Why should information on Rawlings’ entitlements be secret?

Sat, 29 Oct 2011 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com

Friday, October 28, 2011

Kobina Andoh, the Head of Communications in the office of former President Rawlings, has spoilt my day. He is reported to have issued a “strongly worded statement” to complain of what he termed “confidential information about his (Rawlings’) entitlements” being released by the government to the public with a view to embarrassing him.

He cautioned the government to desist from such practices or, better still, take away Rawlings’ constitutionally deserved entitlements if they will continue with such a practice.

In a subsequent interview with Joy News, Andoh expressed utter shock about how a purely private transaction between Rawlings and the government ended up in the public domain, published by the Enquirer newspaper, for example (MyJoyOnline, “Take away Rawlings’ entitlements if you will continue embarrassing him—Rawlings’ Office”; Oct. 28, 2011).

My immediate reaction to this news report was one of complete anger. I couldn’t understand why Rawlings, his household, and spokesmen should be so impudent as to misconstrue Ghanaians’ patience for their weakness. In the end, I blamed Ghanaians for being too soft, too tolerant, and too afraid to take decisive action for their own good. This opinion piece is borne out by that anger aroused by Andoh’s impudence.

The statement from Rawlings’ office does not only insult the intelligence of Ghanaians but it also underscores Ghanaians’ docility and timidity. It tests the patience of Ghanaians and confirms fears that those in charge of national affairs don’t have the requisite acumen to make bold decisions for the good of the people. For how long must Ghanaians cower before Rawlings to warrant such an abuse?

That statement is also mischievous and an arrant display of a combined arrogance and disdain for Ghanaians. Many reasons account for my stance. First, there is nothing “confidential” about Rawlings’ entitlements that should be kept away from Ghanaians. In effect, the benefits that Rawlings is enjoying come from the sweat, toil, and blood of ordinary Ghanaians. What justification is there for Rawlings and those who speak for him to think that the producers of those benefits shouldn’t know anything about how the product of their sweat, toil, and blood is allocated to Rawlings and all others who benefit from such concessions while the actual producers live in narrow circumstances?

Again, what is “private” about transactions between Rawlings and the government concerning his resettlement package that shouldn’t be brought into the public domain as Andoh is complaining about?

Andoh also made an annoying utterance that must be added to the above and condemned outright. He explained that since his appointment as the African Union’s representative for Somalia, Rawlings has requested for a special dispensation (in terms of ticket upgrades) to be given his aides on his travels to Somalia, which the Chief of Staff approved. Andoh’s beef is that several days later, details of such a private discussion ended up in a newspaper to create the impression that the ticket upgrades were part of Rawlings’ entitlements.

This statement could come from only a treacherous character in a misguided household of greedy bastards!! Does Andoh not know that Rawlings’ role in Somalia was carved for him by the African Union and not the Ghana government, which means that it is the African Union that must fund all his activities? Or is there anything to bind the Ghana Government to provide resources for his activities in Somalia? What does Ghana stand to gain from Somalia, anyway? How will the ordinary Ghanaian get his money’s worth from Rawlings’ Somalia mission?

Andoh has raised an issue that must provoke every Ghanaian. Should the cost of ticket upgrades for anybody wishing to go around with Rawlings on his Somalia mission (such as Herbert Mensah and Kofi Adams) be borne by the Ghanaian tax payer and not the African Union? And Andoh is saying that he is angry that information about this unnecessary burden on Ghana has been made available to Ghanaians?

Indeed, I blame Ghanaians for being too apathetic. In every sense, they should have taken action long ago to know everything concerning how the revenue they work hard to generate is expended by the government. Indeed, they should have taken on the government to furnish them with details on emoluments for all those being paid from the national coffers. In civilized countries, information on the salaries and allowances of public figures (currently in service and retired) is in the public domain. But for us, everything is shrouded in secrecy because we are more interested in glorifying mediocrity.

