By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
July 13, 2010
No doubt, Jerry Rawlings and his wife (Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings) appear to be the most talked about former First Couple in our contemporary times. For as long as they do or say what keeps them at the center of public discourse, we will continue to air our views on them. After all, having held the destiny of Ghana (and Ghanaians) in their hands for almost 20 years, and indicating now how embittered they are at the turn of the tide, they must not be left unexamined.
That is why they must not continue being in the news for the wrong cause. That is why Rawlings, especially, is expected to position himself in a better light to be used to advantage as Kufuor is currently doing and which former US Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush are doing (e.g., their work in Haiti). The truth is not merry and bright… it is cold and dark. Let’s face it.
Some may think that we are pursuing a hidden agenda to disparage the Rawlingses and incite anger against them; but that’s not my cup of tea. I don’t do so and will not bother my head over such claims. I consider what I do as my contribution to the national discourse on pertinent issues.
In the final analysis, these events involving Rawlings and the hue and cry surrounding them don’t redound to the NDC’s (or Ghana’s) image. That’s the more reason why the leadership and adherents of the party (and concerned citizens like us) must not sit down unconcerned. They have it as a responsibility to get close to Rawlings and impress on him to know his station and stay there. These events happening appear to be casting the long shadows of others yet to occur. Who knows what they will bring along?
It is certainly clear that a large segment of the current Ghanaian electorate were not born in the tumultuous days of the AFRC and might have had their political opinions informed and shaped by the stories told them about that era. As human beings would have it, they will believe LIES more than they do the truth. After all, we are living in a time of great expectations and we know how gullible some can be.
These stories expose Rawlings to varying degrees of revulsion or admiration, depending on who is telling them to whom and why. As can be inferred from the massive campaign of demonization by his political opponents and outright enemies, it is not difficult to say that based on these stories—especially those not in his favour—his reputation has taken a quick downward plunge. So heavily disparaged, his continued representation of the NDC’s face will do more harm than good.
More importantly, the more Rawlings raises dust, the more he dampens the spirits of those floating voters who may otherwise be making up their minds to support the NDC but are not impressed by the import of the stories they have been told and the evidence of Rawlings’ own self-destructive manouevres. He and his wife have had more allegations of corruption levelled against them than any of Ghana’s First Couple, but which they have vehemently denied and still portray themselves as “incorruptible”:
• At the death of Nigeria’s Sani Abacha, a Nigerian newspaper published a damning report that Abacha had given Rawlings 5 million Dollars, apparently for staunchly defending him in the face of the massive outcry against Abacha’s atrocities in office;
• Still from Nigeria, quite recently, another Nigerian newspaper published a report that one of the Governors at the centre of financial irregularities had given millions of Dollars to Rawlings to support the NDC’s electioneering campaign efforts. Some even went to the extent of saying that he fired his former Chief of Staff (Victor Smith) because of disagreements over who should be the custodian of that donation;
• The Norwegian SCANCEM bribery case in which their names featured shook Ghanaians and spurred the Kufuor government on to action as it financed the trip by Gabby Otchere-Darko of the “Statesman” newspaper and Kwaku Baako of the “Crusading Guide” newspaper to conduct investigations in Oslo. Although they gave several accounts of their investigation to create doubts in the minds of Ghanaians about the Rawlingses’ credibility, no specific evidence was adduced to nail them down. The matter might have died somehow but its negative impact will be difficult to erase;
• Newspaper publications in the first term of the Kufuor government alleged that Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings had established a jewelry business in Switzerland, which was being managed by someone fronting for her. She denied the allegations but they had already damaged her reputation;
• The manner in which the 31st December Women’s Movement acquired the former Nsawam Cannery was mired in fraud and led to her prosecution. But for the mysterious manner in which Kufuor unilaterally and unexpectedly truncated that trial, many revelations would have emerged to further drag her name in the mud;
• Rawlings’ implacable opponents even stooped to the depth of alleging that on a foreign trip, he stole some cutlery from the hotel at which he lodged; another at Tema (a woman roasting plantains, also called “Kofi Brokeman”) had accused him of stealing some of the roasted plantains on sale in her tray only to apologize long after that vicious noise.
• Other allegations bordering on immorality (e.g., sodomy, drug abuse, interference in the judicial process—Rawlings’ directives for a re-trial of his nephew Nii Addy and his consequent shooting to death by firing squad as well as the Djentu identification haircut episode) are also damning.
As these allegations come and go, they leave their nasty impressions behind, no matter how successfully the Rawlingses manage to deflect them and continue to live their lives. I have never come across anybody who has been so much accused of impropriety but still holds his head high. For how long do the Rawlingses think that they can continue to soak up this vilification and still keep their reputation intact?
In all these instances, Rawlings has insisted that he is incorruptible. No one could step forward with any evidence to unsettle him. Then, over this issue of the loss of their residence at Ridge, his opponents are blaming him for deliberately torching that residence. The NPP follower, Nana Kofi Darkwa, is still being prosecuted for overshooting his mouth on this matter. A government spokesman gave the hint that the government was waiting for the final drawings to erect a new residence for the Rawlingses to replace what had been burnt. People have quickly concluded that the Rawlingses are becoming too much of a burden to the state.
From their recent claims that they are living apart because the government has not housed them, tongues have begun wagging about whether the Rawlingses don’t own any house at Adjiringano, near East Legon. None is either confirming or denying this claim, which leaves us baffled. Could be it part of the grand design of deception and vigorous defence of their so-called “incorruptibility” just as has been done in the other instances? Gradually, will the dust settle to divert attention from them on this score too? Then, the matter will be expected to die a natural death just like the previous ones did, eh?
We were told today that two journalists from the “Insight” newspaper who had gone to take snap shots of that house were attacked by people identified as Rawlings’ “men”; but a spokesman for the Rawlingses denied that such an incident ever occurred within the premises of the house. Someone is throwing dust into our eyes.
There are clear indications that the Rawlingses, indeed, own that house. Thus, for them to refuse to clear the air leaves a sour taste in the mouth and reignites public interest in all the other allegations so far levelled against them. From the way all these issues dovetail into each other, Rawlings and his wife will find it difficult to win the wordy warfare whose main substance is “corruption,” no matter how vehemently they deny the spate of allegations.
We are interested in how all these issues will play out finally. Without any incontrovertible evidence to pin them down, no amount of sound bytes will solve the problem. That is why I challenge all those who have been close to the Rawlingses (some of whom have fallen out with them as of now) to come forward to disclose anything they know about the Rawlingses that may help us judge them on this issue of corruption.
These people owe it to the country to be patriotic in coming forward with any evidence they have. When they provide the evidence, it will then become the stepping stone for further action to prove once and for all what the Rawlingses have been all these years. Patriotism doesn’t lie in only sloganeering; it lies in concrete action to help run the country on a sound basis. Let’s see who will rise up to heed this call.