General News of 2014-01-10

Down Memory Lane: What Limann said after his one-year in office

December 31, 2013 marked 32 years overthrow of President HillaLimann by Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings.

Daily Graphic reproduces an exclusive interview granted to GBK Owusu, then editor of the Christian Messenger in 1980.

GBK Owusu: Exactly a year ago you and your People’s National Party won an overwhelming majority in the general elections and you were sworn in as President of the Third Republic. What do you consider to be your achievements and challenges within these 365 days in office?

DR. LIMANN: Let me first highlight the difficulties that we encountered when we took office so that you can better appreciate what we have done or achieved in the last 12 months. You are, perhaps, aware that a trade blockade had been organized against Ghana because of the events of 4th June and, particularly, after the public executions of 26th June.

Our supply of crude oil dried up because our traditional suppliers were unwilling to ship any more crude oil to us on credit, particularly, given the unstable conditions of June-September last year. The blockade also led to goods which had been ordered before June being diverted from our shores to neighbouring countries which, in most cases, did not really need them. The economic situation which had long been very poor before 4th June, 1979 therefore became even worse than ever before because of the anarchy of the period.

Again, Ghanaians, end the world had been informed that a lot of money had been collected from defaulters but when we assumed office only a paltry sum was accounted for, to us very tardily. Indeed, even up to date no proper comprehensive accounts have been made to us. Those who plagiarized our campaign speeches by shouting from roof tops about honesty, probity, responsibility and accountability, have not practiced any of these themes in office and ever since.

The supply of local foodstuffs was also greatly affected by the events of June 1979 because many farmers were afraid of molestation and so did not bring their commodities to the buying centres thus, causing serious shortages. Even more importantly, agriculture was neglected during the revolutionary fervor so that farms which should have been planted during June-September were left untilled and unplanted.

Worse still, the security situation was very precarious. Although the AFRC had left the political scene, some soldiers had felt that they had not accomplished their mission or looted enough. In fact, many had gained nothing and therefore also wanted to stay on to complete the “house-cleaning exercise or have their turn to harass and loot.” The Border Guards also embarked on “Operation finish hard” for themselves because they feared they might be disbanded but there was no justification for that suspicion or fear.

These were some of the challenges we faced when we took over. In the face of all these problems, we managed to solve the oil problem within two months of our assuming office and the flow has been uninterrupted since then, except that occasional shortages have been experienced due to transportation problems which we are working hard to solve. The trade blockade has virtually been dismantled through our efforts in convincing our trading partners of stability at home. Some items like bread, maize and agricultural inputs are getting back on the markets in increasing quantities. The security situation has improved considerably. We have signed quite a number of loan agreements which are aimed at reviving the productive sectors of the economy. So we have used the first 12 months in office to lay firm foundations for the future which undoubtedly looks bright for Ghana.

Incidentally, the PNP won an absolute majority on only two in Parliament but an overwhelming victory indeed at the Presidential poll – those who did not expect us to win are therefore still dazed and confused hence, their continued arrogance towards us and the sovereign electorate.

GBK OWUSU: When you assumed office as President, you promised to continue the “house-cleaning” initiated by the AFRC. Could you tell me what “cleaning” you have done so far and continue to do as you promised?

DR. LIMANN: You might not have noticed it but I had long insisted on accountability and honesty very much earlier than 4th June, 1979. There was therefore no question of continuing with the “house-cleaning” exercise since I had resigned my appointment after 14 years of service to try to do just that, among other things. It is a matter of carrying out a pledge.

I believe that a lot of education is needed if the “house-cleaning” exercise or moral regeneration is to succeed. Events have shown that if there is no genuine change of heart, most people will only comply with the law when they fear the big stick. It is my policy as a constitutionally elected President, to persuade people to obey our laws. Of course, the recent action in using the police and some army personnel to check trade malpractices also clearly demonstrates that I shall not hesitate to use strong measures to get compliance with the law without necessarily harassing the public at large as the AFRC did.

