Rawlings on threats to Kufuors Govt
Ghana’s former president, Jerry Rawlings has said that although he made some adverse public comments against some particular businessmen, who had committed various offences against the state, “my government itself was reasonably tolerant of various opposition groups. We tolerated sometimes violent opposition from other political parties, student unions, organised labour, traditional rulers, etc. but we gave various appointments to many people whose political views were different. Many of these people are serving the current government”. On his recent invitation by the security agencies for certain statements made, the ex-president said president John Kufuor and many of his ministers made far more inflammatory speeches when they were in opposition. As former high office holders, most fair observers think we should be treated with a little more respect. The attempt to criminalise everything we did, do or say, is very unfortunate. The general public is becoming fed up with these distractions, which are attempts to divert public attention from the hunger, joblessness and high cost of living the ordinary man is confronted with everyday”. The former president made these remarks in an interview with London-based West African magazine. Rawlings also spoke about his cars: “the government can get ludicrous sometimes. The cars are not bulletproof. The biggest subversion threat to this government is their own inability to deliver on their exaggerated promises. It might well be that the attempt to link the cars to coup attempts was a typical attempt to justify the recent acquisition of bulletproof vehicles and other cars for the president, the cost of which is estimated at $500,000. There is the need for the government to get focused on the serious issues of the day and refrain from these petty diversions”. Rawlings said, “Relations with local press and media can be better. You as a journalist can tell me why some of your colleagues simply specialize in peddling falsehoods and concocted stories. I have no problem with individual journalists. But I have a problem with people who cannot speak the truth and rather lie about others. In spite of our differences, fact must remain sacred across the divide”. In his answer to a question on his popularity and the problems in his party, the NDC, Rawlings said: “It is not up to me to judge my own popularity, but if you from West Africa magazine, as informed journalists, say that I am popular, well I should thank you for that information. It is true that the National Democratic Congress (NDC), after two terms in government is now learning to adapt itself to the role of a constitutional opposition. The so-called problems that the NDC may be going through ought to be similar to the challenges that other opposition parties face in many parts of the world, except that in our case, the party is the object of a hard line campaign of vilification, harassment and criminalisation by the ruling government. Within the party itself my position and role is that of the founder, whose functions are clearly stated in the party’s constitution. My principal responsibility is to chair meetings of Council of Elders, which is required to offer a broad range of counsel and advise on all matters affecting the party’s well being. I am performing this function currently, with the warm support of other members of the Council. I don’t see how I can be marginalized, even if some people wished it were possible. Besides, it is impossible to shove (aside) or mariginalise truth no matter what attempts are made. The values and principles that I have stood for all these years are abiding legacies that no one can push aside. They represent the very soul of the NDC and nay attempt to push these principles aside will amount to nothing short of a suicide. Attempts may be made but the millions of the party’s supporters are too politically aware to be seduced into such self-destructive schemes. In his response to why he thinks that in spite of all his good intentions about Ghana, whatever he says is often treated with contempt, Rawlings said: “I don’t agree at all that whatever I say is treated with contempt. You must be referring to some particular one or two statements. I have made many statements all over the world and right here in Ghana, as a former head of state that I believe have been very well received by my audiences. When I speak on HIV/AIDS, malaria, agriculture or education, mot of my audiences appreciate my views. However, when I have been interviewed or have had to speak on such subjects as the causes of military interventions in Africa, the unjustified harassment of former officials of my administration or the poor performance of the current government of Ghana, then certain specific editors of a few newspapers, and their managers within the government apparatus, lay out an orchestrated campaign to misreport, distort and misrepresent my statements to the general public, with a view of discrediting me. So far, that has backfired. A case in point was my recent request to members of the NDC and Ghanaians as a whole not to sit back lamely while their rights are violated. I asked them to adopt an approach of “positive defiance”. Some editors and journalists minted money from that statement in their headlines and commentaries. The Attorney General and Minister for Justice issued a formal statement to the effect that what I had said was potentially treasonable and punishable by death. After my interaction with the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), lawyers in the A-G’s own office literally slapped him in the face by issuing a statement making it clear that nothing I had said was treasonable. In fact, they seemed to lecture their own boss by informing him that treason requires the commitment of certain specific actions rather than mere speech. Is it possible that the A-G is not as knowledgeable as the lawyers in his office? Of his relationship with the current president, Rawlings said, “it could be better. Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Abuja to meet president Obasanjo and former presidents Babangida and Abubakar. I was impressed with the manner in which they were very comfortable in each other’s company, the kind of jokes and banter they shared. President Obasanjo, head of a very complex country, is managing good relations with six such former heads of state. The president of Ghana has only one former president to manage, whose experience he can also share. Unfortunately, we are yet to attain the level of mutual accommodation that I saw in Nigeria. The persistent unjustified criminalisation of my tenure in office by the current administration has played no mean role in this unfortunate state of affairs.