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One year later, what is the legacy of Rawlings?

Ex-President Jerry Rawlings died one year ago today in the midst of the Covid-19 global pandemic. His death made global news headlines. The nation stood still for a moment. Controversies followed over what killed him and who buries him. His family, the Anlo traditional council and the state agreed to disagree and to finally agree to bury the Ex-President.

NDC In The Sidelines

Rawlings founded The National Democratic Congress and remained its founder until his death. Notwithstanding, he called out and denounced the current crop of NDC leadership and erstwhile governments as corrupt and unaccountable. At his funeral last year, Rawlings family in cahoots with government completely sidelined the NDC leadership as though it was the wish of Rawlings to dissociate with NDC leaders even at his death. The NDC has changed so much that Rawlings could not identify himself with it, even at his death.

Rawlings with all his flaws was a man with convictions in love with the masses and their standards of expectations, of ideals, values of integrity and selflessness for public office. Rawlings appealed to the masses, the women and children because he concretely demonstrated respect and concern for women and children issues. President Rawlings was a champion for the poor and he amplified their voices everywhere. He was not an armchair leader.

Unfortunately, the founding principles and values of the NDC as espoused by its founder Rawlings seems to have been buried with him.

Jerry Rawlings truly spoke for the masses in his days. He spoke their language, expressed their collective aspirations, empathized with their pain, and gave them hope. Jerry Rawlings spoke exactly the words on the minds of the people. When he denounced corruption, the people cheered. When he demanded probity and accountability from leadership, the response from the people was ‘’let the blood flow’’.

Of course, ideology matters. Political philosophy matter too. And that is why the NDC eventually adopted social democracy as its core political ideology to give it a mainstream political identity. The fact still remains that the masses understand political ideology in practical terms.
Their understanding of social democracy boils down to an improvement in their material conditions and the selfless demonstration. Rawlings represented this ideal to the masses as an egalitarian.

And yes, Rawlings founded the NDC based on his practical philosophy of life 29 years ago in 1992. The center of the party called it a National Democratic Congress with a social democratic mandate. This is because an egalitarian society and social justice for all was the vision of Rawlings conveyed through the NDC party.

But to achieve a semblance of social justice and egalitarianism in our polity, there have to be probity & accountability. The party and its functionaries must eschew corruption and discrimination of all forms.

There also have to be a selfless, transparent and responsive leadership of the NDC party at all times – in government or out of government. And corruption in public office must attract the highest approbation from NDC as a party as envisioned by its founder Jerry John Rawlings of blessed memory.

The lofty founding and human-centered principles of the NDC, I must add, are much easier to preach out of power than to practice while in power. Rawlings mastered the art of preaching probity and accountability. He also epitomized the man of integrity in public office, at least in the imagination of the masses of Ghanaians.

Many do not believe he practiced all what he preached. But whether Rawlings practiced what he preached or not he stood for something, an ideal and he symbolized that ideal in the formation and nurturing of the NDC and the coming into being of the forth republic of Ghana. Rawlings was and remained the center of the NDC until his very demise.

Where Is The New Centre In The NDC?

All those who purport to be running the NDC today including the Awhoi brothers, Totobi Kwakye, John Mahama, Asiedu Nketiah etc are all people who spent their whole lives trying to be like Rawlings. These people became what they became because of Rawlings but they hated Rawlings and they still hate his memory today while at the same time trying to ride on the back of the NDC party to win power and rule Ghana.
Some people will like us to believe that John Mahama is the new Centre of the NDC party but some of us know better.

Of course more NDC people are gravitating towards John Mahama now because of the popular notion that he is a sure bet for President in 2024. But don’t forget that even if he wins, he will be a lame duck President. He will be President for only four years and the NDC will be left without a sustainable Centre. And when that happens, John Mahama would have completely destroyed the NDC for his own short-term personal Presidential ambitions.

Can John Mahama Be New Rawlings?

John Mahama and his cabal of current NDC leadership are apples that have fallen so far away from the tree. They do not represent any ideals or values in particular relation to the founding values of the NDC. What does the current new NDC leadership stand for? Those who have inherited the NDC from Rawlings are not only finding it difficult to preach probity and accountability today, they cannot also seem to even identify with any particular values let alone practice them. The NDC that Rawlings founded is totally different from the new NDC that John Mahama and his cabal are running today. There seems to be a leadership paralysis within the party as some have suggested. Others also think that the NDC over relies on old folks whose ideas are of no relevance to the political dynamics of the present-future of Ghana.

This begs the multimillion-dollar question, ‘’what does the new NDC post-Rawlings represent’’? And one may ask further, ‘’Did Rawlings really leave behind an enduring political legacy? Who is the new Rawlings? We know it is not John Mahama who has been twice defeated by Nana Akufo Addo and the NPP. Besides, he faces stiff internal opposition from Dr. Kwabena Dufuor and other reactionary forces within the NDC, even if John Mahama has become the de-facto leader and lame duck NDC candidate for future elections.

