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Opinions of Friday, 13 June 2003

Columnist: Akoto, Sarfo Naasei

Who Shall Rid Us Of This Turbulent Ex-Prez ?

WHO SHALL RID US OF THIS TURBULENT EX-PREZ ?

Am I the only one getting increasingly exasperated by the lack of presidential scruples exhibited by Jerry Rawlings? As King Henry VIII said of the rather intrepid clergyman Thomas A'Beckett; "Who shall rid me of this turbulent priest?" so I'm asking Ghanaians everywhere today, who shall rid us of this turbulent ex-prez?

Of course, while Thomas A'Beckett defied King Henry on moral and religious grounds, making himself a thorn in the flesh of the king, our ex-prez desires no such ends except to grab a slice of the limelight he used to commandeer, even if that means, making outrageous, wild and unsubstantiated allegations against his political enemies.

One is tempted to dismiss Jerry Rawlings and his misguided hangers on when they churn out their rubbish, after all it's all part of the democratic process, but when an ex-pres makes allegations as serious as murder, and serial murder at that, it cannot and should not just be dismissed. Especially, if his target is none other than members of a ruling government, then it should be treated as a high priority issue.

We should also not be tempted to disregard these allegations as a by-product of the obnoxious June 4 carousel, which we now know will remain a constant annual feature for as long as the NDC remain in the political wilderness. However, let us get serious here and dispassionately consider the outbursts of Mr Rawlings during his speech to his party faithful and allegedly repeated to members of the CID who interviewed him subsequently. Mr Rawlings has claimed that he has solid information on 15 members of the present government who were directly responsible for the cold-blooded killings of about 30 women in the country towards the end of his own administration in 2000. He further stated that he would only disclose the names of these cabinet members if he is strapped to a polygraph. Why he insists on this condition baffles me because he claims if not the accused ministers will have time to prepare for their defence well in advance of a possible trial.

One can easily see the warped logic that constantly characterises the persona of Mr Rawlings at play here. Why does he think whenever he makes any allegations against anyone under whatever conditions, admitting these conditions are even acceptable under the rule of law, that the one should not have the right to self-defence?

Mr Rawlings, in my opinion, has alleged the highest crime under our constitution, besides treason against members of the government, who have been entrusted with the awesome responsibility of protecting and defending us against external and internal aggression. In my books, they don't come bigger than that. For that reason alone, the matter should not be allowed to rest without a thorough investigation.

Another point worth noting is that this isn't any allegation from just anybody. This is an allegation coming from the very top, in the form of an ex-president of the republic. Mr Rawlings' sanity may have been called into question occasionally, due to certain bizarre behaviours including climbing trees in the waning years of his administration, but these allegations of his should not be dismissed as yet another example of his psychological instability.

I think quite honestly, this man's bluff should be called. His rampaging across the media landscape making outrageous remarks should be dealt with effectively, and by that I mean through the courts. The CID should be able to haul him to their offices and demand he substantiate his allegations. If he refuses, then I suggest he should be subpoenaed. If he still refuses, then of course he could be put where he truly deserves to be- prison.

The leader of the CID team that went to interview him claimed, his request for the polygraph will not be met because he isn't a criminal nor a witness. I agree with the former, at least for now, but strongly disagree with the latter. Mr Rawlings has by his utterances made himself at the very least a material witness to a crime that remains unsolved. He cannot dictate the terms under which he is going to co-operate. The higher need to pursue justice for the victims of those appalling killings and their relatives out-weigh the political antics of any one individual, however high and mighty the individual may think of himself.

Let us also not forget that these killings took place on the watch of Mr Rawlings, yet he could do nothing to stop them. If his government could not stop or solve the problem due to lack of evidence, and we are led by his utterances to believe that he now has the answers, what stops him doing his civic duty by unmasking a murderer(s)?

And at the risk of sounding tasteless, may I dare point to the potential political gains the pathetic NDC and their terribly uninspiring leader John Atta-Mills could reap out of such a revelation. I mean if Mr Rawlings is able to mention names of cabinet members who double as serial murderers, then what chance the government has of surviving even to the next general election?

I know it's very easy to regard these allegations as yet another bit of froth from a disgruntled political has-been whose effusions should be treated with the contempt they deserve. I am sympathetic to this view but only up to a point. After all the government doesn't want to be accused of being heavy-handed with him and risk making him a martyr. However, when a person has boldly made accusations of murder against government ministers, then a whole new game is at play, and due process should be the logical step forward.

Sometimes I wonder whether the leadership of the NDC, in their private thoughts are actually comfortable with being associated with such a mentally challenged person. They surely cannot be, but why don't they disown him? Do they still find him an electoral asset at all? That will be beyond belief in any political manual. Or they, in particular Mr Atta-Mills just run scared of him? It makes no sense to me that they still want to be seen hankering to the coat-tails of this ex-soldier whose greatest asset is barking stupid orders to his subordinates and getting physical when he doesn't get his way.

Until this generation of dead wood NDC leaders, demonstrably incapable of functioning without the guidance of their spiritual and physical leader Jerry Rawlings have cleared the scene, their party will never see power for a long time. And that is the big tragedy for Ghana because the NPP will be emboldened to "misbehave" as by virtue of their humanity, are wont to do, untrammelled by the absence of any vibrant opposition occasionally.


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