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Opinions of Sunday, 29 July 2012

Columnist: Ayidan, Kojo

How Rawlings poked the eyes of the Atta-Mills family and Ghanaians

By Kojo Ayidan

For those of you who have been around for a while, you would remember the fierce battle of words between two leading Ghanaian journalists, the late Dan Ansah of the Voice Newspaper, and the late George Nakene of the Catholic Standard, I guess; that was one battle that had one of the most bizarre ends in the history of Ghanaian journalism.

George Nakene, was the first to pass on to the land of the ancestors, and even in his death, the late Dan Ansah bid him farewell with the most callous of words you can say to dead man: RIP - “Rust in Pieces.”

The late George Nakene’s son, George junior, is a friend and a colleague journalist; and I felt his pain. Everybody who knew the two arch enemies thought Dan did not do well, because George’s death was an opportunity for him to have told the world the kind of respect he had for George, in spite of their differences; and that is not too much to ask, because after all ‘dead men don’t talk’. George could not defend himself then, so there was no point in using, to borrow from the Atta-Mills family and from Nii Lantey Vanderpuije, such ‘insensitive, absurd, irresponsible, uncouth, inhumane, derogatory and uncensored insults’ on a dead man.

That, I guess, was what every single Ghanaian expected of Former President Jerry John Rawlings when he had the first ever opportunity to speak about President John Evans Atta-Mills’ death on a no mean international platform as the BBC. That was not too much to ask of a man who once made President Mills his Tax Commissioner, Vice President and practically endorsed him as Presidential Candidate of the party he [Rawlings] founded.

I have read the response of the Mills family to Rawlings unfortunate statements on BBC, and I have also read Rawlings’ comments about the media reports of his statement on BBC. Frankly, I have no words to describe the level to which Rawlings and the boys following him have thrashed every bit of respect I had left for them. I wonder whether that was an apology, a retraction, or an explanation of the inexplicable; or an accusation of the media for supposedly misinterpreting his clear statements; or another attempt to now turn his insults on the family of President Atta-Mills and Ghanaians by saying we were so stupid, we misunderstood the simple English he spoke?

For the avoidance of doubt, let’s state exactly what Rawlings said on BBC and explain to Rawlings and his boys, what they did not understand but every true Ghanaian did.

RAWLINGS: “It was quite a shock to both me and my wife but IT WAS NOT UNEXPECDTED BECAUSE HE’S BEEN BATTLING WITH CANCER FOR QUITE A WHILE NOW, you know, but this is certainly the wrong time for him to go considering that WE HAVE ELECTIONS, you know, AROUND THE CORNER IN DECEMBER. QUESTION: Are you concerned about the elections? RAWLINGS: Yeah, both of them actually, quite frankly I think HAD HE BEEN ADVISED AND DONE SOMETHING WISER, YOU KNOW, EARLIER ON, HE COULD PROBABLY HAVE SURVIVED, YOU KNOW, FOR, I DON’T KNOW, FOR ANOTHER SIX – SEVEN MONTH YES, but it got too tight, you know, it got extremely tight and the professor is passed away. QUESTION: What kind of legacy is he leaving Ghana? RAWLINGS: He’s played his part, as my Vice President, I think he was one of the finest, you know, he was indeed one of the finest, but there again CONSIDERING THAT THE CANCER AFFECTED BOTH HIS EYE AND HIS EAR, YOU KNOW, HE COULDN’T SUSTAIN MORE THAN THREE HOURS, YOU KNOW, PER DAY SO IT WAS NATURALLY GOING TO AFFECT HIS PERFORMANCE, that’s why I think he would done just as well or even better, okay…THE ONLY UNFORTUNATE THING THOUGH IS THE PASSING AWAY, NO, NO, NO NOT THE PASSING AWAY , THE, THE KILLING OF THE…SOME OF THE COLD BLOODED KILLINGS THAT TOOK PLACE BEFORE WE CAME INTO OFFICE COULD HAVE BEEN REINVESTIGATED, YOU KNOW, I WOULD HAVE WISHED HE HAD REALLY DONE THAT, YOU KNOW, BUT LETS SEE WHAT CAN BE DONE WITH THE TIME THAT’S LEFT. QUESTION: What about John Drama [John Dramani Mahama] who has been sworn in, is he a man of vision you know him very well you appointed him as Minister of Communications does he have the vision the kind of leadership that will make Ghana go forward? RAWLINGS: I DON’T KNOW, BUT I HOPE SO.

Those are the words that we are being told that the whole of Ghana, including the family of the late President, full of professors and highly-learned people that Rawlings, his wife and his boys would probably not be able to hold a candle to, and all the learned chiefs, traditionalist and governance expects, did not understand and may have misinterpreted. I want very much to believe Rawlings did not write that statement himself, and probably did not even see it before it went public. But if he did, then surely he has shown that he has no intention of helping to heal the deep wounds he has caused all Ghanaians, both at home and abroad, and he would rather dare the family of the late President to do their worst.

So which part of Rawlings’ statements does he think was misinterpreted and or misunderstood? A critical look at the offensive nature of Rawlings words would probably explain what he is seeking to call misinterpretation and misunderstanding on the part of every single person who has talked about this issue. I do not think it is a coincidence that nobody who has spoken about this matter, has held brief for Rawlings because there is nothing to hold on to.

OFFENCE NUMBER ONE Rawlings said President Mills’ death was not unexpected and that he has been battling with cancer for a while now. He said the cancer has affected his eye and his ear and he could not survive for more than three hours a day. Then he killed it by saying if the president had been advised and he had done something wiser, he would have lived for another six or seven months.

