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Friday, July 15, 2011

Ghana Transitions from REST to CESI

"Macho" politics was arguably
what brought Ghana from pieces of its past
to peace today, but it has outlived its essence
in the body politics.


Just as many countries, Ghana has had its fair share of diverse regimes: Civilian Revolutionary (CR), Military Revolutionary (MR), and Civilian Non-Revolutionary (CnR). In the light of the almost surprising outcome of the recent Sunyani Congress of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), I deem it quite fit to examine the significance of the silent but loud change occurring behind the scenes of Ghana’s political theater. I will also attempt to argue for the reasons why a transition from what I term, REST (Revolutionary-Era-Strongmen) to CESI (Civilian-Era-Strong-Institutions) represents the natural course of politics and must not only be celebrated but also protected by lovers of democracy and liberty.
Back to the categorizations above, the government of Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah (1957 - 1966) fits the Civilian Revolutionary (CR) description. The regime of Jerry John Rawlings under PNDC (1981- 1993) era started off first as Military Revolutionary (MR) but later morphed into a Civilian Revolutionary (CR)  with promise of becoming Civilian Non-Revolutionary (CnR), but for obvious reasons still maintained the character and personality of Military Revolutionary (MR). The New Patriotic Party (NPP), under John Agyekum Kuffour, which came to power in 2001, typifies the Civilian Non-Revolutionary (CnR). It ushered Ghana into an actual civilian regime.
It is worth mentioning that the Greek philosophy which gave birth to modern day democracy as practiced in Ghana today puts political sovereignty in the hands of the people under pure civilian rule or CnR. Abraham Lincoln expressed this idea most succinctly in four words , “...Government by the people”. The Civilian Non-Revolutionary (CnR) marks the natural resting place of the political pendulum. Under such regimes, democracy, no matter how imperfect it is, has a relatively better prospect of being refined and perfected.
Military take-overs can be properly understood in this context as an unnatural kink in the natural order of things whose primary essence is paradoxical: It lies not in its continued life but in its ultimate death. For it is in its demise (make way for civilian regime) that its true essence can be appreciated. Military revolutions are sudden and often violent temporal clogs which halt the wheels of existing regimes and seek to bring it to a halt. Historically, they have come about for many reasons; one of them is to correct the supposed mismanagement of a country's affairs, and so was the popular claim of the charismatic Jerry Rawlings in his heydays.
In his reasons for the 1979 and 1981 military coups, Rawlings cited “probity and accountability”, and in the name of this, executed political opponents he considered corrupt. Many civilians also suffered various levels of casualties. In the heat of the revolution, and under the “Let the blood flow” chorus by the almost Nazi-like Ghanaian mass choir, no one was safe. If someone rumored within the hearing range of ‘Big Brother’ that you owned asset A or B, or you were close friends with a political opponent, you either flee the country soonest or the ever flaring flames of ‘probity and accountability,’ like that in King Nebuchadnezzar’s oven in ancient Babylon, would literary toast you down to ashes.
Although democracy was restored and the nation was supposedly ushered into civilian rule later, morbid fear still gripped the populace so much so that freedom, especially freedom of expression, almost existed exclusively under sinister wings of dark. I remember quite vividly as a little boy18 years ago that my next-door neighbor, who liked to discuss politics, went into hiding with my mom whenever they discussed the subject.
Even though Ghana was purged of some corrupt elements and their corrupt practices, through morally reprehensible means, it can hardly be ignored that many innocent people lost their properties and lives under cruel circumstances. However, as the saying goes, there is light at the end of the tunnel. This light would challenge REST with CESI and restore the nation back to true civilian rule where macho politics was to be hurled into historical abyss, it belonged.
As it turned out, the Civilian Revolutionary (CR) regime did not last indefinitely. Its end was nearer than expected. After 19 years in power, the NPP under John Agyekum Kuffour was voted into power, and for the first time in over two decades, the political pendulum was restored to its natural resting place – Civilian Non-Revolutionary (CnR). Freedom of speech blossomed. Ordinary Ghanaians, including my mom’s friend, could express political dissent openly and freely without their eyes tweaking in all directions in constant watch out for Big Brother.
When the NPP lost power to the NDC under the leadership of Prof. Mills in 2008, some Ghanaians were happy, but none failed to wonder in awe if Mills’ government would maintain the Civilian Non-Revolutionary (CnR) legacy that the NPP under Kuffour ushered Ghana into.  Being a rather mild-tempered gentle Professor who was co-opted into the business of politics by Ghana’s revolutionary godfather, no one could be absolutely sure how things would turn out.
It was not until the recent Sunyani Congress of the NDC that Ghanaians could breathe a sigh of relief that Mills, after all, was his own man. Judging from his overwhelming endorsement by the delegates, a lover of freedom could not help but notice with firm affirmation the bridge that Ghanaians have been able to cross or are crossing, at least. A new era seemed to have dawned and those not humble enough to succumb to it are being swept by the democratic tide into oblivion. The significance of this feat lies not in the fact that President Mills carried the day (of course, it was obvious from the beginning), but in the fact that he commanded a whopping 96.9% of total valid votes cast. Who ever thought the revolutionary golden boy, aka Junior Jesus, whose wishes transformed into holy commands by speed of light some years back, could ever suffer such an abysmal defeat from his own party members?
In his speech at the Sunyani congress, Rawlings expressed distrust for the judiciary institution probably because contrary to his whims it did not arbitrarily throw members of the opposition into jail – a typical REST tendency. He directed his anger at President Mills in particular for not perhaps going outside of the constitutional tenets to force the judges into acquiescing to his wishes. He spared no opportunity to hurl contemptible remarks at the justice institution. He brought the independence and integrity of the judiciary as an institution of state into question. According to him, there were judges “…who serve the justice of their political masters.”  He continued, “No wonder we are in power and they are still in control of the judiciary…”
It is my hope, however, that relevant civil societies and think-tanks such as IMANI Center for Policy and Education will investigate Rawlings’ allegation and find out if it holds some truth.
Remarking on Rawlings’ speech, Dr. Jonah, a Political Scientist at KNUST told Citi News “…it will be disastrous if the president attempts to address all the concerns of Mr. Rawlings.” He added, “There are some of the concerns that the sitting president can address, there are others that he cannot do anything about. For example, if he takes somebody to court and the court says the person is not guilty, there is nothing the president can do.”
This is one reason why Kuffour's regime will continue to occupy a respectable place in Ghana's political history: For the first time in decades, he demonstrated to Ghanaians that it was possible to be president and strong without being necessarily macho. Revolution or Macho politics was arguably what brought Ghana from pieces of its past to peace today, but it has outlived its essence in the body politics. A new era has come out from the turbulent tides --it washed ashore a fragile but potent seed called democracy and it dictates people rule, not a one-man show. The tongue is its bayonet and institutions of state are its life force.
Ghanaians have made a significant transition from REST (Revolutionary-era-strongmen) mentality to CESI (Civilian- Era-Strong-Institutions). It is satisfying to note that the political pendulum is resting at its natural place -- Civilian Non-Revolutionary (CnR). This realization should serve a clarion call for all.
Ghanaians, especially its youth, to wake up to the task of jealously guarding Ghana's fragile democracy and its ideals from being trampled over. Long live Ghana’s democracy!