The Rawlingses’ Democracy: A Look at the Madness of Power

Sat, 30 Oct 2010 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong*

They are supposed to be from the same ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) party but events wheeling within the party are diametrically different. At certain times, it is as if the NDC is in permanent chaos, caught in self-destruction, about to explode into pieces. It is as if the NDC has mutated into two opposition parties deadly contesting for power.

For failing to command-and-control the almost two-year-old John Atta Mills government, ex-President Jerry Rawlings, his wife, Nana Konadu Agyemang, and their associates have become a disturbing menace to the Mills regime, and by extension, Ghana’s budding democracy. In years gone by, Rawlings would have used this as pretext to overthrown President Atta Mills, as he did against the President Hilla Limann government by fabricating all kinds of reasons.

The Mills regime appears under constant commotions. Though Mills and his associates have proved formidable in containing the Rawlingses from the word go, a never-ending dog fight has apparently ensured between the restless Rawlingses and the noiseless Mills’ group. For the past two years, almost every month it seems a fight erupts from the Rawlingses camp against the Mills regime. The latest is Mrs. Rawlings’ supporters, contravening the NDC’s and Ghana’s electoral laws, plastering posters bearing the image of Mrs. Rawlings. The Rawlingses family, especially Mrs. Rawlings, hasn’t denied or endorsed the posters. Endorsed or not, the sophistication of the posters points to Mrs. Rawlings.

In his usual prone-to-disorder, days before the unlawful posters, Rawlings has written a strongly worded letter to the press complaining of being harassed and blackmailed by the Mills camp. There is no material evidence to proof his assertion, making it part of his normal brashness. And if it is true, why should the Mills’ regime do that to the so-called “founder” of his NDC? It may be because of the Rawlingses disgraceful demeanor that has become embarrassing to Ghana and Africa. By nature too emotional to think well, the Rawlingses actually harass and blackmail themselves.

Though those who know the Rawlingses well aren’t astonished by their actions, the current quarrel between them and Mills gives an insight into the Rawlingses state of mind and their never-ending thirst for power despite ruling Ghana for almost 20 years. In the Rawlingses political universe, Ghanaians are witnessing what an NDC democracy looks like and why they should look outside the party’s stickers because of its implications for Ghana’s democracy.

For the Rawlingses, their democracy is different from the rest of NDC and Ghana. Democratic tenets of the rule of law, freedoms, justice and human rights are interpreted by their whims and caprices. If you aren’t in their camp they see you in dim view, won’t tolerate you, and you are “undemocratic.” In the Rawlingses, dictatorship, autocracy, tyranny, authoritarianism and democracy are all mixed together.

You either got to be a genius or in their perverted mental plane to comprehend them – hence the almost endless upheaval within the NDC and its spillover into the Ghanaian political space. By nature not inclined to peacefulness, the Rawlingses love chaos, they like it rough, noisy and nasty. The Rawlingses were politically made in chaos and disturbances, coup detats, violence, corruption and exploitation, mendacities and propaganda, moral crises, deaths and disappearances, killings, blackmail, conflicts, fighting, deceit and, like Chiroptera bats, at home with political darkness.

These guide the Rawlingses understanding of politics, it illuminates their democracy, their “private democracy.” Some knowledgeable Ghanaians see them as politically “suicidal.” As the chaos theory would say of the Rawlingses, their “deterministic nature” in Ghana’s political history does not “make them predictable,” as Stephen H. Kellert would say in In the Wake of Chaos: Unpredictable Order in Dynamical Systems (1993). For this reason and the fact that they have insatiable appetite for power, if the Rawlingses have the chance they will overthrow the infant Mills administration as they did to the newborn 21 months President Hilla Limann government in 31 December, 1981.

To the Rawlingses, it doesn’t matter if “it is illegal for any member of the Party (NDC) to prematurely give an impression of his or her interest in the flagbearership race for the 2012 elections as the party’s rules clearly indicate that this declaration should not come earlier than one full year to the General Elections when the Party is in power,” as the NDC executive reacted to the Mrs. Rawlings’ criminal posters.

