Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine


Reflections on the Ghanaian situation

I wish to make some comments on the situation in Ghana after reading articles, news commentary and a news item in your 25th February issue.

1. Flight-Lt Rawlings on the alienation of Government from the people:

It is reported that the PNDC chairman has remarked that the alienation of government from the people which was the practice in the past is creeping back. This makes very interesting reading. May I ask who is responsible for this situation? To whom is the Flight-Lt turned politician passing the buck? After all he installed himself as Head of State after having satisfied himself that the Old Order was unacceptable and that he has new ideas that will bring government to the people decisions will be taken not by "a few bunch of crooks in the Castle" but by the man in the street.

What the Air Force officer did not know is that governments are not run through mob action and that since the collapse of the Roman City States civilised government has only been through elected representatives who are accountable to the electorate. Any aggrieved person could go to his elected representative for clarification of an issue, government action or even complain. This is the only way governments can remain unalienated from the people. The PNDC chairman has a case to answer.

2. GBC Commentary on the Economic Situation:

A commentary on the Kumasi incident said among other things that the economic recovery is there for everybody to see. "The farmer in the remotest village can see and buy a cake of soap from a hawker by the street side, the pensioner in the village can now buy a tin of milk without attempting to venture into a queue..”

If these are the goals of the revolution and indicators of the much talked about economic recovery, then the past three years have been a complete waste of time. These conditions were achieved as far back as 1981 without any social, political and human sacrifices and prices started coming down. Milk that sold at C12 in September 1981 was selling for C3 in December 1981.

The PNDC has only succeeded in taking us years back and plunging the country further into debt. After 1986 the country will start paying off the loans the PNDC has obtained. Meanwhile the economy has registered no growth. God Save Us!

3. PNDC and IMF loans Devaluation:

It now seems that the PNDC's only claim to success is its ability to swallow in totality IMF austerity measures and to debase the CEDI through massive devaluations a policy it vehemently condemned at its inception. It must however, be made clear that similar policies were pursued by the NLC after Nkrumah's overthrow in 1966.

The CEDI was devalued, a standby IMF credit of £20m and other drawings were made available (by the end of 1968 the total was $100 million) following an IMF induced austerity budget that involved drastic reduction in government expenditure, mass retrenchment in the public sector and the installation of an representative in Accra to oversee the proper management of the economy. The fund convened and chaired the meetings at which representatives of the major aid-giving and international bodies were present.

What is happening today seems like NLC days revisited. However, after 18 months of such policies the then Chairman of the National Economic Committee (and we have a similar committee today!) Omaboe declared at the second round of IMF convened meeting of creditors - "It should be recognised that our economy cannot perpetually be run at the mercy of external balance of payments support." He was beginning to have second thoughts.

The irony of the present situation is how a so-called revolutionary government can pride itself on the ability to absorb heavy doses of classic orthodox economic prescriptions. Or is the PNDC bankrupt of any original ideas? The sudden metamorphosis of Kwesi Botchwey explains how theory without practice can be dangerous. He exemplifies the shallow-mindedness of those Law Faculty lecturers of the university of Ghana who formed the New Democratic Movement that provided Rawlings with the idealistic and intellectual motivation to create havoc in Ghana.

In conclusion I would like to advise Mr Rawlings to ponder over the situation carefully, and not be carried away by the talk of economic recovery (because we have recovered only from the 1983 chaos) and plan a fast return to constitutional rule otherwise he will suffer the fate of those military rulers who overstayed their welcome.

Samuel Quayson, Surrey

The GDM message

In its recent message to Ghanaians, the Ghana Democratic Movement, among other interesting issues, presented a programme for political reconstruction.

The GDM message is on the whole a welcome one. I could discern the patriotic spirit underlying it. However, it is unbelievable for GDM to exhibit such naivety or pretence that the movement is dealing with a rational Rawlings-Tsikata regime. PNDC is a capricious regime.

Does GDM seriously believe PNDC would "commit itself firmly and unconditionally to handover political power back to the people of Ghana?" Why is GDM not calling a spade a spade, but a digging implement? Why is its call not firmly and directly at Ghanaians to overthrow an illegal and insidious regime they do not deserve? IMF Does the GDM think that PNDC would "mandate the supreme court and National House of Chiefs to select a five member presidential commission?" Why should the number be five? How is it going to be broadly based with five people? Why should there be constituents to draw new constitution to add to the burden of taxpayers of Ghana apart from manpower wastage? What about all the constitutions drawn up since Ghana's Independence?

If Rawlings, let me follow the supposition of GDM, is to relinquish his illegal political grip on Ghana is it not intriguing for GDM to call for the setting up of new political structures?

Why not a call to return Ghana to the political arrangements before the rebellion of 31st December, 1981? Why not reinstate the constitution President Limann operated? Why is President Limann or his vice, assuming President Limann refuses to ascend on to the Presidency to which he was openly and fairly elected by Ghanaians, not to issue a Presidential proclamation to lift a ban on party politics and give firm dates for both presidential and general elections, while reconvened a Ghanaian Parliament would then be also dissolved? Could such a call botch the presidential ambitions of some of the members of GDM? Whatever happens and looking at the document, GDM believes in the ballot box and trusts the voting power of Ghanaians, so why should there be any labouring of inhibitions which might have led to lame calls for the setting up of presidential commission, Government of National unity and constituent assembly?

Is it not the time to learn the lesson of shedding any notion of patronage system in the interest of mother Ghana? Would it be unfair to attempt to hand the country over back however interim, to a selected few, instead of political parties going into elections and the winning political party forming a government?

GDM wants "Return the Armed Forces to the barracks and to their essential role of defending the borders!" Is that all, in view of the contemporary political history of Ghana? How could Ghana militarise the full strength of her armed forces to defend borders, if Ghana's membership of ECOWAS is to be respected and the vital need to maintain good neighbourliness with the surrounding countries is to be strictly adhered to?

Let us face the hard fact that most of the rank and file members of Ghana Armed Forces have their morale and potency at lowest ebbs. Most have shown gallantry in their opposition to the 31st December 1981 rebellion, in one form or another. The meddling in politics by the military has encountered the displeasure of many civilians, no doubt about this. The Ghana Armed Forces however, have positive role to play in any meaningful economic recovery programme. The talents of men and women in the Armed Forces would need to be harnessed in the future bid to utilise every available resources for Ghana's good, instead of returning them to the "barracks to defend the borders".

Thanking you in advance for the space provided.

Ntim Gyakari, London

Gen Doe's protestation

I hear that Commander-in-Chief Samuel Kenyon Doe has denied that he is on the verge of declaring himself President of Liberia.

He is blaming wicked people and rumour mongers for the spreading of such ideas. But really, he ought to accept it has all been his own fault.

At first he was a lowly Master- Sergeant and we all believed he passionately cared more about Liberia than himself. He was slim, simple and his hair was like the rest of us 'native Liberians'. He made no pretension to being Americo-Liberian.

Then he "blew" his hair, put on weight, his skin became smooth, his clothes changed and he started wearing designer labels. Around the same time, he suddenly became a General and he started talking as though he believed himself to be a civilian and ended in his official designation being changed from Chairman of the PRC to PRESIDENT of the Interim National Assembly, and he is running for the office of President and doesn't sound like he wants any competition! He cannot blame anybody if we all believe that he wants the presidency and is determined to get it by all means.

The only problem is that the day always comes when everybody's real intentions come out.

He shouldn't be surprised that we don't believe his protestations.

T. A. Nelson, Monrovia, Liberia

Shinkafi's motives

I have been quite worried about the implications of some of the things said by Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi in his interview with you... Talking Drums.

As Director of National Security under President Shagari, you reported Alhaji Shinkafi as stating that all the various cases of politicians being tried in Nigeria in the past year were cases that had been investigated by his outfit and they could not get enough evidence to prosecute. The former NSO Director who is a trained lawyer expressed doubts that any of the current cases being tried by the Tribunals will stand in a regular court of law under the criminal code prosecution.

Does this mean that it is not possible to use constitutional methods to ensure that our rulers do the proper thing?

I am of the opinion that the struggle to win people over to the constitutional argument will never be won if those who are paid to make the system work can't do their jobs.

Alhaji Shinkafi, I believe, owes Nigerians more than an apology on many fronts. If indeed these people being tried by the Tribunals are guilty, then he failed abysmally in his job and he himself deserves to be in the dock.

If they are not guilty, then he has a duty to speak out to stop the charade that is going on.

There are too many people who are paid to do their jobs who don't do it and then try to hide behind military take-overs to justify their non-performance.

Many people feel that Alhaji Shinkafi as NSO director was one of the unsavoury aspects of the Shagari regime and that the only reason he was not put in Kirikiri prison with the others is that he closed his eyes to the activities of Sanni Abacha and company when they were planning their coup.

I congratulate Alhaji Shinkafi on his "winning" his suit with the BBC and on the fact that they have apologised to him, but I believe that he owes a duty to either come to the defence of his former colleagues currently in Kirikiri or else keep quiet forever.

Mrs M. T. Ogde, Birmingham

The FMG is dangerous to your health

I have tried very hard not to get involved in the army/politicians debate, not because I don't love my country, Nigeria, but mainly because both groups have proved so disappointing in the governance of our people. However, I have to state that I feel any government that can declare a Teaching Hospital a military zone has no business being in government. It is quite likely that the doctors have done some things wrong in their dispute with the Federal Military Government, but one cannot help but sympathise with their complaints. It is the doctors, after all, who have to face the suffering humanity in the hospitals and clinics everyday without the necessary drugs and equipment to enable them to help their patients. They cannot be amused when they see a government spending so much on defence and adopting such a cavalier attitude towards health.

I also find particularly offensive the arrogant attitude of the FMG in ordering the doctors back to work or be sacked instead of talking with them. That is an attitude of the military that I find quite intolerable and which leads me to the conclusion that the military government of General Buhari is very dangerous to the health and future well-being of Nigerians.

Deyo Adesina, Brixton, UK

Buhari's 'Agbada'

I notice from the cover of your recent issue that Major-General M. Buhari has shed his military uniform and is pictured wearing the famous 'agbada'.

Normally in West Africa when military rulers start being pictured in civilian clothes, it means they have started on the road towards transforming themselves onto 'civilian national' rulers. It usually means that they are trying to distance themselves from the 'khaki' image while at the same time keeping a tight hold on military power.

I hope that Gen Buhari has no such plans because, apart from all other considerations, he is truly unimpressive and unattractive in the traditional attire when that attire usually adds so much charm and attraction to the appearance of our men. I think Gen Buhari will be better served remaining in his khaki uniform.

S. T. Sampson, London

talking drums 1985-03-11 rawlings brutalities at Gondar Barracks