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Opinions of Friday, 12 September 2008

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Rawlings, Election 2008 and National Security

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong
For former President John Jerry Rawlings, two time civilian president and two time coup maker, the political violence, mainly in a small town in the Northern Regional city of Tamale, ahead of the upcoming December 2008 general elections, is so bad that it might engulf the whole Ghana. In Rawlings’ figment of imagination, it is as if this is the first time there is political violence in Ghana, 51 years on as a republic from British rule, and that during his almost 20 years rule there was nothing like Tamale.
Reliving his years as Head of State, Rawlings, restlessly hyperactive, hurriedly “met with security experts who were in charge of the various security agencies during his tenure as President of Ghana” in his house, reports the Accra-based ace investigative The Ghanaian Chronicle that picked up the meeting, and “discussed how best they can also contribute in solving the worsening security situation in the country, especially in the north.”
Such meeting has made democracy loving Ghanaians nervous informed by Ghana’s coup detats ridden political history. In Rawlings, it is as if in Tamale Ghana is falling apart and that the ex-security officials who went to house are reflection of Ghana’s weak elites in the context of Ghana’s stability and progress. Not only should they had reported Rawlings to the security agencies, more as better educated and older, they should have snub him and talk proper sense to him.
Some Ghanaians are apprehensive about the wrong signal such meeting sends security-wise and suspicious that Rawlings, who has successfully made two coups (that overthrew the Gen. F. W. K. Akufo and Dr. Hilla Liman regimes in 1979 and 1981 respectively) on flimsy excuses against Ghana’s “sleepy” elites, who are universally known not to have good grasp of Ghana as a development project, intentions is suspect.
Rawlings’ intention may be altruistic, more informed by his almost 20 years as Head of State, simultaneously, his hysterical behaviours over the years, worsened after vacating the presidency, make his security goal suspect, especially in a fully-steamed democratic setting and the fact that there is genuine democratic growth on the ground Ghana-wide. This makes Rawlings’s purpose as personal as they are national bordering on the very national security he is purportedly worried about.
Highly mistrusted as a threat to the on-going 16-year-old democratic dispensation, such meeting coming from Rawlings instantly met with worrying responses among Ghanaians at home and abroad who perceive it as prelude to coup-making, or ruffle the highly praised democratic process, by making the President John Kufour almost eight-year-old democratic regime look incapable of handling the security of the state through democratic means to resolve security and developmental issues. For the past eight years since Kufour came to power, Rawlings is seen as not only disturbing Kufour’s regime but the entire democratic process as well. Privately, last year or so, Ghanaian intelligence is said to have picked up information that Rawlings has approached the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for monetary assistance to overthrow the Kufour democratic regime – for reasons as senseless as the ones he used to overthrow President Hilla Liman. Added to this is Rawlings, variously seen as rough, power-hungry, autocratic and tyrannical, long-running emotionally charged seditious utterances and subtle incitements against the Kufour regime that borders on the very national security issues he is reported to be meeting on.
A complicated, megalomaniac figure, ever since his ascendancy to the Ghana political scene in 1979, Ft. Lt. John Jerry Rawlings, 60, half-Scottish, half-Ewe has come to reflect Ghana’s security in some sort of unusual way. Rawlings has the ability to cry or wail over unnecessary, nonsensical issue (s) and make mountain out of anything that plays into the emotional state of unsuspecting and unreasoning Ghanaians who are also swayed by his white, mulatto skin.
In fact, this may explain how he was able to overthrow the President Hilla Liman’s democratic regime – the reason as groundless and irrational for the alleged reason that the Liman regime is inept without letting the democratic process resolve the regime’s so-called ineptness. In Rawlings, Ghana is impatient, cannot communicate with itself to resolve developmental matters and so with the slightest challenge (s) any regime, no matter how democratic, as the Kufour regime expresses, should be overthrown. So in Rawlings, Ghana is under constant crisis – a display of intellectual and emotional weaknesses and inability to resolve its development ordeals democratically.
In Rawlings, Ghana is intolerant, unstable, scatterbrained, weak, a playground of Freudian insane children, sick and ridden with mayhem, and under some sort of strange dark forces that make it not only depressed and small-minded but easily manipulable by unseen forces of which only Rawlings can see and amend against Ghana’s fundamental reality.
