Kwabena Gyasi, Global Systems, Orlando, Florida
I do neither come to bury nor praise former president Jerry John Rawlings. Like Professor A. B. Assensoh, I believe the discipline of history imposes on all scholars, particularly historians, the rigid requirement to stick to the text and not deviate into areas that may recast events in a manner that is palatable to one's own tastes.
That is why I part company with Dr. Akurang-Parry's depiction of the former president. Whether Rawlings passed his GCE or not, at this point in history, is immaterial. Like it or not, he goes down in history as a former president of a republic in Africa. Consequently, what does it matter if he has been awarded honorary doctorate degrees from, in Akurang-Parry's words, "backyard educational institutions"? Unlike in Africa where elitist affectations have elevated a few Universities as THE premier institutions, our sojourn here in America tells us that while the Ivy Leagues have their place in academia, community colleges, which I imagine in Dr. Akurang-Parry's parlance may be backyard institutions, constitute a very important bedrock in the delivery of education in the country. In fact, I dare say, there are quite a number of people in this forum who either, once upon a time, attended or taught in some of these very same backyard institutions that Dr. Akurang-Parry likes to suggestively pooh-pooh as second-rate. At the end of the day, it is not the school you passed through but what 'school' passed through you on your way to intellectual development and accomplishment that counts.
In fact for his information, the school that Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, his idol, attended in America may well fit his own classification of a "backyard institution". Ironically, Nkrumah's alma mater saw fit to award president Rawlings an honorary doctorate degree!
Now that is out of the way, let me go back to my very reason for joining in this discussion on Rawlings. Dr. Akurang-Parry makes the assertion that the migration of Ghanaian professionals to Nigeria and other countries was due to the "intolerance and persecution" of the Rawlings regime. That assertion is a historical inaccuracy which I would like to believe the good doctor did not make deliberately. Truth is that the economic situation in Ghana at the time had made it so unbearable that it did force out not just Ghanaian professionals but Ghanaians of all walks of life. That period we are talking about here, the 1970's by Dr. Akurang-Parry's own reckoning, is not a period Rawlings was in power - at least, not substantially. The sojourn of Ghanaians to Nigeria had come on the heels of the massive corruption and hardship imposed by the mis-rule of the Acheampong regime. In fact, the last wave of Ghanaian migration of the period did come in the early 80's when Rawlings had just come to power for the second time. Ironically, the exodus of Ghanaians in the 80's was not outbound but inbound since the Nigerian government, reeling from its own ineptitude and corruption, and seeking to blame aliens, particularly Ghanaians, for that country's ills had, therefore, ordered the repatriation of all aliens. Therefore, the claim that Rawlings was THE cause of migration of Ghanaians to other countries during that period is either uninformed or a wilful mis-statement of the facts. Also, Ghanaian migration of the time was for more economic reasons than political.
By no means a Rawlings apologists, I want to go on record, like Dr. Akurang-Parry, as saying that Ghanaians went through a particularly difficult time during the Rawlings regime. A lot of attrocities were committed all in the name of a so-called revolution. The man was not accountable to anyone, even though he said his government was going to be. The man was never transparent even though he swore by the principle of transparency.