Educating the people to refrain from evil, unpatriotic practices is the best policy since it will yield greater and more permanent results. In this regard, part of the problem can also be solved by the courts which have to be vigilant and firm so as to ensure that adults who think that they are above the law or do not want to obey it are appropriately punished. This will be the contribution of the judiciary to the “house-cleaning” exercise. In the last analysis, I count on the general public even more to make it a point of exposing all trade malpractices that come to their notice since the ordinary people are the losers when public affairs and businesses are mismanaged.

The various probes of banks, institutions and individuals as well as Parliament’s vetting of Ministers of State and other public officers before they are appointed form a significant part of the cleaning up exercise.

GBK OWUSU: Although your party has not declared its stand on which ideological bloc it belongs to, observers however, believe that since you have promised to continue the work of the late Dr. Nkrumah, you automatically belong to the East. Is it true?

DR. LIMANN: The late Dr. Nkrumah belonged to nowhere but Ghana and Africa. Those who keep harping at the PNP belonging to one ideological bloc or the other have neither bothered to listen to our words nor followed our policies.

I have said over and over again that my ideology is Ghana and her salvation. I have also repeatedly sad that I will carry out the good works of Dr. Nkrumah. Do you have to be communist, a socialist or a capitalist to grow more food to feed the growing population, import the needed machinery and equipment to resuscitate our ailing economy or attract investment to develop this most viable economy? Ideological bickering at this time will not help anybody or do any of these things now or at any other time. All African countries have realized and accepted this as a fact of the modern world and as a result of their past bitter experiences. People should stop flying kites or erecting scarecrows that cannot frighten anyone.

GBK OWUSU: The country’s economy is in shambles. What measures have you adopted to revive it?

DR. LIMANN: Our two budget statements, the Action Programme on Agriculture and other pronouncements of my government adequately provide the information you want, and I therefore invite you to read them up carefully. If you are not convinced by them, then let me add that we have laid the foundations for reviving the economy by paying some of our debts and showing willingness to honour all others, thus regaining the confidence of the international community and also by other sound economic measures we have taken. We have started receiving loans which are directed into the productive sectors of the economy. We believe that those areas with spillover effects will bring the economy back on an even keel. Our two-year agricultural programme, which is the first phase, forms part of our short-term programmes. We also have medium and long-term programmes designed not only to get us out of the present mess, but for eventual take-off and economic emancipation.

GBK OWUSU: Recently, the leader of the Popular Front Party, Mr. Victor Owusu and the Minority Leader in Parliament, Mr. KwakuBaah, were reported to have said that they would not cooperate with the PNP because of ideological differences. Would you like to comment on this statement?

DR. LIMANN: As a policy, I do not like to make comments based on press reports since a word left out here or there could make all the difference between what the person quoted has actually said and what is reported. Having entered this caveat, I want to repeat that my ideology is saving Ghana. If the two gentlemen say they do not want to help in saving Ghana, then that is their problem. Of course, this is a free country and all are welcome to their own theoretical or even practical political philosophies. By the same token, I also want to be left alone in my practical, non-theoretical approach to our very pressing national problems. Ideological quarrels as I have said,will not solve any of our urgent problems. No ideology feeds hungry workers, peasants, fishermen, chief, children and their mothers. Only unrealistic intellectuals derive some satisfaction from theories and ideologies. I have personally read and even closely studied for examinations and for my thesis most of the classics on political ideas, doctrines and ideologies from Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, the church Fathers through the Middle Ages to the Second World War. I therefore, have a very clear idea about what I have been saying on the issue of ideology.

GBK OWUSU: (a) Why do you choose to be a non-denominational believer? (b What is your opinion about the activities of Christians and Muslims in the country today?

DR. LIMANN: (a) Religion is a rather personal matter. Ghana is a free-for-all country in religious matters and I therefore do not want to discuss or pass moral judgment’s on them.

The various organized religious bodies in Ghana have done a lot in the past and are doing even more now. I hope that they will intensify their efforts in the face of out present moral degeneration.

(b) The two religious creeds mentioned are helping a lot in our national reconstruction. The education system we have today would not have been what it is but for the help of the churches. Again, a lot of hospitals had clinics have been set up in the country by the churches to improve the health needs of the people. In agriculture, a lot is being done by them and I hope that they will do even more in this field. We are a plural society and tend to abhor fanatics and exclusivist movements. In any case, the world has long moved away from religious intolerance and prying in the beliefs and convictions of individuals.

