Rawlings: A Founder and Father now an OUTCAST?
The irony of fate that has reduced former President Rawlings from the high horse of a hero to a near-villain in his own political camp defies rationalization; but it is understandable as the outcome of his own inability to change with the times. We will continue to examine the twists and turns that have turned him into what he himself has labelled as “an outcast” in his own political family (the NDC).
Yes, an outcast he is because that is the outcome of his not stopping to look and listen before leaping into the whirlpool. Now, overwhelmed by the outcome, he has become giddy with resentment. I don’t pity him. Whether the NDC cannot do without him doesn’t really bother me. A viable political party needs to position itself to outgrow its founder(s). That’s what Rawlings cannot fathom and is suffering for it.
He is still living in a time warp, armed with strategies for politicking that are out of sync with the realities of our current political dispensation. His clarion call is nothing but vengeance, which has no place in the new NDC’s Social Democratic agenda. By failing to see the pond gradually drying around him, he is now on a dry land—a fish out of water. His becoming an outcast in the NDC is the logical conclusion of the process that he himself has initiated to displace him.
The grumbling from his camp about his being sidelined in the very party that he helped form raises important issues that must be factored into public discourse. By continuously making themselves visible through their discordant politics, they can’t escape public scrutiny.
Those of us who continue to put them under the microscope don’t do so because we have too much time and too little to do or because we want to destroy them. We do so because their persistent refusal to know their station in Ghanaian politics after almost 20 years on the throne portrays them as problematic. And they must be monitored and unmasked for us to be ahead of them.
Indeed, Rawlings has lost the centre stage and can’t understand why, although seriously peeved. The recent developments that relegated him and his wife to the backwoods speak volumes. It is so, not because no one recognizes his (and Nana Konadu’s) contributions to the country or the party he helped found; it is because of his abrasive manner of politicking, which has gone too far. It is also not because those now in control of the NDC want to nurture the party into an Nkrumahist party.
Anybody thinking along this line must be a political neophyte who needs help to understand Ghanaian politics. If anything at all, it is the NDC that stands a better chance to absorb elements from the pro-Nkrumahist camp to deepen that political family’s woes. The NDC is more politically viable than the CPP. That is why it is absurd for anybody to think that President Mills and his followers are strategizing to submerge the NDC under their so-called Nkrumahist armpit.
Clearly, Rawlings and his wife have lost the battle for control of the NDC and may rave and rant all they can; but theirs is a self-inflicted harm. Through a series of miscalculated moves, they have lost grounds and have no one but themselves to blame. Their popularity is at its nadir and they have become their own enemies both within the NDC and the wider national spectrum. Speculative though this claim may seem, it reflects the reality that Rawlings’ popularity has dipped drastically over the years, making him the butt of all unsavoury comments here and there. If you doubt it, talk to the nearest person.
When he burst onto the political landscape, he had a huge following, including me. His rationalization of the June 4 Uprising and the direction in which he seemed to be moving the administration of the country convinced us that he was on a mission to put the country on an even keel, particularly in eradicating the major causes of the economic stagnation, political instability, and moral decadence that had brought our country down to its knees. He did his best but left the scene without tackling those systemic problems. But he doesn’t know how to keep his distance to give others the peace of mind to rule the country.
Rawlings’ post-Presidency life is problematic because he has refused to lie low, which is the cause of the friction that has arisen between him and his successors as well as those of us from whose eyes the wool has fallen for us to recognize him for what he is. Rawlings comes across as too captious and power-hungry. He finds it difficult to submit to the authority of others and causes too much trouble. He has anointed himself as Ghana’s political Godfather, which is the main problem some of us have with him.
We can tell from the leadership skills of former President Kufuor that he preferred the laissez faire method, allowing his appointees to function according to their acumen and vision for their various portfolios. President Mills seems to be doing the same thing, which has seen much stability in his team.
These approaches are far different from Rawlings’ style, and he knows it too but won’t see anything good in them. Whether they are more effective than his or not remains debatable. But what is beyond dispute is that there is no intimidation of government functionaries by the President who appointed them into office unlike what happened under Rawlings. Ghanaians can see the marked difference in atmosphere and tell from happenings that Rawlings’ high-handed governance style has its own shortcomings. Probably, he knows too but will not openly admit it, lest he undercuts himself.
A major problem with Rawlings is that he can’t bring himself to accept the fact that others have different leadership styles from what he used to rule Ghana for almost 20 years—intimidation, strongman mentality, and one-man show—which made him believe that he was the paragon of patriotism. In other words, he took upon himself the task of singularly building the nation, forgetting that nation-building is a collective effort.
In this mood, he did all kinds of acts, including leading community clean-up exercises (as he did in Cape Coast, Teshie, etc., desilting gutters and cleaning public places of convenience). This tendency for “populist nonsense” might have deceived him into thinking that he is a man of the people who will remain as such no matter the situation. That is why he is still what he was in the June 4 era.
He brooked no nonsense or dissension to his manner of doing things and exerted his crude influence on his appointees. Rawlings took the task of nation-building as a personal assignment and sought to bring everybody in his government in line with his agenda, going beyond bounds in most cases and alienating most. He couldn’t contain anything contrary to his expectations.
Those who didn’t toe his line suffered physical pain and mental agony. Ex-Vice President, Kow Nkensen Arkaah, took the brunt of his anger on December 28, 1995, while numerous others were hounded out of office to become his bitterest enemies.
Those who have been monitoring the circumstances surrounding the Rawlingses know how they’ve lost almost all the people with whom they began their political career. By their erratic behaviour and plain betrayal or self-centredness, they’ve driven away all those people and are now a pale shadow of themselves. That explains why Nana Konadu was humiliated at the Sunyani Congress and Rawlings himself reduced to what he has come to recognize as an “outcast” in his own party.
Gradually, they’ve shot themselves in the foot and shouldn’t be surprised at their bleak political future. That’s the ultimate ditch toward which they are charting their political path.
Continued in next installment…
By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor