By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
June 23, 2010
The NPP’s Dan Kwaku Botwe is singing a song that I don’t like. It is too gripping for comfort. He is reported to have said that President Mills should “show more gratitude to ex-President Jerry John Rawlings than he is doing.” His reason? Hear it: “… the former president made him (Mills) what he is today.” Here is Botwe’s justification: “According to him, the National Democratic Congress founder stood his grounds when he faced stiff opposition from party gurus because he had plugged [plucked?] Mills from obscurity to political limelight by making him [Mills] his running mate in the 1996 elections.” Turning to an alleged 24-hour surveillance on Rawlings by the government on suspicion of his being a “security threat,” Botwe noted that “the manner in which the government is treating the Rawlingses was unfair” (myjoyonline.com, 23/6/10).
Botwe’s message raises eyebrows, but I don’t want to say that he is being mischievous or hypocritical. The NPP under Kufuor did worse things to Rawlings but Botwe didn’t say anything. I just want to say that Botwe comes across as confused. What does he mean by “more gratitude” to Rawlings? That President Mills should be “grateful” to Rawlings for helping him become what he has been all these years and, therefore, reward him materially or through adulation? By worshipping at Rawlings’ feet or by giving some kind of preferential treatment to Rawlings as his political matchmaker? I don’t quite understand Botwe on this score. He must come again.
In the Ghanaian political terms, “gratitude” means compensation through appointment to juicy offices of that person or family members, friends, and others to reap the fruits of their calling. How many times haven’t we heard complaints from people concerning such an attitude to making appointments? I don’t think that’s what Botwe is asking for. And if that’s not it, then, what is it that he wants President Mills and his government to do to Rawlings to prove that they are being grateful to him for working hard to put them in office? There is no doubt that President Mills and members of his government have accorded Rawlings all the respect and fawning he deserves for all that he is and what he’s done to get the NDC back into power. So, what at all is Botwe’s conception of “gratitude” that he thinks President Mills and his government have not given Rawlings?
The reality of the situation is that Rawlings doesn’t need anything of the sort. His conception of gratitude means more than what Botwe has in mind. He wants to have power to do as he likes. I will soon return to this aspect.
Botwe needs to know that in politics, someone has to introduce another into the game without necessarily expecting instant gratification. It’s always been so. The lesson is that politics is meant to be done for the benefit of systems (countries, continents, etc.), not units (individual human beings). Our problem in Ghana is that we do politics at the lowest level and personalize matters to the disadvantage of our country. Therein lies the danger. If we can uplift our politics beyond this level of individuals to benefit our country, we should be making some progress instead of being stuck where we have been all these years, running around in circles and still blaming the colonial master for our woes.
Someone well-placed in politics in Ghana has always helped another to emerge from obscurity into prominence without pulling strings as the case is in what Botwe is complaining about. When the UGCC invited Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to be its Secretary, which launched his political career, did anybody ask for gratitude from Nkrumah? Instead of upholding the status quo ante, Nkrumah broke away from the UGCC (and its conservative and reactionary modus operandi) to form the CPP because he had a different strategy to energize the struggle for self-government. He succeeded. Was he being ungrateful?
Take Rawlings himself as an example. When Boakye-Gyan led the successful June 4 Uprising, which freed him from the cells of the Special Branch (now BNI) and made him the Chairman of the AFRC (Head of State), what gratitude did he show to Boakye-Gyan and the other soldiers? Again, when the late Imoru Igala brought Dr. Hilla Limann into the PNP and established him for the Presidency of Ghana, what gratitude was he expecting from Limann? Of course, he died shortly thereafter. Yet another instance. When the late Victor Owusu mentored ex-President Kufuor in the UP and virtually nurtured him into a political giant, what gratitude was he expecting from Kufuor? On a sad note, let me say that Kufuor reckoned his mentor’s influence on him when he wept openly at the funeral of Victor Owusu; and that was all.