The Rawlingses incited their associates to sneak into the darkness and plaster Mrs. Rawlings’ posters illegally across Ghana, as if there is going to be presidential elections tomorrow, to harass the Mills government. And they feverishly hope this may enflame some wrong-thinking military officers to overthrow the Mills regime. Hypocritically, this is a conduct from the pages of the Rawlingses’ political history. Still, this is the Rawlingses who claim to have progress of Ghana at heart, yet repetitively befuddling Mills from performing his acute national assignment.

As Ghana’s democracy develops, the Rawlingses, stuck in their long-running authoritarian mind-set, feel discomfort in the blossoming democratic light, which has given them nightmarish screams and sleepless nights. The Rawlingses conducts are troublingly unique in Africa. From ex-President John Kufour to ex-African Presidents and Prime Ministers such as Mozambique’s Joaquim Chissano, Botswana’s Festus G. Mogae and Sir Ketumile Masire, Kenya’s Daniel arap Moi, South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela, and Tanzania’s Benjamin Mkapa, none and their families behave like the Rawlingses. No doubt, some Africans have been saying of the Rawlingses’ mien, “Ghanaians are too tolerant …They can’t do that in Nigeria.”

The Rawlingses appear panting in their long gone monolithic political system and find it problematic in their homogenous thinking, where they used to brutally order gullible Ghanaians around, especially Mills and his associates in the presidency. As much as everyone knows, the Rawlingses deeply regret for giving up power. And as much as everyone knows, they have to, if not, Ghana would have gone the Liberian way.

Coming into democracy by immense pressure and accident, the Rawlingses are allergic to the democratic values of give-and-take-and-tolerance. Power-drunk and control-freaks, the Rawlingses are afraid of the on-going political equilibrium and the consequent balances it brings to the democratic system. Inhumanly, they want to steal the show always. They have to be right always, no matter the situation.

The Rawlingses’ fatal hypocritical dealings with Mills and his administration is seen in a new study of the connection between power and hypocrisy. In a report carried in the London, UK-based The Economist, and aptly titled The Psychology of Power: Absolutely, Joris Lammers (of Tilburg University, the Netherlands) and Adam Galinsky (of Northwestern University, USA) found out that “people with power that they think is justified break rules not only because they can get away with it, but also because they feel at some intuitive level that they are entitled to take what they want.”

The Rawlingses incendiary bombasts are calculated, and Ghanaians have to bear that in mind. Rawlings’ angry letter and Mrs. Rawlings’ irritating posters are all premeditated. By nature moral and intellectual weaklings, the Rawlingses find it difficult to be disagreed with openly – that’s their main hatred with Mills and his associates. They wish to be a constant presence in the Mills presidency, commanding and controlling it. That’s why they went all out to help Mills win the presidency. It isn’t because they love so much.

But events have turned upside down. Mills and his group, who project images of elitism, understand the crude psychology of the Rawlingses very well. Particularly, in Mills’ Vice President John Mahama, who has openly called the undemocratic bluffs of the Rawlingses. A new political culture is being cooked within the NDC that will ultimately make the NDC more democratic and that will affect Ghanaian citizens.

Having ruled for almost 20 years, the Rawlingses aren’t as simple as both the NDCs and Ghanaians imagine them to be. Let ex-President John Kufour tell you the problems the Rawlingses gave him in his eight years in power. The Rawlingses power equation, mired in irrational traditional superstitions, isn’t difficult to solve and isn’t as easy as most Ghanaians picture it to be. The Mills faction knows this pretty well and their ability to intellectually take-on the Rawlingses is responsible for the near-perpetual wailing from the hysterically and psychiatrically disordered Rawlingses.

Added to their rough politics that border on threats to the Mills regime and Ghana, is their ability to use the mass media their advantage. Let's consider this: why should the Rawlingses behave like this inside and outside the NDC hyperbole? Who are the Rawlingses? What do they think they are? What is it that the Rawlingses want from the NDC and Ghanaians? What is it that they're attempting to achieve almost 20 years after being in power? In the Rawlingses, the Ghanaian infant democracy isn’t only complicated but under threat and will need massively skillful help from committed democrats from across the political spectrum.

*Kofi Akosah-Sarpong is journalist and academic.

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi