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Opinions Sat, 13 Nov 2004

Don't Muzzle Rawlings: Let Him Talk

One man who has shamelessly hugged the spotlight long after grudgingly turning over the reins of government is the ubiquitous Jerry Rawlings. A lightning rod if there ever was one, the former president has, with his occasional forays into local politics, managed to inflame passions and stir emotions across the political spectrum.

Never one to clam up, Rawlings has got critics incensed and railing against the gratuitous statements and zingers he has directed at the man who drubbed him in the 2000 general elections: however, his supporters are besides themselves with glee, and have, in fact, began salivating at the prospect of a return to power in December of the NDC.

A disturbing development in the current campaign for the Castle, is the silly attempts by some to "gag" the former President.Their reason is plain political expediency: they simply want the blabberlips Rawlings to shut up and stop the constant lashing of the NPP.

In fact, the din of voices urging Rawlings to tone it down grows loudly every day: the latest attempt to muzzle the former president, sad to note, comes from the Asantehene. The Asantehene is reportedly to have called on Rawlings to curb his outbursts and to respect the constitutionally elected Kufuor.

A few weeks ago, it was the former speaker of parliament, Justice Daniel Francis Annan, who in an interview on Radio Gold's 60 minutes programme added his voice to the cascade of criticism by calling on Rawlings to stop dabbling in local politics and seek recognition on the international stage. (By the way, how exactly Rawlings ingratiates himself with the rest of the world remains to be seen)

I can understand the concerns of Rawlings critics and the call for him to zip it. The former president is, if we like it or not, an active participant in the national political discourse. Many adore him, but many others wish he would just spend his retirement in silence. His critics are petrified and rightly so: they sure don't want a return to the "dark" days of the early 1980s, and they see in Rawlings a man devoid of perspective and driven by an unattractive and naked ambition.

Inspite of all that, there is nothing more discomforting to democratic aficionados than attempts to stifle opposing views. Our healthy political bantering has earned our nation grudging respect and admiration from others in a troubled region.

Besides, it has encouraged political gadflies like Kofi Wayo to tromp the country taking potshots at the ruling NPP and making grandiose promises to voters. Yes, we have come this far politically without muzzling dissension. Let's continue the trend.

Prevailing political wisdom has it that you don't compel your oppponent, especially one as astute as Rawlings to slither quietly into the dark. It is not only futile, it is absolutely lunacy. The best scenario is to let Rawlings him talk himself and his party into an abyss they will have a difficult time climbing out of.

Better still, hasn't it dawned on the ex-president's detractors that he is doing everything he can to reverse the dwindling fortunes of his party? As founder of the NDC, Rawlings efforts are exactly what any politician worth his/her salt would do if his/her party is struggling mightily against a popular incumbent.

While it true that Rawlings has become a weighty albatross for the NDC and his actions continue to fuel the perception that he is unwilling to let go of his stranglehold on the party, the task of sidelining Rawlings is entirely the prerogative of NDC leaders.

In the end, critics of Rawlings have the constitutionally protected right to tell him to clam up, but so does the former strongman... he can equally tell his critics to get lost.


Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Yahaya, Moses Kofi