J.J Rawlings, the Father of Ghana's Democracy Indeed!
Mr. Jeremiah John Rawlings has been acclaimed by many Ghanaians, especially the NDC activists and sympathisers, as the Father of Ghana's democracy. It sits well with me having Mr. Rawlings as the founder of Ghana's democracy if he truly was. To better fit J.J. Rawlings into the greater picture of democracy, one should first understand what democracy itself is. What then is a democracy? "A democracy is a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections". Simply put, it is a multi-party system of governance where the citizens are guaranteed their franchise. Prior to Mr. Rawlings embarking on his adventurous, incubus usurpation of political power to better his eventual living standard, was, or had there been any form at all of democratic exercise in Ghana? If there was, or there having been any, or there being one in process, then how does Rawlings become the Father of Ghana's democracy? Yes, it is an undeniable fact that he is the founder and father of the National Democratic Congress party (NDC). But how he got money to found that party in a twinkling of an eye is a subject matter in itself.
To educate ourselves about the Ghanaian political evolution, it must be noted as following: The British, thus, the colonial masters, before parting with the political baton to Ghanaians, ensured democracy was instituted. There were then political parties, the Convention People's Party (CPP) of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and the United Party (UP) of the J.B.Danquah & Co, all of blessed memory. Elections were organized where Ghanaian electorates were allowed to exercise their individual voting rights whereupon the CPP was elected. Dr. Nkrumah however, messed up everything somewhere along the line. He saw himself as the sole personality politically matured enough among the entire Ghanaian population. He saw in his mind's eye to be the only one with the brains and vision to take Ghana and Africa to the sugar candy mountain. Whether his self-assessment was fallacious or otherwise, he became an obnoxious dictator who dragged most of his political rivals to the Nsawam Prisons, in what was a Preventive People's Detention, to either die or rot away. He declared Ghana a one party State with himself as its Life President. If one had not heard their name announced over the radio at 13:00 as destined for the Nsawam Prisons, then one was lucky. The one O'clock news broadcast became everyone's worst nightmare. This led to his eventual overthrow by the National Liberation Council (NLC) military junta led by General Kotoka, General Ankrah and Brigadier A.A. Afrifa on 24th February 1966. Nkrumah though achieved quite a lot for Ghana on the economic front, he was a merciless autocrat.
The NLC military government allowed the formation of political parties, organized elections, and handed over power to a Civilian government in 1969. Some of the contesting political parties were, National Alliance Liberation (NAL - " Abaabase") by Gbedemah, Progress Party (PP - "Party Papa") by Busia, and a host of others. The PP won and Busia became the Prime Minister. The PP government was overthrown by another military adventurist, Colonel Ignatius Kutu Acheampong of the Supreme Military Council (SMC I) in 1972. Acheampong in a move to entrench himself in power for long, did propose to the Nation a disguised one party State system of government called Union Government (Unigov). A referendum was consequently held on this proposition. It was rejected by the Ghanaian electorates. It was he who put the Ghanaian women on same sound financial pedestal as men in what became as "Fa wo to begye GOLF" phenomenon. His military usurpation of power was bloodless.
Unlike somebody who will be mentioned shortly, he was able to ensure political stability without shedding a drop of human's blood or killing a fly. He was highly principled in his intelligence gathering methods and ensured a superb security for the nation both internally and externally. His security was so diverse and up to the scratch that only his closest government colleagues could kick him out of office in what became as a "Palace coup d'état". When the nation had got fed up with corruption and natural disasters that beset his administration, he was personally to be held responsible and so got rid of.
General A.K Akuffo took over in 1977 and named his government SMC II. He listened to the people's outcry for reverting to civilian rule. He allowed the formation of political parties among which were the Popular Front Party (PFP) headed by the Late Victor Owusu, the People's National Party (PNP) by His Excellency, the late Former President Hilla Limann, UNC by William Ofori Atta alias Paa Willie, and that "Eye han eye kanea" by Dr. Bilson etc. Electioneering campaign was in full gear when Flight Lt. J.J. Rawlings staged his first abortive coup d'état among the later chain of successful coup d'états, in May 1979. This was quickly to be followed by a successful one on 4th June, 1979. This brought Rawlings to power in what was a military uprising called Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). He briefly suspended all the ongoing political campaigning. He later reinstated political activities and the PNP won the elections in 1979. He executed his entire military predecessor Heads of State who were alive in addition to other top ranking military officers who had dabbled in politics. He was back again on 31st December 1981 to overthrow the PNP government to usher in his Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) military regime. He killed many innocent people who he deemed not only as his rivals but also a threat to his safety and his regime.
