By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong
Ever since President John Atta Mills came to power some eight months ago, the founder of his National Democratic Party (NDC), ex-President Jerry Rawlings, has been undermining him more than the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP). This has come about because of the level of democratic civility of the two parties. The NDC, an off-short of military juntas and no-party regimes, is owned by the mercurial and emotionally unstable Rawlings, the NPP is a coalition of like-minded folks who believe democracy is the best vehicle for Ghana’s progress.
Today Rawlings claims to be democratic, even touted in some uninformed quarters as “father of democracy,” just because his NDC, from the pseudo-military PNDC, opened up, after years of internecine pressure from local and the international community, for democracy after years of one-party and -military dictatorships. But events on the ground reveal that either Rawlings isn’t a democrat or he is confused as to how democracy works or his years of absolute power has corrupted his soul. By nature a tyrant, Rawlings has been troubling the infant Ghanaian democracy so much as that even his own NDC is being threatened by him, occasionally throwing President Mills, who had earlier being his Vice President, off-course.
In a build up to Rawlings’ undemocratic behaviours, he attacked (not in the sense of matured criticism as a matter of civility but as a way of undermining the democratic system) President Mills, on August 24 in Kumasi, in a speech to the fringe youth wind (United Cadres Front) of the NDC, so much so that he went to the extent of saying: the Atta Mills-led government lacks the “revolutionary spirit to govern the country” in a military coup attempt tone; that President Atta Mills is “dull” and “slow” to the extent of portraying Mills as inefficient and should be removed; that “if things did not change immediately for the better, then some of them in the party (NDC) would advise themselves; and that the Atta Mills government should “adopt his (Rawlings’) dynamic leadership style,” among others.
What a threat unbecoming of an ex-President! The reality is Mills is no Jerry Rawlings. By birth and natural orientation Mills has different style of doing things and all leaders govern differently, and so Mills cannot govern like Rawlings. Mills has PHD in law and a former university professor, Rawlings has “O” Level and a former military pilot. Mills is more emotionally balanced, thoughtful and more reasonable, Rawlings, thoughtless, is an emotional mess that has jammed his reasoning. Mills, 65, is older than Rawlings, 61.
Ruling an African state is complicated, especially if you have somebody like Rawlings constantly pouring his emotional and misguided venoms into the political process. With its histories, cultures and complexes, ruling an Africans that has been asphyxiated by the like of Rawlings do not need rush but high thoughtfulness drawn from the culture and history of the state, fuller grasp of the nuances wheeling the state and immense balances, as Botswana shows.
In Rawlings’ democratic world there is no rule of law or freedoms or human rights, a situation that characterized his almost 20 years rule. And like people traditionally suspected of being witches, you grab people you suspected of being corrupt or have committed an offence and either kill them, lynch them, demean them, dehumanize them, maim them, or banish them arbitrarily. In Rawlings’ almost 20 years in power, there were widespread executions, harassments, threats, exiling, deaths, people vanishing, abductions, fear, and all that characterized a dark Stalinist state.
So, as Kwesi Pratt, editor of the Accra-based Insight, told Ghanaians, as a response to Rawlings’ puerile outburst, “Again, Rawlings said, that Prez Mills is slow in arresting and prosecuting former gov’t officials in the NPP Administration. But is that how citizens are arrested? That you are not charged with any offence, not tried by the courts and yet imprisoned?”
More disturbing to Ghana’s fledging democracy is Rawlings threatening that “he is allowing the sitting President some time but that he might run out of tolerance.” Who is Rawlings to say that in the backdrop of over 23 million Ghanaians and high-powered Kings and Queens like Asantehene Osei Tutu 11, Agbogbomefia Torgbui Afede Asor XIV, and Okyehene Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin? Why all these statements from a man in the same party with President Mills? Again, Pratt spoke Ghanaians mind when he said that, “If he runs out of patience, what can he do, will he attempt a coup d’état or will he fight Ghanaians? He should give us a break. The time has come for us to let him know that Ghana belongs to all of us and we won’t allow this kind of narcissism anymore … If you don’t share the same opinion or agree with someone, why, that is okay, Does that call for issuing threats?”
Rawlings’ stupidity and the danger of Ghana’s/Africa’s sickening Big Man syndrome? To know why Africa despite its vast wealth and riches is still entangled in extreme material and psychological despair, just look at Rawlings. Rawlings came to the Ghanaian political scene in a turbulent era of coups detat carnivals, one-party fete, and no-party jamboree. In all these, Africa’s progress was deteriorating, as leaders, despite their paternalistic postures, in Southeast Asia and Latin America were thinking grandly and strategizing of how to prosper. Even Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, despite his human rights violations, who uplifted Chile into reasonable degree of prosperity, did not behave like Rawlings. Ghana is at the rank of 135th out of 177 of the UN Human Development Index (UNHDI, 2008/2009 Report) that measures the wellbeing of countries world wide, most of these abysmal situations under Rawlings’ watch. Chile is today a First World country, ranked 40th out of 177 of UNHDI Report of 2008/2009.
Hard development facts aside, Rawlings’ egocentrism and irrational conduct emanate from certain ridiculous Ghanaian/African cultural believes that have been projected onto Africa’s development process. Rawlings thinks he is God sent and he behaves accordingly, playing on Ghanaians’ entrenched negative superstitions in an atmosphere of hero-worshiping, low intellectual current, and some wrong-headed musicians who touted Rawlings as having Jesus Christ characteristics.
For almost 20 years Rawlings had thorough grip on Ghana and for almost 20 years there was corresponding groundswell of campaigns to return Ghana to democracy – against the backdrop of coup and assassinations attempts and invasions. In all these, accountability, freedoms, the rule of law, and human rights were limited. Fear and threats ruled supreme and the culture of silence characterized Ghanaians psychology – anybody could just be killed just like that. Under immense pressure to democratize, Rawlings, in line with Africa’s Big Man syndrome, repeatedly said, “To whom.” This arrogant, shocking statement from a filthy, marijuana-smoking, juju-marabout-minded, semi-literate, who doesn’t know Ghana, believes of all the almost 23 million Ghanaians only he can rule. But that’s Africa, anybody can be President no what.
Why should Rawlings, at 61 years, repeatedly be a threat to the state of Ghana’s democracy? Paradoxically, how does one fathom the sense that this is man who said he is father of democracy and simultaneously work to undermine it? This is a man who said he brought security to Ghana but yet scheme to bring insecurity? Has Rawlings got a mirror that reflects his disturbing behaviour for him to see himself? Is he advised by his wife, children and his extended family about his worsening public conduct? Does he listen to his NDC party people about his dreadful behaviour? Has Rawlings got friends who advise him? Why has Ghanaians tolerated him for far too long? If all Ghanaians were to behave like him, will there be any Ghana?
It is strange to see a former African President talk and behave like Rawlings, especially in the volatile African environment. Such strange behaviour raises questions whether Rawlings suffers from epilepsy, “a common chronic neurological disorder characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures.” In Rawlings any time there is unprovoked seizures, he pours threats that send fear, chaos, deaths, harrassments, images of disorders of yesteryears, and democratic stasis across Ghana.
As part of Ghana’s democratic enalargment and as part of rehabilitating Ghana’s/Africa’s years of Big Man syndrome, disaster, authoritarianism, and chaos, the main opposition New Patriotic Party should use Rawlings’ threatening behaviour as democratic fodder to defeat the ruling NDC in 2012.