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Opinions of Saturday, 9 July 2011

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Has Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings committed political suicide

....by contesting the NDC Primaries?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

Millions of Ghanaians at home and abroad will be paying attention to the NDC party congress in Suyani to elect their Presidential candidate for 2012 this weekend. The congress may also attract attention from afar and beyond Ghana for a number of reasons, including the fact that, the NDC is the party in government, Ghana’s global image as an African democratic success story in a continent that elections are hotly contested for the wrong reasons, and last but certainly not the least, a former First Lady and the wife ex-President Rawlings is challenging the incumbent President for the right to represent the party in the 2012 Presidential election. The decision by the former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings (hereinafter referred to as Nana) has in itself generated hot debates as part of Ghana’s political discourse. It is this decision and the ongoing political discourse that I intend to analyse in my third and possibly the final article on the subject.

A number of political and social commentators, religious and traditional leaders within and outside the NDC have argued that, Nana as a Ghanaian of a sound mind and above the age of forty has every right (both constitutional and democratic) to contest for the office of the President of the Republic. They further assert that, her decision to challenge the President is a manifestation of NDC’s democratic credentials that would deepen internal democracy and even contribute to the nation’s growing democracy. Those who hold such views justify the constitutional and democratic rights by drawing comparison with the Hilary Clinton’s (also former First Lady) failed attempt to seek the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination in the 2008 US Presidential elections. There are others who are averse to such opinion and I agree with them that such postulate is a fallacy.

Some of us who have had the opportunity to relate to the Rawlingses know well that both husband and wife either do not believe in democracy (as practiced in developed societies) or they have their own peculiar form of democracy. That is, they must be in control or in a layman’s words, they are dictators. A critical review of the reasons given by the Rawlingses, their supporters (especially, Fanatics of Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings-FONKAR) and sympathisers as to why Nana made the decision to challenge the President indicates that, the overriding reason is their marginalisation by the Mills Presidency. For example, reasons such as, disregard for party structures, disregard of advice given to the President by Rawlings, the plight of foot soldiers, non-prosecution of former NPP appointees, etc. Their deeds and words have no semblance to “democracy” and I wonder how this decision can contribute to developing NDC’s internal democracy, let alone Ghana’s democratic development. Rawlings’s imposition of the then Professor Atta Mills as a Presidential candidate on the party was undemocratic and an attempt to subvert the constitution of Ghana by controlling the Presidency by proxy and as a de facto President. When that backfired on him, he is now scheming with the wife to subvert the constitution but this time through surrogacy. How can such manipulations be considered constitutional and democratic rights?

Those who draw analogy with Hillary Clinton are wrong because the Clintons have a firm belief in and respect for true democracy, unlike the Rawlingses who display open contempt and are scheming to undermine democracy. For example, prior to Hillary Clinton announcing her decision to seek the Democratic nomination, she said that she would not run against Al Gore who was the Vice President under her husband’s Presidency. She was of the view that a contest between her and Al Gore would not have been in the best interest of the Democratic Party. The Rawlingses are power drank and just after political power, so what they are doing has nothing to do with constitutional or democratic rights.

I am sure readers have heard of Sandra Torres, the former First Lady of Guatemala, who recently divorced her husband, President Alvaro Colon just to stand for the Presidency herself. The divorce was to overcome a constitutional ban on close relatives of the president running for the position. Luck eluded her and the Supreme Electoral Court of Guatemala has rejected her candidacy as “legal fraud”. There is no doubt in my mind that, if there was a similar constitutional impediment to the Rawlingses in Ghana, they would have resorted to the same fraud in their misguided efforts to grab political power. To me, the machinations of the Rawlingses are tantamount to constitutional and democratic fraud and a threat to the country’s constitution and the development of genuine democracy in Ghana. Ghanaians should be bold to call a spade, a spade and not define it as an instrument for collecting sand.

The Rawlingses believe that the NDC is their party and therefore, the two of them should be able to dictate who leads the party and the country, if the NDC is in power. Instead of the elder statesman and woman roles they are expected to play within the party and in the nation, because of their insatiable appetite for power and the burning urge in them to be taking executive decisions, they have been unable to accept that they are no longer in power or control. The decision of Nana and her husband (since she says, she does not tact without seeking his approval) to become an elected member of the National Executive of the NDC was wrong. That was the first misjudgement and the beginning of the road to nowhere. Though she was democratically elected, I did not see it that way because I am of the view that the ex-First Lady could do better than that and so it the final straw that will break the carmel’s back (the challenge to contest the NDC primaries).

