By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK
Both President Mills and Ex-President Rawlings registered yesterday to vote in the forth coming Presidential and Parliamentary Elections scheduled for early December 2012. When, I saw the picture of the Ex-President registering (see “Rawlings registers to vote”, Ghanaweb April 5, 2012), the question I asked myself was, I wonder if he would vote for Nana Akufo-Addo as President? This question remained unanswered for a couple of minutes so I decided to share my dilemma with readers. I am sure I am not alone and would welcome your views.
Before I try to address the subject of the article, permit me to deviate a bit by making an interesting observation regarding the registration of the two eminent personalities. I do not know the rules and regulations for citizens to register at a particular registration centre. However, from media reports on activities of NDC and NPP agents, it appears to me that, one must register at either your place of residence or work. If that is accurate, why did President Mills register at Regimanuel Grey Estate, when he lives and works at the Castle in Osu? Again, Ex-President Rawlings is reported to be living in a village in the Volta Region and his office is at Ridge, so why did he register at Osu and not Ridge or the village in the Volta Region?
I also wonder why the NDC and NPP agents at the two registration centres did not dispute their eligibility to register at the two centres and failed to prevent the two from registering at the centres when it appears neither of them could qualify to register there. They have been preventing poor traders, most of them women from registering in some parts of Accra because they claim they do not live in those areas (see “Chaos in Odododiodio over biometric registration”, Ghanaweb April 5, 2012). If my assumptions are accurate, could it be that both President Mills and Ex-President Rawlings have wrongly registered and if so could they have committed an electoral offence? Could they be disqualified from voting if found to have provided false information on their residential addresses to the Electoral Commission or be prosecuted? It is well known that President Mills owns a property at the Regimanuel Grey Estate but is it true that that property is his main place of abode and does he live there?
Now to the main topic of the article. I posed the question obviously because of the ongoing civil war within the NDC and particularly, the cold war between the NDC founder, Ex-President Rawlings and his protégé, His Excellency President Mills. Ex-President Rawlings has openly criticised the Mills administration as incompetent, too slow and called the President and his cabinet members names that I do not intend to repeat. He is also on record to have said that, he could not campaign for the NDC because there would be no message to campaign on. Last but certainly not the least, Rawlings supported his wife to replace President Mills as NDC’s Presidential candidate for the December election but failed. Since the NDC congress in Suyani where the Rawlingses were humiliated, the relationship between the Rawlingses on one side and both the party and the President on the other has worsened beyond repair, though some still hope against hope that the two warring parties could be brought together for the good of the party and nation.
Just last week there were rumours that either the Rawlingses have or are in the process of forming a new party to contest the elections, though this has been denied by the Spokesperson for the Rawlingses, even if his denial left room for interpretation or misinterpretation as Kofi Adams is reported to have said that, Rawlings will only leave the NDC if his efforts to restore the values of the party failed. To me that meant it is possible Rawlings could leave the NDC and form a new party to contest the December elections. It has also been reported in the media that efforts are being made by some prominent Chiefs from the Volta Region to persuade the Rawlingses to patch up their differences with the party and the President, so that they join the 2012 campaign to ensure victory for the party. Some media houses have even reported that, the Rawlingses have rejected the peace efforts of the chiefs and all indications are that, reconciliation between the master and his apprentice are highly unlikely, though Kofi Adams has again said that Rawlings needs no begging to campaign for NDC. That also leaves room for speculation that Rawlings could join the NDC campaign in the near future.
With all the above, it is right, appropriate and just to assume that, Rawlings will definitely not vote for President Mills at the December 2012 Presidential Elections. But would that mean he will vote for Nana Akufo-Addo? Opponents of Nana Akufo-Addo try to create the impression that Rawlings is his sworn enemy. They claim that it was Akufo-Addo who persuaded or even forced Ex-President Kufuor to withdraw the VIP privileges enjoyed by Rawlings as former head of state under the NPP reign. Again, it was reported last week that, Akufo-Addo will send Rawlings for trial at the International Criminal Court in the Hague for crimes against humanity if he is elected President. With such real or perceive dislike for Rawlings, is it imaginable that Rawlings would vote for him?
I think opponents of Nana Akufo-Addo hype his perceive dislike for Rawlings because, Nana Akufo-Addo as a human rights activist was one of Rawlings’s Attorneys when he was tried for an abortive coup in May 1979. I also think that Akufo-Addo as the then Kufuor’s Attorney General or Foreign Minister might have been asked for his advice on the implications of the state withdrawing his privileges. If that was the case and he provided his opinion in the affirmative, he cannot be held responsible for the action of Kufuor’s government. Again, even if Nana Akufo-Addo wins the Presidency in December, he would face a mammoth task before he could send Rawlings for trial at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. First, he would have to amend the Constitution to remove the immunity clauses, which I understand are entrenched and would require a referendum. There are even members in his own party (NPP) who would not support the removal of the immunity clauses in the constitution, so that would be is a no go area. Finally, the establishment of the National Reconciliation Commission by Kufuor presupposed that crimes and human rights abuses under the Rawlings regime have been addressed and it would be unjust to reopen them, let alone prosecute him. What happened to the reconciliation, a failure?
Having said the above and in my opinion, it would not be feasible, if not impossible for Rawlings to vote for his political opponent. I believe the Rawlingses have not so soon forgotten what happened to them under the NPP, especially the trial of Mrs Rawlings. That may be too fresh in their minds for any of them to contemplate voting for the NPP Presidential candidate.
So what will happen to his Presidential vote in December 2012? Well, if his wife is not a candidate and the difficulties with the President and the party are unresolved at the time of the elections, he has a number of choices. He can either vote for Mills, Akufo-Addo or another candidate. Alternatively, he could abstain or give a protest vote by spoiling his presidential ballot paper. Whichever option he opts for would not easy for him. He would certainly find himself between a hard surface and a rock. He would probably go for the easier option and vote for his party’s candidate. He would copy the Republican conservatives who dislike Mitt Romney but for the hatred they have for Obama, they will vote for Mitt come November 6, 2012. (I am not in any way suggesting that Rawlings hates Nana Akufo-Addo). For Rawlings, that would be a gargantuan eating of a gargantuan humble pie. Please do not take my word for granted because a British politician once said that, “one week is a very long time in politics”. There are at least eight more months to election day, so there is more time for Ex-President Rawlings ponder over his options and to make up his mind or for the Rawlingses, the President and the party to smoke the peace pipe. What do you think and where you put your bet?
Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK