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Opinions of Sunday, 30 August 2015

Columnist: Asare-Donkoh, Frankie

The 'Ridge Battle' for Ezenator

In Ghana, the name Rawlings exudes passions – love and hate included. Until May 15, 1979 when Flt.-Lt Jerry John Rawlings was arrested for an attempted coup to overthrow the Supreme Military Council (SMC) government under Lt-Gen. F. W. Akuffo, not many Ghanaians knew the that name.

His trial by a military tribunal and his claim that he was responsible for the attempted coup and that the other soldiers arrested be ‘left alone’ shore up his popularity amongst junior soldiers, leading to his release by a group of them and the overthrow of the Akuffo regime on June 4, 1979.

As a leader of the junta, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), Rawlings supervised the execution of some senior army officers mostly in the SMC and the National Redemption Council (NRC) which preceded it.

After handing over to Dr Hila Limann and his People’s National Party (PNP) which won the presidential election of 1979, Rawlings returned barely after two years of handing over to overthrow Dr Limann. He formed the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), which despite being ‘provisional’ ruled for 11 years.

Rawlings metamorphosed from a military leader after his 11-year rule to a civilian President after turning his PNDC to NDC (National Democratic Congress) in 1992 and contested the December 1992 presidential which he won amidst a controversy, with other political parties accusing him and his NDC party of rigging.

Following that controversial ‘winning’ in 1992, Rawlings won another four-year term as President following the December 1996 elections. This made Jerry John Rawlings the only person served the longest as Ghana’s leader – 19 years.

This 19-year rule of Rawlings, as noted above is seen differently by many Ghanaians, especially depending on whether one suffered under any of his regimes or gained. To some, he is a hero, while others go to the extreme extent of seeing him as a murderer because of those his government executed and the many extra-judicial killings and disappearances under his regimes.

Rawlings is the founder of the NDC, despite Ghana’s constitution not allowing any individual to form a party. He is held high by many NDC members, especially many of the ‘cadres of the revolution’ who rose to higher positions overnight and became ‘somebodies’ from their previous ‘nobodies’ position.

For all the 11 years that Rawlings was a military leader and eight years as a civilian president, his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings was the ‘most feared’ person both within the PNDC/NDC and outside. Her rise to fame as the President of the 31st December Women’s Movement, the women’s wing of the PNDC and later the NDC was on wings of her husband.

Sunyani and after

It was from this background that Konadu’s decision to break away from the NDC after she miserably lost the 2011 NDC presidential candidate primary in Sunyani. On July 9, she was beaten by the sitting President, Prof. J. E. A Mills, who polled 2,771 votes (96.9 per cent) as against her 90 votes (3.1 per cent). Konadu claimed the election was not fair and that the party executives rigged it in Mills’ favour.

From then Mrs Rawlings formed her own party, the National Democratic Party (NDP) and attempted to contest the 2012 presidential election, but failed because her party’s national secretariat failed to process her candidature forms at the Electoral Commission within the stipulated period. Since then, she has become very critical about the NDC and the government, first under Mills and later John Dramani Mahama who took over from Mills after his death.

Currently, Mrs Rawlings and her NDP party intend to contest the 2016 parliamentary and presidential elections. Several attempts by the NDC and her own husband and founder of the NDC, Jerry John Rawlings, to get her back to the NDC had failed.

What has not been clear to many since the formation of the NDP is the allegiance of Jerry John Rawlings – how could he be the founder of the NDC while his wife has formed a rival political party challenging the NDC. Did he actually support his wife to form the party.

While this battle goes on in the minds of some people, the real battle has now emerged at the Ridge residence of the Rawlingses. The first child of the family, Ezenator Rawlings, has decided to contest in the NDC’s primaries for the Korle Klottey constituency parliamentary candidate. The question which arose since her announcement to seek an office in the NDC party is whether she has broken ranks with her mother on a personal conviction or her father persuaded her to choose the NDC over her mother’s NDP.

Who wins?

If Ezenator had chosen to contest on the ticket of her mother’s NDP, that would have meant Papa Rawlings has lost control of his household – first his wife disregarded his position as the founder of the NDC and went ahead to form a rival party, and now his eldest child, has also gone to join the mother.

When asked in a recent television interview why she chose the NDC over her mother’s NDP, Ezenator Rawlings said her parents brought them up in a way that allowed anyone in the family to have different political affiliation, “and the purpose for which one embarks on a path with one group or another could simply be because one has noticed that there is a problem and would want to help fix it.”

This means she sees a problem within the NDC and that she wants to help fix it. But this problem she sees doesn’t seem to include her mother leaving the party, and that she was doing what she is doing to bring her back. She says: “With regard to my mother’s refusal to come back to the NDC, I think even from the outside looking in, the extent to which the abuse went was pretty far. I cannot speak for her on that but what I will say is that like every other person in Ghana, she reserves the right to have political affiliations with whom she pleases.

“I’m not quite sure what it would take, if at all, to convince her to come back to the NDC. However, I don’t know what the future holds. There is always an option for an alliance between parties. It has been done before and it can always happen.” Therefore, apart from hoping that there could be an alliance one day, probably between her father’s NDC and mother’s NDP, for now, she has joined the NDC to help solve other problems and not her mother’s come-back.

Now that Ezenator Rawlings has chosen the NDC, it means Rawlings has won the ‘Ridge Battle’ between himself and his wife (NDC vs. NDP), but however, the bigger question is, can Ezenator climb the political ladder? Already some are saying she wants to ride on her father’s wings. But what is wrong about that? Samia Nkrumah, the daughter of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, did the same to win the Jomoro seat in 2008 when she did not speak a single word of the Nzema language and only a few elders know her in the constituency.

Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, Nana Akufo Addo, and many others have in some way benefitted from the fame of their fathers, so what would be wrong for Ezenator Rawlings to rise on the good side of her father?

Journalist Ben Ephson has cautioned her not to allow her father to be deep in her campaign because “certain NDC members whose families suffered under the June 4 and 31st December issues”, adding that “on her own, she can campaign and win. If she involves her father, she is likely to suffer reactions from her father’s past.”

Ephson might have a point, but must we punish a child for the wrongs of their father, when the child was so young that there was nothing they could have done to stop their father? Yes, if my father was executed under Rawlings’s regime I would naturally be angry at that whole family, but frankly what part did the children of Rawlings play in all his atrocities or excesses of Rawlings as Ghana’s leader?

Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings has severally and seriously condemned the NDC under Mills and Mahama by even calling government officials thieves, but she has never criticised anything which happened under Rawlings’ AFRC, PNDC, and NDC regimes.

Ezenator says she would be embarking on her campaign trail with the people’s interest at heart and present what she has to offer them. She needs to be reminded that the people’s interest also means fairness and justice for those who suffered under the AFRC, PNDC, and NDC under his father’s leadership so they would watch to see if she would be like her mother who never saw and still doesn’t see anything with the Rawlings regimes or she would speak against any action of her father.

Deuteronomy 24:16 says: “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin”, hence Ezenator must not be punished for her father’s ‘sins’. She has every right as a Ghanaian to engage in politics. Let’s be democratic and tolerant of one another.