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Opinions of Sunday, 21 March 2021

Columnist: Rockson Adofo

Rawlings was wicked towards the Ashantis but kind to save them

How confusing the title of this write-up, “Rawlings was wicked towards the Ashantis but kind to save them” is, to the person who cannot at this stage telepathically read my mind.

When the late President Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings illegally, but successfully usurped power from the Lt. General Fredrick William Kwasi Akuffo’s Supreme Military Council II (SMC II) government on 4 June 1979, after his first attempted abortive coup d’état on 15 May 1979, he is noted to have executed some eight top brass of the military leaders of which the Akans were a majority.

I am going to use Akans instead of limiting it to the Ashantis since the Ashantis are part of the greater Akan tribe that became a target for hatred by Rawlings and his clique hence purposed for harassment, intimidation and destruction, if I should be bold enough but not exaggerative, to tell.

Many Akans’ businesses, principally among which were the International Tobacco Ghana Limited (ITG) for the late Mr B. A. Mensah, my Kumawuman compatriot and father-in-law (younger sibling to my wife’s father) and Tata Brewery for Mr Siaw from Kwahu, were all illegally confiscated during the second coming of then power-drunk altruist J. J. Rawlings during his Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) military junta.

During the administrations of both his military governments {Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC)}, many Akans were targeted. Their businesses were collapsed. Some of them disappeared into the thin air never to be found again in the land of the living.

He once castigated his own Ewe tribesmen for being lazy. He told them that the Ashantis or the Akans have taken the lead while they were lazing around. They needed to catch up with the Ashantis, he said.

How were they to catch up with the Ashantis? Was it by collapsing the Ashantis’ businesses to make them as poorer as the people he was chastising? Was he going to resource them to take after lucrative businesses to make them richer and more prosperous?

Note, Rawlings once said he was going to make both the rich and the poor in the country same. He really meant it and was pursing an agenda in that direction hence illegally collapsing and ceasing rich persons’ businesses without justification. Was the late P. V. Obeng his right-hand man in the execution of this diabolic agenda against the Akans?

Rawlings out of his youthful exuberance and clearly naivety, was manipulated by certain older and more experienced and intelligent persons to commit many irreprehensible crimes, mostly against the Akans. However, I am not going into the nitty-gritty of his committed and intended crimes against the Akans and Ghanaians today since that is not the motive for this publication but to remember him for one good thing he did for the Akans which deserves recognition and applause.

Before then, let Ghanaians take note that it was Rawlings who has brought about the current political and tribal polarization in the country. Until his advent to the political scene with his probably good intentions which rather turned out selfish and evil, Ghana was more at peace. There was more tribal cohesion, harmonious co-existence and peace among Ghanaians than when he took over power to exert himself on Ghanaians with his divide and rule hateful antics.

An Akan proverb goes, “Onipa bone ni biara wo ne nkae da”. It simply means, “Any evil person has a day that he can be remembered for doing something good”. This proverb is often cited when something bad is happening. It then quickly comes into mind how that evil person hated such things and would quickly jump in to rectify such unpalatable situations.

It is also said to remember a good thing once done by a known evil person, as it is about to be said about Rawlings. Before Rawlings came to power, the Akans, especially the Ashantis, proudly but callously stringently, adhered to their traditional inheritance of the nephew succeeding their decedent uncle. By that Akan inheritance, the wife or wives and children of the deceased uncle (husband/father) are thrown out of the man’s house. They are also denied any part of the husband or father’s property jointly acquired with the wife and children.

Nonetheless, it is a common knowledge that such properties are often acquired without any contribution or least contribution from the man’s (uncle’s) extended family, thus matrilineal lineage but his nuclear family’s. The wives and children who had toiled for the properties are on the death of the husband/father, chased out of the house and denied part of the property.

Rawlings’ PNDC Law 111 came to save wives and children from the wickedness of the Akans as regards intestate inheritance. “Ghana promulgated the intestate succession PNDC Law 111 in 1985 as a substitute for indigenous systems of inheritance after death. This Law is meant to remove “anomalies ... in law relating to intestate succession and to provide a uniform intestate succession law”.

If what my late father once told me was true, which I believe it was, then Rawlings had saved many Ashantis or Akans from untimely deaths. He said, “When you are sick, the prayer of your child (son or daughter) is, God please heal my father so that if he lives, whenever he eats, he can also provide me with something to eat; but the prayer of your nephew is, uncle should die so that I can inherit him.”

Many lazy nephews had somehow speeded up the deaths of their rich uncles to inherit them but with the Rawlings’ law in operation, where a nephew stands to lose out, they will not wish the deaths of their uncles but rather their healthy longevity. By the law, although Rawlings was wicked towards Ashantis or Akans, he saved many of their men’s lives.

I shall discuss a personal story in regard to what my father told me to attest to the veracity of the then evil mind-set of the Akan nephews towards their uncles.

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