What’s the Trouble with Rawlings?

Published on 10th April 2007

Former Ghanaian President John Jerry Rawling's statement carried by Accra Daily Mail (April 05, 2007) that “You think you can get power from the NPP like that? You go get it by force,” is viewed by Ghanaian National Patriotic Party Newspaper as a coup detat.


It is not totally a nasty delight in security and political circles that make Ghanaians wonder about the character of Jerry Rawlings. The interest goes deeper than that. Large segments of the Ghanaian elites do not have a healthy relationship with him.


As the nascent Ghanaian democracy grows, Rawlings is increasingly becoming a complicated man in the Ghanaian democratic settings. Despite vacating the presidency after completing the two terms mandated by the Constitution, he does not believe in democracy as a vehicle for development. The picture of him as coup maker, violent, seditious, ranting and heckling the ruling NPP is one version. Rawlings has other versions. His failure to attend the 50th anniversary of the birth of Ghana, stems from reasons as abysmal as the rough-and-tumble of the Ghanaian political scene to the ruling NPP not doing well to some services cut off from him by the NPP for his alleged behaviour as a way of disciplining him.


Rawlings was once the Junior Jesus of Ghanaian politics: high spirited, youthful, saviour, can-do and fearless. Having ruled for almost 20 years, he never evolved into the ideal matured democrat. Instead, Rawlings did something that was in its way just impressive. He became one of the striking nation builders in post-colonial developing world, a military and civilian leader who cleaned the terrible rot scattered by elites alienated from Ghanaians’ developmental needs. Over the past 15 years, the tabloid version of Jerry Rawlings does not do him justice. The Ghanaian public that knows Jerry Rawlings by his reckless “boom” speeches alone may vastly underrate him.


Rawlings lives under the rule of a strange metaphysic. He had to fight on in the messy Ghanaian world after Kwame Nkrumah and J.B. Danquah floated away. Clearly power drunk, perhaps his life cracked after his protégé, Prof. John Atta-Mills, presidential candidate of the main opposition National Democratic Party (NDC), lost to the incumbent President John Kufour in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. The serious nation-builder now issues reckless seditious statements, sometimes juvenile, and undemocratic. The 60-year old, two-time military, two-time civilian ruler who ruled Ghana for almost 20 years would revert to immature, sloppy baby - You think you can get power from the NPP like that? You go get it by force.”


The question is, Why? Was all this unhappy transformation the influence of Ghana's metaphysics? Or was it simply democratic immaturity? In any case the shadow fell and Ghana has now and then, like fluctuating waves, heard from Rawlings’ undemocratically threatening “boom” speeches that tell them where their 15-year-old democratic dispensation came from.

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