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Opinions of Friday, 10 October 2008

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

The Re-Shaping of Jerry Rawlings

For the first time, the mounting of ex-President Jerry Rawlings, presidential candidate Prof. John Atta Mills and vice presidential candidate John Mahama on the same platform to sell the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) social democratic program in its manifesto for the December 2008 general elections reveal a new chemistry among the NDC’s big-wigs that has been anything but meaningful.

Earlier, there appears to be a row within the NDC when Rawlings, true to his disposition and who prefer warfare by publicity than settling political fights internally, reacted to the Accra-based The Enquirer that some NDC big-wigs are planning to gag him for his unhelpful campaign statements that are costing the NDC in the increasingly fiercer December 2008 general elections.

The trio platform, therefore, demonstrates the NDC making amend with itself, against the background of its political blunders from Rawlings’ reckless speeches that have been hurting the NDC, as the political terrain increasingly gets overheated in the run-up to the December 2008 general elections with parties like the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the rising Convention Peoples Party (CPP) encroaching into the NDC’s ideological and constituency terrains.

All these played against an atmosphere of flashy parties’ manifestoes that seek to solve Ghana’s developmental challenges.

The recent attempts to re-shape Rawlings for an NDC internal order has come in diverse ways. With Rawlings’ irresponsible speeches and his dictatorial tomfoolery, his wife Nana Konadu Agyemang’s temperamental behaviours, John Mahama has to contradict Rawlings for preferring Betty Mould Iddrisu to him as vice presidential candidate and said the channel for his preference was inappropriate and undermines the NDC’s internal democratic values.

The egocentric Rawlings was bruised but Atta Mills and Mahama moved on and it appears the NDC was splitting into two factions – the Atta Mills and the Rawlings factions. Such apparent crack was further viewed against the fact that Atta Mills, Mahama and Rawlings were hardly seen on the same campaign platform and communication among them either weak or absent.

The uncoordinated nature of the NDC campaigns was further exposed when the hawkish Mrs. Rawlings misguidedly said that the NPP flagbearer, Nana Akufo-Addo, wasn’t a qualified lawyer. Atta Mills quickly corrected Mrs. Rawlings by saying he knows Akufo-Addo very well and that Akufo-Addo is a qualified lawyer. The Atta Mills and Mahama ticket further disagreed with the autocratic Rawlings when Mahama put Rawlings in place by stating that it isn’t the NDC’s game plan to state on its campaign platform that the NPP has imported arms to cause trouble without proof.

Such unNDC campaign statements by the Rawlings’ created dissonance within the NDC and used by rival parties to drum home how the NDC is internally disordered and not fit to rule Ghana. This made the NDC, for sometime, appears cracking with various prominent figures making diametric campaign statements that contradict its social democratic ethos, its 8 years contribution to Ghana’s development, and project the party as “confused,” “tribalistic,” ”threatening,” and unGhanaian. That’s hasn’t being healthy for a party that ruled Ghana for eight years and should draw from its experiences over the years as a bulwark against the NPP, CPP and other small, obscure parties that have been making noises at the fringes.

Such internal distortions within the NDC had come about because Rawlings had been an overriding figure, virtually running the party to the point of being dictatorial and ruffling the NDC’s internal democratic traditions to the point of becoming a nuisance to the detriment of the NDC’s attempts to win the December 2008 general elections.

Not doubt, in its fluctuating moods the NDC sometimes look like an outcrop of Rawlings’ military Provincial National Defence Council that ruled Ghana for almost twelve years. That has undermined the NDC’s values and opens it to attacks from other parties that charge that the NDC has not extricated itself from its rough military mentality and “revolutionary” hustling.

Part of the reason for such situation is that for the past eight years since the ruling NPP came to power and the Ghanaian democracy enlarged, Rawlings has come under increasing scrutiny for his almost 20-year-rule both as military and civilian leader. For almost 20 years Ft. Lt. Rawlings ruled Ghana with iron fist, and shielded from inquiry by overwhelming military machine that run his regimes. With democratic floodgates increasingly being opened Rawlings’ policies, mannerisms, and body language are open book.

Rawlings’ statements and gestures were discussed pretty much in secrecy by Ghanaians for fear of either being beaten, killed, threatened, exiled, harassed or disappearing. The press, which was to watch Rawlings’ conduct and remit what Ghanaians feel about his regimes to his regimes, was heavily muzzled and frightened, some journalists killed, others exiled, others bombed with human faeces, and yet others coerced to tow Rawlings’s hostile line. Even in Rawlings’ own civilian NDC, which is said to have superstitiously signed its constitution with Rawlings’ “blood,” Ghanaians were gripped with fear.

But as Ghana’s democracy deepens, more from within Rawlings’ NDC, Rawlings is being re-shaped within the NDC by relatively youthful party apparatchiks who are committed to democratic characteristics to project the NDC as “new” and freed from the Rawlings’ grip. Rawlings’ mounting of the same platform with presidential candidate Atta Mills and his vice Mahama, who had earlier countered Rawlings’ awkward statements, to sell the NDC manifesto is one. Another is Rawlings not giving his usual vain statements during the manifesto’s sales. Let’s see whether attempts to re-shape Rawlings for the good of the NDC will last.