ANALYSIS: Let’s leave Rawlings alone to thrive on risks, not peace… – Urges Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

The writer, Dr Michael J.K. Bokor
It is disgraceful that the strained relationship between former President Rawlings, on the one hand, and incumbent President Mills and former President Kufuor, on the other hand, persists and continues to dominate public discourse because it hasn’t yet been resolved amicably.

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By not being at peace with each other, these foremost personalities are not setting any good example, and should be told the truth. The matter is troubling, especially in the case of Rawlings and Kufuor, being the only surviving former Presidents. And being two of the three leaders we’ve had in this 4th Republic, they should have known better not to allow their ranks to be divided by who-knows-what?

I will be brazen in passing judgement here to say that the worst example has come from Rawlings. I say so because he is easily identifiable as the source of the conflict. He is at loggerheads with both Kufuor and Mills just because he can’t relate to them properly or fit into their frameworks for governance that differ from the one that he functioned in when he ruled Ghana for nearly 20 years.

At every turn, it is either Rawlings this or Rawlings that. In truth, the causes of the strained relationship between him and his successors (Kufuor and Mills) can be traced to his doorsteps. I will bluntly say here that he seems to relish in this antagonism and wishes that it persists so that he will continue to portray himself as someone to be deferred to and concessions made to accommodate.

As he continues to enjoy the media coverage that is given him, he seems poised to do all he can to prolong the enmity. That is a clear indication of the sort of character that he is.

Granted that Kufuor belongs to a rival political camp, we may assume that there would naturally be a fair amount of “hostility” between him and Rawlings. But that “hostility” has its roots in other things, which we will explore later on.

The conflict between Rawlings and Mills is particularly bothersome because of its negative impact on governance. We can tell from the rumpus in the NDC and the disdain that Rawlings, his wife, and all those supporting them have for the Mills government that the persistence of that strained relationship is doing more harm than needed. The NDC is suffering the pangs as its followers take sides.
Rawlings can’t bring himself to accept the fact that by constantly antagonizing and alienating people, he is endangering his own future and reducing all his good accomplishments to absurdity. He seems not to accept the fact that it is foolhardy for him to climb two trees at once just because he has two feet.

The strained relationship can’t be resolved because Rawlings isn’t willing. If he were interested in an amicable resolution, he would have toned down on his scathing attacks on President Mills and made room for it. But he doesn’t, which underlines the internal crisis in the NDC itself.

The latest indication that something is being begun to that effect may be heart-warming but I have serious doubts whether such peace-brokering efforts won’t end up in smoke. In effect, Rawlings doesn’t seem to like peace and won’t work for it. He seems to be more poised to dig in and benefit from the strained relationship than any peace that may be brokered. He thrives on risks, so the saying goes.

That is why I strongly disagree with the MP for Adenta, Kojo Adu Asare’s proposal that the NDC should employ a professional mediator to reconcile him and President Mills.

According to the MP, “a professional mediator would know the appropriate strategy to adopt to ensure the two gentlemen settle their differences amicably to avoid any factionalism in the NDC” (MyJoyOnline, Friday, April 6, 2012).

In his estimation, the eminent chiefs constituting the Coalition of Traditional Rulers formed by the NDC to settle the almost four years’ rift between President Mills and Rawlings ahead of the December polls are not professional mediators and, thus, lack the requisite skills to resolve the impasse.

The MP is said to be skeptical about the ability of the chiefs to succeed in that endeavor. He made his views heard on Asempa FM’s Ekosii Sen programme on Thursday.

I regard the MP’s position as weird and unacceptable. First, he is wrong to propose the use of a “professional mediator” for this task.
Second, he is dead wrong to conclude that the chiefs can’t resolve the conflict. Experience tells me that our chiefs have acquitted themselves as capable mediators and problem solvers even without being tagged as “professional mediators.” They are known and respected for their conflict resolution efforts in many ways, succeeding in brokering peace among antagonistic factions in different parts of the country.

Now, let me take these two issues to discuss on their merits. What is it about a “professional mediator” that should warrant the MP’s proposal? More importantly, should the NDC waste money on such a venture when these two “old” men (Rawlings and Mills) should have known better not to misconduct themselves as they are doing as far as the strained relationship between them is concerned?

At well over 60 years, aren’t they mature enough to know how not to bother us with their tantrums? What is it that prevents them from being bold and determined enough to repair their strained relationship?

By not sinking their differences and reconciling at their own volition, they come across as pitiable. No amount of mediation by a “professional whoever” will yield any long-lasting benefits for as long as none of them has the compunction to take the first step or be prepared to eliminate the causes and, thereby, prevent a relapse. No one but Rawlings and Mills can resolve this strained relationship!

