By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
April 8, 2011
It would be foolish to argue that as the founder of the NDC, Rawlings can’t do otherwise but jump on those he thinks are not doing what he expects. Similarly, it would be foolish to argue that he doesn’t have any right to speak his mind on issues. No one begrudges him that right but his failure to exercise it responsibly is the beef that we have with him. There is apparently a yawning gap between what he expects and what ordinary Ghanaians expect the government to use their mandate for. Ultimately, the issue is that Rawlings has already over-stepped bounds of political (and moral) decency.
For far too long, some of us have been cautioning him against his kind of negative politics—all to no avail. Now, behaving like a run-away horse, he cannot be reined in. As he gallops around, filled to the brim with so much venom against all those he considers as his “opponents” in the NDC, he seems not to know that he is doing more harm to the NDC that he claimed to have founded and led thus far. Cutting his nose to spite his face in this vain attempt, he has chosen to embark on a wild goose chase and will emerge none the better. Inflated with his own self-righteousness, he is on a course that will lead him to nothing but total disgrace. A leaf from the history on the lives led by former Presidents in other countries should serve useful lessons for him, though.
If he had listened to reason and changed his attitude to national politics in his out-of-office circumstances, he would have retained the goodwill that many people have given him over the years. But from what has transpired so far, there is no gainsaying the fact that he is tumbling fast into the nadir of public disdain. Let’s be bold to tell Rawlings that he is not the only pebble at the beach of Ghanaian politics.
By turning politics into a “fight-or-flight” syndrome, Rawlings presents a pitiable self. From his erratic behaviour and unguarded utterances, he demonstrates abysmal ignorance about the very foundation of the party he is proud to call his own brain-child. He doesn’t seem to know the very pith that nourishes the NDC. He is ignorant of the very substance on which the NDC was based at birth and which has sustained the party ever since. If he were well informed and politically savvy, he would hasten slowly in destroying the party he claims to have founded.
I insist that despite all the public showmanship that he puts up, Rawlings doesn’t know the very letter and spirit of the NDC. If he does, he will know that the NDC is still alive because of the support of all the diverse political elements embodying it. Of course, the NDC has serious fundamental problems and would have disintegrated long ago but for the resilience of its die-hard followers who continue to sacrifice their lot for the party, mindless of their disparate (if even conflicting) original political colorations.
In reality, the inadequacies of its members’ disparate political traditions don’t in any way outweigh the perceived merits. The NDC itself is hampered fundamentally by its lack of any time-tested political tradition (ideology) or long history, unlike the CPP (founded and built on Nkrumahism) or the NPP (undergirded by the Danquah-Busia-Dombo tradition, rooted in a property-owning liberal democracy). Both the CPP and NPP have roots dating far back into Ghana’s pre-independence era and attract followers based on that political culture, not mere hot air or on-the-spur-of-the-moment theatricals at public forums. Although both Nkrumahism and the Danquah-Busia-Dombo political cultures can’t do without the influence of their main founders (political pillars), they have transcended the personality cult level and established themselves on ideologies. What can the NDC claim to be its ideology, devoid of the personality of Rawlings and the slogans on “probity and accountability,” which are mere synonyms for vindictiveness or witch-hunting?
Take away Rawlings and the NDC lacks substance. Efforts being made to rebrand the party (with its inchoate ideology of “Social Democracy”) can’t succeed if the Rawlings phantom continues to rear its ugly head to shoo away the cool-headed intellectual elements whose input is needed to grow the party. The NDC can’t be viable if it remains fixated on that Rawlings phantom alone. The party grew out of the so-called revolutionary fervour spawned by the political realities of the 1970s that ushered Rawlings into the political limelight (first, through the events of May 15, then through the June 4 era of the AFRC’s “Ethiopian Way,” and culminating in the PDC/WDC mentality that propped up the PNDC). Rawlings must be the first to admit that his politics has no foundation in any of the well-known consistent ideologies. Probably, that’s why he thinks that the NDC belongs to him and must be clawed back from those in the faction opposed to him.
His experimentation with some kind of wayward socialism or pragmatism in the early reign of the PNDC fizzled out at the onset of economic realities. He discarded his hatred for the United States and the capitalist system, rushing to bed with the Bretton Woods institutions and ushering Ghana into an Economic Recovery Programme with disastrous consequences.
Rawlings has proved to be ambivalent in his dispositions. After bitterly repudiating western type democracy based on the “ballot box” for electing leaders, he turned round to embrace it and enjoyed its benefits. Swallowing his self-righteousness to satisfy his own whims and caprices, he has demonstrated enough of the chameleon in him to make Ghanaians wary of his real political motives.
He may be out of reckoning within the military—having already used his military strength to launch two successful coups d’état—but it seems he wants to achieve some hidden political objective through what he is wont to call “positive defiance.” I consider what he has embarked on as a subtle way to remove President Mills from office. That is where the danger lies.
He seems to deserve his fate. Only when he restrains himself will he regain respect and influence in the party, regardless of his status. As he currently handles affairs, his posture doesn’t square with public expectations within the context of the agenda that the NDC government has for national development. The upcoming congress to elect the NDC’s flagbearer will make or break the party. If Rawlings’ current machinations (with reference to what had transpired during his recent interactions with the Ashanti Regional executives of the NDC) succeed in turning the tide against President Mills, it will be a novelty with catastrophic consequences for the party. If President Mills, however, withstands the pressure and weathers the storm, it will send Rawlings into a frenzy. In that panic mode, no one knows exactly what he will do. We can, however, hazard a guess here to say that he will definitely intensify his anti-Mills calumny and propaganda until something happens to teach him the bitter lesson that he must learn to submit to authority. He has for far too long refused to know his limits and needs such a bitter lesson to realize that even too much of honey tastes bad. It will be a political necessity based on simple decency and common sense for him to be taught that lesson. Rawlings has been so inflexibly hypnotized by his own interests, biases, and prejudices.
He is just setting up a difficult political hoop for the NDC to jump through if it must stay intact or retain political power at the 2012 polls. The earlier he redefines his role in contemporary politics to realize that he is a spent force, the better chances are that he will live his life in peace. As he currently does things, his kind of “fight-or-flight” politics doesn’t square with our current political dispensations.
When it comes to the crunch, those in the NDC who feel uncomfortable or threatened and alienated by Rawlings’ hostile posture and misguided utterances should look for only one option—to resign en bloc from the NDC if only that will leave the party in the hands of Rawlings and those who behave like him (for instance, Michael Teye Nyaunu, the Lower Manya MP, who is also fast creating a despicable impression about himself). They should look for other avenues to exercise their democratic political rights instead of remaining in the NDC to be pooh-poohed and tormented by Rawlings.