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A Grouchy Jerry Rawlings is Bad News for John Atta Mills!

Sun, 6 Sep 2009 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

Jerry Rawlings is always big news in Ghana. Jerry Rawlings may have just as many followers as he has enemies. Jerry Rawlings may be as fearless as he is outspoken. Jerry Rawlings is, indeed, an enigma, a sort of political behemoth capable of stoking in the rest of us the embers of resentment, jitteriness, passion and devotion, all at the same time. With Jerry Rawlings’ intimidating personality, many people simply prefer to avoid a head-on “collision” with him, but are these observable emotions in the hoi polloi borne out of fear or admiration or something entirely different?

My attempt to unravel the mystery known as Jerry Rawlings may take me down a meandering, undulating path of both the known and the unknown, but whether we venerate or loathe the two-time self-imposed military leader and two-time elected leader of the Ghanaian Republic, one thing remains a fact: Ghana without Jerry Rawlings would be like a wife without her husband. And like a difficult husband who makes his wife’s life miserable, Jerry Rawlings loves to make Ghanaians miserable – from the ordinary man in the street to the sitting president, John Atta Mills!

That Jerry Rawlings has been in the news lately is no surprise to anyone, but the fact that Rawlings has decided to go on the air to denounce his former deputy, now the nation's top public servant, is quite puzzling. And I am sure National Democratic Party (NDC) aficionados are all scratching their heads at their mentor’s behavior. But even more puzzling is the fact that, when confronted by a dismayed public, a petulant Jerry Rawlings would defend his harangues and attacks on the sitting president, with Rawlings' two primary complaints being that John Atta Mills does not listen to him and has surrounded himself with people who do not deserve to be at the zenith of political power!

If I may ask Mr. Rawlings very politely, who made him a repository of all political knowledge, to the point where Rawlings believes that John Atta Mills must obey his every command, including appointing Rawlings-approved political appointees only? Does giving someone a number of suggestions mean that the person is obligated to honor those suggestions? Is it not obvious here that Rawlings may be directing his displeasure at, say, the Vice-President, John Mahama, because it had been said that Rawlings did not support Mills’ decision to choose Mahama as his vice-presidential candidate?

If I may ask Mr. Rawlings very politely, what human rights violations and murders was he referring to recently on the air? Jerry Rawlings is scolding Dr. Mills for not pursuing human rights abuses? Whew! I am just glad I was old enough to see with my own eyes some of the dastardly acts that took place in 1979 and 1981, when the two-time putschist became leader of the nation. I have recounted on this site – more than once – the inhumane torture of people in Jasikan, Volta Region, by Rawlings’ soldiers, simply because these traders were accused of selling goods above government-mandated prices. So, where was the rule of law back then? Did these people appear before a court of law to have their cases heard? Yes, I saw with my own eyes how these people were rounded up and thrown onto decrepit benches and tortured, even while they were pleading for mercy!

In the annals of our nation, perhaps John Kufuor’s presidency, although replete with a plethora of accusations of corruption and malfeasance, was the most upright, in terms of the promotion of free speech; the veneration of the rule of law; and the uninhibited support of free enterprise, the latter the engine of economic growth in any economy. It is the truth – and nothing but the truth! – that there was not a single political prisoner during the eight years of John Kufuor’s presidency, an endearing achievement on a continent where the words “brutality” and “oppression” are synonymous with the words “leadership” and “power.” Not even the nation’s first president, the ingenious and savvy Kwame Nkrumah, could boast of a presidency that had no political prisoners!

Yes, the late Mr. Mobilla’s murder was senseless. And the current government must do all within its power – John Atta Mills now has the Bureau of National Investigation and all of the state police machinery at his disposal – to find those who murdered this poor man. And while on Mobilla's case, I hope we can find, arrest and prosecute all the hoodlums who murdered scores of Ghanaians between 1981 and 2008. Yet still, for Jerry Rawlings to allude to the fact that human life was more valuable than that of a fowl is, certainly, an amazing piece of information – but I wish the ex-president had known this fact as far back as 1979 and 1982, when many people were tied to the stakes and shot like, well, chickens!

I am sure some people will be angry that I am inciting others with my words, but this writer is inciting no one – he is only pointing out the misdeeds of a man and his associates who had very little mercy on those the system – Rawlings’ system – believed were deserving of extrajudicial death sentences. In civilized societies where capital punishment is enshrined in the Constitution, people are sentenced to death only for aggravated murder, treason and desertion from the military in wartime – no other crimes call for a man to be put to death. Did everyone who was executed during the sad days of Rawlings’ two revolutions commit aggravated murder or treason?

Unless the people appointed by the affable and genteel John Atta Mills have criminal records, or lack the requisite academic qualifications for their current appointments, Jerry Rawlings must allow Dr. Mills – ably assisted by John Mahama – to do his work. If John Atta Mills has not acted on any suggestions by Rawlings in the last eight years, as the ex-president claims, does the former leader of the nation realize that, perhaps, those pieces of advice did not fit in with Dr. Mills’ plans for an all-inclusive government? On the one hand, Mr. Rawlings, to his credit, is the Father of Ghana’s Fourth-Republican democratic dispensation, and no one should take away that accolade; on the other hand, Rawlings’ time in active politics has come to an end, and the ex-president ought to accept this fact. Perhaps, Dr. Mills wants Mr. Rawlings to retire from active politics and be the statesman that he is supposed to be; I certainly hope that the aforementioned conjecture is the case.

Finally, Mr. Rawlings’ actions are contributory factors to the mosaic of allegations making the rounds that Dr. Mills is not in charge of the affairs of the state. If, indeed, Dr. Mills were to take all of Mr. Rawlings’ suggestions on how to govern, who would really be running the country then? Hopefully, John Atta Mills’ refusal to entertain the possibly divisive ideas of a recalcitrant Jerry Rawlings serves one notable purpose: that Rawlings is not president by proxy and that Dr. Mills is not a front for an Ewe-dominated cabal of politicians. Henceforth, I hope that Ewes will be spared the untenable insults and accusations of political hegemony, for Dr. Mills is, surely, in charge of the affairs of the country, as amply demonstrated by his stance toward Jerry Rawlings' recent outbursts.

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master's degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.