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Opinions Sun, 17 Mar 2002

On Professor Ali Mazuri's Advice

Now comes Professor Ali Mazrui; cajoling, exhorting, demanding, and excruciatingly canvassing Ghanaians to, in the words of a popular African American saying, "show some love" for Jerry John Rawlings, the ex-president of the Republic of Ghana. Ali Mazrui was speaking at the recent Aggrey, Fraser, Guggisberg Memorial Lectures at Legon, the University of Ghana!

Ali Mazrui says:

"Rawlings begun with a coup in 1979, came back with military take-over in 1981, won power through the ballot box in 1992 and again in 1996 and stepped down in 2000 without manipulating the system to his personal or his party's advantage..."

And further:

"Not only did Rawlings step down from power, but he allowed the electoral process to be transparent to the extent that his own party was defeated in the 2000 elections.''

Additionally:

"Rawlings spared Africa another regime of dictatorship with his honourable gesture, whilst Mugabe was bent on tarnishing the image of the Africa as the continent with too many dictators."

My dear professor Ali Mazrui, you apparently have not kept pace with Ghana's political events since the last elections. Otherwise, it would have become crystal clear to you that Ghanaians in their numbers have already "commended" Rawlings for acting in a statesmanlike manner by stepping down as the GHANA CONSTITUTION said he should.

The fact of Ghanaians having already serenaded Rawlings from Aflao to Paga on this issue has been lost on you, Prof Mazrui probably because you have not kept abreast with current Ghanaian issues.

To wit: Columnists; Editorial writers; and calls to Radio shows have been full of praises for Rawlings regarding the issue you raised. The outpouring of emotional support to Rawlings on this issue started after the December 28, 2000 presidential run-off voting.

Ghana's eminent international diplomat cum international civil servant His Excellency Kofi Anan, Secretary General of the United Nations Organization added his voice to those of his fellow Ghanaians in lauding Rawlings. Mr. Anan appointed Rawlings a Goodwill Ambassador of the UN as a mark of his admiration for what Rawlings had done.

Our esteemed president of Ghana, His Excellency John Agyekum Kuffour praised Rawlings at the Black Star Square and on the grounds of the Parliament when Mr. Kuffour gave his maiden address to the nation upon taken office. Even non-Ghanaians joined in the obligatory expression of thanks to Rawlings.

Let me remind you respectfully, Mwalimu Mazrui that our Chiefs, and Ghanaians from all walks of life (including yours truly), have lauded and commended Rawlings for stepping down as he did. And Ghanaians gave him a 'gift' of a fleet of cars and houses as a golden parachute to aid his descent from power! So, Mwalimu Ali Mazrui what don't you get? It will be redundant to observe an annual hajj or pilgrimage of commendations to Rawlings anytime some African ruler like Mugabe decided to hang on to power by using foul means.

By coming in this late to ask that Ghanaians ‘commend' Rawlings, you risk interference and a flagrant foul on Ghana affairs. Not that you are unqualified to offer your esteemed advise! Please be advised that Ghanaians have not let Rawlings become an orphan in the department of commendation. But we do not want to leave him swollen-headed and spoiled at our gratification. We have lost our voices in singing his praises.

You should rather have commended Ghanaians for "commending" Rawlings for what he did. And then, you should have commended Ghanaians for allowing Rawlings to come and go as he pleases. Because as you admit, Rawlings started life as a "dictator". Indeed he was a brutal and an unforgiving one. Many Ghanaians lost their lives because of his dictatorship and brutal rule. Many Ghanaians lost their businesses leading to the break up of families because of his dictatorship. And, many Ghanaians fled their beloved country to uncertain life abroad because of his dictatorship.

Ghanaians have forgiven Jerry Rawlings for all these atrocities and death that he caused to untold number of Ghanaians. Ghanaians are by nature very hospitable and forgiving to a fault. But we are not fools.

What we detest about Rawlings now, is his tendency to shoot from his hips in commenting on issues of national importance. If you heard a certain grumbling about Rawlings in Ghana, it is about his tendency to behave unlike someone who has occupied the highest position in our country. His behaviour leaves much to be desired. He sometimes wants to act like a co-president. He gets that idea from a peculiar decision by his party the NDC to insert in their party Constitution a clause whereby as Leader of the party, Rawlings would chair all Cabinet meetings (while out of office!), thereby becoming a de facto president!

The man has a certain squeamish notion of entitlement that borders on the bizarre. He hardly respects Ghanaians. He speaks badly about our current president. He disdains our institutions. He is dismissive of what Ghanaians hold dear. He has said publicly both at home and abroad, that he does not like constitutional rule. This makes him a dangerous interloper in national discourse. One cannot understand why he thinks he is the alpha and omega of Ghana's well-being. Nor does he understand that he is neither!

All sane Africans abhor the behaviour of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe; and I personally regret Mugabe's descent into ignominy and irrelevance. Mugabe unfortunately is ending up the way most of Africa's independence leaders like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana ended up. It is a tragedy that Mugabe seems blind to that prospect; considering he had a front row seat to observe the failures of our independent rulers.

So Professor Ali Mazrui, you should have rather advised Jerry Rawlings to behave in a statesmanlike manner, and allow Ghanaians to sort out their lives after 20 years of his sometimes brutal rule. You should have advised him that he risks eroding whatever admiration and respect that Ghanaians have for him if he continues to behave in a manner that betrays his former office. And you should have suggested to him that he cannot become like the dead figure in the Ghana folklore who refuses to depart this life; but rather chooses to hang around the neighborhood to cause havoc and intimidate children.

In the Akan language that figure is known as "Osaman Twentwe", or the ghost that refuses to rest in piece in the cemetery!! It is a despicable figure whose interference leads to disunity and horror. Increasingly Jerry John Rawlings is becoming like that figure. Mwalimu, you should have advised him pursuant to the issues I have raised.

As usual, we learnt a lot from your pedagogy. But in the matter of your advise that Ghanaians "commend" Rawlings, your notes are dated.




Columnist: Ellison, Kofi