Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Will Rawlings win an election in Ghana?

By Tehtey

The question has often been asked as to whether Flight- Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings could beat known politicians in an open and fair election in Ghana today. Opinions defer but the hypothesis is well worth investigating since it may give pointers to current developments in the country.
The PNDC's 31st December celebrations have subtly been grafted onto Ghana's evergreen tree of festivals. The cultural and cabalistic depth of the 31st December fiesta is naturally nowhere near that of the Ga Homowo, the Fante Afahye or the Anlo Hogbetsotso. Still, it illustrates in many ways all the successes and failures of the 31st December event. More poignantly, it dramatises why Flt-Lt. Jerry John Rawlings will win any election in Ghana.

A statement such as 'Rawlings wins any election in Ghana' is bound to be labelled rash if not downright ridiculous. It may be. But the political, social, and economic pointers are there for objective and holistic analysis.


The grassroot political machinery of Flt-Lt. J.J. Rawlings - mainly the CDR is not unprecedented in the political history of this country. Ghana's first President Dr Kwame Nkrumah's CPP had a similarly grassroot orientation. This in no way suggests that Rawlings' CDR parallels Nkrumah's CPP. In several ways, the two are poles apart. Nevertheless, the fact that Rawlings has a CDR organised (at worst in skeleton) in every Ghanaian community underscores the point that Rawlings has succeeded to some extent in anatomizing Ghana's political infrastructure.

The CDR is not a well-developed machinery. The four years of the revolution has barely chiseled off the rough ends. Still, its potential as an effective political organisation cannot be easily overlooked. The CDR exists somehow in every nook and crevice in Ghana. Over 90% of those constituting the CDRs are youths below the age of 35; it is a human machinery charged with youthful exuberance which if harnessed will win any political battle.

For all these pluses on the side of the CDRS there are the many minuses that militate against their effectiveness as a political machinery. Many of the CDR members are unabashed opportunists with no genuine commitment to whatever ideals Rawlings is flagging before them. Corrup- tion, blatant extortion, embezzlement of funds, and excesses in the execution of their duties (though not very common these days) are charges which many of them cannot plead not guilty to. Besides these minuses, one observes that the serpent of apathy, the scourge of the Ghanaian populace, has bitten deep into many of the CDR institutions.

These minuses are certainly debilitating of any party's chances in any election. However, other factors seem to tip the balance in Rawlings' favour.


Crude and cruel references to the unfortunate circumstances of his birth has been the pastime of his political opponents. In the face of this, Rawlings has shown commendable nonchalance unparalleled in the country's leadership. Perhaps he could afford to show such attitude since his political opponents within the country have been sufficiently muzzled as to render their cruel references inaudible innuendoes.

Rawlings is described as a populist. He is so in many ways. And his populism emphasises his indomitable will, courage and dynamism.

He is acceptable to the masses in spite of and because of his proverbial emotionalism. In public, he stands behind the microphone and roars at his audience. It does not matter whether he is insultive (shouting "look at their lean and hungry faces"). To the broad masses of Ghanaians, he is their popular leader.

Listening to Rawlings' speeches, one gets the impression that he may be a politically immature statesman but he certainly has the personality befitting that great position-head of state of Ghana.

Here is a list of members ofRawlings' PNDC: Flt-Lt. J.J. Rawlings, Mr Justice D.F. Annan, Alhaji Idrissu Mahama, Mrs Susana Alhasan (just retired), Mrs Aana Ennin, Mr Ebo Tawiah, Capt. Kojo Tsikata, Brig. Mensa-Wood, Maj-Gen. Arnold Quainoo and Mr P.V. Obeng.

Apparently, none of the original members of the council are still serving. The Akata-Pores, the Chris Atims, the Nunoo-Mensahs with whom Rawlings launched his revolution have all washed their hands of Rawlings' government. What is more, they accuse Rawlings of dictatorship; that he has braced his lips to the ears of Kojo Tsikata; therefore he is a tribalist.

The charges levelled against Rawlings here may be unfair exaggerations (aspersions, in fact). But to have entirely new faces on one's executive body in less than four years is not a good testimonial to one's human relationships. It suggests a lot of things such as the idea that the head of the executive body is not an easy man to work with.

Listening to Rawlings' speeches, one gets the impression that he may be a politically immature statesman but he certainly has the personality befitting that great position. head of state of Ghana. Sometimes his comportment in public is an appalling embarrassment to the nation. For instance, he sees nothing wrong with singling out an individual of the Ghanaian populace and raging at him.

But when one sieves off the twaddle in his speeches, one finds words of wisdom and glaring truth. In fact, Rawlings' deep insight into human problems is truly amazing. Unfortunately, being a man of ideals, he sees solutions to these problems in idealistic terms. This is a serious drawback on his potential as a leader.

But it is a drawback which the broad masses of Ghana are either not aware of, or are careless of. To them Rawlings is powerful, unbeatable, therefore the people's man.


There are a whole lot of things wrong with the Ghanaian electorate. It is still moved by primitive forces such as tribalism. Tribalism exists in all human societies. That is why Walter Mondale's home state would still vote for him even if the rest of the US found Ronald Reagan more worthy of the US presidency. However, in developed countries such as the US, tribalism is not in its rawest form as it is in Ghana, Africa for that matter.

