Nana Frema Busia: H.E. J.J Rawlings in perspective

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Author: Nana Afua Frema Busia
Author: Nana Afua Frema Busia

Ghana must not whitewash tombs with untruths. Now that we have showcased our customary love for the dead, mourned, eulogized and given a befitting state burial amid controversial democracy-founder credits to H. E. FLT Lieutenant J. J Rawlings, which stretch facts to make our eyes pop, we should reposition foolproof Truth.

Yes, the ambivalent J.J advent is etched indelibly on our history. His blood-stained legacy is forever congealed on our national conscience. Thus, while we empathize with the bereaved and grieving family, without begrudging him any due achievements, we must duly acknowledge our 4th Republic was attained at a definite indefensible blood price which overwhelms his legacy.

A Truthful retrospective would have to conclude that H.E. President J J Rawlings whose “revolutionary” insurrection on the political scene was like a cataclysmic earthquake that created a chilling crater centre stage with executions of all living former heads of state and other senior military officers, amid calls of “let the blood flow”, ultimately had the semblance of a hailed, Tragic figure, who failed to achieve his idyllic acclaimed goal of aiding the poor masses against corrupt officialdom.

*Today, corruption is our daily

meal and an intractable national pastime including at grassroots level, and, that is not in his historic favour.

*Whereas death may be the penalty for the treason of constitutional overthrow, which he, President JJ, was also guilty of, certainly, death by firing squad is not the penalty for corruption or leadership failure of its systemic control, otherwise his Excellency. J.J Rawlings doubly qualified to be in an execution line up and most of Ghana in the queue*

Indeed the senseless and gruesome human sacrifice /murders of innocent Judges during “JJ’s second coming” after overthrow of the Dr. Hilla Liman administration which traumatized the nation still make us cringe about sordid injustice.

The “Junior Jesus ” captivating boom rhetorics to jolt our conscience about societal decadence and corruption, and the signature J.J zeal to usher in an austere conscientious purity against “kalabule” had instant resonance, but, also failed even as applied under his own governance.

Here are some illustrations that made intolerance of corruption a stated but operational myth.

*La Palm Hotel: It was Under President J.J Rawlings tenure for example when a section of La Palm Hotel completion was rushed for an AU summit. Ghana was billed overall, some $100m primarily from besieged SSNIT pension funds and GCB funds under duress, after a Manager’s alleged aircraft ride with him at a time when the internal assessment had denied the loan.

A claimed La Palm extension billed at US$15m never saw a pickaxe on any ground.! The swimming pool was billed at over a million dollars.

An eyebrow-raising highlight of the La Palm saga was work done by an NDC financier buddy of President Rawlings with the face value of $35,000 but was paid one million dollars ($1m) with dubious justification.

Two independent sets of forensic auditors valued the hotel between US$20m to US$25m, thus Ghana could have had 4 to 5 La Palm Hotels under President Papa J’s Transparency, Probity and Accountability watch and received Social justice for our moneys worth.

*Elmina beach resort was also “renovated” for $10m, just one year after its completion with public funds in a Ghana under Papa J”s prudential management.

*Star Hotel at Cantoments which was integrated into La Palm as “Hotel Apartments ” became Private Residences with a few of its Select Secret owners not subject to forensic prying eyes, thus, busting our transparency bubble.

*Ghana Airways : Forensic Auditors who squarely faced curses and confronted a loaded gun as well as security issues during review, did conclude from the free-for-all corruption at Ghana Airways that the National Airline was intentionally bankrupted under President Rawlings watchful eagle-eyed regime.

An out-moded DC10, Aircraft advertised for $10m which Ghana purchased for $25m from Malaysia could not be flown without engines and documentation after it was refurbished. We then leased modern aircrafts which our pilots could not handle since a technology transfer agreement for $2m had yielded Zero training. Thus we also leased foreign flight crew to augment dire- mismanagement without sanctions, while some well-connected persons were flying to UK and USA for $1.

Highlights of Ghana Airways audit included: *hushed tales about a mystery “Alhaji” who was alleged to collect moneys for the “Castle” routinely without any witness willing or daring to reveal his identity; *mind-boggling serial -million dollar insurance payments on a permanently non – functional DC 9 aircraft that had crashed; and a *$4m foreign loan with $1m deposit in an untraceable “The Account” in the UK etc!

**The effect of “revolutionary might is right” with “excesses ” to demystify Power and hand it over to the masses without corresponding civic and humane responsibility in an “us vrs them”, professional/elite vs underclass, rich: then defined as having more than one refrigerator or toilet vrs poor, has not created a fair equalitarian society.

On the contrary, The J.J applauded towering inferno of righteous indignation, with its alter ego of peoples defence cabals, and Gestapo type, gun tooting commando operations in terrorizing homes and businesses and extracting curfew compliance deepened the mistrust and social class schism with tribal undertones.

It also left a backfired trail of exploited recycled youth without skills, who latter-day politicians have woefully manipulated and militarized into polarised vigilantism which is ongoing and haunting us in spite of recent laws.

The negative ‘”gains” of the “revolution” does include an indisciplined corps of lawless, illicit weapons -abundant, “obiara nye obiara” Ghana, which is a fundamentally much more corruption -entrenched society, than the ROT which the revolutionary WRATH came to quench and set RIGHT, because “wetin man no see before”

Let us recall being lean and hungry, wearing emaciated collar bones labelled “Rawlings chains”, living in abject fear of reprisals for objecting to traumatizing consequences of his dual military regimes brutalities, that overpowered us in a tyranny of human rights abuses including alleged drops of bodies into oceans.

*Furthermore, as for being a Democracy Father to whom we should be eternally grateful, Are we saying that “Chairman” Rawlings had a divine right to rule, or that due to aberrations on our continent, he did Ghana a sacrosanct favour?

Was he not “forced” by intense local pressure and the rigid “International Owners” of our dependent economy, including a “British Crown” visit, to ensure the “colonies” rule of- law reinstatement after 11yrs? During this period was he also not declared a “villain” with a plea for “God, to “Kill.JJ. for us” by the same masses who hailed him “Junior Jesus”?

*1992 Constitution: The classic irony of Our compromised and morally- blind 92 Constitution with its entrenched provisions cast in protective stone, like a biblical commandment is that it betrayed Chairman Rawlings as a traitor-orator whose own endearing “scripture” Probity Accountability, Transparency and social Justice was not applicable to him. “King JJ” was deemed above legal censure and shall not be ever held to earthly Account.

Thus, a self-proclaimed God-fearing, and peaceful Ghana, with a heathen heart, Christian majority and significant Muslim populace, in innate fear, cowed herself into expedient political submission. So that, without repentance, an 11 yr. eventful dictatorial rule, absorbed murder of judges, executions, treason etc in an overt cover-up, to enable a metamorphosis of our beloved J.J from military coup gear to uneasy civilian rulership to “hand over power to himself” in a seamless and effective power -grab colourful continuum.

Yes, “Freedom and Justice” Ghana, regardless of varied acute pains and severe sundry harassments, as though in a trance rewarded “Papa J” with a 2-term civilian Presidency.

*Except one may inquire : was Prof Adu Boahen’s “stolen verdict, credible? Did Papa J” stage a “constitutional coup- detat” in an era of stuffed non- transparent ballot boxes that did not visit any polling station?

In any case, the entrenched provisions were the extracted cost of democracy even as a CHRAJ chronicle of a myriad human rights abuses were shelved for posterity because “Atwa mene biara suro ayea nna” ie. an executioner is afraid to lie prostrate and sleep.

Ghana’s coup predicament was quieted but not properly buried, even as ‘J.J’ antecedents who had also claimed “Liberation” and “Redemption” for Ghana after their overthrow of the Osagyefo Dr. Nkrumah and the Prof. K. A . Busia civilian administrations, including Katakyie Akwasi Afrifa, who also had immunity under the 1969 constitution and Gen. I.K Acheampong who had also unsuccessfully attempted Union Government, turned in unknown graves and cried out for equal justice.

The discomfiture, is that our “unconstitutional” constitution which ushered in our 4th Republic for our “security and stability” approves murder including of Judges and of a nursing mother at the apex of her profession, Mrs Justice Korantendg Addow so that all the talk of girl child education and women’s emancipation sit uncomfortably woven into our constitution which does not care two hoots about the dichotomy between reality and rhetorics.

