With posting No. 937, Dr. Chika Onyeani has uncompromisingly summed up and said it very well for most Ghanaians on the leadership -- albeit ex-President Jerry Rawlings' -- debate, writes A.B. Assensoh. To Assensoh, Dr. Onyeani's charge of "Ghanaian selfishness" may be trivialized by his critics, but he honestly felt that it was a similar charge of his own that drew him into the entire debate on Ghana and ex-President Rawlings.
Hopefully, this should be my final word on the Ghana leadership debate because, as Dr. Onyeani has aptly postulated in different but seasoned words, this useful forum should be used for varied debates but not only the usual "What Went Wrong" debates to which that Ghanaians (and other Africans elsewhere) have been accustomed after every "successful" military coup d'etat and also -- as part of the postmortem -- at the end of each regime. As I kept on reading the earlier postings, with unbalanced criticisms of some aspects of Ghanaian leadership, I too felt that there was a selfish streak somewhere, especially as I wondered if any former Ghanaian leader was without fault. That was why I broke my silence and sent my first submission on the Ghanaian leadership -- albeit ex-President Jerry Rawlings -- debate. Of course, I dismissed the comic Kutu Acheampong years with all histo-political seriousness, not because of what his moribund and comical leadership (or regime) did to some of us as Journalists (just as Dr. Onyeani brilliantly summed up of the sad and pathetic plight of African Journalists; as a long-standing active member of International P.E.N. writers association, I too have written a lot against the shabby treatment of our writers or Journalists)!
I got into the debate because I strongly feel that every African has a right to contribute to debates on African issues. For example, I may not be an admirer of Professor George Ayittey, but I still read and appreciate his contributions to African scholarship in general. In fact, I still remember when I was almost "lynched" by friends and critics alike for my favorable blurb that appeared prominently on the jacket of one of Professor Ayittey's books on Africa. In it, I had lauded the Ghanaian economist for his boldness in discussing publicly various issues that some of us -- as African writers or scholars -- often discussed behind closed doors. That, therefore, is the reason I too agree with Dr. Onyeani that it would have been useful to know what Professors Ayittey, John M. Mbaku, Adebayo Adedeji, Samir Amin, and other African economists ad scholarss would have had to say about the G8 conference and ex-President Rawlings' published article in "The Guardian" newspaper.
However, sharing our views on the writer of "The Guardian" article (Flt.-Lt. Rawlings) and other leadership issues in Ghana was, as well, a useful exercise. In my case, I was able to make my nimble point that no former leader in Ghana was without fault (although I reserved my direct judgment on President John A. Kufuor since his legacy is either ongoing or yet to be totally established).
After all, being in history does not necessarily mean that many of us (in that profession) should close our eyes to exemplary leadership qualities on some fronts, especially in comparative terms. For example, when it comes to the same ex-President Rawlings, just as Dr. Onyeani pointed out eloquently in different words, one cannot help but to admire certain national qualities and culture that his leadership brought to the fore-front of African politics, whether one likes him or not. For example, when he was in his military hey-day (or power), I returned to Ghana (after staying away from Ghana for almost six years because of the presence of Kutu Acheampong). At the Kotoka International Airport, nobody bothered my luggage and the money that I was bringing home (to complete a building project in Ghana).
Back in America, I had been told that armed young militia men and women (behaving like thugs) would seize any money that one brought into Ghana because, as I learned again, such ragged thugs were considered the cornerstone (or conscience) of the Rawlings Revolution. Yet, I had no problem at the airport. That was why I asked for the military or administrative head of the airport operations. I was taken to him and, indeed, I promptly applauded his men. In appreciation, I offered a token monetary gift (a $50 note). The sharply-dressed officer refused to accept the money from me but, instead, he told me, basically, something like this: "My friend, we don't accept such gifts. Plus our leader, Flt.-Lt. Jerry Rawlings will dislike that if he hears of it..." I left his office with the re-assurance that there was, indeed, a new day in Babylon (Ghana)! Also, at Takoradi, where I visited a relative, a female police officer renewed my Ghana driver's licence and, also, refused to accept a "thank you" monetary gift! I wondered if I were on African soil again, compared to the "what-did-you-bring-for-me" mentality or notion at other airports and in offices elsewhere!
Of course, there may be other pluses on the Rawlings leadership card hence, as Dr. Onyeani underscored, world leaders and economic institutions have dealt favorably and continue to deal with Ghana. Additionally, I have also heard on many occasions about how Rawling's former regime presided over an un-rigged election, in which his NDC political party lost power to the NPP, led by President Kufuor (although the retiring President campaigned for his own party). However, many Ghanaians also wish that, for an Elder Statesman status to be comfortably accorded ex-President Rawlings, he should please keep quiet, be diplomatic in his private or public statements and, above all, sit on the sidelines of the Ghanaian political spectrum. Sometimes, I have wondered if that is impossible to do!
Just like Dr. Onyeani, I saw something useful in the Bamako, Mali conference of former African leaders. That was why I made it a point to meet and pat Dr. Amos Sawyer on the back; as Liberia's former Interim President, who travelled from Indiana University's Bloomington campus to participate actively in the Bamako conference. As a true scholar and a former non-military Liberian leader, Dr. Sawyer, in my opinion, could help the conference tremendously. It was also great to learn about many of the good things that some of the ex-Presidents are doing now, including the news that ex-President Rawlings is, reportedly, writing his memoirs! Dr. Sawyer's own latest book on his beloved country (Liberia) will be published in the U.S. in two months!
In terms of Africa's survival instinct -- with or without these former leaders (as Dr. Onyeani briefly but sharply spelled out in the end), I went back for a prompt re-perusal of Arthur A. Nwankwo's short but very purposeful 1981 book, "Can Nigeria Survive?" I instantly felt that for Africa's survival, the continent needs all of her sons and daughters, no matter their respective political and economic ideological persuations; I also felt that it is time for several new books -- with a similar theme but with the same title -- to be written and called: "Can Africa Survive?" Former leaders at the Bamako conference, for example, should co-author one; our scholars in the sciences, social sciences and humanities should also produce their own variations and, in the end, we should see no selfishness of any type in what is proposed in these books, neither "Ghanaian selfishness" in particular nor "African selfishness".in general. After all, selfishness of any type colors and, in the end, destroys noble deeds!