Honouring The 'Promoter' Of Democracy And Neglecting The 'Founder'

By Alex Asabre, Chairman, GDM
The University of Ghana, Legon, a couple of weeks of ago, honoured about sixteen Ghanaians for their various contributions towards the growth of the country, and the University in particular. One of the distinguished beneficiaries of the awards was former President John Agyekum Kufuor, who was Ghana's second President under our fourth Republican Constitution. The citation of the former President, as monitored on the print and electronic media, read amongst others: 'The Promoter of Democracy.'

I want to make it clear to the reading public that I do not begrudge any of the recipients, including former President Kufuor. However, my disappointment stems from the grounds that if the 'Promoter' has been remembered for an award for deepening our democracy, then there is the need for the 'Founder' to be fished out and honoured accordingly. As the Chairman of the erstwhile Ghana Democratic Movement, I do not need any self-introduction, as far as my contribution towards our democracy is concerned, but for the sake of deliberate attempts by some people to relegate my contribution to the background, I think it is time I blow my own trumpet, since those who are supposed to blow it have remained silent for whatever reason for a very long time. I want to set the records straight at this moment.

Ghana's democracy, at the moment, is the pride in the continent, because, at least, it has been sustained for the past twenty years. That has eluded most people who think our democracy was an ordained one, and as such, no individual or group of people fought for its coming into being. This is the appropriate time to nullify that wrong perception, since some of us sacrificed our everything to support the fight for the nation's return to democracy.

In fact, I joined the fight in the early 80s, until it paid off in 1992. As someone who spent most of my youthful years in the United Kingdom, I realised the need for my country to also learn permanently, the need to practice democracy, since our earlier practices hit the rocks due to interruptions from military uprisings. In the first place, I proposed Ghana's democratic need to the international community such as Britain, USA, France and Spain, and that made it possible for me to meet them at the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in London. During the meeting, I informed them that Ghana could not survive nor improve under the control of a dictatorial regime, and that there was the need to help Ghana re-embrace democracy.

This, nevertheless, set the tone for our return to democracy, and from that day onwards, I engaged all my commitment towards free speech. I sent a seven-man delegation to the International Monetary Fund to demonstrate against the Rawlings's regime to compel him surrender to multi-party rule. This demonstration brought forth instant results, as Ghana was imposed with harsh economic sanctions from the International Monetary Fund. Chairman Rawlings could not bear the wrath of the sanctions. He had no option, since there were no further aids, funds or loans from the development partners, and sensing its rippling and crippling effects on the economy, unwillingly humbled himself for democracy. This gave way for the lifting of the political ban democracy on 18 th May 1992, and this is how far we have come as country. And this is how the contributions of some of us helped to give birth to our most cherished democracy. Ghana's return to democracy needed reliance from dedicated external forces that had direct control of our purse, and that was what I did exactly, because Rawlings was never ready to listen to voices from within.

This is not to suggest that my life was free from persecution from the Rawlings administration. During the heat of the demonstrations, I was arrested a number of times, and spent some days in police cells for leading peaceful demonstrations in London. Rawlings and his ministers swore to ensure that I paid for my democratic role, which was to return Ghana to civilian rule. They succeeded with their diabolical plans in 1995 and arrested my wife at the Kotoka International Airport, when she was visiting Ghana for a long time for her mum's funeral. The security operatives molested her. My wife was freed upon mitigation from the late Asante King, Otumfuo Opoku Ware II. I want to put on record that some of the senior ministers under this current Mahama administration, who are apparent beneficiaries of democracy, fought my selfless desire to help bring Ghana back to multi-party rule.

However, in the face of all this, certain individual Ghanaians need to be patted on the shoulder for their reliable sacrifices, which inspired me, and further putting their lives on the line. I don't want to sound self-centered at this point. Mr. J. H. Mensah, who later became a minister under the former president Kufuor government, threw his unwavering support behind the democratic cause, to the extent that he resigned as an economic consultant at the Abidjan branch of the Africa Development bank. He later joined me in London. He assisted by making us represent a very strong, but unified front, before the international community. Nana Akufo-Addo, 2012 flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), also played a critical role by legally representing victims of human rights abuses of the Rawlings government in the courts, and as such, he cannot be forgotten. The Managing Editor of the Crusading Guide newspaper, Abdul Malik Kwaku Baako, is also a democratic role model in society. Last, but not the least, Mr. Boakye Agyarko, who was the NPP's 2012 Campaign Chairman, was the United States branch Chairman of the Ghana Democratic Movement. He dedicated his life and joined us in most of our demonstrations.

I want to humbly throw a challenge to any Ghanaian who disputes my claims, to boldly come forward, because I have documentary evidence to prove my case. I invested my wealth, running into hundreds of thousands of pounds sterling, into our democracy, put my life on the line for our democracy, and above all, brought humiliation to my innocent family members. Some statesmen, including former President Kufuor, are fully aware of my commitment towards democracy, and had assured me of state honours, but declined to do so when he had the chance in 2007.

One of the recipients of the Legon awards, Ambassador James Aggrey-Orleans, can attest to all and sundry my patriotic role towards our democracy. A stalwart NPP member, who has passed on to glory, Mr. B.A. Mensah, personally recommended me to former president Kufuor for an honour, but it fell on his deaf ears.

If the University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana's premiere educational institution, is not aware of my patriotic exploits, I wonder the number of Ghanaians who would one day remember me in their lives for my dues well paid for Ghana's democracy.

I have restrained myself all this while, but it seems the more I remain silent, the easier my exploits would be thrown to the dogs and buried in oblivion. In future, there is the need to look for the 'Founder' of our democracy, since without the 'Founder', the 'Promoter' would find nothing to build upon.