Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Ghana's Aimless Revolution

Elizabeth Ohene

Flt-Lt. Rawlings had, after all, promised to 'demystify government', why does he reserve his most important decisions, the very ones that affect the lives of the majority of people for exclusive audiences, outside Ghana?
The Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) has come a long way indeed from the pronouncements that were made in the early months of 1982.

Remember the withering scorn with which Flight-Lieutenant Rawlings referred to 'the so-called excess liquidity" in the system? Where was the money, he thundered, most of us did not have even enough to afford a day's meal, and they talked about excess liquidity. Hear his trusted Lieutenants at the Donor's meeting in Paris pontificate on measures taken to absorb excess liquidity.

Remember the righteous indignation about the insensitivity of the Limann regime in not enforcing price control laws and allowing prices to find their level with disastrous consequences for the poor workers?

Hear the Secretary of Finance and Economic planning, Dr Kwesi Botchwey assure the same meeting that his government had no intention to keep prices down artificially.

One wonders what Capt. Kodjo Tsikata, said to provide the ideological basis for the PNDC's revolution, is making out of all these strange goings on. Does he still believe that flirtations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other such organisations cannot go side by side with the revolution, or that 'devaluation' is a capitalist ploy aimed at perpetuating the master-servant relationship? Does he still believe that Ghana should raise itself up by its bootstrings?

In which case, what on earth is he doing still in a group whose economic pronouncements are so diametrically opposed to his own stated views, or could it be that by his presence he wants to ensure that such measures never have a chance of succeeding because the atmosphere required for them to work will never exist?

He surely owes it to himself and his reputation to explain what he is still doing when every day the PNDC appears to be moving so far from his ideological viewpoint? There he was the other day telling Ghanaians that they had a lot to learn from the Cuban experience - surely he has the ear of the Leader of the Revolution himself, why was he telling Ghanaians? And in two years, it cannot be that his ideas have not had a chance to take root?

Or could it be that it has all been a farce - this supposedly Marxist Socialist stance and that the Special Advisor all through his rather colourful political life has been craving only for power and having got it at last, he is willing to cling to it, come hell or damnation without any thought to his belief? Or could it be that he is so enjoying the trappings of power that he cannot remember his pure ideas?


It is being said, for example, that Flt-Lt. Rawlings is getting quite tired of the slogan chanting aspect of his revolution and wants to quietly, ever so quietly drop the rather loud voices of his Peoples Defence Committees (PDCs) and Workers Defence Committees (WDCs).

What is even more alarming, are the feelers that are out to find 'respectable people' to form a 'Council of State' - like a kind of organisation to give the PNDC a different look. It is to be hoped that since such plans are being hatched for announcement on 6th March- Independence Day, the people are being kept regularly informed and are part of the decision-making process so that they will not discover this by default the same way they have found out that price control no longer forms part of the PNDC's policies.

When people 'put pieces of paper in a box' as Flt-Lt. Rawlings chooses to refer to elections, they normally would have had an opportunity to examine the manifesto that the party proposes to rule them by. Ghanaians, of course, were not extended that courtesy of being asked, but having shot his way into the Broadcasting House and into their lives, Flt-Lt Rawlings did give some idea of what he intended to do with the lives of Ghanaians.

Included in that promise was making things better for the 'average person' and keeping prices down to a reasonable level was part of that pledge, one would have thought that if the Flight-Lieutenant decided to change his mind, he would tell the people he had made the promise to and not an audience of international financiers.

Flt-Lt. Rawlings had, after all, promised to 'demystify government,' why does he reserve his most important decisions, the very ones that affect the lives of the majority of people for exclusive audiences, outside Ghana?

Why for example, did the Finance and Economic Planning Secretary not tell the TUC that he had decided to allow prices to find their own level nor tell the manufacturers that he did not think very much of the representations that they have been making to him. And how come that having already told the Donors meeting, the people of Ghana have not at least been informed?

When Flt-Lt. Rawlings visited the Upper Volta, his comrade Leader of the Revolution across the border, Captain Thomas Sankara was quoted as having made a comment on the visit which is worth repeating here. Captain Sankara is quoted as having said that the visit had helped "to destroy the image created about Chairman Rawlings as an idealist, a dreamer, who cannot cope with the problems of practical leadership ... our contact with you shows that you are a man who is determined to make sacrifices for the good of your people".

It is not clear how Capt Sankara got the image of Chairman Rawlings that has been destroyed by the visit in the first place and it is even less clear how the three-day visit helped to destroy the image because Capt. Sankara did not have an opportunity to see Chairman Rawlings tackle those problems of practical leadership that he had been said to be incapable of tackling. Obviously Capt. Sankara must have fallen under the spell of the Rawlings capacity of telling everybody what they want to hear. As Ghanaians have found out his regime has no affinity whatsoever to the reality of governing a country.

This adept way with words' has meant that far from demystifying government, the PNDC has rather succeeded in confusing people the more, for the country is now expected to sway to every whim of the Flight Lieutenant. When it suited his purposes, everybody was urged to be out shouting revolution and carrying placards, when it suited him, market women were subjected to constant harassment; when it suited his mood, any talk with the IMF and World Bank was tantamount to the selling of sovereignty, when it suited his mood fifty cedi notes had to be withdrawn as they contributed to the excess liquidity.

When it suited his mood C250 notes were introduced, when it suited his mood, there were daily and constant attacks on the judiciary until three High Court judges were murdered, when it suited his mood Libya had the only system worth emulating; when it suited his mood, he wondered aloud where people got the idea from that he or the PNDC were radical or even vaguely anti-western.


Depending on which side of the pillow he got up from, once convicted by an Armed Forces Revolutionary Court, you had no right to appeal to anybody or court, on pain of death, if you survived till another day, then you might appeal.

The problem is that you cannot be all things to all people all the time and the truth, if the Flight-Lieutenant can ever decide whichever one of his many sided parts is the truth, will out. The confusing and conflicting signals that he sends out will be effective only for so long and the day is now coming when his listeners, be they the workers or international audiences, will hear only what they want to hear.

Even the posture of the idealist and well-intentioned dreamer is wearing thin and will persist now only in the minds of the people who are determined to listen only to the rhetoric and be impressed by the gimmicks. Two years after the events, all the gimmicks have been tried and the reality of hunger and starvation are unavoidable. Just in case, Flt-Lt. Rawlings is still wondering about who he can possibly hand over power to, he might consider consulting the People of Ghana; the power after all is theirs and when he removes the guns, they can 'put pieces of paper in a box' and decide who they want to govern them. Until that time, he will have to bear full responsibility for the devastation being wreaked upon the people.

It will not do any harm to go back and listen to his own earlier speeches to find out how far he has gone or strayed even from his own chosen path.

If he cannot see himself, surely those around him can see and what is their excuse? Could it be that such people's vision is improved from afar - Mr Kofi Awoonor is in Brazil, Dr Joe Abbey has now gone to Canada, will Captain. Kodjo Tsikata be following suit?

talking drums 1984-02-27 ghana's aimless revolution - pro buhari demonstration in London