The 31st December Women’s Movement by the indomitable spirited first lady Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, amid its controversies, did its women’s empowerment bit, but it did not heal national broken hearts and festering wounds. Neither did Reconciliation under President Kufour appease those who cannot be brought back to life nor make victims of the revolution whole.

*Please do not hasten to misunderstand what I am NOT saying. I am not saying there were no developmental initiatives under President JJ Rawlings. It would be unseemly if his 19- year tenure had zero traction. Of course, We should give him due credits for health, infrastructure, education and whatever economic impetus etc, but without distortion.

For example, we should not say that the GIPC was started by President Rawlings when it was in fact started by Prime Minister K.A. Busia as the Capital Investment Board headed by Dr. Donkor Fordjour.

*What is startling though is that after President Rawlings “shined his eyes” away from social idealism to understand the dynamics of harsh global politics and structurally adjusted our economy with retrenchment and all the associated IMF / world bank Medicines for which he is applauded for pragmatic socio-economic stability;

*President J. A.Kufour stunned us upon his arrival, right on the heels of the Rawlings exit in 2,000 and had our “black- starred” country crowned HIPC – a Highly Indebted Poor Country!

So, after all of President Rawlings’ successes, some people even swear that it is HIPC that saved our economy from ruin. This is certainly an oddity in our economic history. But such is the politics of discord and democratic dissension!

Surely, it is almost surreal that our memorable military / civilian President J.J. Rawlings is silent in death as we recall his zeal, boom evocations and stated commitment to populist power.

But, towards the end of his life, he seemed a lonely, frustrated figurehead, ostracised from the top hierarchy and losing power and influence in the party he founded. His booms against his own NDC successors had lost luster. His newly found alliance with the opposition NPP sitting President and his relative silence on current public issues on corruption seemed somewhat suspect.

Corruption unearthed under the Rawlings administration including those outlined above were not prosecuted by H. E Akufo Addo as Attorney General in a seeming tacit policy to let bygones be bygones except select cases to appease the masses. Does this in part underly quid -pro- quo Presidential friendships?

The interesting, circuitous and sad testimony, however, is that President Rawlings’ vehement anti-corruption crusade ended on a bitter unrelenting irony, just before his death when the former S.P. Amidu handed to him the alleged mother serpent Agyapa corruption syndication Report before his resignation.

The Agyapa deal advisors are the same databank and Finance Minister-designate, Mr. Ken Ofori Attah who managed the secret Africa Tiger Mutual Fund with trademarks not unlike Agyapa created under President Rawlings during Divestiture implementation, with 20% equity of each divested entity. This national assets derivative fund has since disappeared like quicksand without any transparent trace or accountability So that all that glitters is not gold.

What exactly would President Rawlings have done about the Agyapa deal to resolve the Agyapa impasse and did he have the moral gravitas to act?

Oh well, the Agyapa saga has rolled over. We wait to see how it will roar on in the future.

As a general rule, seized Power pronouncements and “heavens” in manifestoes often have the treachery of reversed profound promises. This is why in December 2020 when Ghana arrived at a place between a rock and a hard place where it was said that the choice was between two intertwined evils;

Some prayerful fellow Ghanaians sought Yahweh, the God of all the earth, the Lord whose battle it is, and duly exercised discernment so that, have we not interestingly ended up with a rather very frenzied split Parliament, a distinct Speaker from the opposition and Presidential election petition struggling onwards?

Alas President JJ, is not here to witness our unfolding democratic evolution.

We did see the beginnings of an H.E JJ. Rawlings re-visit to his revolutionary past. Was he on the verge of a near-death confession or admission and repentance of things that must haunt the conscience which are prerequisites to the forgiveness he had already obtained in the 1992 constitution?

The answer, God knows, is gone with the proverbial wind. And we also do not know his secret pact with God.

Ghana’s greatest tribute to President Rawlings’ memory should not be to willy -nilly recite “Probity, Accountability Transparency and social justice” which remain fully unrealised in our corruption inundated culture and unjust society as though our motto “freedom and justice” were a divine mockery. We must actualise it in our private, corporate, institutional, public and national lives in a Ghana that needs a change of heart.

Alas! Farewell Papa J.

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