Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Comment - The Price Of Survival

About the same period through his term of office, the then President Hilla Limann of Ghana was asked by a British journalist if he would care to mention what he considers to be his major achievement after two years in power. Dr Hilla Limann said he had survived. A lot of ridicule and open dismay followed that assertion. Considering that not very long after this assertion, Dr. Limann's survival had evaporated and he was overthrown in a coup d'etat and bringing his worst fears and preoccupation for two years into reality, possibly that answer was more apt than he was ever given credit for.

Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings who overthrew Dr Limann is also celebrating two years of being in power and he might very well also mention the fact that he has survived for two years as the most significant factor in his administration. When Dr Limann moaned that every time he woke up or was going to bed, there was talk of an impending coup d'etat. Fit-Lt Rawlings has had to live with the knowledge that many Ghanaians have openly declared their intention to overthrow him.

To ensure this survival. Fit-Lt. Rawlings has had to transform himself into a creature that would be quite unrecognisable to the Flight-Lieutenant Rawlings that entered the Ghana political scene in 1979. The crowd loving and hand shaking man of the people has had to retreat behind sandbags and turned his office and residence into fortresses. He has acknowledged four serious attempts to unseat him in the period and heaven knows how many other minor and/or major unacknowledged attempts.

His every pronouncement shows that security remains his foremost preoccupation. In spite of assurances to the contrary by the regime’s most enthusiastic Secretary for Information, Miss Joyce Aryee, that there had been no change of course, there can be no doubts at all that reality has taken its toll with a vengeance on the Provisional National Defence Council.

The economic measures announced and introduced last year would have been treasonable felony two years ago, infact Dr Limann was overthrown precisely because there was a threat he might introduce those very measures.

Two years ago, the one country that had achieved a model and truly democratic form of government as far as Flt Lt Rawlings was concerned was Libya and the promise (or was it a threat?) was to transform Ghanaians society along Libyan lines. Not much is heard of that promise these days and it is not unlikely that the inability or refusal of Colonel Gaddafy, the Libyan leader, to deliver on his promise of financial help has contributed a great deal in making his Libyan paradise not look quite as attractive as it once looked.

It is not for nothing that after more than a year of officially inspired vitriolic attacks on Western nations, Fit-Lt Rawlings suddenly turned on his media to lambast them of undue attacks on the West and wondering aloud where people got the idea from that his was a radical government. He had learnt to his cost that the heady days of flirtation with Libya and the whirlwind tours of Eastern nations, widely and loudly claimed to be the beginning of the economic miracle, had yielded no fruits and he had landed the country in the worst hunger and starvation ever known by its people.

Survival meant, demanded, a change, and this was made more difficult for the PNDC by the intensity of their earlier assertions and protestations, but change they did with the introduction of IMF prescriptions.

Whether these new measures are going to have the desired effect on the economy of the country remains a most chancy speculation because sensible though the formula might be, the PNDC has been unwilling or unable to change the atmosphere in the country to one that would be conducive to the proper working of the measures.

The violent nature of the regime has not changed and in spite of claims to the contrary by spokesmen of the regime, the PNDC have not been able to curb the violence unleashed on the country.

The violence might not meet the requirements of Amnesty International in their regularity and consequent emergence of a pattern, but the very random nature of the violence ensures a continuing feeling of fear and uncertainty among the people..

The most charitable interpretation that can be put on these incidents is that Fit-Lt Rawlings by his earlier pronouncements has unleashed a tiger that he is riding, unable to tame or jump off from. It will take more than speeches or even the trial and execution of a few soldiers to convince the majority of soldiers and Peoples and Workers Defence Committee members that they do. not constitute the new ruling class in Ghana and are free to do as they please.

The plans to hold local council elections this year are likely to draw the deafening silence that has greeted the announcement so far. Those who support the regime must be wondering whether the putting of pieces of paper in boxes will now mean the real democracy promised by the PNDC, or whether pieces of stone will be put in buckets to escape the practice of vetting that had drawn such withering scorn from Flt-Lt. Rawlings two years ago.

Those who do not support the regime are likely to point out that even before one representative of the people had been popularly elected, the PNDC has already stated that the District Officers appointed by them will continue in office with undiminished powers even after the proposed elections, clear indication that the true grass-roots elections are not likely to prove much of an improvement on the situation so far.

Flt-Lt Rawlings has been pleading for time to give his policies a chance to work and he has even gone as far as saying that two years is too short a period to judge the performance of a government. Unfortunately, he will have to be judged with the same yardstick that he used to judge his predecessors when he considered two years far too long a period. It is impossible now for Ghana to be able to judge how Prof. K A. Busia or Dr Hilla Limann would have fared if their policies had been given a chance to work and their governments had not been overthrown after two years by the military. What is more, Dr Limann, despite all his shortcomings, never claimed to have short or quick answers to the nation's problems. Flt-Lt. Rawlings promised a magic route and that is what he has failed to deliver.

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