Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

What is the Alternative to Rawlings?

Elizabeth Ohene

"There need also be no coyness in talking about post-Rawlings reconstruction. It is not a crime to disagree with the PNDC method and having disagreed, it is the duty of a citizen of Ghana to state his alternative and to be ready to defend it in public debate."
There are many people who are quite dismayed that the number of Ghanians who claim to be opposed to Flight-Lieutenant Rawlings and his Provisional National Defence Council cannot or will not agree among themselves to provide a united front in their opposition to the PNDC.

Some of the time, the animosity between the various groups appears to be even more intense than against the PNDC and there now seems to be as many groups claiming to be working against Flt-Lt Rawlings as there are village PDCs in Ghana claiming to be ready to defend the PNDC to the end. All these groups and the Rawlings regime claim to have only the good of Ghana and her people as their motivating factor in pursuing their goals. Unfortunately, the good people of Ghana have not been consulted by anybody about what their real wishes are. It is easier task for Flt-Lt an Rawlings because he knows he is kept in power by force of arms and the general attitude of the PNDC to those who disagree with the path they have chosen for Ghana seems to be either to "eliminate" them or chase them out of the country.

Those who claim to want to replace Rawlings and his brand of "people's democracy" must necessarily have a more uphill task if they are not aiming only at replacing Rawlings with their own circle of friends. They will need to demonstrate that they will rule Ghana only with the consent of the people.

That means that the plans and programmes they have for governing Ghana must be aired publicly and be subjected to public debate. There has been a lot of talk for example about the need to return Ghana to a parliamentary democratic form of government. How does the "Campaign for Democracy" and other similar groups, for example, intend to set about bringing "democracy" in Ghana? The feeling seems to be that once Flt-Lt Rawlings and the PNDC are overthrown, have resigned or have disappeared from the scene, democracy will somehow be restored in Ghana, thus all energies seem to be concentrated on ensuring the removal of the PNDC, without giving adequate thought to what will be put in its place. What many people find objectionable about the PNDC brand of "democracy" is that the blueprint for the salvation of Ghana seems to reside some place in the minds of Flt-Lt Rawlings and his chosen friends who dispense portions in their own good time. Those who would replace the PNDC have a duty to tell the people of Ghana exactly what they seek to put in its place.

Do they intend, for example, to announce elections the day after they have overthrown the PNDC and under what kind of apparatus - will political parties feature in these elections and which parties? The political parties that were in existence on December 31, 1981, do not have any organisation currently, and will obviously not be in a state to organise elections simply because a group that intends to "restore democracy in Ghana" announces that they are free to have elections.

Twice in the history of Ghana, indecent haste in the attempt to establish parliamentary democracy has meant failure, thus giving the system a bad name and promoting the spurious argument that parliamentary democracy cannot work in Ghana.

When Nkrumah was overthrown, only the CPP was in existence as a political party and that was disbanded and all party political activity was banned for the greater part of the lifetime of the NLC, when the ban was lifted, only a short period of time was given for the emergence of political parties, no wonder that Dr Busia had an unfair advantage he already had an organisation on the ground that needed only to be christened. Political parties, like Rome, are not built in a day, and Mr Komla Gbedema can testify to that in his experiences with NAL.

When the late Gen Akuffo announced the lifting of the ban on party political activity in December 1978, with effect from January 1979, there was hardly six months between that date and the date set for elections. The ensuing chaos was evident for all to see because there was not enough time, it was natural that people gravitated to the old parties - CPP and PP which emerged as the two main parties rechristened as PNP and PFP. Those who made attempts to create something entirely new, found the going very tough and it is not unlikely that the UNC for example could have performed better had there been time to get their message across, or maybe there would have been a more rational realignment of the parties as did indeed happen after the elections.

The desperate search for a leader that engulfed the PNP could possibly have been resolved in a more dignified way if the party had had time to look around. There is no doubt but that a sizeable segment of the PNP never did feel at ease with Dr Limann as leader and the mode of selecting him, a fact which undermined the party right from the beginning. The resultant mess is what we all experienced and that coupled with the determination of some who do not believe in, or know they cannot make it in, the system led to the coup of December 31, 1981.

It is therefore important that all the groups who now claim to be working towards the "restoration of democracy" in Ghana should state quite clearly what they have in mind for the country.

It is not unlikely that if they placed these plans before the public some people might elect to rather stay with the devil they know in Rawlings than risk their destiny with their would-be saviours. It is not enough to proclaim to the world that you want to replace an oppressive regime, the people have a right to know exactly what they should expect and they need to assure themselves that they are not going to exchange one hell for an even more intolerable one.

Whatever the plans are that all these groups have for Ghana cannot conceivably be regarded as classified, for it is these plans that will determine whether they have any right to want to govern Ghana. Some have been known to extend the argument that if Flt-Lt Rawlings can be Head of State and without having placed his plans before the public, let alone allowed his laws to be subject to public debate, then there is nothing binding on them to make their plans public. To such people, it should be made clear that seeing there is no difference between them and the regime they seek to replace, they should leave Ghana be, the poor country has been abused enough as it is.

There need also be no coyness in talking about post-Rawlings reconstruction. It is not a crime to disagree with the PNDC method and having disagreed, it is the duty of a citizen of Ghana to state his alternative and be ready to defend it in public debate.

Flt-Lt Rawlings has said that for as long as Ghanaians were hungry, there should be no stability; that was the argument he offered as justification for his coup of December 1981. Obviously, if he were a man of his convictions and did not change his stated beliefs to suit his convenience, he would gladly welcome attempts to destabilize his regime, for Ghanaians under his rule, have been hungrier than they have ever been. It now looks like hunger is no longer an index for measuring the need to change the regime, on the contrary, hunger is now being offered as a revolutionary badge to be proudly worn, a pity that Dr Limann was not given the same latitude.

Those who are currently engaged in trying to remove the PNDC from the Ghanaian political scene have an obligation to make their plans for the country known now, it will not do to have them also subject the country to the very things they accuse Rawlings of today, once safely in power.

Ghana has had enough of rulers who have no programmes, those who would rule Ghana after Rawlings must announce their programmes now and subject them to public debate.

The people of Ghana will then decide if it is a programme they care to be associated with. The obsession with removing Rawlings means nothing unless there is something worthwhile to replace him with.

talking drums 1983-12-05 Donor nations to Ghana's rescue