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Opinions of Saturday, 12 June 2010

Columnist: Ahiabor, Kwame

Junior Jesus and his outburst in Tamale

Listening to Rawlings’ speech on June 4th 2010, I’m really reminded as to
why Barack Obama in his speech to Parliament said Africa does not need
strong leaders but strong institutions. All over the continent, whether it
is Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, Robert Mugabe in
Zimbabwe, or Jerry Rawlings in Ghana, we have created these legends that can
do no wrong. These leaders have always found themselves in the limelight and
are so used to being worshipped, that they cannot live without it.

Rawlings seems to have misunderstood Matthew 21: 12-13. The Bible says
“Jesus was angry and drove the seller and the gambler out”, It did not say
he crucified them. Granted in 1979, Ghanaians were calling for the blood to
flow and that it did however it did go overboard. We were yearning for
Rawlings in 1979 because we were taking giants steps backwards, but taking
two steps forward when you had the potential to leap forward is no reason
for us to continue to hear the same stale message of justice and
accountability. It has been 31 years since June 4, 1979, and the masses are
still not very far ahead. Young men and women are still trooping into Accra
to sell dog chains, our education system thanks to the JSS/SSS system is
probably worse off than it was, food is still stuck in the hinterland
because of the poor state of our roads, our cocoa and lumber are still
exported without any processing and we are still so dependent on the
IMF/World Bank. So in 2010, to remind a kid who had to grow up without his
father because his dad took out a loan of GHC50, 000 is rather harsh and
uncalled for. Imagine what would occur today we if used that same threshold
of justice. Just like Mugabe did with the land redistribution in Zimbabwe,
we all witnessed what happened with most of Ghana’s state owned enterprises
that were divested during the Economic Recovery Program. The Mabey & Johnson
case has also shed more light on how companies won contracts or did business
during the Rawlings administration. The NDC was not voted out of power in
2000 because Atta Mills was not ‘half-cast’, uncharismatic and did not speak
with a locally acquired foreign accent, it was voted out because Ghanaians
were tired of the same old, same old.

I believe Rawlings perception of justice is for Mills to investigate and
prosecute every official in the Kuffour administration including Kuffour.
What Rawlings more than anyone in Ghana should know is that the Attorney
General’s office has a finite amount of resources at its disposal and it
would not be proper for the Mills government to use resources earmarked for
other developmental projects to satisfy his party founder . The dilemma here
is: Does Ghana need to spend a significant amount of human and financial
resources prosecuting former officials or should we have a genuine dialogue
about curtailing the spending powers of future government? Rawlings was
quick to reference the U.S. justice system and Obama. I would ask Rawlings
to confer with the prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay how they feel
about the U.S. justice system or better yet ask Mexican Americans how they
feel about SB 1070. In a recent interview, Obama was asked how angry he was
about the BP oil spill. His response was even though he was angry, he was
channeling that anger towards finding solutions for the oil spill.

Rawlings needs to channel his anger towards making the executive branch of
government in Ghana less corruptive and less powerful. He could make himself
relevant again by speaking on the need for a total independent legislature
instead of harping on the tired slogan of justice and accountability. Even
the guy selling dog chains in the streets can talk about injustice and
corruption in Ghana but for someone who has been head of state for 19 years,
we expect concrete solutions to these problems. Suggest check and balances
that we could put in place to ensure the injustice and accountability of
past administrations do not occur in the future. Start dialogue about some
much needed constitutional reform. Propose ideas so the excess of Ghana @ 50
does not happen again. If Rawlings is really concerned about the masses, he
needs to talk about how presidents and former presidents should have their
compensation taxed. If A.M.A. is able to tax the petty traders, then surely
presidents and former presidents with more disposal income should be taxed.
He needs to talk about how in 50 years Ghana cannot sustain the current
compensation packages given to former presidents and former M.P.s.

It is interesting to note that out of all the soldiers who took part in the
June 4th revolution, none of them was present to mark the anniversary with
the Rawlings. Whether it is June 4th, 31st December or NDC 1, it seems like
most of the member of the AFRC, PNDC or NDC have fallen out of favor with
Rawlings. It can mean one of two things: It is either they disagree with the
Rawlings way of doing things or Junior Jesus is the only one who knows what
is right for Ghana. You might not like Atta Mills, or you might believe the
perception that he is too slow but you cannot deny the fact that he is the
right person after two polarizing leaders such as Rawlings and Kuffour.
Whether it was banning his ministers from going to South Africa for the
World Cup or making sure Ghana benefits from the sale of the Kosmos stake in
the Jubilee oil field or something as simple as giving the directive to
civil servants to turn the televisions off during office hours. Finally, no
past head of state had the guts to take the very unpopular decision to
increase the tariff on utilities even though the utility companies were
being heavily subsidized by the government.

Leading up to the 2012 general elections, you are going to hear more from
Jerry Rawlings about justice and accountability. You are also going to hear
the same stale message from Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings and I want you to
think of Hillary Clinton: First she bought a house in Chappaqua, N.Y., then
she ran and won a senate seat and finally she decided to cement the Clinton
legacy by becoming president. We have seen the re-emergence of the
31stDecember movement, and then we saw Nana Konadu become the Vice
Chairman of
the NDC. It is clear what she needs to do to further cement the legacy of
the Rawlings’. Remember Obama’s words!

Kwame Ahiabor