Ernest Hemingway said: “The most complicated subject that I know, since I am a man, is man’s life.” Rawlings is complicated man. The picture of him calling a parallel national security meeting in his house against the formal state security structures is one version. He has other versions – his ability to play on his white, mulatto skin against Ghanaians’ white man inferiority complex, his incoherent statements that confuse that float now and then to bizarre and almost infantile behaviour. But Rawlings is also a remarkable and serious figure – that may explain ex-security officials he called to his house not telling him to go to hell or leave Ghana’s democracy alone or meet President John Kufour on any national security issue instead of near-treasonably meeting such officials in his house secretly till The Ghanaian Chronicle stumble upon it.
Rawlings utterances are so recklessly strange both for his age (if traditional Ghanaian/African culture is anything to go by) and his former office as President of the Republic of Ghana that the media has dubbed him “Dr. Boom” – a reference to his infantile outburst that may be the after effects of long years of heavily smoking marijuana and his childhood crisis as a child without a father. Rawlings has come to exude simultaneously the crudeness and refinement of Ghana in the face of hapless elites who are struggling to find ways to contain him as his hysterical behaviour worsens day in, day out.
In Rawlings, it is as if Ghana is perpetually wailing, crying, disordered, spiritually feeble, or under commotion that need to be rescued, by whom, by Rawlings and that without Rawlings nobody can deal with Ghana’s problems. This is shocking not only for one who is not well educated and do not know Ghana well enough but who also cannot think well and is more emotional than using his intellect. No doubt, Rawlings project Ghana’s on-going democracy as “war,” not as a vehicle for an all-inclusive discussion of developmental issues, despite the fact that though there have been 21 years of military regimes and 6 years of one-party systems, Ghana is one of the most peaceful countries in the world.
At a deeper level, Rawlings cannot run away from some of these political violence or developmental troubles, a reasonable number of them are the remnants of his almost 20-year-rule, where unfreedoms, human rights violations, skewed rule of law, high octane tribalism, proliferation of arms, indiscipline, threats, harassment, weak transparency and accountability, impunity, fear of either being killed or vanishing, and all that one can think about dreadful Stalinism were dominant. There was more machoness than ideas and debates, bruteness outweighed reasoning.
Still, part of the reasons why political violence and other Rawlings complains has come about is because of a Rawlings revolution that failed to revolutionalize the allegedly rotten system Rawlings purported came to cure despite its perceived efforts. The reason is that unlike revolutions elsewhere in the world, the Rawlingsian revolution basically didn’t flow from Ghanaian/African cultural values – the thinking was as Marxist-Lennist, Stalinist, Maoist, among other foreign ideologies, than Ghanaian/African cultural idiosyncrasies and thoughts.
This made the Rawlings revolution not only superficial from scratch but also not sustainable, more emotionally charged than reasoning, hence the very social problems Rawlings is crying vainly about today in the run up the December 2008 general elections as old as Rawlings’ ascendancy to the Ghanaian political scene some 20 years ago. That Rawlings doesn’t understand and know Ghana deeply enough is unarguable and critically no secret.
Despite almost 20 years of a revolution that saw public executions, bombings, commandeerings, wailings, exiles, lootings, cries, deaths, pains, and attempts at public therapy, the fundamental decayed issues that the Rawlingsian revolution had aimed to correct are still deeply around, some worse, entangling the development process. Indiscipline is still a serious setback as seen of how Ghanaians appallingly have poor sanitation challenges; the elites still do not think from within Ghanaian/African values first to the global prosperity ideals; most political/developmental talks are shallow and doesn’t reflect real Ghana; dark spiritual practices and irrational believes still inhibit progress; certain cultural practices like juju still stifle progress; tribalism flows around like leprosy; corruption is still pervasive; Ghanaian/African cultural values do not inform policy-making despite Ghana priding and projecting itself as the “Black Star of Africa;” and the education system is still Eurocentric oriented implicating abysmally in progress in terms of thinking and planning development issues.
In such atmosphere, traditional cultural cohesion that had sustained the Tamales for centuries are weakened and normally peaceful people who see each other as one becomes suspicious of one another against an atmosphere where figures like Rawlings constantly rain incitement, divisiveness, commotion, darkness, unpeaceability, tribalism, insults, cries, negative energy, seditious and treasonable statements, and project the developing multiparty democracy, as the impending December 2008 general elections demonstrates, as “war” among the political parties.
On the flip side, not only is the multiparty democracy developing and politicians and Ghanaians fastly learning the nuances of democracy, more from within their cultural values, as the electioneering atmosphere in the upcoming December 2008 general elections reveal, but Rawlings, instinctively undemocratic and entrenched in dictatorial tendencies, could be an element for Ghanaian elites, awakening from years of intellectual servitude, lack of thorough grasp of Ghana, and the more committed democrats determined to sustain the on-going democratic system, to use to grow democracy.
kakos064@uottawa.ca