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Opinions of Thursday, 22 January 2009

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Securing Atta-Mills from Rawlings

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong

Despite being a President on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), John Atta-Mills may need more democratic security from democracy loving Ghanaians than, may be, some sections of his own NDC. It is like coming from a family where because of the character of certain members of the family one has be a bit circumspect and rely a bit on well-meaning outside friends – in the tradition of African communalism – for security.

With the tightness of the presidential election and its run-off on January 2 making the transition between the then ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the now ruling NDC extremely short, the in-coming John Atta-Mills presidency was put under immense pressure to pick its ministers and other officials to rule. The Atta-Mills transition says understandably they will finish this serious business within 28 days – that’s at the end of January. But ex-president Jerry Rawlings, ever on the edge, thinks Atta-Mills is “inactive,” without considering the Atta-Mills transitional circumstances or volunteering to help him, and in the process disturbing the orderly process of Atta-Mills.

As the December 2008 Ghanaian general elections hit homestretch and the presidential candidates came under intense scrutiny, the analyses by pundits and commentators, at home and abroad, was that ex-President Jerry Rawlings, the autocratic, megalomaniac owner of the then main opposition NDC will disturb the party’s then presidential candidate Atta-Mills. Atta-Mills depicts images of the late Prime Minister Dr. Kofi Busia and the late President Hilla Liman - both are seen as politically dreary and easily manipulable.

While Liman wasn’t able to contain the intense wrangling within his administration that made him appear inefficient, puny, and under the direction of his political mentor Alhaji Imoro Igala, Busia was seen as weak and malleable, unable to control his very ambitious cabinet, some of whom thought they would be better prime minister than him.

With the election of Atta-Mills as the President on January 2, the Accra-based The Ghanaian Chronicle, sensing that the twitchy Rawlings will disturb Atta-Mills’ presidency, editorialized on January 13, 2008, entitled, “JJ, give Mills the chance,” how ex-president John Kufour almost fell into the Rawlings virus, a situation where Rawlings assumes that only he has to direct Ghana for reasons that are inexplicable.

Wrote the newspaper, “About two years ago, former President Kufuor alleged that when he assumed office as president of Ghana, his immediate predecessor, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings summoned him to several meetings. He said even though he kept on honouring these invitations from his predecessor, he decided to put a stop to it, after realizing that as President, he cannot allow himself to be used. According to him, it was because of this decision that he took not to honour such meetings at the behest of Mr. Rawlings, which resulted in the frosty relationship between them. When the then President Kufuor made this allegation, Mr. Rawlings did not come out to debunk it. The Chronicle therefore assumes that what ex President Kufuor said was the gospel truth.”

Rawlings is so predictable that not even a month into Atta-Mills’ four-years term, he has thrown a stone into Atta-Mills presidency – throwing into the Volta river any sense of maturity, discretion and Ghanaian tradition that instructs “Big Men/Women” to seek in-house, private means to advise on certain burning issues without going public in order not to make one feel bad or loose face.

In a note of his unGhanaian behaviour and fragile democratic grasp and the conviction that he isn’t a democrat by conviction but by pressures from both local and international forces, Rawlings, with his enemy/coup mentality and “we” against “they” thinking, wants Atta-Mills hurriedly sack “all Municipal, Metropolitan and District Chief Executives from office” because they were appointed by the departing NPP. Disturbingly, the Rawlings’ thought, seen by some Ghanaians as juvenile, has been overwhelmingly condemned by Ghanaians, including some thoughtful NDC figures, who think in the long run there aren’t different Ghanaians but one Ghana, whether you are NDC or NPP.

Now, with Atta-Mills gradually moving into his first term, one can imagine the sort of pressure, if not nonsense, that would be brought to bear on him by Rawlings, who owns the NDC, a situation that undermines the NDC’s internal democracy, and won’t let go the fact that not only is Atta-Mills older than him and have superior sense of judgment but also better educated and more cultured than him, and thinks better than him. In Atta-Mills, Rawlings sees the pliable Liman whom Rawlings overthrew in December 1981, who Rawlings did not respect, and treated inhumanly, and saw in him a weak person not fit to rule Ghana.

If ex-President Kufuor, who didn’t come from Rawlings’ NDC, was initially subjected to Rawlings’ immaturity and stupidity, then one can imagine what Atta-Mills will go through with Rawlings breathing right over him as owner of the NDC in the next four years. Atta-Mills will have two headaches – one Ghanaians’ problems and the other Rawlings calling him 3 a.m to disturb him.

The solution is for Ghanaian democrats to secure Atta-Mills from Rawlings mindlessness. Part of this will come from the main opposition NPP and the mass media that should put Rawlings on full democratic and traditional values footing.