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Opinions of Thursday, 2 December 2004

Columnist: Asamoah, Marjorie

Jerry Rawlings and the Mills? Bid for President

One of the strange ironies of our time is that those who confess to loathing Jerry Rawlings and would do anything to see the back of him, contribute largely to his political longevity by persistently underestimating the man. Dismissing him as a dim-wit thug who arrogantly trudges up and down the country bellowing his spurious versions of reality, achieves the opposite effect because it is an assessment that fails to give an accurate measure of the man.

Any one who knows Rawlings and who is willing to open up will tell you that Jerry John Rawlings is not at all a fool. How could he be? He has governed Ghana for two decades, a credential which alone moves him beyond the bounds of ?idiocy? as understood by most people.

Rawlings is a ?clever? and quick-witted individual who knows what he does not want and would allow nothing to get in his way when he sets his sights on something. He is an accomplished actor and has a far better grasp of performing in public than many of his competitors, especially when cornered. The man is an excellent reader of character and quite skilful at manipulating people to achieve pre-determined objectives. Above all, he has a winning sense of humour that reaches people of all classes; and his mastery of gimmickry is second to none.

Put all these qualities together, add a dose of raw bravado, a pinch of stubbornness, and a few drops of doubts about one?s identity and you have a far better picture of a man at the top of his game who would out-fox his opponents as long as they continue to underrate him.

?If he is that ?clever??, I hear you ask, ?why is he scuppering Prof. Mills? chances of becoming president by repeatedly courting media reports that cast dangerous clouds over his campaign effort? Why can he not see that a Mills presidency is the only guarantee for his (Rawlings?) personal interests??

These are good questions; they continue to puzzle many. Ever since the NDC settled for Prof. Atta-Mills as their candidate for president, observers have been baffled by what appears as Jerry Rawlings? persistent attempt to eclipse him. Let candidate Mills provide his vision on a proposed government policy, and as surely as the night follows the day, Jerry Rawlings will be in the news drowning him out with his own helping of the same. Let a Mills supporter be introduced ahead of a Jerry crony at an NDC rally and it will be curtains for that poor Mills follower ? the party wolves will be despatched speedily to ?clean him up?, making sure he doesn?t live to fight another day.

Candidate Mills presented a well thought out critique on Kuffuor?s administration not too long ago. The media were buzzing with excitement over the freshness, originality and panache of his delivery. This was what the nation had been crying for ? an opposition party at its most effective, speaking with one voice through their democratically chosen leader. The ink did not dry on their press releases before ?you know who? invited them in for his own expos? on the subject.

It is almost as if a carefully choreographed dance of he-who-laughs-last-laughs-best is being played out to the electorate. And all this happens at a time when the question of candidate was supposed to have been ?settled?. How bizarre!

So why is Jerry doing this? He could not be unaware of the consequences of his actions, surely! Therefore what are his motives for encouraging rumours which he must know will damage his party?s chances of getting elected.

Some suggest that his efforts are designed to pave the way for his wife?s bid for the presidency in 2008. By making sure that Mills fails at the second time of asking, and by weakening Obed Asamoah (current NDC party Chairman) in the eyes of the party faithful, the stage is nicely set for Konadu to emerge and pick up the NDC crown.

Plausible, yet to believe it without questioning is to indulge in folly. The man is not stupid. He knows more than most that even if he were to force the NDC to put Konadu up as their candidate for president in 2008 or whenever, (a tall order but not impossible within NDC) the Ghanaian electorate would not pass her. Besides, the water these folks swim in is called politics. It is deep and often ruthless; and unless you know the whole of tomorrow today, or are omnipotent, or an absolute ass, why might you want to reveal all your cards?

Others have surmised that his actions are similar to the tantrums of a typical playground bully ? ?I laid down my life to form the NDC. Now that the party has become formidable, everyone must bow down to me and do things my way, or else ?? This line of thinking may not be as outrageous as it may seem; for there are streaks of the typical playground bully about the Rawlings? style of doing things.

Further thoughts wafting through the chattering classes in Ghana detect hints of apprehension about Mills? tribe in Rawlings? circles. But this too rings rather hollow when you consider the fact that Rawlings hand-picked Mills to succeed him at great cost to his personal authority among top allies. Did he know that Mills was a Fante then? Of course he did! We mustn?t also forget that his troubles with Akaarh had gone on not long before; and ? yes, you guessed it ? Akaarh was a Fante too!

What about this shocker; one which alleges a psychological complex making him fear the prospect of playing second fiddle to a president darker-skinned than himself in a party he laid down his life to form? The thought is that although he realises this is inevitable, it is a prospect he dreads more than any thing else, and one that he could not seem to come to terms with. His inability to come to terms with this phobia is what?s causing him to blunder about in a manner which defies common sense to most people.

This writer heard an exchange on the subject among visitors to a club-house recently, and it was electrifying. One of them, obviously pro-Rawlings, snapped when he heard this view: ?What do you mean? Are you saying that Jerry Rawlings is racist?? The other man replied calmly: ?I won?t put it that way. Racism is too strong. Let?s just say he has a problem with people of darker pigmentation than himself; especially, those he perceives to be bright.? By this time things were beginning to heat up. ?Come on, get real!? The lilt of emotion was becoming apparent. ?If he had that kind of problem, how did he survive the top-most job in a sub-Saharan African country like Ghana for so long? ?Simple,? came the reply with some alacrity; ?by erecting a wall of steel around him, surrounding himself with a handful of lackeys who shared his outlook, patronising them by doling out jobs and opportunities to them and their dependents and dazzling the already mesmerised population with gimmicks.? ?What about the thousands of Ghanaians who still throng to see and hear him on the campaign trail? Are they stupid?? The question was let out like a bullet. ?Again, the answer is simple?, replied his colleague quite nonchalantly. ?You see, Ghanaians are not fools. However, most of them are blissfully unaware of the subtle turns of racism in today?s world and would easily open up their hearts to ?Obroni?; which makes it easy to see how a consummate actor, like Rawlings, would exploit their gullibility to his own advantage. And that is precisely what is happening.? With a grin on his face, the questioner fired another one back. ?What about Konadu? She is something of a gender politician. She won?t let the sisters down by putting up with that sort of nonsense?? Again, the answer was calm and assured. ?She is besotted with the man. She will put up with anything. Se ohu noa w?ehu ne broni!?

What intrigued me about this exchange was the way the words tumbled out, as though they had been rehearsed for millennia.

To yet some more people the problem is quite simple: the man just loves power. He knows what power means, and simply hates the thought of relinquishing it. No more, no less.

Someone may still argue that blundering out of a fear of the unknown is just as stupid. On a different level the point could be conceded. However, if one?s aim is to consider causes in order to benefit society, then mistakes arising out of ignorance need to be understood to be distinctly different from those arising from a phobia. One is unintentional and awkward. The other is intentional, calculated and deadly.

Which of these is correct? We will probably never know. But whatever the truth is, one thing is clear. The fate Prof. John Atta-Mills has suffered in the hands of Rawlings and his coterie in these elections and the previous ones, presents a serious challenge to Ghana?s democracy. It is not something to be dismissed simply as personal selfishness gone mad. Nor should it be regarded merely as the shenanigans of a group of self-centred politicians.

What has happened is a scandal. It is a flagrant, even wilful violation of the course of democratic development in our country, which no decent Ghanaian must tolerate. Society has invested too much in the process of democracy to put up with such obstruction on account of one person?s fears, whatever those fears are.

Let no one derive any glee or succour from this assertion. The issue here is too profound to be moulded into partisan agenda, and Ghanaians everywhere must feel concerned about it, whatever their politics.

Clearly, Rawlings needs help. His mental outlook needs healing in order to be able to deal with the momentous changes that are inevitable in his party. This is the time for his TRUE friends to come to his aid. Let all those who profess to love him help him ponder these facts:

That 1. Jerry Rawlings? place in history, as far as Ghana is concerned, is assured. It may not glitter as he may have wished (something for which he has only himself to blame), but no one could touch it. 2. His interventions in the progress of politics in Ghana, replete with controversies, should give him plenty to think about for the rest of his life. 3. Altogether he looked after the affairs of government in Ghana for approximately twenty years. During that time, he had opportunities to dream ideas, test those ideas, implement them, make mistakes, and refine them. Two decades of doing such at the highest level of government is a fair run any where in the world. He needs to take the good with the not so good and thank his Maker for a ?glorious life?. 4. He needs to understand that just as no one owns the air we breathe, no one owns our country. Ghana belongs to GOD (whether he [Rawlings] believes in God or not) and He appoints who He wants to govern His children. 5. He needs to understand that the time has come for him to move on to higher things in this life. No one can define these for him. He alone must do that in consultation with his Maker. 6. Finally, he needs to understand that anyone whose advice encourages him to do anything incompatible with spirit of the points discussed in this article cannot be his TRUE friend.

Jerry John Rawlings ought to be one happy soul. He has done well for himself. He has had a long career of service to his nation at the highest level. The dignity of his station in life should have forbidden him from resorting to less-than-noble tactics to thwart the progress of his ?chosen? successor. Yet his actions have resulted in that charge being laid at his door. Now is the time for his friends to rally and provide help. With their aid and support, he will discover this self-evident truth: that he has nothing to fear but his own ?fear?, because life will always go on, with or without him!!!

?A man?s fear, unconquered, conquers him ?? (A 19th century philosopher)

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.