The churches should take up eve more seriously the problem of the moral and social degeneration from which the country has greatly suffered during the past decade or so. In particular, they should speak out against double standards, trade malpractices, social injustices and smuggling. They will be helping the country immensely if they do this. They have done a lot but a lot need to be done in this direction.

GBK OWUSU: In your opinion, has the mass media generally been constructive or destructive in their deliberations?

DR. LIMANN: The words “constructive” and “destructive” are relative terms. What I might consider constructive or destructive might not necessarily correspond with yours. So I will not use either or the two terms. What I can say is that, like all our institutions, our media personnel also need to buck up. We need indepth coverage of events. For instance, a lot of officials talk about lack of foreign exchange whenever they are confronted with poor services and our reporters take their word for it. I do not want to cite any specific cases but I am sure that you can think of many areas where improvisation would be the answer to the problems posed. Can I give you an assignment? Try and find out why our trains, especially the coaches, are so dirty. The answer will be very revealing. I have also repeatedly appealed to the media to visit deteriorated or even abandoned projects which were once functioning fairly satisfactorily so that they can more usefully highlight the problems facing the country and thereby help arouse the collective awareness of our plight and the need for all of us collectively to tackle the problems with courage, determination and hope for a better future than the recent past and the present. I renew this appeal through you and hope it will be heeded and taken up seriously as part of the contribution of the press towards out national recovery.

GBK OWUSU: Do you still stand by your statement that you will flood the market with goods?

DR. LIMANN: A slight correction needs to be made before I respond to your question. I have never used the word “flood” in relation to goods because I know what the term means. I do not think you or any one else expect me to “drown” or “flood” Ghana in goods.

What has happened in this country is that since the mid-1970’s we looked on helplessly while stocks got depleted, one commodity after the other. The coup de grace came last year when in the three-month shopping spree period stocks meant for a much longer period were all sold out at gun point. Before 4th June, 1979, I spoke about “getting adequate supplies of goods into the system so that people do not waste so much time looking for petit thing” at the expense of productive work. This is, perhaps, what was taken to mean that I had said I would “flood” the markets but even though I never used that term, I saw no need to deny it since this is how the press summarizes things into catchy titles or interprets what the public wants. I simply took account of it for the realization if possible, of what was really said during the election campaign, even though many factors have changed drastically since the events of 4th June, 1979 – we had started campaign much earlier, that is, from the beginning of the year.

It will be difficult to build up enough stocks of any commodity to ensure adequate supplies all the time. Rather than take panicky measures, what we have been doing is to lay the foundation to a steady flow of goods of all types. The results should be forthcoming if our plans are not disturbing by any more other unforeseen and uncontrollable factors at home and abroad.

GBK OWUSU: It is rumoured that your relationship wit Flt. Lt. Rawlings has deteriorated. Why is this so?

DR. LIMANN: From the way you have framed your question, you appear to have accepted the rumour to be true. Anyway, the answer to your question is that I do not have any personal quarrel with any one, Rawlings included. I believe that all men have their entrances and their exits and it is important for all Ghanaians to recognize this.

GBK OWUSU: Do you hope to contest the 1983 Presidential Election?

DR. LIMANN: The prerogative for choosing PNP candidates for Parliamentary/Presidential elections lies with the Party Congress. If the party nominates me again in 1983 I shall certainly accept and run again. There are many projects in our Manifesto which I would very much like to pursue, but in this, as in many other things of nature, a good leader should follow the collective good sense and assessment of his party rather than lead it to dictate to it so many years in advance. In short, this is a matter to be determined by our performance, by the party and by the Ghanaian public at large and not by me who am only at their disposal and service, publicly or privately. I did not lobby, shoot or poison my way to become candidate and will therefore not do so in 1983. I did not resign to become President but join hands with others to help save our country from further decline or total destruction. I can do this, as many others are doing, in any capacity far from rules which formerly did not allow me to speak out.