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Opinions Wed, 9 Sep 2009

Rawlings’ Integrity, NDC and Change.

Throughout the past week, former president Rawlings came under intensive criticisms from Ghanaian political analysts, social commentators, and the Ghanaian public in general for criticizing the Mills administration. Some of these criticisms were objective and rational; others, also, were illogical and irrational.

Rawlings, the founder of the ruling NDC had come out publicly to affirm that President Mills, someone he raised from relative obscurity into international prominence, wasn’t paying heed to his advice. He affirmed that not only had Mills appointed mediocre government officials, he was also prioritizing ‘materialistic issues such as Ghana @ 50, at the expense of issues of human life such as the death of Issa Mobila. The former flight lieutenant also indicated that Mills’ ‘slow’ manner of running the country could affect the party’s aim of retaining power in 2012.

Some political analysts who commented on the issue indicated that Rawlings could have done better by engaging Mills in a private discussion. Those pundits don’t dispute the fact that Rawlings has drawn attention to some very fundamental issues that the NDC needs to address as a matter of priority; their problem however, is the manner in which Rawlings’ opinions were expressed. As far as they are concerned, Rawlings could have said all that he said at an exclusive rendezvous with Mills, or better still, made use of one of the world’s greatest phenomena-the mobile phone, to make his opinions known to the president. Those Pundits are apprehensive of the fact that Rawlings’ perpetual criticisms of the Mills government could undermine the NDC administration especially if opposition political parties capitalize on the discontent within the party to make political gains.

There were also other commentators who attacked Rawling’s personality without regards for the issues he had raised; Kwasi Pratt, one of such commentators, exploded angrily when he was asked to comment on the Rawlings issue. ‘What does this man want from Ghanaians?’ ‘What does Rawlings want from Ghanaians?’ ‘This man is getting out of hand!’ he said angrily. Some of the things Pratt said on radio cannot be repeated here. His analysis was more of a personal attack that an analysis. And the fact that it came from the mouth of a ‘senior’ journalist who like all journalists, is supposed to abide by the utmost ethical and professional standards, raises cause for concern. This is a man who invariably expresses his opinions on radio and expects people to listen to him; yet Rawlings expresses his opinion and he doesn’t want to hear about it. Pratt’s reaction to the Rawlings issue was irrational and unbecoming of a media practitioner some of us hold in high esteem. His indiscretion on the day should be condemned by all and sundry. As Ghanaians, not only must we respect the opinions of others irrespective of their political, religious, or tribal affiliations, we must also never fail to articulate our views in a dignified manner.

There is no doubt that Rawlings throughout the nineteen years he was leader of Ghana succeeded in making a lot of enemies. Yes in the 1980s he violently overthrew the Liman government in a military coup that some of us have described as unnecessary and unjustifiable; yes he had eight military officers including three former head of states executed; yes three judges and a former military head of state were kidnapped from their homes and murdered during curfew hours during his tenure as head of state; yes there were lots of human right violations and difficulties Ghanaians had to endure; but that was a long time ago and he has on number of occasions apologized for what he referred to as the ‘excesses of the revolution’. I respect the fact that those who lost loved ones and relatives during the revolution harbour some sort of resentment for Rawlings. Needless to emphasize, it is extremely painful to lose a loved one; in many cases, the pain is indelible; however, Ghanaians should try to put the past behind them.

The sorts of criticisms and insults hurled at Rawlings anytime he expresses his opinions are simply unacceptable; people virtually abuse and call him names without regards for the issues he seeks to put across. Indeed the problem is not peculiar to Rawlings alone; when the issue of Ex-gratia came up at the beginning of this year, former president Kufuor was insulted and castigated by the public via the media. They referred to him ‘insensitive’, ‘greedy’, ‘wicked’. They also called him names such as ‘thief, ‘looter’ and many more. This, you will agree with me, is way out of place. Why do we show respect to our former leaders when they are in power, but suddenly disrespect and despise them when they are out of power? What sort of capriciousness is that? All presidents or head of states that Ghana has had from independence till date have been vilified and lambasted by Ghanaians at one time or the other. The apparent disrespect for our former presidents by some Ghanaians is very appalling. It is important that as Ghanaians, we are circumspect and decorous in the criticisms of our former leaders. We should always remember that even in the Bible, Moses’ sister, Miriam, became leprous just because she murmured against Moses who, as you and I know, was God’s prophet.

