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Opinions of Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Rawlings, the incredible shrinking man

Ever since Jerry Rawlings left office as President of Ghana in 2000, he has been shrinking in value. Only about 20 years ago, Rawlings rode on huge populism induced by national dissent that was stuck in moral sicknesses, elites confused, and national depression.

But out of office Rawlings failed the test of ex-Presidents, if the Nelson Mandelas, Joachim Chissanos and Benjamin Mkapas are any measure, and he is paying the price in the current election campaigns in which he has virtually taken the leading role from John Atta-Mills, the flagbearer of the National Democratic Party (NDC), of which Rawlings owns.

What happened? Well, for a former President who is still hyperactive at 60-something year old (and some say behave like kid sometimes) and generally talks misguidedly, not finding a cause more engaging to deal with his restless soul like the Jimmy Carters or Nelson Mandelas or the Bill Clintons but stalled in the rough-and-tumble of domestic Ghanaian politics as if he is running for President in the December 7 general elections could have its consequences.

A chronic whiner, the Ministry of Internal Affairs dismissed Rawlings’ long claims that the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) intends to rig the December elections, a very dangerous venture that could turn Ghana upside down, and told him to report to the appropriate state institution if he has any grievances. This aside, Rawlings accusation of the rich as “cocaine dealers,” without evidence that has implications in Ghana’s image abroad, was condemned as anti-business, anti-investment, and unGhanaian.

Rawlings’ calling of parallel national security meeting in his house purportedly because there are some political violence send the wrong signal security-wise and saw him and those who met with him banned by the government. And his NDC is dismissed by the Ghana Police Service for their allegation that there were ammunitions among the fire crackers that exploded at Anyaa, a suburb of Accra, purportedly to be used for political purposes by the NPP.

It gets worse. On campaign trails, Rawlings has repeatedly misjudged voters intelligence by projecting himself instead of Atta-Mills as the presidential candidate. Rawlings has also failed to present clearly the NDC’s front as alternative government to the NPP – his campaign statements are incoherent and over-involved in insults, incitements, misinformation and threats for a former president who is expected to show remarkable insights of national issues by discussing the NDC’s policy platform on poor development indicators.

At critical level, the NDC is strictly a one-man band – played around the ageing buzzard Jerry Rawlings, who draws more crowd campaigning Ghana-wide than either Atta-Mills or John Mahama, the vice presidential candidate to Atta-Mills, or any of the NDC big-wigs.

The shrinking of Rawlings is as embarrassment nationally as he is in internal NDC matters, and it hasn’t occurred in vacuum. The reversal of Rawlings’ fortune can be measured in terms of the expansion of the NPP, with prominent opposition figures like Ms. Frances Awurabena Asiam, formerly of the Democratic Freedom Party (a breakaway faction of the NDC), crossing over to the NPP.

Rawlings is rarely seen on the same campaign platform with Atta-Mills and Mahama to sell NDC policies. Earlier, there appears to be a row within the NDC when Rawlings reacted to the Accra-based The Enquirer that some NDC figures are planning to restrain him from campaigning for his irresponsible campaign statements that are hurting the NDC. As founder of the NDC, Rawlings said nobody can curb him. Such attempts to curb him might have hurt him dearly. Rawlings has devoted the last 20 years to two causes: first, his own enshrinement as an immortal icon, and second, the unbending grip of the NDC which he has been using to entrench his iconic mission.

The awkward nature of the NDC campaigns is further exposed when Rawlings and his wife, Nana Konadu Agyemang, erroneously said that the NPP flagbearer, Nana Akufo-Addo, wasn’t a qualified lawyer (such uncalled for statements convinced some NDCs that the Rawlingses should played less visible roles on the campaign trails). Atta-Mills, not known for disagreeing with the Rawlingses publicly, quickly deflated the Rawlingses by saying he knows Akufo-Addo very well and that Akufo-Addo is a qualified lawyer and has had fruitful career (In fact, Akufo-Addo is among the top three lawyers in Ghana).

The Atta Mills and Mahama ticket additionally opposed Rawlings when Mahama, an objective politician, put Rawlings in place by stating that it isn’t the NDC’s game plan to state on its campaign platforms that the NPP has imported arms to cause political violence without proof.

Every attempt by Rawlings to gain traction in the last lap to the December ballots by increasing his visibilities Ghana-wide has left him spinning his wheels. No doubt, despite the row between the Accra-based Danquah Institute that says its polls show that NPP’s Akufo-Addo will win the presidential election and the Ghanaian-owned London, UK-based Policy & Strategy Associates, Inc. that says NDC’s Atta-Mills will win, all the trend lines show the NPP winning the December elections. The President John Kufour-led NPP government’s satisfaction rate is very high. A Primary Research Associates opinion poll shows that almost 70 percent of Ghanaians believe Kufuor has performed superbly in his tenure as president.

With nothing else working for him, Rawlings’ campaigns has developed into twists and turns, constantly denying statements and actions that border on his trade mark diatribes. The office of Rawlings refuted charges that he threatened the life of NPP’s Nana Akufo-Addo – that’s very low for a former president to be entangled in. With less than two weeks into the December 7 general elections Rawlings has become the incredible shrinking man of Ghanaian politics.