I am yet to understand why Botwe will make such a suggestion. It is a sly way of doing politics the NPP way. He is urging a course of action that will boomerang to hurt President Mills, and I disagree with him.
Showing “more gratitude” to Rawlings may be translated into many things to suggest that he is ruling Ghana through President Mills, which will reinforce perceptions that President Mills is not “his own man.” How hard hasn’t it been for President Mills to prove to Ghanaians that he is “his own man” for them to trust him enough for their mandate at the 2008 polls? The damage that the “poodle” image caused him has been difficult to undo. Now that he is exerting his influence, why should he be portrayed as an “ungrateful ingrate”?
One undeniable fact is that the Mills government is warm toward Rawlings; but what it should not tolerate is any insistence on his being given the opportunity to call the shots just as he tried to do when Kufuor took over from him. Haven’t we heard from Kufuor why his relations with Rawlings turned sour after he had made it clear that he would not allow Rawlings to dictate to him what to do in ruling the country? Kufuor has already told us how Rawlings sought to manipulate the situation. He revealed that Rawlings had called a meeting between them in the early part of his government in 2001 and that he (Kufuor) resisted and refused to attend follow-up meetings that Rawlings called because he didn’t want to be pushed around or to give Rawlings any slight feeling that he could control him. That was the genesis of the Rawlings-Kufuor conflict, which assumed other unpleasant dimensions that still persist.
We must be careful what we ask for. I know for sure what Rawlings will do if given the slightest chance to return to the corridors of power. As Bob Marley says: “Give them an inch, they take a yard; give them a yard, they take a mile.” Rawlings is not the kind to submit himself to the authority of anybody, especially someone who ever served under him. He did it to Kufuor (who served as Secretary of Local Government in 1982) and is doing it to Mills (whom he first appointed as the Commissioner of the IRS and who later served as his Vice President). Rawlings’ contempt for these high-level personalities (and many others) is in the open. The main question, then, is: Why can’t Rawlings behave like all other Ghanaians who regard the President as the Number One Citizen of the country and submit to him? What is it about him that resists this natural bent to respect those in authority? I leave it to the psychologists to determine.
Any move to show “more gratitude” to Rawlings must be informed by hindsight. The assumption of office by President Mills immediately created impressions that he would open the floodgates to Rawlings to do all he wanted. In other words, the return to power of the NDC would help Rawlings impose his agenda on the Mills administration. Rawlings immediately did two things that raised concern. He visited the Air Force Station to inspect aircraft and followed up with an unscheduled dawn visit to the restricted area of the Kotoka International Airport, where he entered hangars and inspected aircraft. These actions by Rawlings were vehemently commented on by all of us, especially the NPP members who hollered to the extent that Rawlings was creating a security threat. He appeared to have touched the panic button.
The frontline role that Rawlings arrogated to himself and began playing gave the impression that he had set up a parallel administration, which wasn’t good for the Mills government. Who can deny this fact?
Top on Rawlings’ agenda was the investigation, prosecution, and incarceration of functionaries of the Kufuor government. We all know how infuriated he is that his agenda has not been accepted and implemented by Mills. He hasn’t ceased complaining about this inability to deal with the NPP functionaries. In effect, he is in no mood to accept President Mills’ manner of running affairs. We have also heard from Rawlings how unhappy he is that all the pieces of advice that he has given President Mills are not being implemented. In other words, Rawlings feels isolated and is embittered.
We must not forget that he began being hostile to the Mills government at this point and did not mince words when he openly insulted its functionaries as “greedy bastards.” He followed up with other unfavourable comments and gave the impression that President Mills was incapable of leading the NDC to another electoral victory. The problems that have made it difficult for Rawlings to work hand-in-hand with President Mills go beyond any perception of “ingratitude” on the latter’s part.
