Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Whispering Drums With Maigani

by Musa Ibrahim

The shape of things to come in revolutionary Ghana

The realization that news about Cuban troops deployment in Ghana was becoming public knowledge sent jitters through the corridors of power, despite well-orchestrated attempts to suppress the information. The sudden announcement that a new Army Training School was being established in Tamale gave credence to what has hitherto been considered a high-flying rumour. Political analysts have watched with interest the two camps within the present ruling body politic pitched around the odd five- member Provisional National Defence Council.

The extreme left wing grouping of the Tsikatas, the Ahwois and their ring of self-proclaimed scientific socialists like John Ndebugre and Gertrude Zakari deriving their support from loud-mouthed ideological splinter groups like the June Four Movement, the Green Book Study Clubs, the Democratic League of Ghana and Brigade Guerrilla Camps operating under the guise of 'Revolution Farms'. All these act from the periphery of power and succeed in exerting considerable influence on the pseudo-moderate grouping which embrace the Commanders of the three wings of the Armed Forces, a large proportion of the Cabinet and nearly all three wings of the Armed Forces, a large proportion of the Cabinet and nearly all the, as at now, seven members of the PNDC.

Jerry John Rawlings is caught in the middle of this muddle of confusion, shuffling from left to right and moaning about being "fed up behind the desk at the Castle". The departure of the Secretary for Information, Joyce Aryee on the 26th of June to Western Europe and America was to diffuse the West's and international opinion about Cuban troop deployment in Ghana in order not to stifle the West's economic assistance and cut off food aid now pouring in in their thousands. At one point she was reported to have denied any Cuban troops coming to Ghana and at the same time emphasised time and time again that "Ghanahad a right to choose her friends".

After her visits, the Chairman himself took off to tour left-wing impoverished regimes of Central and Latin America and announced the strengthening of Ghana-Cuba relations. Would you call it contradictions or confusion? In a whole week, the national focus was on celebrations with Burkina Fasso where over 200 government officials and political aides went to tour mudhouses in villages as a show of solidarity with our comrades in the north. A few days later Jerry Rawlings posed for a group picture with visiting Burkine students who had the guts to accuse Ghana's Student Organisation, NUGS, of ineptitude and not being revolutionary enough.

All these notwithstanding, there is the current period of non-government, rather a sort of apparent peace in the midst of a crumbling PDC/WDC edifice. The past five months have seen the largest number of dismissals and denunciations within various PDC's and WDC's and short of statistical evidence, one is not in doubt about the rapid erosion of the so-called power base of the PNDC government. The euphoria of Rawlings charisma is fast evaporating.

There is talk of abundance of food: Of course, the rains have been pretty heavy and consistent this year and harvest of maize and cassava is very high and the fishing season is at its peak yet the ability to obtain a nutritious meal is a hard daily task for the average family. Tomatoes to prepare gravy for a family of, say, five or six, would cost not less than eighty cedis even now. Those who are not able to afford extra ingredients make do with the carbohydrates (staples) and pepper. If it's not banku or garri, then it is kenkey or else bread, which costs twenty cedis equal to the size of a two year old baby's closed fist.

Trading is the popular occupation. From five year olds who hawk blades to middle-aged mothers, their hungry babies sweating at their backs selling all kinds of food items from morning till sundown. At the lorry parks, unemployed lay-abouts buy passenger tickets en masse, create shortages and queues and then re-sell the same tickets at 50% profit. The country is like a raft on a slow moving stream, aimlessly adrift, yet stubbornly moving on nevertheless to destination or fates unknown.

Yet there appear to be some feeling, lacking concrete foundation as at now, but still a strong feeling of something in the air, of a possible move towards some kind of election. The lid on the barrel of information is still tight, however press speculation of a possible move to create a national assembly is rife and if recent pronouncements by PNDC government officials are anything to go by, then, it is true something is likely to come out soon.

The appointment of two more members of the PNDC on July 17, was meant "to broaden the composition of the PNDC and to set in motion the means for wider participation in decision making at all levels". A week after this announcement, the Secretary of Information, on her tour of Europe told an interviewer of the 'Voice of Germany' that "What we want to do in the final analysis is to have a national assembly through an election process and the expanded PNDC has started working out the mechanics to bring it about".

J.J. Rawlings' tour of Nicaragua has been seen as a trip to learn of the modus operandi of turning a workers' revolution into an elected government so that from such a study trip, he can convince his colleagues to set in motion steps to conduct their intended electoral process here in Ghana.

On the same tour, the Secretary for Finance & Economic Planning, Dr Kwesi Botchway, was reported to have said: "Ghana has reached a stage where it was taking stock to totally restructure the institutions of popular government..." This may perhaps refer to the disillusionment that is creeping into the PDC's and WDC's and the need to supplant them as skillfully as possible.

On Thursday, July 26, the newest PNDC member, Mr Justice D.F. Annan, threw spokes into the wheel of government by announcing that "the PNDC is not the final shape of the present government" and that the National Commission for Democracy, of which he is the Chairman, "is committed to evolve a new democratic institution and government for the country".

Asked how soon this idea of creating a true and functional democracy will materialise, Mr Justice Annan replied: "Depends on the co-operation of Ghanaians". That was a sidetrack all right and a vague answer no doubt, but there are grounds for the kind of speculation going on about a possible face-saving programme in the name of democracy.

In any case, a member of the ruling Council who is also head of the body that will oversee any electoral process is a sceptical pointer indeed. The clamp on the dissemination of information may be in the offing prior to all this important exercise following the call for re-registration of the independent press and publishers, and the Ministry of Information; warning them that: "The problem of newsprint is very real and re-registration of your activities is to streamline your operations".

We need not also forget a lot of public pronouncements last year by Professor Mawuse Dake during his brief foray into revolutionary politics.

Then Secretary to the National Defence Council, he revealed in August 1983, that a Peoples' Congress was due to be held in 1984. According to his statements made public at the time: "Representatives will be elected to a Peoples' Congress and discussions on how they would be scheduled for 1984 are in progress. Elections will be held at three levels of conferences and congresses. Zonal conferences will be followed by district congresses and regional congresses. These will precede a major re-organisation of PDC's, WDC's and the whole NDC set up...'

It might just be possible that even though he may have talked too much, too soon at the time, we may soon witness his predicted elections on the horizon.

talking drums 1984-09-17 Challenge for Samuel Doe Cameroon which way out Ernest Obeng