A few moons ago I had a whinge from a close family friend about how my sister had opposed his candidature in a hotly contested seat at the Cape Coast Municipal Authority. He lamented the openness with which this sibling of mine had supported another candidate rather than him-a bona fide family friend going back nearly 30 years. Personally I found nothing wrong with it and could, in fact, see the inherent beauty of my sister's actions. Surely one doesn't have to support a candidate just because he or she is a familiar or even familial! And supporting another candidate rather than one's kin doesn't have to generate blood between them, does it? In my opinion (and I rate my judgment quite highly) brothers must be able to jockey for position against each other and even seek to pin-point the flaws in each other's arguments with the aim of one-upping the other without generating acrimony. In other words people in general and Ghanaians in particular must, as the cliché goes, learn to agree to disagree!
The above resonated with the long-standing wish of certain self-styled peacemakers in Ghana to reconcile John Kuffour and John Rawlings. Certain elements in Ghana including churches and even the Ashantihene have apparently had a go at this patently fruitless and, indeed, objectionable enterprise. Legend has it that many a Ghanaian church has sworn to reconcile the duo or die trying amidst fever pitch intercessory prayers and ultra-dry fasts. What a waste of time and effort!
Question is why should these two be reconciled and to what end? In case people do not realise, these two are ideological and political opponents. One is a confirmed coup-maker desperate to return to the political limelight whiles the other is an outgoing president whose reliance on negotiation and tête-à-tête has been the hallmark of his presidency. Whiles the latter is a soft-spoken, Oxford University-minted, attorney at law the quondam is a screaming ex-service man with an “O” level certificate who managed to climb to an elementary flight lieutenant in the Ghanaian air force. Whiles John Kuffour prefers jaw-jawing with political opponents or dismissing them from office in exercise of his constitutionally accorded powers when the need arises (Francis Poku), the other John sees it fit to wrestle his opponents to the ground (Kow Nkensen Arkaah) in full view of the cabinet. But that's who these two people are, take it or leave it! These have precious little in common. But that should not stop them dealing with each other if they have to. But they don't necessarily have to trade French kisses to be chums, do they?
It is high time Ghanaians realised that people don't have to be in each other's arms to be friends. The rather quintessential Ghanaian idea that walking past another and failing to smile or to say greetings is tantamount to that individual hating them must be rejected as a complete nonsense! People don't have to be friends to respect each other. If these two past presidents see it fit to avoid each other because they don't get along then so be it! Over here in this Not-SO United Kingdom it is not uncommon for spouses to be forewarned about the impending visit of mothers -in-law in order for them to seek refuge in a friend's house in the interest of peace and civility because the two just don't get along. Of what relevance does reconciling Rawlings and Kuffour have towards Ghana's growth and development? Of what relevance does Rawlings have to Kuffour? The man is a former president for God's sake! Can the reader imagine the people of these British Isles begging Gordon Brown and David Cameron to “reconcile” with each other? Or for the American public demanding that George Bush reconcile with Bill Clinton? For what and about what, may I ask? If anything the British or the Americans would not want the incumbent and the opposition to ever see eye-to-eye for what use is an opposition if it agrees completely with the incumbent? Political opponents must, perforce, oppose each other with a view to highlighting the differences in ideology and as such present the populace with choice and alternatives. If some people choose to employ insults and character assassination as their modus operandi then these must be exposed as the barbarians that they are. That is the essence of multi-party democracy.
John Rawlings must be allowed to ventilate his views as much as he wants to. As far as I am concerned it makes no difference whatsoever. Where he speechifies and it amounts to slander or libel then he must be charged in a court of law. Pretty simple if you ask me! In the same vein John Kuffour should not shy away from criticising his predecessor al fresco and where Rawlings feels his rights have been trampled on he must seek redress.
In the meantime this baloney about reconciling the old fox and the gentle giant must be stuffed where the sun don't shine!
Bernard Asher is a Lecturer of Business Administration and Economics @the Guildford College of Higher Education, Guildford, England and an External Tutor at the University of Reading. Contact: [email protected]