By Kwasi Adu
The story of Flt. Lt. Rawlings is an interesting one. Over the years, various people have recounted and interpreted or misinterpreted this story in various ways. However, a summary of the facts could be likened to the man who went full circle and finally ended up eating his own vomit.
The fact that he could finally end up in the lap of the NPP is also remarkable. Anyone who knew Rawlings since the time he came into public notice would not have thought that he would, in 2012, make the NPP his most preferred political party, next to his newly founded National Democratic Party.
It reminds one of the lyrics of one of the songs by the Ogyatanaa Guitar Band, which translates as “If I live long enough, I would one day discover that the cat and the mouse are united, playing in the same musical band, with the mouse playing the conga while the cat plays the lead guitar”. Wonders will never cease in this world.
This is the man who, when he burst onto the national stage in 1979, was waging a crusade against corruption and howling for probity and accountability. In the course of time, his bitterest opponents were the Matemeho people, currently congregated within the NPP. In the last few weeks, it is the same NPP, in whose bosom he feels most contented. How did this happen?
It all began on15th May 1979 when he attempted to overthrow the government of the then Supreme Military Council (SMC) under General F.W.K. Akuffo. When that adventure failed, he was put on trial and offered all the opportunity to explain why he tried to stage a coup. He was most eloquently forthright. He said he was disgusted about the wanton corruption in government and how Lebanese had been allowed to take over the economy of the country. He said, if he had succeeded in overthrowing the SMC, he would have gone the “Ethiopian Way”, whereby those considered as “enemies of the people” would be executed.
In the face of what the people in Ghana knew, in those days, as massive “corruption” in government circles, Mr. Rawlings became an instant hero. Students and other political activists began to distribute leaflets to call for his freedom. On June 4 1979, barely three weeks after his failed coup, other soldiers, mostly junior officers and non-commissioned officers, overthrew the government, released Rawlings from custody and made him Head of State. They formed the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, and nearly implemented the policy of “Ethiopian Way” when he approved the execution of seven army generals.
According to Mr. Rawlings, those people were corrupt and had used their high political offices to amass wealth and property for themselves, to the exclusion of “the people”, “the masses” and “the downtrodden”.
However, what is most remarkable is the way Mr. Rawlings has consistently fallen out with every soul who has had the fortune (or should it be said “misfortune”) of working with him in the political field.
Not long after the AFRC left office in 1979, Mr. Rawlings began battle with his former colleagues on the Council. “They have been bought by the PNP government”, he said. “They are traitors who have abandoned the masses and exposed them to the political predators who are EMASCULATING them”.
Not long after, in the face of constant attacks from the ruling People’s National Party and some judges, a group of young persons, who had been inspired by the events of the June Four 1979 events, invited him to join them. In their naivety or innocence, they never realized the real Rawlings and his long-term motive to have power to himself alone; and not the “masses” in whose name he was preaching probity and accountability.
For two years, between early 1980 till the end of December 1981, he was with these young people, shouting “revolution” from the rooftops. He used the opportunity of the safety that these people, within the June 4 Movement, provided him, used them as cover, used the help of some of them to recruit soldiers for the second coming of JJ on 31st December 1981.
When he realized, by the middle of 1982, that he had consolidated himself, he started castigating the very young people who had provided him with a political “home”, calling them “super-revolutionaries”, “extremists”, etc and sidelined them. Then he turned his attention to the soldiers (mostly northerners) called them “bow and arrow carriers” and people who had been bitter because the lands of their parents in the north had been taken away from them. He harassed and arrested them. Some, fearing for their lives, escaped, while the unlucky ones got murdered by his government in the most gruesome manner.
He then declared an “all hands on deck” policy and invited the very people whom he had hitherto been hauling over the coals as “enemies of the people”, unto the ship of state. After working for eighteen years with them in government and eight further years in opposition, he suddenly discovered that those people were “corrupt”, “greedy bastards”, “thieves”, etc, while the women among them he described as “money-grabbing whores”.
The person who was now leading his NDC party in government, President John Evans Atta Mills, fell victim to the tongue-lashing of Mr. Rawlings. He was called “Team B”, and an “un-clever” person who had turned the Castle into a prayer camp.