Now, to the point about our chiefs not being able to resolve this conflict. Who has told this MP that our chiefs lack the skills for such an assignment? The only hindrance may be the constitutional prohibition against their involvement in partisan politics. Even then, they can go ahead to initiate efforts aimed at reconciling Rawlings and President Mills without being accused of flouting the constitution.

After all, their action won’t amount to any participation in partisan politics. There is a difference between peace-brokering and partisan politicking in respect of this personal problem between Rawlings and President Mills. We can easily separate each role from the other and excuse the chiefs in this instance.

The larger problem is the intransigence of Rawlings, which is the major obstacle for anybody wanting to repair that broken relationship.

The root causes of the conflict or friction between Rawlings and President Mills (or former President Kufuor) are not difficult to determine. Let’s say here that Rawlings’ irresistible dictatorial urge and desire to control people and call the shots are at the center of the conflict.

After handing over to Kufuor, he couldn’t bring himself to recognize the fact that the Kufuor who was to head the new government was no longer that Kufuor whom he had appointed as Secretary for Local Government in 1982 to be controlled and dictated to.

Rawlings did all he could to call the shots, which backfired and for which he felt implacably offended by Kufuor. Didn’t Kufuor tell us how Rawlings manouevred and called meetings with him at which he sought to school Kufuor on how to govern the country?

Kufuor did say it openly in 2001 that he stood his grounds and refused to attend other meetings called at the instance of Rawlings because he didn’t want to give Rawlings any iota of feeling that he (Rawlings) could call the shots. The result? Rawlings cultivated acrimony against Kufuor to the extent that he openly derided him with his “Nii Ayii nie, Kufuor nie” cacophony.

Rawlings didn’t end it there. His public pronouncements against Kufuor were nothing but scathing attacks on his personality. His persistent hard-hitting abuses and outright denigration of Kufuor deepened the hostility between both and made it difficult for well-meaning Ghanaian public figures to broker peace between him and Kufuor.

The prosecution of his wife and others who functioned in his government heightened the hostility. We heard all that Rawlings said in condemning Kufuor and why the venom simmering in him seemed to catalyze his electioneering campaigns for the 2008 elections.

That was why he and all others fought hard to return the party to power. But in one way or the other, they didn’t take long to become disenchanted that the Mills government wasn’t taking the fight to the NPP functionaries as expected. By refusing to punish these ex-government officials, President Mills definitely angered Rawlings and whatever has continued to be hurled at him seems to be his “reward.”

Then, let’s turn to his fracas with President Mills. One wonders why the Mills that Rawlings found so much virtue in to the extent that he virtually anointed him as his successor (through the Swedru Declaration) should now be the “Atta Mortuaryman” and a “Greedy Bastard” to Rawlings.

It was all because Mills has refused to bend as pulled up-and-down by Rawlings. Indeed, Rawlings’ persistent clamour for Mills to denounce the outcome of the 2004 elections, particularly, portrayed his impatience at showing the NPP functionaries where naked power lay. Investing his time, energies, and resources in the NDC’s bid for power, Rawlings made sure that the politicking remained anti-NPP to create room for a future NDC government to deal drastically with functionaries of that political camp whom he hasn’t ceased accusing of thievery.

His constant stentorian calls for the arrest and prosecution of members of the Kufuor government is another cause. It underlies the bad-blood relationship that developed following President Mills’ refusal to toe his line. In pursuit of a pacifist agenda (couched under the slogan “Father-for-ALL”), President Mills has doggedly refused to obey Rawlings’ call. We all know the outcome, which seems to have deepened the internal crisis of the party to such an extent that it can’t successfully put its house in order.

To worsen matters, his own poor opinion of the Mills government and its functionaries—those he pejoratively wrote off as “Greedy Bastards”—won’t create any congenial atmosphere for peace-making. That is why despite several calls from public-spirited citizens for differences to be sunk in the interest of the party, nothing beneficial has been forthcoming all this while.

The stark fact is that if Rawlings’ intention is to work for President Mills to lose the elections and send the NDC back into opposition, he will only be cutting off his nose to spite his own face. Ghanaians want to do better things with their time than being bothered with Rawlings this today, Rawlings that tomorrow!

Indeed, I can confidently say that by locking horns with everybody who disagrees with him and projecting himself as the only one who knows how Ghana should be governed, Rawlings has succeeded in inflating himself too much and shouldn’t be surprised if he bursts into fragments.

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