Recently as we marked the 42nd anniversary of the June 4 1979 revolution as well as 29th anniversary of the formation of the NDC, there has been great controversy about whether or not the foundational principles and values inherited by the NDC from the AFRC/PNDC should necessarily be adhered to by every NDC party member today.

Is John Mahama and others such as the Ahwois etc obliged to believe in or follow the foundational values and principles of the NDC as preached by Rawlings? His supporters will definitely shout that John Mahama is not a cadre of the revolution. Others will say that John Mahama must be guided by history and must not deviate from the core ideological thinking, action and practice of the P/NDC.

Some members of the party have argued that as a democratic congress of different ideologies and shades of ideas, it is unreasonable for people to expect every party leader to believe in revolutionary or even center-left social democratic ideas.

Rawlings was a left wing communitarian revolutionary and his radical approach attracted massive genuine support to the NDC. However, the left wing alone could not and cannot make up a formidable political force to capture and maintain power in Ghana. This compelled the revolutionary founding fathers of the NDC party to open the gates for all and sundry including right wing reactionary forces as well as savage free market capitalists and ‘’politicalpreneurs’’ to enlist as members and even leaders of the NDC.

Political party leaders attract new followers regardless of ideological persuasion. President Atta Mills attracted many people to the NDC, who do not believe in the foundational and revolutionary ideals of Rawlings. President John Mahama has attracted many people to the NDC, who do not care about the history of the NDC, only the present and the future. But there is the majority of NDC party followers who are leaving the party in droves because of what they see as the party leaders haven departed from what Rawlings preached. People want to follow the Rawlings NDC but that has now been replaced completely by team JDM who now claim to be a superior brand to the NDC. What does the JDM brand stand for? Is it just power to do deals with family and friends for the next four years? What exactly is the new message?

NDC without Principles?

As I already indicated, people join the NDC party for different regions. Some of us have been attracted by the mass appeal that gave birth to the AFRC/P/NDC. For us, President Rawlings was and remains our historic and tragic hero. He led the biggest mass movement in the modern history of Ghana but he also supervised the betrayal of the higher cause and he died frustrated that opportunists, crooks, thieves and murderers have now hijacked the NDC that he founded to fight for the common people. Before his demise, Rawlings openly preferred the ruling NPP party to the NDC he founded. And he was closer to President Nana Akufo Addo than President John Mahama.

Rawlings called for a ‘house cleaning’ exercise within his own party. He did not live to see it happen. But the only way the NDC can gain back its glory after Rawlings is for the young people within the party to gather courage and engineer that change in leadership that looks at the long-term interest of the party. All the old corrupt folks must go.

Progressive political forces that thought less of themselves and more of the people originally conceived and led the NDC. However, the reactionary political forces may now form a majority of its following. This means that the character of the party will continue to change as the party’s center continues to shift positions, especially after the demise of the party founder and charismatic leader President Rawlings.

After 29 years of experimentation, the NDC has become a formidable electoral machine but with dwindling mass appeal to the poor masses, peasant and factory workers, women, students, teachers, nurses, farmers and working class professionals, public and civil servants. The party still struggles to make significant electoral gains outside of the Volta and Northern territories. Akans, the majority ethnic group in Ghana continues to reject the NDC at the polls.

Despite its dwindling electoral fortunes, the NDC remains a strong moral voice of the masses with a historic responsibility to continually mobilize the people to stand up against corruption in public office, demand probity & Accountability, transparency, integrity and democratic accountability in public office. That is what Rawlings would want.

NDC Cannot Win With Corrupt Leadership

What the NDC lacks now is leadership of integrity without which the party could remain in opposition for a long time. Unfortunately for the party, the corrupt leadership has a firm grip and continues to reign with John Mahama already positioned as presumptive 2024 NDC Presidential candidate and Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyeman as his running mate. Obviously, John Mahama, after facing two consecutive and emphatic rejections from Ghanaians, still cannot accept defeat. He still thinks Ghanaians are wrong in their judgment about him and the electoral commissioner is his enemy.

Who Will Talk For Rawlings?

Rawlings died without leaving anything concrete behind, not even a book, let alone a library not to talk of a foundation. What a shame. Despite spending 19 years out of power as former President and NDC founder, Rawlings did not initiate any known local community legacy projects to bear his legacy. The only legacy he left behind is a tattered legacy of a political party that is facing an identity crisis and led by people with no scruples. His own daughter and Member of Parliament Dr. Zanetor Rawlings has woefully failed to differentiate herself from the corrupt leadership of the NDC and has even tied her political fortunes to the retiring Mahamas. She is no voice of conscience for anything no matter how hard she tries to imitate her father. Is there anymore hope for the survival of the Rawlings legacy? Will the political legacy of Rawlings endure? Or is it gone with the wind? Only time will tell.

Columnist: Atta Poku, Contributor

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