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Opinions of Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.

Rawlings’ BOOMING in Kumasi: The Kufuor Factor

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor E-mail: June 6, 2011

In his attempt to BOOM at the 32nd anniversary celebration of the June 4 Uprising in Kumasi last Saturday, former President Rawlings was in his predictable and characteristic wayward element, hurling insults at all those he perceived as his enemies in Ghana politics. More pointedly, he made high-sounding allegations against those enemies and sought to portray them as the justification for his wife’s bid for the Presidency of the country so that she can undo the harm that those people have caused.

Those who came under Rawlings’ BOOM radar were former President Kufuor and the incumbent, John Evans Atta Mills. Whether his utterances were borne out by a spur-of-the-moment urge to wow his audience or by a premeditated and calculated attempt to continue presenting his successors as the cause of Ghana’s woes, Rawlings confirmed once again that he is incorrigible and annoying. He must have something in him that is eating him alive.

I want to take issues with him to suggest that he is taking his streak of indiscipline to a dizzyingly abnormal level, which doesn’t redound to the well-being of our democracy.

For my purposes, I will limit my opinions to the aspects of Rawlings’ utterances that concern his allegations against former President Kufuor and his attempt to suggest that Kufuor would use his ill-gotten wealth to corrupt our political system. I intend to unpack Rawlings’ insults and explain why his approach cannot be dissociated from the fundamental problems that some of us have had with him ever since he chose to behave like a dog that is destined to get lost and refuses to listen to its master’s whistle.

Let me clarify some basic issues upfront to set readers’ minds at ease. I am no fan of Kufuor nor will I fail to admit that I am one of those who have not hesitated to criticize him bitterly in several articles to suggest that we did not appreciate his performance. I am particularly guilty of raising the criticism against Kufuor to the point of virtually tearing his personality apart. Of course, being the Head of State at the time, he couldn’t be absolved of anything that I perceived as not being properly handled.

One of such issues was Kufuor’s lackadaisical attitude to the canker of corruption (which he didn’t tackle with the seriousness that some of us expected). More worryingly, many instances verging on immorality and outright mismanagement of public funds or outright greed under Kufuor’s watch without any official action to punish the perpetrators angered some of us. Kufuor’s own acts of omission or commission played a part. For instance, the acquisition of what became known as Hotel Waa-Waa, the Gizelle Yajzi affair, and the End-of-Service benefits for Kufuor were some issues that attracted unpleasant comments from some of us. The decision to award himself a medal or to embark of indiscriminate foreign trips were others. Those issues created a bad impression about how Kufuor administered affairs.

Other issues concerning the sickening display of wealth and the dubious circumstances under which state property (lands and movable property) were disposed of created credibility problems for the Kufuor government. It was as if his government’s functionaries were in a mad rat race to outrun each other in acquiring property through foul or fair means. As if their conduct was in consonance with their party’s mantra of “property-owning democracy,” many things happened to create the impression that much water had run under the bridge. It was those happenings that set tongues wagging.

But those happenings are not particularly peculiar of—nor will they be limited to—only the Kufuor government. Precedents (including what happened under Rawlings’ own watch or in previous regimes) exist for a sane observer of the Ghanaian political scene not to jump on Kufuor alone to tear into shreds as if he is the Father of all corruption in Ghana!

Whether by accident or design, Kufuor seemed to be caught in a web. While complaints about corruption were rife against functionaries of the Kufuor government, no action was seen to be taken to deal with them. Kufuor worsened matters when he unashamedly said that “Corruption has been with humanity since the days of Adam.” That was worsened by his fending off criticisms with the call on anybody who had any evidence of corruption against his functionaries to report it to the police.

Kufuor said he won’t act on newspaper publications of corruption against his appointees and, true to his word, he did nothing to assuage public fears that corruption was becoming too much institutionalized for comfort. He turned a blind eye to all those apprehensions and even re-appointed Dr. Richard Anane whose conduct had become a case-in-point to confirm immorality in the corridors of power.

Instead, his government took on functionaries of the Rawlings government and had them prosecuted and jailed. The prosecution of Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings over the suspicious circumstances under which she got the December 31 Women’s Movement to acquire the defunct Nsawam Cannery (turning it into Carridem) was a political volatile issue that Kufuor unexpectedly cut short when he pardoned all those standing trial in connection with that matter. But in prosecuting these NDC functionaries, Kufuor had already sown the seed that would blossom into the deadly hatred that the Rawlingses have for him.

