When the umbrella begins to tumble (Part One)
Ebo Quansah in Accra
It sounds like a fairy tale. But then, most of the happenings in the governance process in this country under Jerry John Rawlings were comic relief in spite of the brutal nature of the regime.
The story is told that the constitutional Head of State of the Republic of Ghana decided in 1995 that he needed to verify figures of taxes collected on behalf of this nation by the Internal Revenue Service.
Apparently, the President was not comfortable with figures issued by the Ministry of Finance at the time. When President Jerry John Rawlings arrived at the Acting Commissioner’s Office and met with Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, he was impressed with his honesty from the way and manner the Acting Commissioner took him through the figures.
According to information available to this reporter, figures available at the Internal Revenue Service indicated that the state had been short-changed by the Finance Ministry.
Prof. Atta Mills, in the opinion of then President Rawlings was an honest man. After the altercation with former Vice-President Kow Nkensen Arkaah, Prof. Mills provided a welcome relief. That is how the Ekumfi-born former law lecturer came to be nominated to run alongside the sitting President at the time on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress.
After four years of dedicated service to the cause of the Presidency, the nation, and ultimately, the party, Prof. Mills endeared himself to the former President to the extent that he was prepared to gamble on the law lecturer’s Presidency, although ex-President Rawlings is said to had previously promised to back Goosie Tanoh to rise to the highest position in the land in his absence.
That is why ex-President Rawlings went out of his way to declare Prof. Mills his heir-apparent, and risked splitting the party in what has now become known as the Swedru Declaration of 1999. Following the Swedru Declaration, cadres meeting in Sekondi impressed upon Mr. Goozie Tanoh to form a party dedicated to the cause of the cadres. That, in a nutshell, is what gave birth to the Reform Party and weakened the electoral base of the NDC, leading to the party’s electoral defeat in the year 2000.
Commenting on wheeling and dealing in the party, one-time Eastern Regional Women’s Organiser Madam Faustina Offei summed it up succinctly and justified the return of the cadres into the party fold after Mills had won the election in 2008. “What we are saying is that we want true democracy. But, how democratic was the NDC under Rawlings and Obed Asamoah in 1999?
“Both of them were dreaded democratic dictators, having used the cadres to win power from 1992 to 2000, after having used and dumped them. President Mills has given appointments to most leading cadres in his administration. Why won’t cadres throw their weight behind him to achieve Better Ghana?”
Apparently, cracks in the Mills-Rawlings relationship began to appear before the nation headed for the polls in 2008. In spite of the public perception that Mills was likely to be a stooge of the former President, the man, who was later to be head of state, was tilting more towards the leadership of the Fante Confederation, composed of the Ahwoi Brothers and Kofi Totobi Quakyi, than his mentor.
The story is told that the main reason why the former junta head was very active on the campaign trail in 2008 was the fear that victory for the opposition New Patriotic Party was likely to lead to the jailing of his wife, who was before court prior to the election.
When President Mills won the people’s mandate, Mr. Rawlings was said to have tabled the motion that as founder of the party, he ought to be allowed to nominate his favourite candidates to fill the four key portfolios – Finance, Defence, Interior, and Attorney-General and Minister of Justice.
When Mills ignored his pleas and went ahead to make his own nominations for these portfolios, the former President felt slighted. Criticism was initially muted. But, when it reached the level of ‘greedy bastards’ and ‘Konongo kaya,’ the gauntlet had been thrown.
Professor Mills was said to have been irked by those descriptions. On April 11, 2011, the Daily Guide newspaper reported that at a Council of Elders meeting two days earlier, the President and his mentor nearly exchanged blows. We are told that it took the agility of National Security Co-Ordinator Larry Gbevlo-Lartey, and the alertness of Chief Scribe Johnson Asiedu-Nketia to prevent Mills having a bust-up with Mr. Rawlings.
Former Supreme Court Judge Mr. Justice Francis K. Kpegah described the ill-feeling that had developed between the mentor and his student. “I know JJ is deeply hurt by an unsigned letter allegedly written to him by Prof. Mills. He is also hurt by President Mills’ inability to distance himself from this libelous letter.
“I also know that the President is hurt by JJ Rawlings’ reference to him at Legon as ‘Konongo Kaya,” Mr. Justice Kpegah said.
Former President Rawlings has also expressed misgivings about the quality of the men and women chosen by the President to administer the nation. He is also irked by the many scandals that have dogged this administration. He believes the handling of the Woyome scandal, and the award of judgment debts to people, many of whom could not be identified publicly, went against the NDC principles of integrity, probity and accountability.
The differences between the top two reached boiling point when organisers of the last NDC Congress at Sunyani were alleged to have skewed the arrival of the founder of the party to coincide with the time of prayers, so that no one could acknowledge Jerry John Rawlings’ presence.
There was no love-lost after the congress, when party officials went on the offensive against the founder of the party. Mr. Johnson Asiedu Nketia, General Secretary of the NDC, went on record to describe the former President as a’ barking dog’ who had been silenced.
Last January, Party Chairman Kwabena Adjei wrote to President Mills requesting a meeting of major stake-holders of the party to resolve the differences between the two top officials of the party. The party boss named 21 personalities, as well as all regional chairman of the NDC, who ought to mediate in the conflict.
“In the supreme interest of the party, I have, for the past three years, sincerely, patiently and silently taken the position of a unifying middle liner between those who are perceived as major factions in the party by many concerned, discerned and discerning Ghanaians. I have treaded this leadership path cautiously, hoping to keep the party united and stable, in my strong belief that it can provide an impregnable political fortress …without resources contributed greatly to our electoral victory. All I have deserved are abuses, character assassinations, blocking of my efforts and physical threats to my person.”
The party boss said he could not put up anymore with the “on-going and well-known divisive machinations and schemes that threaten to wreck the party’s very survival and my person as the popularly-elected Chairman.”
The seriousness of the issue at stake was brought to the fore, when the party boss surmised: “Mr. President, I do hope that you understand, as much as I do, the seriousness of the threat to our great party if I am forced to go public to cleanse my assassinated character hatched within the party, and more importantly, take the needed steps to straighten up the party.”
He ended his letter by stating that he was copying the NDC Founder, Flt Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, “in my strong conviction that so long as he lives and commands continued grassroots support, his relevance in our party can neither be questioned, nor treated with contempt.”
This letter is pregnant with meaning. Beyond the influence of the founder, which is seriously under threat from within, certain developments, including the threat to the very life of the Chairman, tells the story of a party which centre cannot hold.
It is against this background that the prepared speech read by the founder at the 30th Anniversary of the 31st December Movement on Wednesday, should be viewed. It tells a lot about a melting pot. Tomorrow, I will continue the analysis of the bomb tearing the NDC apart.
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