Many prefer the term ethnocentrism perhaps because it shrouds the inherent shame and repulsiveness of the word. The Asantes want their man in the seat of power, so do the Fantes, and so do the Sisalas (reference to the 1979 election results) It is only natural. But when ethnocentrism dominates the political thought and action of the country's leader- ship, there is danger. Thus the Rawlings- Tsikata bond, like the Limann-Nabila bond, is observed with so much misgivings.

All this implies that in the elections of the future, Rawlings is assured of 90% Ewe support. Unfortunately (for Rawlings), Ewes constitute just about 10% of Ghana's population. At the ballot box in parlia- mentary democracy, Ewes wield no great political clout. (Refer to the 1969 election results and Gbedemah's overwhelming defeat.) Rawlings' opposition may find that extreme Ewe support may be to their advantage.

Yet the fact that ethnocentrism dominates Ghana's politics means that Rawlings only need to pull the necessary tribal strings to get the necessary votes. Already he has in his entourage a number of disgruntled politicians, Idrissu Mahama, Obed Asamoah, to mention only two, who may serve him well in his tribal politics. Pulling the tribal strings is no easy task yet, it is nothing impossible.

There is also the 'essenco political force' to contend with. All that the incumbent Head of State has to do is to flood the market with the so-called essential commodities. If there is a subsidised price which makes it possible for the layman to open a tin of milk or 'tinapa' for breakfast every morning, all the better for the Head of State. Today, Ghana's market is flooded with all the traditional essential commod- ities. Unfortunately, even at the govern- ment's controlled prices, most Ghanaians cannot afford them.

There is however one reason in terms of the essenco politics why Rawlings is winning the bulk of the Ghanaian masses.

The government has instituted the Farmers' Package Deal which ensures supply of considered essential goods (wax prints, cutlasses, insecticides, etc.) directly to farmers.

Cocoa farmers in particular will solidly rally behind Rawlings in the elections of tomorrow. He has instituted for the farmers the Akuafo Cheque system which guaran- tees immediate payment for the farmer's cocoa. There were initial setbacks in the system. Now, the Akuafo Cheque System is well streamlined.

Considering social factors therefore, it may be concluded that whilst many workers, the educated populace, and of course the so-called elite of the Ghanaian society, may rally behind the opposition, the farmers, the fishermen, and the bulk of the masses will go along with J.J. Rawlings.


Rawlings' economic policies are not really the type which conjure votes at a ballot box. A recent review of the government's Economic Re- covery Programme however, credits the government with spectacular successes. Dr Kwesi Botchwey, PNDC Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning, stated that the inflationary rate for the country has fallen from 1984's 40% to only 12% in 1985. Agricultural production was said to have increased by 4% and industrial output by 13%. What seemed to claim the head- lines was the assertion that GDP has increased by 5.3% and that foreign investors have regained confidence in Ghana's economy.

There really are no grounds to refute these statistical achievements. Unfortunately, to worker and for that matter the layman, these successes matter very little. The worker is still underpaid for his labours (notwithstanding the increase in minimum wage to C90.00). With the official exchange rate adjusted to C90 to the dollar, the worker now receives a gross of one dollar per diem.

What is more, goods and services in the country are priced way beyond the reach of the worker. If Ghanaians are magicians, they are so because many manage to balance themselves through the quagmire of financing their daily existence. Happily, nobody asks anybody how he does it.

In the face of these economic realities, it is a bit puzzling that the grassroot stratum of Ghana's masses still believe Rawlings to be their man; still believe in J.J. even when the rough feeder road leading to their villages are in the scariest state. Fact is the government worker suffers more in the Rawlings-controlled economy than the farmer in the village. Of course, this is not to say that the poverty and squalor is not pervasive in the Ghanaian society. It is.

In such circumstances, Rawlings' government should have been reeling under enormous social unrests. That his government is apparently stable and secure is due to a number of factors. There is the clipping of wings of the TUC and other potential opposition bodies; there is the sincere policy of Trade Liberalisation (for which policy the Limann government was toppled) such that goods are available on the market; there is the legendary belief that Rawlings is incorruptible and he has actually curbed corruption in Ghana; there is the apparent impotence of the exiled opposition.

'Impotence of the exiled opposition' does not really need any elaboration. But in 1983, the unforgettable year of the famine, the opposition was presented with the golden opportunity to effect its strategems. Either they failed to realise their opportunity or they failed in the act of effecting stategems. Today, the worst is over and Ghanaians have settled down to make the best out of whatever the situation they find themselves in. It is one of the most important factors why Rawlings will continue to rule Ghana. He does not need to imitate Liberia's Dr Doe. If there is a general election, even if it is fair, he will still win.

'Making the best out of whatever situ- ation' is certainly a refined phrase for the Ghanaian apathy. Like the 31st December fiesta, polling in any general election may attract a minority of the Ghanaian electorate. This minority is enough to give Rawlings an enviable overwhelming victory.

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