But the bigger issue is whether to pin down Kufuor as acquiring wealth illegally and intending to use it to corrupt the political process in the country. That’s a serious allegation levelled against him by Rawlings.

Let’s be honest to say that despite all those happenings in his administration, no one provided any concrete evidence to incriminate Kufuor. All the noise concerning his alleged complicity seemed to be based on either deadly rumours or the concoctions of those who might have their own political game to play. Can we, then, say that Kufuor is just a victim of unfortunate circumstances who doesn’t deserve the castigation heaped on him by this holier-than-thou Rawlings, the Godfather of probity and accountability who sent his children overseas for better education and future prospects?

So, by taking that huge swipe at Kufuor, was Rawlings trying to re-ignite the fire of his personal problems with Kufuor? Or was he only muddying further the political waters to suggest that President Mills was incapable of dealing with functionaries of the Kufuor government and must, therefore, be replaced by his wife who, to him, is better endowed with the spirit with which to clean the stables?

Whatever might be the prime-mover for Rawlings’ allegations, I think that he chose the wrong approach and venue to reinforce his notoriety. His BOOMING was not borne out by the particular kairotic imperative either. Insulting Kufuor in his stronghold is a terrible miscalculation that has already backfired and will cost Nana Konadu or the NDC itself dearly.

Apart from that negative fall-out, Rawlings’ sweeping allegations came across as mere allegations for as long as he didn’t provide any concrete evidence to lead anybody to the truth. For him to base his presentation on mere allegations and ramming those allegations down people’s ears as his version of the “truth” is unbecoming of a former President.

Rawlings has been too mean at another level. Both he and Kufuor are our former Presidents and one would least expect any of them to put the other on the spot in that manner without bothering to provide evidence to help Ghanaians judge issues properly. What Rawlings has done amounts to a violation of the unwritten code of conduct that should guide people of such a high social standing in our body politic. It is most unpardonable for one former Head of State to take liberties with the other’s personal and public image in the very crude manner that Rawlings chose to lambast Kufuor.

This display of vulgarity against Kufuor is not unusual, though. It is part of the arsenal that Rawlings has built up in his anti-Kufuor propaganda and outright character assassination. We can’t so soon forget his “Nii Ayii nie… Kufuor nie…” apology of a song at the Osu Cemetery some five years ago. Of course, we aren’t in any way surprised that Rawlings has once again unleashed his venom against Kufuor. We know the genesis of this bad-blood relationship and the futility of efforts to repair that relationship between him and Kufuor. Yet, both claim to be Catholics to whom the Scriptures and the Holy Communion matter. No dispute exists that Rawlings is always the one spoiling for a fight. Let me be blunt to say that I like the manner in which Kufuor has carried himself so far by not wasting his time and energy on responding to Rawlings’ waywardness. By not taking the tooth-for-a-tooth and a nail-for-a-nail approach in dealing with this Rawlings nuisance, Kufuor stands really tall in the estimation of those who are prepared to compare and contrast him with Rawlings. Politics is not a war to be fought.

I am glad that he has chosen to conduct his post-Presidency life in a highly dignified manner, turning attention to issues that take him into the international arena and making his presence felt. By not sticking around to poke his nose into national politics to the extent as to suggest that he is running a parallel administration with the official Government of Ghana, Kufuor has distinguished himself and deserves tons of commendation. He is proving that he knows the difference between being in office as a country’s President and its corollary, which is an out-of-office status.

I encourage him to disregard the nuisance that Rawlings raises just to draw him into a needless confrontation. He should remain resolute and focused on whatever he has chosen to use his few remaining years on this earth to do and he will be better remembered when he pays his dues to Nature. Being remembered fondly is what he is working for. As Shakespeare reminds us, “all that’s well ends well.” At this point in his political career, Rawlings has chosen to settle in the mud; and knowing very well that it is not everybody who will want to join him, he is doing everything to splash that mud on those he considers as his arch enemies in Ghana politics. Let’s allow him to muddy himself to the point of self-destruction. But if he attempts muddying the political waters, we should be prepared to take him on.