost our very best to neighboring African countries where our folks went to engage in all manner of works from teaching to prostitution. We looked towards the heavens for deliverance and before we knew it a lanky, famished, and chiseled face Rawlings was proclaiming himself the messiah for our woes. The air was pregnant with unprecedented expectation. People intrinsically and subconsciously rallied to the broom stick revolution. Misguided and pompous university students were his most ardent supporters. Egged on by huge unrealistic expectations, the ship of state was chartered into the dangerous world of Libyan and Soviet communist propaganda. Overnight Libya style green books and PDCs became the new young pioneers playbook. We all know the stories, suffice it to say the era became marked by stoned head ideologues competing for attention as who was the best junk head for alien ideologies. Full assault was even launched on our spiritual values by some bizarre Afrikanian Traditional religion, led by some disappointed Catholic priest called Okomfo Damoa. Judges were killed in order to intimidate and silence any bastion of authority that could call the runaway renegades to order. Suspicious characters like Gaddafi, Mengisto, and Abacha began to embrace Ghana as friends. Not until the disillusionment associated with the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of Cold War, Rawlings knew no stops and wondered aloud who in Ghana he could ever handover power to, as if the peoples inalienable rights belonged to him for life.

The sum total of Rawlings misrule is the abysmal education standards in Ghana, heavily devalued currency, disheveled economic performance and abject poverty, and the near death bankruptcy that led and forced the new NPP government to officially declare our dear country as an HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Country). Rawlings only embraced democratic reforms because he was forced to by Ghana's development partners like the donor countries, IMF and World Bank, not that he wanted to. Democratic reforms were the price he had to pay in order to continue to receive the steady flow of Western aid not that he really wanted to. He had his back to the wall and had no choice. We all know the Rawlings record and should be allowed to stand for posterity to judge, but giving honorable doctorate degrees to him, please…..

“Rawlings legacy could be summarized this way: Under his rule Ghana became a politically stable country; opened to foreign investments. However, his successive governments over 19 years of exclusive power, have not, in spite of heavy financial support by the World Bank and the IMF, succeeded in establishing a prosperous economy for all.” That should tell you we mismanaged all the funds that the international community poured into Ghana under the SAP. Our GDP has stagnated and has not seen any significant growth since independence.

Folks, Rawlings record are only good in academia and should be taught under the topic: How NOT to ruin a country and still walk around with unfounded foolish pride and bombastic ego.

Presented by,

Eric Kwasi Bottah (alias Oyokoba)

Philadelphia, PA

USA Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Ato Aidoo
Ato Aidoo, © 2005

The author has 31 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: AtoAidoo

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