Botwe’s claim that it was Rawlings who made President Mills what he is today is ridiculous. Can he explain the negative impact of Rawlings’ “Swedru Declaration” on the NDC? Yes, it was Rawlings who unilaterally imposed Professor Mills on the NDC and defended his action; but that move had serious consequences. It torpedoed the party’s ranks and it hasn’t fully recovered the grounds it lost following the breaking away of Goosie Tannoh and his National Reform Party functionaries. Has Botwe seen the other side of the coin to determine the consequences of Rawlings’ influence on President Mills? When Mills said “I will consult Rawlings 24 hours a day,” it spelled his doom at the 2004 elections. The indelible impression that he is Rawlings’ “poodle” has stuck for 10 years now. In spite of these bumps, the relationship between President Mills and Rawlings is not as frosty as his critics will have us believe.
Indeed, nowhere in President Mills’ interactions with Rawlings himself or anybody else has he dropped the slightest hint that relations between him and Rawlings are so strained as to warrant what Dan Botwe is suggesting. President Mills has soaked up all the disparaging pronouncements from Rawlings and insisted that he will not allow those scathing criticisms to deflect him from his duties as the President and leader of the NDC administration. He has not given us any indication that he doesn’t appreciate the contributions of Rawlings to the country’s development, the NDC’s fortunes, or his own political life.
Maybe, what some observers like Botwe might point to as indications of ingratitude on the part of President Mills are not the real issues that have angered Rawlings. Is Dan Botwe asking that President Mills allow Rawlings to call the shots or to rule Ghana through him as a demonstration of gratitude? If anything at all, we should know that the gratitude that politicians deserve should come from the citizens. That is why they are required to perform their functions without blemish and prove to Ghanaians that they are indeed prepared to do what they are in office for.
Rawlings is not at peace with himself or others and feels alienated. He must take the first step to change matters for his own good. What he has to do now is to rehabilitate his public image and redeem himself from the depths to which he has pushed himself because of his incontinence and other noxious acts of omission or commission. I have said it already and still stand by it that not until he knows how to cut his steps, he will always box himself into a tight corner no matter who becomes the President of Ghana. He is finding it difficult to accept the fact that others should be President and that he must submit himself to their dictates as a citizen. Not until he disabuses his mind of that mentality of always projecting himself as “He who must be obeyed at all costs,” he will continue to have such problems till he goes into the land-of-no-return.
Ghanaians know that President Mills is their choice of leader and will not appreciate it if he cedes the mandate with anybody else. The agenda of the new the NDC (Social Democracy) appears not to have the “strongman” element that characterized Rawlings’ hold on power. Thus, I see a conflict of interest in this political coloration of the NDC. And this is the point of departure that seems to suggest that President Mills is not being grateful to Rawlings. The impression is that President Mills has resisted the urge to do things to please Rawlings. What is wrong about this stance? Is this an offence for which he must be blamed as an ingrate? I don’t think so.
The so-called tension between Rawlings and President Mills has its roots in that characteristic penchant of Rawlings to impose his will on others. That attitude will always create tension between him and whoever is mandated to rule Ghana. It is not an issue of ingratitude but one of power-hunger and unbridled desire for control of the affairs of state. In effect, Rawlings finds it difficult to stay away from the corridors of power. No one should deceive himself that Rawlings doesn’t know what his own agenda for seeking attention is. Can Botwe not see things beyond this perspective?
We expect our politicians to look for better issues to comment on instead of trivial ones like what Botwe has come up with. They must be careful what they do with the people’s mandate. Day-in-day-out, the people complain of the harsh conditions under which they live and demand firm action from their leaders to improve their living conditions. While all these cries go virtually unheeded, their leaders live in comfort and continue to look for opportunities to fleece the national coffers. Then, having glutted themselves and finding too little to do, they come out with such feeble-minded propositions as Botwe has just demonstrated. It is nauseating.
I don’t think that what Rawlings is looking for from President Mills and his government is any mere show of “more gratitude.” His expectations (or demands?) go beyond that level, which shouldn’t take any sorcery to fathom. Dan Botwe and those who think like him may be sowing the wind but I don’t think that Ghanaians are ready to reap the whirlwind.