'“… that short man, what's his name [?]' – Rawlings on Akufo-Addo” is the caption of a nauseating and unity-stultifying news item, written by an unnamed scribe of the Daily Guide newspaper, which appeared Thursday, November 6, 2008, on GhanaHomePage, the leading pro-Ghanaian Internet news conduit. Jerry Rawlings' maniacal outbursts are nothing new on Ghana's political terrain, but for the ex-president to continually demean himself by employing language beneath someone his stature is truly alarming: somebody needs to step in now to help Mr. Rawlings understand that democracy, as wonderful as it is, as satisfying as it is to its adherents, as liberating as it is for those who collectively have rejected tyranny and abuse of power in our dear nation ― ironically, dictatorship was Rawlings' modus operandi in the past ― does not mean launching into diatribes that even an eight-year-old boy will find abhorrent, tragic and embarrassing, which is exactly what Rawlings has done by sardonically referring to Akufo-Addo as a “short man,” after the former called on the Asantehene before a recent campaign tour of the Ashanti Region.
In an October 16, 2008, article that I got published on GhanaHomePage and other pro-Ghanaian Web sites, I noted that President Kufuor's disgraceful attack on Professor Mills' health needed to be condemned by all, as Professor Mills was deserving of some respect from the sitting president. I further stated that Professor Mills himself had debunked those reprehensible harangues regarding his health, so for the sitting president to attempt to make political fodder out of the matter was simply frustrating for both Professor Mills and the aficionados of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). With the preceding in mind, I consider it my duty to let Jerry Rawlings also know that sidestepping the issues ― the lack of potable water; inadequate and costly health care; very low-grade education; uneven distribution of the nation's resources, ethnocentrism ― and engaging in ad hominem attacks will simply anger the electorate and cause the NDC to be defeated in Election 2008.
To begin with, what has Akufo-Addo's height got to do with the compendium of societal and economic issues facing Ghanaians? Yes, Jerry Rawlings may be six feet four inches tall, but did his height give him an understanding of the economic issues that the nation had faced after he first came to power illegally in 1979? After Rawlings' second military adventurism in 1981, he told Ghanaians that he needed to come back to power because the nation was on a path of stagnation and corruption and needed one of accountability and economic growth. But then Rawlings would inform a BBC News correspondent, “Don't ask me about ideology or economic programme. I don't know any law and I don't understand economics, but I know it when my stomach is empty.” So, who does not know it when his stomach is empty? So, what did Rawlings really come for in December 1981? If he did not understand how an economy operated, then my most recent article on why mutineers are cowards is, indeed, justified!
No one determines his eventual height in adulthood, although we all can, to some extent, determine our girth, especially in middle age. One famous portrait of Jerry Rawlings, shortly after the June 1979 rebellion, showed a trim and emaciated man full of anger toward the political and military elite. Today, Jerry Rawlings is very obese, with an unhealthy potbelly, a man fed and clothed by a democratically elected government that he hates and unrelentingly berates as the source of Ghana's economic woes. In effect, why would a fat Jerry Rawlings think that it is okay to attack another person who just happens to not be endowed with tallness? Instead of focusing on what an NDC government will do to ameliorate the deepening economic maladies of Ghanaian wage earners, Mr. Rawlings has chosen, once again, to evince his dislike for Nana Akufo-Addo and the National Patriotic Party (NPP), by indulging in silly talk, while making a courtesy call on the Asantehene at the Manhyia Palace in Kumasi, as mentioned earlier.
Even as he addressed the Asantehene and some of the latter's sub-chiefs, as part of the aforesaid courtesy call, Mr. Rawlings would tell his listeners that “criteria such as dedication, hard work, integrity, patriotism and good morals” (Daily Guide, 2008) should be used in selecting a nation's president. True. Very true. But Jerry Rawlings, in the name of morality, should have rejected all the accoutrements that he was offered by the Kufuor-led NPP administration in 2000, including the several houses he received, as part of his retirement package. What is more immoral than for one person to receive several houses as gifts from the poor citizens by proxy? What is more immoral than for Rawlings to destroy the nation's educational system ― switching from the Ordinary and Advanced Level systems of secondary school education to the ill-fated Junior and Senior Secondary School systems has been a catastrophe ― and then send his own children overseas for their education? And is Jerry Rawlings the only patriotic citizen of Ghana? Really?
No one can govern a country well without the help of seasoned bureaucrats and university professors. As such, it does not matter who gets elected: the new leader would have to depend on a team of experts, academics and bureaucrats to run the country. If Mr. Rawlings, who did not understand how an economy worked during the PNDC years, could rule Ghana from 1992 to 2000 with moderate success, then it simply attests to the good work of the aforementioned group of intellectuals brought in to manage the economy. Even after listening to Rawlings' vituperations, the Asantehene, the wise man that he is, would simply tell the gathering that he intended to invite both Jerry Rawlings and John Kufuor to the Manhyia Palace in the near future for a salient dialogue on how to move the nation forward. The Asantehene would also warn against either party's ― NDC or NPP ― attempt to “rig the elections” (Daily Guide, 2008), if peace and tranquility were to prevail long after the last ballot is cast and the polling stations are shut down and a new president is chosen by the good people of Ghana.
I have said it and will say it again: Jerry Rawlings should quit active politics. The NDC which Rawlings helped found will survive without him. Professor Mills will do well without Rawlings. Ghanaians will survive without a venomous Rawlings. Yes, Ghanaians are grateful to Jerry Rawlings for being the progenitor of their Fourth-Republican constitutional rule. Yes, Ghanaians are grateful to Jerry Rawlings for helping to protect the rule of law in the country since 2000. Conversely, Ghanaians are fed up with Mr. Rawlings' irritating presence on the national stage; after all, we can only have one president at a time, and the Osu Castle ― later the Flagstaff House ― is only big enough for one man. I sincerely hope that Mr. Rawlings will do the following: watch what he says henceforth, retire quickly from active politics, and prepare to take care of his future grandchildren, a privilege that the grandchildren of the murdered generals can only wish for. Perhaps only then will the ex-president regain some of the respect that he has lost.
Caveat: Please do not tell me that because I am Ewe, I should not criticize Mr. Rawlings publicly. Who are we looking out for: the nation or individuals? At least, I have read comments from neutral Akans like Eric Bottah and Sarpong (he is based in Texas), who readily chastise the sitting president when he errs. The afore-named GhanaHomepage commentators always make sure that their reasoning is not clouded, or vitiated, by some stupid parochialism or ethnocentrism. In fact, Sarpong, alongside many thousands of Akans, would have been the first to call for the impeachment of Mr. Kufuor had the president, at any point in his eight-year reign, attempted to declare himself life president. At least, I know that there are very brilliant, reasonable and objective Ghanaians on the Web, whose contributions I look forward to reading everyday. Ultimately, we must not promote self over group, tribe over nation, southerner over northerner, rich over poor. We can only attain a perfect union when we speak the truth and expose wrongdoing, so the younger generation will learn to better navigate the complex waters of Ghanaian politics, and thereby promote our intra- and inter-tribal co-existence. To all promoters of peace and unity, may the good Lord continue to empower you to expose nation-wreckers and trouble-makers, and may our nation stay forever united and strong!
The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master's degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at [email protected]
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