When the Civilized Western world could no longer contain his excesses, they coerced him into re-introducing a multi-party democracy to Ghana. He was whining saying, "They are forcing us to go democratic but democracy is not good for Africa". In the end, he turned his coat inside-out. He quickly organized the re-writing of Ghana's Constitution on his terms of guidelines, sneaking into it such clause as "No accountability but Indemnity" for himself. On completion of the writing of the Constitution, he mysteriously acquired more than enough funds to found a party which became the National Democratic Congress and it still is, to win the 1992 and 1996 general elections. Some of the political parties to contest these elections were the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the PNC, and the PNP. He ruled for the two term period as permitted by the Constitution. Can this dubious character who has never believed in the tenets of democracy be the Father of Democracy? It is probably only in Ghana and as per the Ghanaian understanding of democracy that Rawlings could be the father and founder of the Ghanaian democracy. All his speeches both inside and outside Ghana go to confirm his negative stance on democracy and how it makes him feel very uncomfortable. I had to switch off my television when the OBE TV replayed his granted public speech on "Democracy and how he was able to ensure political stability in Ghana", at Oxford. He kept veering from the main topic. He was rather doing what he has majored in that earned him his Honorary Doctorate degree - his repeated diatribes against the NPP and His Excellency, Former President J.A.Kufuor. He kept ranting shamelessly. I felt ashamed to see my former President act so childishly before Oxford University students most of whom started evacuating the hall. He said without mincing words that the democracy as is bequeathed on Africa by the West has never been good and it will never be. Can he then be the grandson let alone the father of the Ghanaian democracy? To me, he never ushered in the Ghanaian democracy. He is rather an obstruction to democracy if one conducts in-depth research into his temper tantrums and behaviour towards democratic principles. How many times had he not indirectly directed speeches at the Armed Forces inciting them to overthrow the then NPP government? You had better be a good judge yourself to tell whether Rawlings fits into the criterion of the father of the Ghanaian democracy.
I sincerely do acknowledge the fact that Rawlings did stabilise the nation politically. But be it known that, even any moron employing the tools of tyranny can bring about the political stability of a nation especially, a third world country. What are these tools, one may wish to know? They are harassment, murder, and injurious victimisation, illegal incarcerations of political rivals and absolute intimidation of innocent citizens. All those leaders who did employ these tools were able to stay in power longer than it was always necessary. People always live in fear under such regimes and to avoid one losing their precious life, they usually keep their silence, remaining submissive even in the face of utter aggression by the government. Is Rawlings different from Fidel Castro of Cuba, Gaddafi of Libya, Seko Toure of Guinea, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and the Presidents of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe? All of them were, or, are able to maintain political stability all because they were or are ruthless, ready to main and kill at the least provocation. They instil fear into the people to command respect. Therefore, to invite Rawlings to give a lecture on how he brought about political stability to Ghana without him elaborating on these facts but rather attacking and insulting Kufuor and the NPP is quite unfortunate. He has nothing credible to tell the world about how he brought political stability to Ghana without being economical with the truth. He did achieve it through oppressive means as stated above.
Kufuor and Atta Mills are sound political stabilizers more than Rawlings. Unlike Rawlings, they achieve their goal without oppression. Does Rawlings earnestly believe in the principles of democracy? His problem lies in the fact that he sees himself as the "Mr. I am born to rule" but not to be ruled. He is the type of the Strong me and strong men ruining Africa by their false pretensions as spoken against by the Dynamic American President, Barrack Obama. As Rawlings is the democratic hero of some, to others, he is a complete autocratic villain.
Long live Ghana. Long live the Republic.
Rockson Adofo, London