In his state of make-belief that he was the most popular person within the country and his party, he pitched his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, to contest for the leadership of the NDC. He was so confident that his support for his wife would make NDC members vote for her in a contest against President Mills, that he predicted that his wife would win the contest by 76%.
The crunch day came, and his wife could muster a miserable 3% of the NDC vote. He was not the one to give up. He cried that the delegates had been bought and that the real grassroots supporters had been prevented from coming to the Congress. He then decided to “found” another party, in the full expectation that the majority of NDC grassroots members would defect to his new party. This appeared not to work either. He encouraged his wife to contest as a Presidential candidate for his newly founded party, the National Democratic Party.
Unfortunately, he could not even get enough people from the grassroots from the Districts to endorse his wife’s forms. Then he turned against the very people he called the real grassroots, accusing them of allowing themselves to be bought by the NDC leadership.
The unfolding tragedy increasingly depicted Mr. Rawlings as calling everyone as having been “bought” or that they are corrupt and “greedy bastards”.
With nowhere else to go, he finally turned to the NPP for solace and support. These are the same people that he described as corrupt and had called on President Mills to throw into jail, even if there was not a proper trial. These are the people, on whose platform he has taken his message of “probity, accountability and anti-corruption”, expecting to have a listening ear. The man, Rawlings, has finally turned full circle, and landed in the bosom of his sworn enemies. The calamity is that he does not even realize it.
Having said this, Mr. Rawlings has done pretty well for himself on his political journey. He has managed to emerge from his poverty-stricken “yor-ker-garri”-eating days to a very prosperous, fat and bulky man. This is the same person who, in his slim days, used to accuse other African Heads of States of getting fat as soon as they get into power. He now has at least a mansion in his home-town, Tefle, with speed-boats in tow. He has a magnificent edifice in Adjiringarno, in Accra, with such tight security that if you take photographs near the place, you could be kidnapped by his operatives. In addition, there is a colossal residential building under construction (with bunkers and all) for him at tax-payer’s expense in Ridge, Accra, following the incomprehensible burning of his official residence. This is in Ghana alone. Furthermore, before he left office as President, he managed to sell state companies and government buildings to his wife’s NGO. He managed to educate his children abroad. He can fly to Equatorial Guinea anytime to say “Good Morning” to his friend, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
This is a far cry from the quality of life of the people with whom he initially set out to prosecute the “people’s revolution”. Some of them who escaped being murdered, now have to grind to get a square meal a day. Indeed, there are some who are literally sleeping on the streets. In the meantime, the lives of the “masses” for whom he initially claimed to be fighting have worsened, not because of the actions of the “greedy bastards”, but because Mr. Rawlings, while in power, did nothing to build institutions that would foster self-sustenance for the masses. In fact, in his days, whenever the masses used to protest, he descended heavily on them with guns and bullets, in the effort to scatter them.
There are still a few young people who follow him today. However, it is not because of what he has done to create conditions to improve their lives, but because they love his treatise and concert-party antics and do not know his real history. After all, it was while Mr. Rawlings was Head of State that he abolished History as a subject from the school curriculum. That could not have been an accident.
All said and done, there should be an explanation why throughout his political life, all the people who have associated with Rawlings turn out to be bad people in his eyes. Perhaps, the answer is now what is contained in the Constitution of his newly founded NDP. According to the NDP Constitution, the meaning of “Probity and Accountability” is only as “espoused” or understood by Rawlings, and not how everybody else understands or thinks that phrase means, or even how the English Dictionary defines those words. It is contained within the NDP Constitution that challenging Mr. Rawlings’ understanding of these words could result in disciplinary action (which may include identification haircut).
So here we are. Perhaps over the years, the rest of the people have not understood our Hero Rawlings, because we have misunderstood his meaning of “probity and accountability” “good governance” and “transparency”. Even more important, it is possible that he may not even have turned “full circle” as some of us think with his flirtation with the NPP. We are the problem; and not him. How could the rest of the country have been so ignorant and naive?