Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Ghana now: inconsistencies and realities

by Kofi Andoh

'The initial fervour and fire-eating stance of the revolution have been replaced by a far more tolerant philosophy which abhors violence, places more emphasis on economic Survival and attempts to mend relations made sour by the initial excesses of the revolution'.
The revolution came to Ghana fully clothed in fire-eating slogans. Then, as all indications bore out, the establish- ment of a just and equitable distribu- tion of national wealth and a revamp- ing of an economy then set high on the road to disaster were not to be compro-mised under any circumstance whatso- ever. So it was that the crude justice meted out to economic saboteurs was seen as a binding duty to instil probity, accountability and patriotism into Ghanaians in order to achieve the ideals and goals of the revolution.

Today, however, the initial fervour and fire-eating stance of the revolution have been replaced by a far more toler- ant philosophy which abhors violence, places more emphasis on economic survival and attempts to mend relations made sour by the initial excesses of the revolution.

Inspite of this, some unanswered questions arising from the rigid, and in some cases ill-intentioned aims of the revolution persist and are occasionally compounded by events of the kind that mirror certain inconsistencies and con- tradictions in the aims, aspirations and goals of the revolution itself and government in general.

No doubt, the revolution was well- intentioned from the beginning and most of the decisions and actions were borne out of pure convictions and sincere commitment to the well-being of Ghana, But as events later proved, Rawlings became increasingly aware of the fact that being at the helm of affairs of a restive nation is clearly a different kettle of fish compared to the booting out of those whose rule he had discredited.

If he had intended his "power to the masses" to be taken for what it connoted in the practice he suddenly came to grips with the realities of the great strength of conservative spirit in the country. As such his initial socialist airs have been interpreted in the context of his attempt to keep his desire for change. It is to his credit, however, that he has realised the dangers in arbitrary decisions, no matter how seemingly worthwhile.

Could it then rightly be said that Rawlings' revolution which has since December 31, 1981, taken its heavy toll of Ghanaian citizens been a blessing for Ghana? Not really. There certainly are flaws and perhaps there might be possible future unpleasantness ahead.

Rawlings came to power determined to give Ghanaians a new lease of life.

In line with this, he began his house- cleaning, which was more in keeping with his initial militant and socialist ideals of a new Ghana, totally devoid of 'exploitation of the masses' and those other practices of 'chopping Ghana small'. His successes and achievements in this respect endeared him to the masses, to the extent that it signified the beginning of the march to the Promised Land.

Now, even to those who measure progress and development in terms of the seasonal availability of foodstuff and other essential commodities on the market, it is becoming increasingly disarming trying to bridge the gap between prices and incomes. An un- precedented high rate of taxes on commercial activities, bureaucracy and transportation costs have had the effect of overburdening the consumer.

In the context of the revolution's. declared aims, how does one explain the commercial exploitation of human suffering in the country by a govern- ment which refuses to acknowledge the fact that in a dislocated economy like Ghana's the incidence of taxation is always bound to fall on the poor consumer? How does one explain the phenomenal increases in hospital fees?

How are we to be made to believe that the finer and nobler aims of the December 31 revolution have not been replaced by a far more insensitive attitude which places more emphasis on how much it could extract from the citizens by way of taxation? How are we to be made to believe that the colossus that goes under the name 'Economic Recovery Programme' is not one huge attempt to deprive the ordinary citizen of his right to all good things in life? All these are worrisome questions indeed.

It is one of the unfortunate ironies of contemporary Third World governments that their moral and revolution- ary preachments are, at times, at serious odds with the whole essence of government. Good and popular policies have proved unattainable and Africa's development has not been helped in the least by the lack of continuity and unviability a the democratic processes on the continent.

Power has meant everything in the political life of the continent and since the pinnacle would never be spacious enough for two people, Africa has deteriorated to the extent that it is now one huge elephant standing on a feet of clay. And almost invariably the major determinant for the attainment of power had been the gun, a classical example of power flowing through the barrel of the gun.

Is it not a sign of the times that the poor peasants of the traditional African society and Ghanaian particularly, should continually be fed over- doses of empty rhetoric, promises and hopes, when it is one great effort trying to keep body and soul together? The answer seems rooted in the contradictions inherent in an abstract phenomenon (the preponderance of the military in government) which tends to divorce man's human worth and value from his physical being. As has become the case, it is becoming increasingly difficult trying to fashion a model for assessing the achievements of African governments.

In reality, such political and economic abstractions and the promises of good times ahead when Ghana will actually become the 'Black Star of Africa' might have their import in a society chastised by its own political and economic clumsiness. But as long as these aspirations become abstractions their implicit hope for the average Ghanaian are bound to succumb to the harsh realities in a society of survivalism.

Indeed, the political and economic woes created by the Rawlings' phenomenon go beyond the scope of the hardships themselves. Rather, they appear well steeped in those aspects of government which view power as the ultimate in any society. If that is the case, then how unfortunate for a country that had such promise.

talking drums 1985-09-30 Ghana Now Inconsistencies and Realities - Miriam Makeba