What exactly is Rawlings telling us, and why now and not earlier. Does Rawlings realize that he is telling us that he knows for a fact that President Mills died of cancer – is Rawlings President Mills’ doctor – does Rawlings realize that he is telling us that he has been aware President Mills’ cancer even from the time he was his Vice President – was it because of President Mills’ cancer that Rawlings wanted to push him out and put his wife through to the presidency – does Rawlings realize that he is telling Ghanaians and the family of President Mills that the president died out of his own, excuse my language, unwise decisions – and lastly, does Rawlings realize he is telling us that President Mills was doomed to death latest in the next seven months?

Wow, how callous, insulting, inhumane could one be to a dead honorable man. Very few people get battered in death, but hardly do you see such a noble man battered in the manner Rawlings has battered President Mills both in life and in death. How could you tell us our president did unwise things and that was why he died earlier than he would have, and then turn around and tell us we misinterpreted what you said and we did not understand you? How could you tell us that our president had a maximum of seven months more to live, even though he was running for another four-year term, and turn round and add insult to our injury that we are also probably too silly to understand what you said? Rawlings is simply impossible. He is telling us President Mills’ level of wisdom became so deficient that he could not even do the things that would make him enjoy the additional seven months available to him. Isn’t Rawlings playing God; purporting to know when the President was supposed to have died?

OFFENCE NUMBER TWO Rawlings said the president died too early because there is an election in December. How low can one stoop, placing the craving for power over and above the life or a noble man. One cannot blame Rawlings that much because in his mind the President is nothing more than a traitor. So if a traitor dies, why should it be so important to him than the political power in sight? In many ways, Rawlings is like Dan Ansah who said to George Nakene’s corpse “Rust in Pieces”. But the missing link in the equation is that, unlike George Nakene did to Dan, President Mills never said one insulting word to Rawlings whiles he was alive, so how could Rawlings tell the world that President Mills was as important as the power he would have won for the party, and that even the four years he has been in office, and probably the eight years he served as Rawlings Veep are not that important. What about the person of President Mills – how much does that mean to Rawlings. The point where Rawlings said something good about President Mills as his [Rawlings’] Veep, he quickly negated it by saying, but there again the cancer had affected his eye and ear and he could not survive for three hours in a day. So did we understand or we did not understand. And the journalist asked Rawlings a very smart questions, but I guess he was too… to understand the questions. The journalist said “ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THE ELECTIONS?” In other words – was Rawlings more concerned about the elections even at the time when he should be talking about the noble man who served his country?

OFFENCE NUMBER THREE Rawlings found it very convenient to blame the dead man for not reinvestigating the killings of some people – a matter that he, Rawlings, never ceased to talk about until the demise of the President. Now he is dead and you accuse his corpse of not seeking justice for allegedly murdered persons? How many times has it not been alleged that Rawlings did one thing or the other in this country – how many killings took place under Rawlings 11-year watch as de facto head of state? But Ghanaians have just decided that Rawlings is an albatross that we are willing to live with and allow to just be. If the late President Atta-Mills had wanted to probe every allegation of murders and killings, the people that may have been lined up would have been way more than the people Rawlings had in mind as the murders, enemies and whatever it is that he calls political opponents. He accused a dead man of failing on his duty without thinking for a second how the family, wife and son would feel about it. That is the offence.

OFFENCE NUMBER FOUR A new president has been sworn in, and you had the first shot at international media to give comments about the new president and you decided to distance yourself from him completely. Meanwhile, this is someone you once appointed Minister of Communication and called a man of integrity, like you used to call all of your minister.

THE WORSE OFFENCE The worse of offence is even not what he said, but what he did not say, the time he said what he said, and where he said them. Rawlings had a glorious opportunity to extend his condolences to the wife and family of the late President and he did not say even a word of condolence to them, he rather chose to run his mouth on the dead man and play God. In Ghanaian tradition, nothing bad is usually said about the dead at least for one week. Rawlings granted the unfortunate interview same day; and he could have used the opportunity to focus on the good side of Mills, but he did not; and he also did not stick to the facts but to mere conjectures and assumptions. He was not even at home when the incident occurred so he had ample opportunity to return home, see the wife and family of the late President and console them properly before saying anything at all. But he did none of that and just started running his mouth.

MALICIOUS INTENTIONS Rawlings and his boys want all us to believe he had no malicious intentions. How dare Rawlings think of all of us as such fools, knowing he has been the arch enemy and critic of the late President, calling him a traitor and predicting his vanquish as the December elections, calling his men greedy bastards and practically campaigning against him on a consistent basis; telling the whole world the late president was leading Ghana into an abyss, presiding over corruption, buying votes, and all that; and Rawlings wants us to believe he had no malicious intentions? Please, please and please, do not add insult to injury, at least give us some credit. In any case we are not magicians to know what Rawlings’ intentions were; we can only judge him based on what he said on BBC, as compared to what he has been saying about the late president for the past three and half years. Everything Rawlings has said about Mills over the past three and half years has been nothing but malicious; so what are Rawlings and his boys telling us? Now the man is dead and Rawlings could not spare him of the last dose of his malicious battering, calling him unwise, and predicting he would have died in seven months – criticizing him for not seeking justice for the dead and purporting to know exactly what killed him; and again accusing him of not staying on long enough to go get political power for Rawlings’ party.

Everything Rawlings has said so far, from BBC to the press release, tells us he has no shred of sorrow and regret for the death of president Mills. Let Rawlings and his boys write another press statement, because this one they wrote, we do not understand and we are prone to misinterpret it.