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Opinions of Sunday, 24 July 2016

Columnist: Asare, Kwame Ohene

Rawlings – a jinxed legacy?

By Kwame Ohene Asare
"He's turned Ghana into a colony," Mr Yao Graham reportedly said. "He is like a comet which we all looked up to for extra light only to be engulfed in darkness."

Yao’s comments appear somewhat prophetic when held against the backdrop of an unending cycle of ‘dumsor’ and gross incompetence, which is fast becoming the hallmark of President Mahama, 2nd heir to Rawlings’ legacy.

The Rawlings led Governments of the AFRC and the PNDC killed and destroyed lives, as many Ghanaians cheered on, some fuelled by envy, mistrust and sheer wickedness. Others, possibly out of naivety or more likely borne out of desperation arising from perceptions, whether actual or real, of corruption. Some of whom may have had a genuine belief that Rawlings was a kind of saviour who has been brought down to earth to usher Ghana into its pre-ordained destiny of prosperity, but assumed that he had to do what was necessary but painful in order to ensure that the desired end would be achieved. Being half white-scot only enhanced his credibility. However some never trusted him. Like many others who had come before him, whether an impecunious soldier or a palm wine tapper, whether by preaching socialism or sheer pontificating, they have used this as a path to power, glory and sheer personal opulence. The worry is that this risible pantomime is still playing out on the platforms of Ogyakrom, my motherland.

99% of humanity suffer from one form of superstition or the other. It is one’s ability to place things in some perspective, against the background of either overwhelming empirical evidence or its absence that enables us to maintain our rationality.

The problem with Ghana is however not as elusive as we think it is. We have simply not thought hard enough. To paraphrase Hilary Clinton for the umpteenth time, she said in her book ‘Hard Choices’ that our choices determine who we become.

