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Feature Article of Friday, 19 October 2012

Columnist: Ashong, Nii Tettey

JJ Rawlings - The Anatomy Of A Political Enigma

The persona Jerry Rawlings remains

a foreboding enigma – a politician of mystery, full of melancholy, contrasts

and paradoxes. The exact definitions were ascribed to Africa by B.N. Ayitey in

the introductory chapters of his book, “Africa Betrayed”. Like the title of

that book, I’m sure some elements within our body politic would want to paint a

similar picture of betrayal between Jerry Rawlings and his beloved N.D.C. Well,

we can leave that episode for later, what attracts the nib of my pen now, is

the foggy political character of the retired flight lieutenant born to Madam

Victoria Agbotui and the Scottish Chemist on the 22nd July, 1947.

Mischievous as it may seem, history

has a way of knocking certain characters into our heads to the extent that

denying those means denying our heads. Whoever tells the political history of

Ghana and denies Chairman Rawlings of his place has denied the relevance of his

story. I’m told that on 15th May 1979, he and a group of junior officers in the

Ghana Air Force attempted a mutiny against the regime of Fred Akuffo which resulted

in their arrest and imprisonment. However, Rawlings shot to fame

with the June 4th 1979 coup that ousted the Supreme Military Council

and introduced the AFRC which he led as Chairman. Since then, the fair faced gentleman

kept stealing the show in the concert of Ghanaian politics. He’s had his high

points; the days when he was likened to Jesus, the days when he was the most

handsome man in Ghana, the days when octogenarians died of heart attack at the

sight of him, the days when J.J was on the lips of toddlers, and mothers; with

dangling breasts would ran to catch a glimpse of the man of the moment. Indeed,

my fondest memory of him was in 1997 when as a kid in my hometown, our first

public health centre was being inaugurated. Though my little cousin was the one

chosen to present the bouquet of flowers to the president, as was the culture

at the time, I was happy that I was made to stand somewhere I could possibly

take a good view of the man. Trust me, “I saw the man”. He beamed with so much

energy and charisma that infested me with pride to have him as President. I’m

not sure of now, but I can’t deny that I ever admired the man.

A few years down the line, as

Africa kept faith with multi- party democracy, the grandeur surrounding the

personality of Papa J was still pervasive in any public account of the Ghanaian

political trajectory. He is a man ever loved by Ghana; and most dearly, by the

political party brought forth under his midwifery, the NDC. I’ve never seen a

founder whose qualities were ever flaunted in people’s faces than the NDC did

to Rawlings. More so, he has been the salt of their electioneering campaigns

over the years. I’m sure there were times when my friends in the Danquah –

Busia fraternity wished their ideological pacesetters had stayed alive a bit

longer. History somersaults; today, Rawlings has become a fever in the blood.

In recent times, discussions have been held to quantify how much relevance he

still has, left in Ghanaian politics. As the pundits keep throwing their

opinions in our faces, the vapour in my head and that of several other

Ghanaians keeps condensing too many questions especially about the means and ways

of the man, J.J Rawlings. I’ m left with no other description of him than to

call him a mystery. He acts in ways we don’t understand. Even Jesus’ parables

most of the time were explained. Let’s try to research him in the following


First and foremost, the coup of 31st December 1981 is one that has often generated

controversy in the market place

of historical analyses of events in our politics. There are many who think that

Rawlings’ second coup was needless and as a matter of fact based on his own

reflexes. Perhaps it was meant to merely demonstrate the machismo of the coup

maker in him. People tend to find more justice in the 1979 coup because the

AFRC, under the chairmanship of Rawlings, carried out a much wider

"house-cleaning exercise" aimed at purging the armed forces and

society at large of corruption and graft as well as restoring a sense of moral

responsibility and accountability in public life to the pride of many

Ghanaians. Rawlings was even disciplined enough to follow a program already set

in motion before the June 4 uprising, to organize free general elections hence

handing over power to a civilian government led by the People's National Party

(PNP), under President Hilla Limann on 24th September, 1979. Now

though it’s admitted that a few things went wrong under the Limann regime, I

think that toppling a civilian government after two years of handing over power

to him was an expression of Rawlings’ own personal disagreement with himself –

the beginning of his foreboding enigma. No wonder, the likes of Boakye Gyan

have made comments purporting to register that the 1981 coup was a betrayal of

the principles that guided the 1979 coup.

