Opinions Fri, 4 Sep 2009

Why Is Rawlings Disgruntled?

Kwasi Adu

Flt Lt. Rawlings is on the charge again. In the last few days, while speaking to a gathering of NDC supporters in Kumasi, he is reported to have criticised President Mills for being slow in putting on trial NPP functionaries who are perceived to have been corrupt. He is also reported to have condemned Ministers appointed by President Mills for not performing.

What intrigues me is why Rawlings is going around preaching what amounts to vengeance against political opponents in the way that he is carrying on. Sometime in 1979, when Rawlings, as Head of State and Chairman of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) decided to stop the execution of former military officers, he made a profound statement that had considerable effect on me. He stated: “WE MUST NOT SEEK JUSTICE BY TREADING THE PATH OF UNJUSTIFIABLE VENGEANCE”. I agreed with him. “Vengeance” is when a person takes action or intends to take action against another person or group of people with the sole purpose of retaliating for something that the person or group of people has done directly or indirectly against the one.

Rawlings revisited this theme in 1982 when in the wake of demands by PNDC FOOT-SOLDIERS that the “revolution” should not waver in the pursuit of seeking the interests of the ordinary working people, Rawlings, as Head of State, brushed aside the demands of his foot-soldiers and accused them of seeking vengeance. He chastised his foot-soldiers for what he claimed to be their pursuit of vengeance because some of them come from regions where lands had been forcibly taken away from their people. (He was here, referring to his “foot-soldiers” from the northern regions, whom he did not need anymore after they had helped him to stage the coup against President Limann.) He repeated: “seeking vengeance is not justice”.

President Mills himself has repeated ab nauseam that he is not going to spare former Ministers who are found to be corrupt. However one cannot put a person on trial without first getting the facts first. Rawlings, in calling for vengeance against the NPP Ministers, has missed one critical point. The days when, under the PNDC, people could be arrested and summarily “executed” in Agege (the bush near the Accra airport), are long gone. An accused person has to be arraigned before the courts and evidence presented to support the charge or charges. What ex-President Kufuor did, while in government, was to pack the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court with judges who are sympathetic to the NPP. If President Mills were to send NPP ex-Ministers to court without the hard evidence, our current crop of NPP-oriented judges will free them. What purpose will it serve to put a person on trial without a fair chance of getting a conviction? That is why the only prudent thing to do is to gather “kosher” evidence before one puts an NPP ex-Minister on trial.

I would still want to believe that Rawlings has now not abandoned his “conviction” on justice and vengeance. It is because of this that I am tempted to conclude that Rawlings’ current demand on President Mills (for revenge) to quickly jail NPP ex-Ministers cannot be the real reason why he is criticising the government of President Mills. The real reason is there; and I will come to that later.

In any case, if the delay in the trial of NPP ex-Ministers is bothering Rawlings, why does he not talk to his nominee for NDC Vice-Presidential candidate, Mrs. Betty Mould, who is now the Attorney-General? Furthermore, given that Rawlings’ call for the trial of NPP people were motivated by his determination to root out corruption, rather than a crusade for vengeance, he would also have called on the government to prosecute those former NDC Ministers who served under him and who have been identified as having received massive bribes from Mabey and Johnson in the award of multi-million contracts to that company. Why does Rawlings see the speck that is in his brother’s eye, and yet does not see the log that is in his own eye? (Luke 6:41)

Having said all these, one is left wondering what the real reason for Rawlings’ attacks on President Mills is. The answer could perhaps be found in his attacks on current Ministers. His spokesperson, Mr Kofi Adams, made it clearer last Tuesday on PeaceFM Radio when he stated that Rawlings believes that some of the people appointed as Ministers by President Mills are “not qualified”. This brings us to the nitty-gritty of the matter. There used to be speculations that Rawlings, before the NDC presidential primaries, had asked the then Candidate Mills that he (Rawlings) would support Mills on condition that in the event of an NDC win, he (Rawlings) would have the right to nominate Ministers to six of the Ministries: Finance, Defence, Interior, Trade, Transport and Works and Housing. In effect, Rawlings wanted to be a “back-seat driver” in a Mills-led government. According to the speculation, Professor Mills refused the request. It has since been established that the first text-messages in those days about the health of Professor Mills, came from Rawlings. Rawlings decided to support Ekow Spio Garbrah for NDC presidential candidate. Spio lost but Rawlings was undeterred.

It is also a fact that during the NDC primaries, Rawlings sent text messages to people, asking to replace Professor Mills, because, according to him, Professor Mills was so ill that he was likely to die on the campaign trail. He therefore sent more text messages to people to follow Professor Mills with an ambulance on his campaign. He then decided that in order to have someone considered as pliable close to the Presidency, he would support Mrs. Betty-Mould Iddrisu as Vice-Presidential candidate. All the insults that were rained against Honourable John Mahama in those days from the residence of Rawlings were meant to leave Mrs. Mould as the only candidate. Rawlings even went as far as conducting a selection interview for NDC Vice-Presidential aspirants which predictably came up with Mrs. Betty-Mould Iddrisu as the winner. The recent speculations against the Vice-President are therefore not surprising.

All this talk about the disillusionment of “foot-soldiers” appears to be an attempt to hi-jack the genuine concerns of NDC grass-root people for purposes that have nothing to do with foot-soldiers. As a former Rawlings foot-soldier who was cast into the outer darkness, I am in a good position to observe and appreciate what is happening now. If Rawlings were really concerned about the plight of NDC foot-soldiers, he should tell the country what happened to his foot-soldiers when he came to power in 1981. Let Rawlings have his way, and we shall see what would happen to the very “foot-soldiers” about whom he now claims to be concerned. At least, none of them would be appointed into any of the six “juicy” Ministries to which he wanted to nominate Ministers.

It is true that President Mills’ government may look meek. Some Ministers are just “doing their own thing” because there appears to be no co-ordination from the centre. However, is castigating them all the time the proper way forward? I thought that they should be helped and tutored in the same way as some PNDC Secretaries grew into the job.

And before I end, I will call on Rawlings to include the Mabey and Johnson bribery scandal in his campaign against corruption.

This article appeared in the Insight newspaper on 28 August 2009. The author, Kwasi Adu, was a founding member of the June Four Movement and initially worked with the PNDC until December 1982 when he withdrew his association with the Rawlings regime. He went into exile in 1983 and remained in the UK till 2006 when he returned to Ghana. He is also the author of a new book entitled “The 2008 Ghana Elections: Growing Pains of a Budding Democracy” (published by FOSDA).

Columnist: Adu, Kwasi