Once again, Jerry Rawlings has hit town and reminded us he is very much alive. His ire this time is directed at elements within his own party and related matters, and everyone is sitting up and listening to what he has to say. Doubtless, radio programmes will be inundated with listeners calling in to express one view or the other on JJ's pronouncements. His speech will be scrutinised, assessed, taken apart and will dominate the news and commentary agenda for the next few days. To his ardent admirers, he does no wrong and is a revered oracle whose words are nothing but gems of wisdom, whereas to his foes, he is nothing but an attention-seeking dinosaur that should just crawl quietly into a dark corner and live out his retirement, preferably in exile.
Ever since he burst on the national political scene on 15 May 1979 in a most dramatic fashion, JJ (or Junior Jesus, to his army of devotees and worshippers), has always been in the limelight, whether in or out of power. His pronouncements have always marked him out as a firebrand, and have evoked fierce passions among both his supporters and detractors, of which there are many, perhaps in equal numbers. He still retains the ability to draw crowds when he attends rallies and other public functions and eclipse all others in his orbit. A man who has been a visible national presence for 30 out of a nation's 52 years of independence and is only in his early sixties cannot simply be wished away, I suppose. Even if he is no longer an active volcano spewing fire and hot lava constantly, he is far from a dead one. At the very least, he is a dormant one, rumbling every occasionally and then going quiet for a while.
Let me declare an interest here before I go further. I have never supported Rawlings or been moved by anything he claimed he stood for. I am no admirer of the revolution he foisted on Ghanaians, nor have I particularly drawn any inspiration from what he says. The charisma that so many people allude to him does not rub off on me, and I am not attracted to the JJ/(P)NDC brand, nor to its abysmal human rights record. As far as I am concerned, he is just another politician who came into town full of ideals, and yet failed to deliver on these. My political instincts have always been with the NPP tradition ever since I have been able to understand politics.
Dr. Boom, as JJ became known for his fiery speeches and criticisms of the Kufuor administration, has been at it a few times since the NDC, of which he is founder, stormed into the Castle following the recent elections. The fact that it is his party that is in power seems lost on him at all- the man has been booming publicly since 1979. But how do you suddenly kick a thirty-year old habit? There are those in the NDC that are squirming and begging their founder to whisper things into Mills' ears if he has issues, rather than booming all over the place, causing the man an earache and making him appear weak. They are behaving like a family mortified and embarrassed by the public antics of an elderly, renegade relative who does not do diplomatic talk but blurts out what is on his mind without regard to the effect on his family. They wish that the party's dirty laundry will be washed within the walled family compound rather than by the riverside for all to see.
I think Jerry's supporters are misguided in this hope, and I am glad Jerry is ignoring them. They whooped and screamed with delight when JJ was storming around in the Kufuor era, booming here and there and dominating headlines in the process. They argued that as an ex-president he was doing a public service by keeping that government on its toes with his criticisms as he saw fit regardless of the ensuing difficulties it caused. They argued further that as a Ghanaian citizen he had every right to say his mind, even in public. When it was suggested that as an ex-president and therefore an elder statesman, JJ should stay above the fray and offer his advice and criticism to the NPP government privately irrespective of their political differences, they scoffed and insisted that he was right in principle to attack in public. And so the booming continued in grand style.
So why are some in the NDC now begging Jerry to tone it down? Is he not still a citizen of Ghana entitled to state his views however he sees fit, as the NDC eloquently argued in the past? To those who argue that as an elder statesman, he should be more discreet in communicating his criticisms, I ask whether he was not a former president and senior statesman during the Kufuor era. Why should the leopard change his spots, or the zebra its stripes? When he boomed in NPP days, it was music to their ears-why are plugging their ears now that they can only hear a badly scratched CD playing whenever their founder booms? They should have seen it coming. JJ is an entire package- the good, the bad and the ugly. You can't pick which parts you like and expect things to fall into place. Beautiful roses come with vicious thorns. If the NDC believed and hoped that JJ was suddenly going to go from a lion to a pussycat within such a short space, then they clearly do not know their man, and their delusion is astounding. Long may he boom, I say.
In fact I think the NDC should rejoice that JJ is still booming, even if it causes Uncle Atta some sleepless nights in the castle and he finds the criticisms disconcerting. After all, the NDC can then argue that JJ is a man of principle who will not flinch from public critics against wrongdoing, even if it is his own party ruling Ghana. They can further argue that this justifies his NPP criticisms as emanating from those principles as opposed to sour grapes at his party losing the 2000 election. I can only hope that if and when some corrupt ministers emerge during Atta Mills' presidency (as they doubtless will), JJ will thunder publicly and demand their prosecution with the same vigour he is demanding that the government bring to book any corrupt NPP ministers and/or officials. I sincerely hope that when the allegations start flying left and right and the evidence is clear and credible, he will not insist, as he did previously, that the NDC is full of men of integrity, including the Abodakpis and the Peprahs, among others.
As for me, each time the NDC squirms with discomfort and apprehension whenever JJ approaches a microphone, I will rub my hands in glee, grab some popcorn and fight for a front seat. Then I will await with breathless anticipation the inevitable explosive, colourful fireworks that will electrify and illuminate the political big screen, to the accompaniment of his deep, baritone supersonic booms that can shatter glass and drown out the sound of Concorde flying by. There is nothing more joyous and deeply satisfying than observing the embarrassment of a rival family when one of their senior citizens gets up to funny antics in public.
So come on, Jerry, make my day. Please.
As they chanted at the onset of the revolution, 'JJ, DO SOMETHING, BEFORE YOU DIE!'
By Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng
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