Subsequently, life under the PNDC

and later NDC on whose banner the guiding principles of probity, accountability

and social justice was indelibly imprinted, supposedly hasn’t been the pleasure

of many Ghanaians. Like every life under a military leader, the PNDC regime

recorded a litany of social injustices and repugnant suppression of civil

liberties. Rawlings cannot claim to have lived his utopian dream of creating a

much better and socially equal life for all Ghanaians under his military dictatorship

and subsequent civilian rule. There were rots under PNDC and NDC, the wrath of

several Ghanaians were incurred, there was no piety in public life; at least

the secretaries under PNDC have not claimed so. Today, the fight of corruption

in public life is still on and though it’s not my place to judge whether the

Rawlings’ principle of probity and accountability has been a fiasco or not, I

can say with all the emphasis I command that the verdict is unpleasant and

sometimes indicting on the personality of Rawlings. More especially, the

allegations of corruption and wanton misuse of the public purse leveled against

this current government is a contrast to the principles ever espoused by the

sole founder on whose vision and ideals the NDC was formed - The blood and soul

of Jerry Rawlings in a contrast. Now, let’s

see what has happened in recent times.

Today in Ghana, history is being

recorded; the only living founder of a political party in government might face

an expulsion from the party in whose constitution his visions and ideals has

been reiterated in ink. Whoever said that the bath blood between Jerry Rawlings

and the NDC might get to this crescendo, could have suffered under the

paralysis of the NDC’s curse. Well, we all know where it started. The protégé

of Rawlings, whom he declared as his beloved successor at the famous Swedru

declaration came under the wildest of attacks after he took over as President

of this country. There is no need repeating some of the earlier descriptions,

but trust me, the late Prof. Mills and his appointees suffered in the hands of

the man believed to be his mentor and founder of the party he was leading. It

was that bad that when tempers flared; the founder and coup scholar was reduced

to a mere “barking dog”. Even the babies in government had some unkind words

for him because Rawlings became a bullet in the flesh of almost everybody in

the NDC except his wife and Kofi Adams. The next dramatic angle was when

Rawlings contested the sitting president for the flagbearership position of the

party through the mischief of his wife. The events of recent times have left

the Rawlings even more vulnerable. More prominently is the birth of a new baby

whose paternity he might not have to deny. The National Democratic Party,

believed to be a bi-product of the incessant displeasure registered by the

Rawlings cult within the NDC, as some have suggested, is meant to annihilate the

NDC into total damnation. My head aches at the thought of how a man plots to

destroy his 20 year old son by giving birth or adopting a new crippled son. Oh

yes, let the facts be told, the NDP is crippled at birth and history would tell

us why. There has been a betrayal in the NDC, and it’s a mystery to think that

the Rawlings has betrayed the NDC – The remnants or deterioration of his own


So as we go into the election in a

few months time, A few questions keep begging for answers: How relevant would

the Rawlings factor be in the politics of our time especially within the NDC

after the elections? What are the constituent particles of the personality of

Rawlings that he keeps bringing us surprises? Is he a man of stern and rigorous

commitment to his principles? Rawlings keeps calling people with names nobody

ever knew they had, he keeps showing up at rallies he is least expected, he

keeps meeting his perceived arch enemies, he keeps showing the NDC the red card

yet on another breath believes Mahama has brought some spark of hope to the NDC


Rawlings is a research problem and a phenomenon that can cease your breath today

and bring you life tomorrow. His outbursts sometimes can be a scar on the mind.

Jerry Rawlings might be extinct someday but until he does, the tumour he leaves

on the skin of Ghanaian politics is an enigma that can set the brain on fire –

My reflections.

Nii Tettey Ashong,


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