So far, we have been denied information on the salaries of the personnel of the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary; but we seem not to care. For as long as we give our politicians the blank cheque, they will live fat on our sweat, toil, and labour and become emboldened by our docility to spit in our faces!!

I can’t bring myself to understand how Rawlings, especially regards himself as far as the national cake is concerned. Since June 4, 1979, his entire household has depended on the national coffers to enjoy an enhanced lifestyle. In retirement, he still has his fingers deep in the fabric of the national coffers, being paid entitlements that run into tens of millions of Cedis—all just by virtue of his being audacious enough to enter political office through the barrel of the gun to establish a hegemony.

It is extremely irritating for Rawlings, his household, and those misguided loud-mouthed aides to continue to take Ghanaians for this kind of rough rollercoaster ride. What is wrong with Ghanaians at all?

When the Kufuor government took away all the courtesies due him, many condemned it and thought that it had gone too far. In taking that action, the Kufuor government made it clear that it won’t tolerate Rawlings’ scathing verbal attacks on it, using the resources that it gave him as his resettlement package to subvert that government. Under the Mills government, the very conditions that necessitated the Kufuor government’s action against him have persisted just because Rawlings has positioned himself as the Godfather of Ghana politics and won’t give his successors the peace of mind to rule Ghana with the people’s mandate. And just because Ghanaians are cowards who can’t take him on.

I am reminded of the incessant verbal attacks on the Mills government by Rawlings, his wife, and spokesmen since it became clear that President Mills had outgrown the Rawlings influence to become “his own man.”

Becoming “his own man” means not submitting himself to Rawlings to be dictated to. We’ve heard Rawlings complain that President Mills doesn’t take any advice from him, which seems to be the genesis of the strained relationship between both. Now that Rawlings has established himself as the most virulent critic of President Mills and spoken bitterly against being turned into an outcast in his own NDC, it is clear that he has already crossed the Rubicon. His anti-Mills politics goes on unabated but it doesn’t seem to be registering the kind of impact that would satisfy him. That is why he has been employing all means, including bad-mouthing President Mills and subterfuge, to either incite people against him or to attract undeserved sympathy.

We have reached a point in our national politics where such machinations should be quickly detected and rebuffed. If Rawlings and those loudmouths speaking for him think that whatever is given them from the national coffers is a “private” matter between them and the government, they are deceived. It is only a matter of time before action will be taken to expose all those dubious undertakings.

Ghanaians may be patient and tolerant but not stupid to be ridden roughshod. I urge the government to stand firm and not bow to the undue pressure being mounted by the Rawlingses. Whether the NDC will lose the 2012 polls if it doesn’t do Rawlings’ wish or not shouldn’t frighten anybody. What matters is that Ghanaians should be given whatever information they need to make their political decisions. We all know what catalyzes the Rawlingses’ anti-Mills politics and will not lose any sleep no matter what they do or say in frustration at not getting things done their way.

I have a piece of advice for this Kobina Andoh who, until coming out with this irritating statement, wasn’t known to anybody. I will advise him to look around him to see the footprints left behind by others who had been where he is today but found better things to do with their lives than being at the beck and call of the Rawlingses to be used and dumped at will. Unless he knows that those in front had long fallen into the pit dug for them by the Rawlingses, he should think more deeply and learn to develop wings before attempting to fly. He needs to know that if frogs had wings, they won’t waste all that time and energy hopping about.

For the Rawlingses themselves, time is ticking gradually to the moment when the reality that they’ve refused to reckon with all this while will stop them right in their tracks. It is Ghanaians who feed them and only they can starve them. Can they survive if they don’t do politics? Take away politics and its material benefits from them and they have nothing to sustain their lives. A bitter lesson awaits them. If I were the President and could have my own way, I would call their bluff and withdraw all those entitlements, constitutionally mandated or not, to prove to them that they can’t continue to bite the finger that feeds them and hope to be in the good books of the Ghanaian tax payers.

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.