Rawlings: Father of Fourth-Republican Identity Politics

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

To be certain, this phenomenon has always been with us a modern multi-national polity. It officially came and was recognized as such by the European scramble for and partitioning of Africa into the largely inorganic cultural units that we are today. And as has been eloquently observed time and again, for the Western-European colonial powers, it was the ability to exploit and appropriate both the human and natural resources of Africans and our continent for the accelerated material development and comfort of Europe that mattered most. In essence, whatever has redounded to the benefit of the erstwhile African colonial, such as Euro-literacy, for the most part, the relative availability of such modern cultural amenities as hospitals, schools, agricultural implements, roads and other communication facilities have been largely incidental corollaries to the European imperialist process.

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Furthermore, whatever practical attempts that have been made by Ghanaian leaders, in particular, and African leaders, in general, to organically unify our people for national and continental development have come in the rather unhealthy form of Eurocentric ideological cleavages. In Ghana, for example, President Nkrumah forged close links with the so-called Eastern-bloc countries whose model of economic development he also strained to emulate, with dire consequences for our national development agenda. And he woefully failed because even as Dr. Danquah pointed out as back as 1948, the historical and cultural development of Eastern Europe had been dramatically different from that of the erstwhile Gold Coast.

As a more organic and appropriate measure, Danquah advocated what he termed as “Indigenous Capitalism,” the systematic nurturance of an Afrocentric economic development model that took remarkable cognizance of African history and culture. In the case of Ghana, for example, the putative Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics exhorted the encouragement of individual enterprise, citing the example of indigenous Ghanaian agrarian enterprise in the development of the cocoa industry.

Paradoxically, however, it is in the area of his greatest contribution to the irredentist reorientation and development of the proverbial African Personality that, arguably, the foremost Ghanaian scholar of the twentieth century has been most bitterly carped by his detractors and their followers – and regarding the latter, of course, the allusion is to Danquah’s epic and globally recognized attempt to map out the psycho-cultural organicity of the Akan people as a meta-nation and the salubrious basis upon which the modern Ghanaian nation could be purposively constructed while, of course, respectfully admitting of the functional and collaborative significance of non-Akan cultures to the development of modern Ghana.

More than any of his contemporaries and rivals, Danquah recognized the organicity of the African Personality; what, indeed, put him ahead of his rivals and detractors was his signal recognition and acceptance of the deliberative nature of African unification. In other words, unlike Mr. Kwame Nkrumah, for example, Dr. Danquah envisaged the ultimate and inevitable movement towards African unification as one that could only be properly and therefore successfully induced by multicultural leadership maturity. Nkrumah, on the other hand, envisaged the process as one demanding of a radical jihadist revolution. It is, therefore, not surprising that both on the national and continental fronts, the African Show Boy appears to have been quite rhetorically trenchant and inspirational, whereas in terms of the practical implementation of his ideas, Nkrumah comes off as nothing short of the scandalously sophomoric. His woeful lack of remarkable appreciation for democratic political culture also meant that Ghana would totter on the brink between military dictatorship and tentative and transient elective governance.

And so while his acolytes and minions may readily point to their hero’s remarkable material, and even seminal, contribution to the development of Ghana, in the area of salutary democratic legacy, the record books are unremittingly scathing. And on the preceding score, it goes without saying that democracy is a game of ethnic and cultural diversity. And in Ghana, the most guilty political figure who is widely known to be a reckless and shameless promoter of ethnic chauvinism, often falsely disguised as a politics of condign revenge (or retributive justice), is former President Jerry John Rawlings.

Throughout most of the “democratic” 90s, for example, citizens of his Anlo-Ewe southern Volta sub-region who were reported to have voted against his so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC) government were either hunted down and summarily executed or systematically persecuted until they “repented of their scandalous ways.” And even as recently as 2008, Ghanaian citizens whose names pointed to an ethnic identity that was not traditionally known to be Ewe, even though in quite remarkable instances some bearers of such names were bona fide Ewes, and who were found in the Volta Region to be either attempting to exercise their legitimate franchise or to ensure the legitimacy of the electoral process were summarily proscribed and severely assaulted. We know for a verifiable fact that Togbui Avaklasu Rawlings has been squarely behind such systematic orchestration of mayhem because in the lead-up to Election 2008, and in the wake of the Anloga intra-ethnic hostilities, the retired Ghanaian dictator accused then-President John Agyekum-Kufuor of imposing Asante imperialism on the Anlo-Ewe because, in consonance with constitutional requirements, Mr. Kufuor had dared to order the deployment of a multi-ethnic peace-keeping force into Anloga.

What is weirdly and ironically fascinating about Mr. Rawlings is that for two protracted decades, he dominated the Ghanaian political landscape with priggish pretense to ethnic neutrality even as he systematically attempted to reduce the majority Akan populace to second-class citizenship. It was also during this period that members of Ewe ethnicity came to be sarcastically dubbed “Ghanaian Jews,” a political label that clearly and bitterly connoted flaunted underserved privilege. And to be certain, some of his most ardent, albeit fairly objective, critics have even suggested that Mr. Rawlings’ greatest and most definitive contribution to postcolonial Ghanaian politics has been the palpable elevation of Ewes, particularly Anlo-Ewes, to the vengeful status of “Super-Ghanaians.” One clearly sees this manifested in the numerically disproportionate percentage of Ewe key political appointees in the Mills-Mahama government of the so-called National Democratic Congress. Predictably, the logical tendency has been for prime Ewe beneficiaries of such “Super-Citizenship” privilege to stridently demur.

Whatever be the ontic state of affairs, Justice Emile Short’s cautionary note about the possibility of a Rwandan nightmare playing out in Ghana could not have come at a more opportune moment (See “Rwanda Genocide Can Happen in Ghana” Ghanaweb.com 9/16/10).

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. A Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI), Okoampa-Ahoofe is the author of a forthcoming volume of poetry titled “The Obama Serenades.”

E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.com

The opinions expressed here are the author`s and do not necessarily reflect the views or have the endorsement of the Editorial Board of AfricaNewsAnalysis