How could Ghanaians, even in the face of the brutality of Rawlings’ actions, have celebrated Rawlings’ coups and indeed seem to vote for those inheriting his Legacy? Some 33 years after the murder of our 3 High Court Judges, folks or heirs of the AFRC/PNDC tradition still don’t seem to have regretted those happenings. Despite the mind numbing levels of corruption practised by the NDC government, a significant number of Ghanaians may have voted in sufficient numbers to hand them the opportunity to steal the will of Ghanaians in 2012. And you would have thought that the good citizens of Talensi could have used the opportunity of a bye-election some months ago, to whip the NDC into order. No they didn’t!
The evidence is clear, without the need for an express admission or confession. Even Rawlings seems to have regretted the error of his ways and appears to be quietly telling some truths. “Nana Addo is not corrupt“. Then, was his recent admission that he took $2 million from Abacha, having previously denied it flatly since 1998. Although he did so under circumstances which suggest that, it might have been in anticipation of a damning report to be published by the Nigerian Government, the pressure and/or evidence gathered could not have been that overwhelming and he would perhaps have been entitled to challenge it when ultimately put to him or was it. Rawlings may be partly, truly remorseful or simply playing safe and irrespective, it unveils the cloak of probity and accountability the man has donned over the years. The former Head of State, ‘credited’ with responsibility for annihilating 3 former Heads of State and 3 High Court Judges, may appear to be eerily full of contradictions but this time, he may well be on the path to repentance and salvation. He has called Ghanaians by so many names and boomed about those who succeeded him for so long that it’s a pity Ghanaians do not seem that incensed at his recent confession. When the Courts set Woyome free he yelled: “Do you think we are stupid?” He however almost went on a hunger strike when Tsatsu Tsikata was jailed for causing financial loss to the Country and went hand in hand with his wife to Court when she was prosecuted for the pretend sale of one of Ghana’s factories. Yet he had the temerity to call President Kufuor by the name of a convicted villain.
Rawlings’ wife has set up her own party, NDP , to contest with his own brainchild, the NDC, whilst his daughter, Zanetor, has just been exonerated by the Supreme Court of the Land on very technical grounds to maintain her approval as an NDC parliamentary candidate in the impending elections in November/December 2016. It is symptomatic of the depth of confusion that his home has been plunged into and/or his profound inability to keep his family in check, even though they may well be adults.
Late in 1981, this man overthrew our legitimately elected Government and oppressed us for years thereafter. In the end, he and his Military Junta could not even account to the people about a mere $100,000 or so that they extorted from hardworking Ghanaians. He transmogrified himself into a Civilian Government and dumped on us a party machinery skilled at taking over power but incapable of neither running a Country nor willing to do so.
Rawlings’ legacy may be cursed for his gross and wanton hypocrisy. His contradictions are only a manifestation of something pathologically wrong. Our inability to bring him to account is also symptomatic of the pathological hold he has on our Country.
With a measure of trepidation, I can predict that nothing born out of Rawlings’ Legacy will yield anything that can bail Ghana out of her woes. Worst still, his legacy may have left a curse on the motherland from which we ought as a matter of necessity, be delivered. Whether an empiricist or other, it will be almost foolhardy for Ghanaians to wait another 4 years to establish the truth of this proposition in the face of the historical antecedent and in the face of a clear choice.
In our quest for development, Ghanaians should not have touched anything born out of the man with a long barge pole. You don’t have to be superstitious to believe this. You just have to lend yourself to the belief that seems to guide voters in more advanced countries round the world; that anything that has a propensity, consistently, without fail, to produce undesirable outcomes, is not worth your investment in time, money or effort, with or without physical evidence of a link between the relevant cause and effect.
Arthur Mills’ failure was almost catastrophic if not fatal! Mahama is plodding on. It appears his NDC legacy has placed an irresistible charm on the Country but they are incapable of doing any good for the Country.
Compelled by a prospective business partner to explain what motivated his interest in politics, a friend found himself pointing to retired Flight Lieutenant Rawlings. Shocked by the apparent revelation, given my friend’s unhidden passionate dislike for the NDC party and its founder, the man interrogated further. “Rawlings is your mentor?”
”Ludicrous” He contended as follows:
- A village boy from Akim Manso, my dad managed to gain a scholarship to Achimota. He worked hard for another scholarship to Scotland for a Degree in Forestry. A similar scholarship took him to Oxford for a post graduate in Forestry. He returned to Ghana in 1963, full of bright ideas on how to help Ghana out of the doldrums by preserving as much timber as possible whilst felling only when absolutely certain that it will be beneficial. He rose to become Chief Executive of a prosperous Timber Firm, owned then by way of a Public and Private partnership involving English and Scots. Many years latter, import licences were so badly restricted that his firm could no longer import essential equipment to carry out its trade. It caused growing disaffection amongst workers. However, a minister of State under Rawlings, desirous of passing the CEO role to another, got some CDRs or PDCs together and engineered a mutiny blaming the firm’s predicament solely at the doorsteps of the Management. PDCs took over the management of the firm without any serious top level management experience, believing their ‘holier than thou’ posture will propel the firm into greater liquidity. The firm was obviously run to the ground after a few months. That was my motivation. I believed it was so wrong! I hated socialism with a passion and lamented all the dictatorships it had created around the world talk less of the hypocrites who found it as a very fast and effective vehicle for achieving political success, paying no regard to the lives ruined in the process, only to acquire power to oppress the poor and the powerless. My father at a very productive age in his life was compelled to retire to his little village. He was extremely lucky that there was not a jot of impropriety in his management of the finances of the firm which was wrestled away from him. He was promptly released from house arrest.”
Many serious and ambitious lives were cut short in their prime by Rawlings’ revolution. Soldiers took the law into their own hands seized valuable properties belonging to individuals without recourse to Law and even when they sought to rely on Law their victims were taken through their Kangaroo courts in the form of Tribunals. They even killed Ghanaians as and when it pleased them. Market women were sometimes stripped naked and whipped in public in revolutionary times.
Memories of the 1979 executions of three of Ghana's former heads of state and some top military officers also come alive when I recall Rawlings’ regime. Rawlings and his cohorts executed General Kutu Acheampong, General Akuffo, General Roger Felli, Air vice Marshal Yaw Boakye, Rear Admiral Amedume, General Afrifa, and General Utuka by firing squad. Rear Admiral Amedume and General Felli were alleged to have used their positions to obtain bank loans. This formed the basis of their charge! Oh dear!
After so many years trusting a Government with such a sordid past that no civilized community of people could in good conscience have handed power to, the beloved country, an oil producing economy, is now tethering on the brink of Bankruptcy. Whether in November or December 2016, Ghanaians will be asked again, to entrust the reins of power into the hands of Mahama, heir to Rawlings’ legacy. It is an obvious choice between a cursed legacy and an opportunity to make meaningful progress. Have all these Ghanaians died in vain for Rawlings to enrich his wife and himself & for power to be entrusted perpetually in the hands of a cabal born out of Rawlings’ own mischief?

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones........”
: Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
My Countrymen, on 7th December 2016, when you take any demands and supplications about your motherland to the Lord in prayer, please remember that our destiny is not that complicated, it lies in your own hands, whether by a tick or by the pressing of your thumb in the right places.