Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

The Independence Day Speech

Kojo Smith

Kojo Smith takes a look at the speech by the Ghanaian leader of the revolution and chairman of the PNDC, the ruling government made on March 6th, against the background of crippling economic problems facing the country.
On her 27th independence anniversary this month Ghana chalked another dark spot in her political history. The chairman of the PNDC chose the occasion to indict the people of Ghana after coming to real grips with political science of the nation. Pathetic as the statement was, it was an admission of abysmal failure. Suddenly, Rawlings realises that all this time he had imposed himself on the nation, he had been out of touch with the people.

Today ordinary workers and soldiers whom Rawlings claims to be working for have become his enemies. The workers have now joined the ranks of the professionals, students, lawyers, businessmen and the churches who are the arch-enemies of his revolution.

Who then is Rawlings representing in the nation of enemies?

The chairman of PNDC now turns around to tell the people that "you cannot build Rome in a day." What an insult to the intelligence of the people of Ghana. The chairman laments: "It is very easy to destroy but not so easy to construct". If Rawlings knows this wise philosophy, why did he intervene to destroy the democratic, constitutional foundation which the people of Ghana in their own wisdom construct- ed for themselves in 1979?

The first announcement which greeted Ghanaians on the fateful morning of 31st December 1981 by Ft-Lt. Rawlings sought to create the impression that Ghana was on the threshold of a saving new ideology - 'the Holy War'.

Unfolding a major policy statement in a package to be pursued, Rawlings stated that the traditional structures of Ghanaian society which had existed for centuries would have to be bulldozed down and replaced by erecting new central pillars with which to restructure the whole society.

In the wake of the euphoria that greeted Rawlings' second coming various workers organisations belonging to the Trades Union Congress were quickly replaced by Workers Defence Committees (WDC's) and local as well as district councils were equally dismantled giving way to People's Defence Committees (PDCs). The first major action mounted by the recruited members of these organisations was to embark upon unprovoked attacks, assaults and intimidations against management personnel and people in authority as part of the demolition exercise.

Most of the members of these Revolutionary institutions took the law into their own hands to wreak vengeance and settle old scores as well as dish out revolutionary justice on the 'enemies of the revolution'. All these were done without any caution from the powers that be. In fact the actions of the WDCs and PDCs were regarded as the natural concomitance of the unfolding revolution and therefore gained the blessing and encouragement of the revolutionary masters.

After two years in power of the PNDC and the operation of the WDCS and the PDCs it does not require any stretch of the imagination to observe that these new revolutionary structures have only been built on quicksand. They have become ineffective, un- workable, unmanageable and unpopu- lar because they do not command the respect of the majority of Ghanaians who unfortunately have become silent on-lookers. Now the soldiers and workers themselves have become disillusioned because at the end of the day they are the people who suffer most.

Rawlings in his independence anniversary speech said that "discussions about a meaningful living wage will be influenced more by blind emotion than by scientific and intelligent analysis". And because the workers are demanding C300 per day he said that is "Absolute rubbish," "The outcome of ignorant minds" "There are enemies and criminals in our midst...

One is actually flabbergasted to hear a head of state using such language against workers he claims he is fighting for. The workers do not have to be ignorant to know that they are hungry and starving. Even some of the apolo- gists of the Rawlings revolution now admit that a wage of C25 a day can only "buy two eggs and one stick of cigarette". They also agree that "the TUC's initial negotiating position of C300 a day was entirely understandable".

How can a worker survive on C25 a day when he spends C15 a day on his transport to and from work while the remaining C10 cannot provide him with one decent meal a day? If the worker has a wife who does not work and two children how does he manage to feed them? How can the worker take care of his hospital bills, children's school fees and clothings? The logical conclusion is nothing but thievery for survival. If Rawlings claims that the workers have become thieves he should know that his regime has created the environment for thievery.

In civilised countries all over the world workers do make demands for wage increases in order to improve their living standards and to meet the rising cost of living. Some workers in these countries do not only demand wage increases but embark on crippling strikes for weeks and sometimes for months.

Rawlings should understand that it is not for nothing that the people have become disillusioned and despondent. When he accused people of using tribalism as a weapon against his regime, he has failed to realise that when a particular tribe tended to hold all the sensitive positions and power centres in the body politic there is bound to be cynicism and negative reaction about the regime. The security, the Army, Border Guards, the Navy, the Judiciary, Foreign Affairs and until recently the Police as well as other important positions are being headed by members of the same tribe.

Instead of adopting the policy of scape-goatism and finding faults with external factors as the major cause of his failure to inspire and motivate the people, Rawlings should begin to look at issues more realistically and critically. He should not see the fault in the stars but in himself and the people around him who have misled and are still misleading the nation. Even though natural elements have caused some disasters, most of the havoc brought on the nation are man-made.

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