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On the more substantive issue, a few journalists including Kwasi Pratt concluded that Rawlings should not interfere in the affairs of the NDC any longer because his comments are doing the NDC more harm than good. According to them, he should just go away and leave the NDC and Mills to rule the nation. In as much as every Ghanaian is entitled to his/her own opinion, these are opinions I find very difficult to agree with. This is basically because those analysts failed to take the following facts into account:

1. Rawlings is the founder of the NDC party and it will be very difficult for him not to interfere in the affairs of his own party.

2. Rawlings brought most of the NDC leaders we have today-the Totobi Kwakyes, the Kwabena Duffuors, the P.V Obengs, the Ato Ahwois and many more into political prominence.

3. Rawlings was instrumental in NDC’s electoral success; he campaigned vigorously from city to city just to ensure his party won. Ghanaians would recall that Rawlings arrived at Tain just a few hours after the Electoral Commission announced that there would be a third round of voting there.

A combination of all these factors makes Rawlings an integral part of the NDC administration; there is no way, therefore, anyone can coerce him to keep quiet about happenings on the political landscape; that would be synonymous to asking the United States to stop importing oil.

Also, Rawlings is an indispensable asset to the ruling party; the NDC knows that he will be crucial to the success of the party in the next general elections. Suffice it to state that, If Rawlings and his supporters get angry with the NDC government of President Mills and decide not to have anything to do with the party any longer, the NPP might laugh all the way to the Golden Jubilee house in 2012. This explains why nobody in government, including those who have been referred to as mediocre, has come out to condemn him. They have all kept their thoughts in their heads because they are not oblivious of the power and influence Rawlings wields as the party founder.

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Critics of Rawlings would have to take into cognizance, the fact that Rawlings spoke the minds of the NDC foot soldiers who had called on him to express their dissatisfaction at the way the Mills government had neglected them. They will also have to consider the fact that the Ghanaian economy isn’t doing as good as the NDC and indeed Ghanaians expected; therefore, Rawlings like every other Ghanaian reserves the right to express his dissatisfaction on any platform he deems fit. At the end of the day, it is passing your opinions across that matters and not how you passed them across.

Having said that, I candidly believe it will be expedient on the part of Rawlings to take a break from active political participation, after over two decades of being involved. In Nigeria for instance, Obasanjo unilaterally chose a relatively unknown Yar’ Adua, as his successor after his tenure ended in 2007. Though Obasanjo is Yar’ Adua’s benefactor, he has left the former to manage the affairs of the country independently. He neither interferes in the affairs of the ruling PDP party, nor criticizes Yar’ Adua at least publicly. Obasanjo is now more of a United Nations Ambassador. Readers will recall that Obasanjo was in the Congo DR a couple of months ago to help broker a peace deal between the Congolese government and the Lauren Nkunda led rebel group. It is important that Rawling’s takes a cue from him and makes use of his immeasurable political experience to help solve the numerous problems that confront the African continent. This, hopefully, will bring an end to caustic criticisms and insults he endures anytime he expresses his opinion.

Finally, some of us who are non-aligned politically, had great expectations of the NDC but we have been colossally disappointed considering the fact that we are yet to experience the change it promised us. We are cognizant, however, of the fact that the NDC is still less than a year old in government and there is still enough time to turn things around and consequently make Ghanaians happy. I personally hope things would work out well for the NDC so that at the end of the day Ghana would have achieved some form of development for the benefit of all of us, our political affiliations notwithstanding. God bless our homeland Ghana!

Samuel K. Obour Samuelkwason@yahoo.com

Columnist: Obour, Samuel K.