Rawlings Is Not God (1)
It looked more like a script from Agya Koo’s comedic film than an actual occurrence in Ghana’s Fourth Republican dispensation.
A panelist, Nana Darkwa Baafi, Communications Director of the Ayawaso Central Constituency branch of the opposition New Patriotic Party, alleged in a live radio discussion programme last Thursday that Flt Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, two-time junta head who metamorphosed into a Constitutional head of state of this republic, could be linked to the fire that gutted his Ridge residence in Accra last week.
As the debate got animated on Top Radio, an FM station in the national capital, ubiquitous Kofi Adams, described in official bulletins from Boom Junction as spokesperson of the former head of state, raided the studios with armed policemen. Nana Darkwa Baafi and a colleague were whisked away in police vehicles with the sirens wailing.
After a brief encounter with men and women in the black uniform, Baafi was fast-tracked to a circuit court in the national capital presided over by Justice C.A. Wilson, charged on a law that has ceased to be applicable since the Union Jack was lowered on public buildings in this republic.
According to the charge sheet, Nana Baafi, 28, had published information with the intention of causing fear and alarm to the general public under Section 208 of the Criminal Code.
The NPP communications director pleaded not guilty. On the orders of the trial judge, he was given a two-week stay in custody. Needless to state the manner of Baafi’s arrest and incarceration provoked the entire nation into action and re-action.
The minority NPP caucus walked out on Parliament, pledging to remain outside the floor of the House until Baafi was released.
The airwaves were saturated with callers and text messages condemning the arrest and imprisonment, while newspapers had a field day with various nuances on the arrest.Civil society organizations rose to the defence of the right to free speech. Even the moribund Committee for Joint Action found its long lost voice.
President John Evans Atta-Mills issued a statement through the Ministry of Information assuring Ghanaians of his “unflinching respect for the rule of law, the principles of separation of powers and the independence of the Judiciary”.
The sitting head of state is said to have stressed the need for a balance between responsible citizenship and the right to free speech, according to a front page story in state-run Daily Graphic.
Nana Darkwa Baafi was released on appeal at an Accra High Court the next day. But the repercussions of the arrest on Thursday will take some time to abate.Many are civil society organizations and individuals who see the brazen arrest in a society that guarantees free speech as an attempt to muzzle the media along the route this nation took to the culture of silence under the brutal dictatorship of Jerry John Rawlings.
In spite of attempts by the police and some followers of the ruling National Democratic Congress to defend the indefensible, the incident has further dented the image of the Atta-Mills administration at a time the government is under heavy criticism for hiking taxes on all fronts, fuelling multiple increases in the cost of goods and services.
The police have rotten eggs all over the face of the organization. DSP Kwesi Ofori, Director of the Police Public Relations, normally a smooth operator, was a pathetic figure on national television, stammering through an incoherent defence of the high-handed action of the men in uniform who carried out the operation.
The most unpopular officer in the whole drama is undoubtedly Deputy Commissioner of Police Rose Atinga-Bio, Greater Accra Police Commander, whose officers carried out the arrest.
The Commander had earlier incurred the wrath of many Ghanaians when she pointed to the work of arsonists on a visit to the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs building which had been gutted by fire.Followers of the NPP were irritated by the commander’s assertion, which by inference traced the source of the fire to followers of Elephant politics even before investigations could begin.
Welcome to Ghana and the return of Umbrella politics, characterized by brutal suppression of dissent and brazen attacks on free speech. The other day, I wrote in this very column that the return of the Umbrella to Government House is bad news to the body politic.
The happenings in society only go to buttress my assertion. Ghanaians are living through some of the most difficult moments in the life of this nation since independence on March 6, 1957. Underpaid, overtaxed and underfed, the citizens of this nation are beginning to curse the day they voted for the Umbrella.
The arrest and incarceration of Nana Darkwa Baafi has contributed to the further alienation of the citizenry from those who lay out policies to govern the land.
The panelist, many point out, might have been irresponsible in making a categorical statement without proof. But should the police behave like zombies at the beck and call of Kofi Adams, who could be linked to many lies and character assassinations during the era of ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor? The adherents of Umbrella politics should give this nation a break.
If speech were to be criminalized, Jerry John Rawlings, the former head of state, on whose behalf Adams misused the powers of the police, would have been thrown into jail long before the fire at Boom Junction. Here is a political leader whose trademark is to tell very wild lies about people in authority with impunity.
When he said he had evidence that ex-President Kufuor and leading members of his Cabinet master-minded the unfortunate Yendi crisis leading to the death of Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II and 40 members of his household, did he provide any proof?
What action has the police ever taken? Did that wild claim not cause more panic and fear in the body politic than the allegation that Rawlings might have set fire to his own residence?
Eking out a living under the Umbrella has already placed a heavy burden on Ghanaians. There is anger in the body politic. Let nobody inflame the already volatile atmosphere by employing the coercive powers of the police to intimidate the ordinary citizens of this country. Jerry John Rawlings, certainly the most divisive single individual in Ghana today, is not God.
Unusual deeds, wrote William Shakespeare in Macbeth, breeds unusual trouble. If anybody or group of people would want to invoke the name of Rawlings to muzzle the people’s right to free expression, they risk tension in society.
It was not very long ago when the former junta head credited with the formation of the NDC as a political party went bananas with wild claims that ex-President Kufuor and top officials in his cabinet master-minded the murder of over 30 women in the run-up to the general elections of the year 2000.
When asked to prove the very volatile allegation, he called for chemical tests and lie detectors. If there is any single individual who risks civil unrests with the careless use of the tongue, that person must be Jeremiah John Rawlings.
His ‘Who Born Dog’ and ‘greedy bastard’ rants against President John Evans Atta-Mills and members of his government are deliberately choreographed to undermine the authority of the sitting head of state.
As is the case involving Rawlings, there are people within the NDC who would castigate me for making this assertion instead of calling for investigation into the circumstances leading to these unsavoury remarks against the President of the Republic.
When Rawlings talked of the intransigence of Atta the mortuary man and got the President to officially announce a change to his name at the NDC congress in Tamale, it sent the media on the search for Atta, the person, instead of analyzing what prompted Jerry Rawlings to tell the story.
Knowing the machinations of the most accomplished coup maker of our time, I dare state that the inference was to make the President of the Republic look bad in the eyes of right-thinking men.
Jerry Rawlings has certainly impacted positively on some of the men and women who invoke his name as if he is God.
But I will certainly not buy a secondhand car from a person who has divided the nation down the middle since he was rescued from his cells at the former Special Branch head office to lead the usurpers of power on June 4, 1979. Make a date with me next week for the second part of the Rawlings story.