There are others who claim that her timing was wrong. Again, I disagree with them. The Rawlingses have ruled Ghana for nearly two decades and have had all the opportunities to contribute their quota to nation’s development. The no longer need to be in executive power to continue to contribute to Ghana’s development If they could not do fulfil their objectives when they had absolute power, what could they do now offer when both the Legislature and Judiciary are able to assert their influence on the Executive? The era of Mr and Mrs Rawlings being at the forefront of national politics is gone and gone forever. Their generation and this generation would not accept their political leadership in Ghana through democratic elections and they must accept it and adjust themselves to playing the roles of elder statesman and stateswoman rather than jostling for political power. That does not mean that they cannot play leading roles in nation building but not necessarily as political office holders. They should learn from true statesmen like Nelson Mandela, Ex-President Kuffour, Tony Blair, George Bush and others. The Rawlingses have every right to express their opinions on issues of governance, corruption and other issues of national importance as well as criticising political leaders. However, the daily, weekly and monthly attacks on and the name calling of leaders after them are uncalled for and utter disrespect for the office of the Presidency. Such mis/behaviour is not in the spirit of democracy.

Those against her candidacy also argue that, Ghana is not a political dynasty and therefore Nana should not run for the Presidency as her husband was the ex-President. I initially held the same view until I realised that, if that was the case than Nana Akufo-Addo should also not seek the Presidency since his father was once (Ceremonial) President of Ghana under the second Republic. That argument no longer holds water if Nana Addo is the Presidential candidate of the NPP. Again, there is nothing wrong with family members occupying the most powerful position in a nation. The US have had two father and son Presidents, expect that and as I pointed out earlier, the Rawlings are anti democracy and are calculating to impose a dynasty on Ghana. That is why the Ghanaian electorate would reject her candidacy if she ever contested for the Presidency.

The other disturbing element of the decision by Nana to go for the Presidency, is those who are behind her candidacy. She claims she was encouraged or even coerced into challenging the incumbent President. In her own words, she was responding to their call. Until she began her campaign, I assumed that she was a shrewd and matured political operator but that opinion has been shredded into becoming a political mirage. Some or most of those behind FONKAR are nothing more than mere opportunists who have no political base, constituency or alliance within the NDC and Ghana. At best they are novices on the Ghanaian political landscape in terms of clout, influence or resources. In fact, some of them lack political conviction and total loss of confidence in themselves, so for Nana to allow these political misfits to charter a course of what could be a political suicide, for her is disingenuous. I do not accept that she was coerced into or responding to any call but she had had a long held ambition to become the first woman President of Ghana. Despite unambiguous evidence on the grounds that Nana will lose the NDC primaries, these people are still in denial and self-convinced that she will win and even go on to beat Nana Akufo-Addo in 2012. Are these guys from Mars or just deluded fanatics who have no shame or have lost any sense of reality?

The facts on the grounds favour the President. Apart from the advantages of incumbency, some of his major supporters have influence in Western region, and he is from Central region, so the votes from the two regions are assured. The Vice-President is from Northern region and a number of ministers and NDC appointees are from the two other regions of the north and they are most likely for vote to maintain the status quo. Brong Ahafo can be delivered by the party’s General Secretary. It is highly unlikely that Nana can secure the votes from Ashanti, Eastern and Greater Accra regions. I even doubt if Volta region will disown the President and considering the fact that, majority of ministers, MPs and Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives will go with the President, it is mathematically impossible for Nana to win.

The Rawlingses have made a monumental miscalculation by believing that their fanatical grassroots support would deliver the NDC primaries to them, when they were well aware that the so-called fool/t soldiers did not have a vote at the congress to elect the party’s presidential candidate. By this misjudgement and machination, they have damaged their (political) legacy, particularly in Ghana. Though, I sound as if I am anti-Rawlings, I am not and do recognise that they have made significant contribution to Ghana’s development and still have some role to play. However, unless they change tact, both the party and the electorate may regard them as spent fuel and they would be writing their own political obituary. Though the defeat of Nana at the NDC congress would not end their political oblivion, they could become political dinosaurs. I would be surprise if Nana gets more than ten percent of the total votes at the elections, let alone win, though miracle do happen.

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK