The author says, “President Rawlings, in his usual Machiavellian way…” When Rawlings strategizes, it is Machiavellian, but when Dr Asamoah strategizes, it shows what an astute politician he is!
Dr Asamoah can be quick to point out the inconsistencies of others, but he has devised a defence for any inconsistency on his part by stating, “I am essentially a freethinker defying stereotyping.”
A REVIEW OF DR. OBED ASAMOAH’S BOOK “THE POLITICAL HISTORY OF GHANA (1950 – 2013) – THE EXPERIENCES OF A NON-CONFORMIST.”
Ghana-FlagBY VALERIE A. SACKEY
This book is a welcome mine of information on matters as diverse as the rise and fall of political parties since pre-independence days, Ghana’s foreign policy over the years, the intricacies of Trans-Volta Togoland affairs and the PNDC years.
Having been in the thick of the action through most of the period covered by the book, Dr. Asamoah is well qualified to share his observations and experiences, which will generate much discussion and debate.
The author, however, has been to so many places that it is sometimes hard to see where he is coming from. He admits in his preface, that he has “vacillated between revolution and multi-party democracy.” I lost count, halfway through the book, of the number of political parties and regimes in which he played some role. He expresses admiration for such odd bedfellows as Marx, Gandhi and Kim Il-Sung. He says, “I shared the visions of Nkrumah, General Acheampong and Rawlings,” which may cause some puzzlement at the inclusion of Acheampong!
I recall sitting in the garden of the French Ambassador, to whose residence I had brought my children to safety whilst Acheampong’s soldiers ransacked my husband’s government bungalow. I was listening to Acheampong’s radio broadcast justifying his coup of the previous day and the only fact which sticks in my mind is his complaint that officers were not provided with decent carpets in their quarters!
The best thing which came out of Acheampong’s “vision” was Operation Feed Yourself, due largely to the energy of Bernasko. The worst was seeing terrified schoolboys being dragged by soldiers from their hiding places under the beds in staff bungalows and being hunted down in the bush around Opoku Ware School. Why were they terrorised? Because they had not shown “respect” when Acheampong and his entourage had driven past the school!
Dr. Asamoah’s book is a veritable omnibus in that it carries a huge variety of solid facts as well as personal perspectives. But a good omnibus, whether real or metaphorical, should run smoothly. If there is some dirt in the petrol tank of a real omnibus, it will drive in a stop-and-start manner. The dirt in the petrol tank of Dr. Asamoah’s omnibus is his rather irritating disregard for chronological order. In one paragraph he may be in 1987 and in the next he is back in 1983 or even 1957. The reader has to keep re-orienting himself in order to piece together the real sequence of events.
I arrived in Ghana in March 1959, a few days after Independence, and was met at the airport and driven to Kumasi by Victor Owusu, a relative of my new in-laws. My knowledge of politics in Ghana was therefore very limited by the anti-Nkrumah opinions which I was fed by my in-laws and at first I was too busy adjusting to a new life, teaching and raising a family, to question what I was told. It took a few years to make my own observations and form my own opinions.
I shall therefore focus my comments on Dr. Asamoah’s book mainly on the period between the mid-1960s and the time when I left public office in 2001.
In mentioning the creation of the Brong Ahafo region by Nkrumah, the author says that “Dr Busia, a Brong, curiously objected” to this. There is nothing curious about it. After Opoku Ware I’s war in the Brong area, the Brong divisional chiefs were sent to Kumasi where they stayed for some years. They were provided with wives of Asante royal blood. Meanwhile the kingmakers of their traditional areas installed new chiefs. When the exiled chiefs finally returned, having assimilated Asante values, they found that they had been replaced. Over the years since then, many traditional areas such as Offuman and Wenchi, Dr. Busia’s hometown, have had conflicts arising from the struggle between two royal families. Dr. Busia was related to the Wenchi royal family which traced itself back to the Kumasi exile. So it was no wonder that he did not want to see a Brong Ahafo region split off from Ashanti.
Dr. Asamoah mentions Nkrumah’s Bui Dam Project which was abandoned for 40 years “until Kufuor came to its resuscitation.” This is not wholly correct. The decision to update all the data on the Bui Dam was taken in the mid-1990s. Under the direct supervision of the then Vice-President, Prof. J.E.A. Mills, a thorough review of project plans was undertaken, including economic, social and environmental scoping. President Kufuor then found that the basic groundwork had been done, enabling him to proceed with the beginning of the actual implementation.
It is worth noting that several other projects for which the NPP has claimed the kudos also benefitted from the designs and studies done by the NDC, for example the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange, the Mallam to Cape Coast road and the National Health Insurance Scheme. It is a pity that the NPP varied the designs to cut costs and hereby created future problems.
The author refers to the burning of books which he says was instigated by the TUC in the period immediately following the 1966 coup. At the time, I was teaching at Opoku Ware School in Kumasi and I was in charge of the school library. An order came that all books by or about Nkrumah and any pictures of him should be removed from school libraries and destroyed. I refused to comply. I heard that General Kotoka was in Kumasi and was staying in a military guesthouse near the Officers Mess. I knocked on the door and he opened it himself. He invited me in and asked why I had come. He was shocked to hear of the order to schools and told me to ignore it. It seems that the people with small minds who seek to obliterate or distort those parts of history which they prefer to ignore, generally do so without the consent or even the knowledge of their leaders.
Dr. Asamoah seems to be genuinely muddled about the events of June 4, 1979. He says, “Flt Lt Rawlings carried out his first coup.” He continues to use the word “coup” in subsequent pages.
Then he says, “An initial move in May 1979 failed.” A move to do what? Certainly not to carry out a coup!
These events can only be understood against the background of the conditions in 1979. “Kalabule” was virtually universal. The people were angry about the shortages and the profiteering and their anger was mainly directed towards anyone in military uniform, thanks to the years of NRC, SMC 1 and SMC II rule. The junior officers and other ranks were angry with their seniors, blaming them for the disrepute into which they had brought the military.
The SMC II, sensing the public antagonism against them, needed a safe exit strategy and had therefore announced a general election to be held in June 1979. Some within the military, who were concerned about restoring the integrity and honour of the Armed Forces, saw an urgent need for the military to purge itself before the scheduled elections in order to restore civilian confidence under an elected government.
Those of this opinion made several attempts to voice their concerns to the commanders during the durbars at the stations, but all the attempts to wake up the senior officers to the frustrations persisting at the time fell on deaf ears and amounted to nothing. This is why in desperation on May 15th Flt Lt Rawlings and a small handful of men, gathered some senior officers by force later that morning to make them listen to their concerns. This was the “move” to which Dr. Asamoah refers. He then refers to the arrest and trial of Rawlings and his men as a “trial for subversion.” This is not the case. A military Court Martial at Burma Camp tried them for the offence of “mutiny”.
Normally, a court martial is an in-house military affair but the SMC II for some reason decided to open proceedings to the press and the public. Presumably they wanted to make a public show of the mutinous group, but they sadly miscalculated. The publicity given to the trial rather aroused public sympathy, not only among the other ranks of the military, but also among workers, students and the general public. It is therefore strange for the author to imply that Rawlings planned to get tried in order to arouse sympathy.
What happened on June 4 was never a coup d’état. It was an uprising of an angry people. It was waiting to happen and the trial of Rawlings and his men was simply a catalyst.
Dr. Asamoah twice refers to the demolition of the Makola market, but only once suggests a reason. He says it was “a warning to hoarders and profiteers.”
The facts are not so simple. The other ranks were angry with their superior officers for creating a situation in which the general public regarded the entire Armed Forces with contempt. But they were also angry with the market women who had spat on them and had emptied their chamber pots over them simply for being in uniform. Chairman Rawlings knew of the prevailing hostility towards the market women and sensed the impending wrath that could befall the women. To allow the ranks to vent their anger without bloodshed he gave an order for the market to be demolished. The order was followed through after market hours to avoid the potential bloodshed should the soldiers accost the market women.
The author glosses over the fact that within a period of just over three months, Rawlings was able to subdue the cries of “let the blood flow” and the random acts of violence committed by some individuals and convert this emotion into a house-cleaning exercise. Also within this period (less than a month after June 4!) general elections went ahead and in September he handed over to the newly elected President Limann. Immediately after the handing over ceremony, Rawlings joined the inauguration parade to resume his role as a soldier. Are these the actions of a power seeker?
There is little doubt that if Limann had been true to what he declared in his inaugural speech to continue the “housecleaning” and pursue probity and accountability, Rawlings would have been content to continue the career which he loved. The new government however, happily shared out contracts among themselves. The requisition books found at Peduase Lodge revealed the mind-boggling quantities of hard liquor ordered for cabinet meetings. Members of the AFRC were got out of the way with tempting payments for studies overseas. Those who refused, including Rawlings, were harassed by Limann’s security services. Dr Asamoah says, “When he (Rawlings) stopped at a garage in Sunyani to fix his car, he was mobbed, thereby raising his appetite for a return to power.”
This comment trivialises what was happening! It takes a very shallow person to think of undertaking a coup just because a crowd applauds him!
What was really going on? What was Rawlings doing in Brong Ahafo? He travelled widely during the Limann years, trying to keep up the spirits of youth groups who were inspired by the aims of June 4 but also who were dismayed to see the government undermining these very principles. He encouraged many of them to establish commercial farms. At times he had to hide from the security forces, sometimes in some very unlikely places. If anything made him turn his mind towards planning a coup it was certainly not the applause of a crowd in Sunyani. It was Limann’s betrayal of the commitment he made to pursue probity and accountability.
Dr Asamoah says, “Thus the long era of the PNDC began. It lasted almost 20 years!” It is surprising that, as a lawyer, the author makes no distinction between the just over 10 years of PNDC rule and the period after the 1992 constitution.
The author wrongly surmises that the exit of Chris Atim and Akata-Pore from the original composition of the PNDC was because they regretted having deposed a president of northern origin (i.e. Limann). They were “book” socialists with dangerously radical views likely to disrupt any effort to build an inclusive and participatory democracy.
It is also wrong to present the inclusion of Alhaji Mahama Iddrisu in the PNDC as simply due to his northern origin, without reference to his own qualities and experience.
Dr Asamoah claims, “I sometimes chaired cabinet meetings, particularly after the return to constitutional rule.”
This does not agree with my personal recollections. On assuming office at the Castle as Acting Director of the Castle Information Bureau I was directed to attend meetings of the Committee of Secretaries in order to fully inform the draft speeches, releases etc. which I had to prepare. After about a year, some PNDC Sector Secretaries complained to the Chairman of the Committee, P.V. Obeng, that they suspected me of being the source of numerous leaks from the meetings. Chairman Rawlings therefore directed I should rather attend PNDC meetings. (The cabinet leaks continued!)
Prior to 1984, I do not recall Dr Asamoah chairing a meeting. Between 1984 and 1993 I was not at these meetings and so I have no knowledge of whether Dr Asamoah chaired any meetings. However under the Fourth Republic I attended all Cabinet meetings from 1993 to 2000, except for a few absences due to illness or travel. I cannot recall any occasion when Dr Asamoah chaired a meeting. Mr Nathan Quao, as our resident ‘elder’, was often called upon, as were P.V. Obeng and Alhaji Mahama Iddrisu. The chair was not, as the author claims, elected by cabinet members, but delegated by the President. During the second NDC term in office, Cabinet was almost invariably chaired by Vice-President Mills. During the NDC’s first term, however, Vice President Arkaah was not called upon, as he never spoke but sat silently making copious notes in microscopic handwriting!
In discussing the cabinet system as it functioned during the PNDC period, the author omits mention of the introduction of Joint Meetings. Once each month, the regular cabinet meeting was enlarged to include the ten Regional Secretaries, together with the ten Regional Organising Assistants of the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR). This was to counteract the old style top-down centralism of previous governments and to enable discussion of policies and proposed legislation to benefit from local and grassroots knowledge. It also enabled the regional representatives, on their return home, to explain to the people the rationale behind government decisions. The one time that the author mentions the Joint Meetings, it is in the context of planning the formation of the National Democratic Congress party in the early 1990s, when these meetings had long been a regular fixture.
The author gives a very superficial mention of the change from PDC/WDC to CDR, calling it a reorganisation of the PDC/WDC system but with no explanation of the reasons or the real nature of the changes made. One has the impression that the author had little regard for these organs and perhaps found them irritating! This attitude is hardly consistent with his statement that he has “always thought that these values could be best promoted by a revolutionary mass movement.”
The author discusses complaints from the JFM, the Daily Graphic and other sources about a lack of clear revolutionary strategy and economic policy, with all his examples coming from 1982. Then he goes on to say, “With the reliance of the PNDC on the IMF and the World Bank, economic policy was bound to be quite conventional.”
In 1982? In that year, Ghana was not only facing an empty treasury, thanks to the economic blunders of the Limann regime, as well as a suspension of oil shipments from Nigeria, but also a natural disaster of severe drought which caused food shortages and lowering of the Volta Lake and consequently a drastic cut in hydroelectricity. The 1982-83 dry season saw unprecedented bushfires, which destroyed huge areas of forest, cocoa farms and other assets, followed shortly by the expulsion of over one million Ghanaians from Nigeria. 1982 and part of 1983 was a time of crisis management.
Meanwhile, some of the more radical PNDC members were touring socialist countries seeking financial help. They returned with expressions of goodwill but little substantial help.
It was not until later in 1983 that an economic recovery plan was drawn up and presented to the IMF and World Bank. Note that this was not a mere “begging letter” but a detailed programme of necessary action.
It is worth noting that the response of both the international “donors” and bilateral donors was greatly influenced by the efficiency with which the PNDC had handled the drought crisis and especially the “returnees” from Nigeria. The world’s media had descended on Ghana expecting to film refugee camps and scenes of suffering. Instead they saw a precise and efficient operation, which received, registered, gave medical help and transported the returnees to their hometowns, despite the desperate lack of resources. As time went on, the terms of loans became more and more concessionary as the PNDC government demonstrated its efficient and effective utilisation of these funds. There was an increase in outright grants as the infrastructure and the economy improved.
Much is made of the conditionalities imposed by the lending agencies. Whilst many were irksome, the truth is that some of them, such as the redeployment of some government employees, would have had to be carried by the PNDC whether or not the lending agencies demanded them. I recall Alhaji Mahama Iddrisu, who had led a team to audit the government payroll, showing me some of the results. For example, the Agricultural Mechanisation Unit had about 200 tractor drivers, but only two tractors in good working order!
“In November 1984, the PNDC decided to rename the Defence Committees,” says Dr Asamoah. “Coordinators were redesignated Organising Assistants.” He also mentioned the appointment of Col J.Y. Assasie to head the organisation.
Changing names means very little, as we have seen with the change from Secondary Schools to High Schools! What matters is the substance, not the name, but Dr Asamoah says nothing about the substance of the changes, which gave clear and structured guidelines to the CDRs as well as practical responsibilities focussing on projects and programmes, dispute resolution, education, etc., under the guidance of a strict yet fatherly leader. Indeed Col. Assasie became so well loved that when he died, thousands of cadres made their way from all corners of the country to mourn him. Unlike the party activists of today who demand “allowances” for food and transport, the cadres brought with them yams, beans, corn, etc. from their own farms and many of them slept on the bare concrete outside the funeral venue.
Dr Asamoah says nothing about the good work done by the CDRs and I suspect that he did not like them. On one point he is downright hostile, saying that the Arbitration and Complaints Departments (ARBICOM) of the CDRs were “…unauthorised and oppressive ‘courts’”
Granted that a few maverick ARBICOMs had to be brought to order for overstepping their bounds, the great majority did a splendid job of resolving local disputes and complaints with common sense and sensitivity.
Dr Asamoah rightly points out that the well-worn phrase “Culture of Silence” was not the invention of Professor Adu Boahen, but was first used by Rawlings as early as 1984 at a rally in Conakry, Guinea. Indeed Chairman Rawlings used the phrase several times before 1984. However in the mid 1980s at a gathering of personnel of the then state-owned media he accused many of them of a self-imposed culture of silence. By avoiding anything at all controversial, they were producing dull, bland and uninteresting reportage. He asked them to be more lively, saying that there was nothing wrong with criticism so long as it was objective and that they should express opinions so long as they did not confuse opinion with fact.
Today, many of us may think that journalism has gone to the opposite extreme!
In reference to the People’s Shops which were set up in the early 1980s to ensure fair distribution of scarce “essential commodities”, the author says, “In the midst of scarcity, the People’s shops themselves became avenues of colossal corruption and fraud.” Yes there were some cases (though hardly “colossal”) but the PNDC put checks in place and imposed the same strict standards on its people that it expected from others. For example, a PNDC District Secretary in Techiman was removed from office for diverting a large part of the District’s allocation of flour to his wife, who was a baker. Even some District Secretaries who were entirely honest in their dealings but were unable to account for the goods which had passed through their hands due to lack of proper records were imprisoned for a time. The lesson was that honesty is not enough. Accountability means keeping accurate records – a lesson that many of today’s managers and institutions would do well to learn!
Throughout this book, Dr Asamoah often makes reference to the PNDC as a “military government” and the post-1992 period as “civilian government.”
Whilst it is true that the PNDC came into being through military action, there was a large civilian majority in the government structures at various levels. It is therefore inappropriate to refer to the post-1992 constitutional period as “the civilian government.”
Dr Asamoah appears to take credit for many new laws and law reforms, which were in fact generated and driven by PNDCL 42 (which forms the core of the Directive Principles of State Policy in the 1992 Constitution). In presenting these laws to Cabinet, he was simply doing his job. Indeed, at Cabinet meetings at which proposed Bills relating to sensitive gender issues, widowhood, inheritance, rape etc. were being discussed, he could sometimes be heard making chauvinistic asides, which could cast doubt on his sincerity about the issues. Even if he (and one or two of his colleagues) were joking, such remarks were inappropriate and also offensive to the women present!
Dr Asamoah is remarkably brief in recounting what is probably one of the most significant achievements of the PNDC – the participatory process through elective local government to national constitutional rule.
He describes the National Commission for Democracy, under the leadership of Justice D.F. Annan, holding a 3-day national seminar on True Democracy in Ghana in 1987, he then jumps to the launching of the “Blue Book” setting out a draft plan for local government.
So what happened between these two events?
Thousands of Ghanaians from all walks of life throughout the country took part in public fora in the regions and districts at which they could express their opinions on the type of governance they wished to see at the local level. It was the NCD’s job to collect and collate all these ideas. Areas of widespread common ground included the wish to have more Districts and more electoral areas within each District so that more people would have the opportunity to participate in the governance of their areas, and the desire to reduce the cost of campaigning by having the NCD or the Electoral Commission bear the cost of printing posters and mounting common platforms at which all the candidates could interact with the public. This last measure was to prevent wealthy candidates from having an advantage. There was also widespread agreement that District Assemblies, in addition to raising revenue locally, should have certain revenues ceded to them so that they could initiate more local development projects.
A team was set up to distil this information into the “Blue Book”, which was then sent back to the people for comments and suggested amendments before the drafting of what was to become the local government law of 1988. This meant that the new District Assemblies were not simply handed down from above. The people felt a sense of ownership because they had played a part in shaping the new system.
Dr Asamoah says nothing about this. He simply jumps to “Following the establishment of the District Assemblies…” He also has nothing to say about the surge of local pride and initiative, which followed the establishment of the Assemblies.
Dr Asamoah gives a similarly sketchy account of the next step from local to national constitutional governance. He does mention the new round of public fora organised by the NCD to discuss the form which this should take, and the fact that results were then given to a panel of independent constitutional experts who were to produce a preliminary draft constitution. The panel’s report and draft then went to the PNDC and then a Consultative Assembly made up of representatives of all identifiable bodies from professional bodies to Trades Unions, farmers etc. etc. (The Ghana Bar Association boycotted the exercise, resenting the inclusion of so many lay people.) As with the Local Government Law, the new constitution was shaped by the input of thousands of ordinary Ghanaians, in the spirit of participatory democracy, rather than being handed down by a small clique of experts. Finally, a referendum was held to give the people the opportunity to give the final seal of approval. As soon as the constitution was promulgated on 7 January 1992, the formation of political parties began and preparations were made for elections.
Whilst the author says that Rawlings expressed misgivings about the dangers of party politics (and time has shown that these dangers are very real!), he does not mention that the very same misgivings were expressed in the report of the panel of constitutional experts, who suggested that one way of reducing the “winner takes all” effect of party politics would be to introduce some form of proportional representation. However, this is a rather complex system which would have required a great deal of public education which could not have been possible within the timetable already announced for the return of constitutional rule.
Dr Asamoah says, “I had always lamented the absence of camaraderie in the party (NDC)” and “There was no club house, for example, where members of the party could socialise.”
I do not think that NDC members wanted an exclusive whisky club for the party “elite”. In my experience, there was plenty of camaraderie of a more democratic kind at which NDC people of all shades got together, not in some special clubhouse but wherever they happened to be.
The author says that he declined to attend a few days military training exercise organised to enable new ministerial appointees to get to know the old ones. This was an exercise in team building and camaraderie and was effective and also great fun! Perhaps the author feared for his dignity?
The book mentions the investigations made by CHRAJ into allegations made in the opposition press against some Ministers, especially reports that they had acquired numerous properties. The papers illustrated their articles with photographs, often fake. For example, one showed what purported to be Col. Osei Wusu’s “mansion” at Haatso. It did indeed show the Colonel’s garden wall and the tops of some trees which he had planted around his modest bungalow, but the massive “mansion” was a large building on a plot adjacent to his, and belonged to someone else!
Considering that the author tells us he was a prominent member of the “Special Committee” set up to do some “damage control” to counter these allegations of corruption by devising the strategy of referring the allegations to CHRAJ and then, where any allegation was shown to be untrue, encouraging the Minister concerned to sue the newspaper for libel, his account of the episode does not clear the air at all, nor does it clear the good names of the innocent.
Dr Isaac Adjei Marfo, for example was accused of owning many properties, the majority of which were found to be family houses, one of which was put up by contributions from the Marfo brothers for their mother. The adverse finding by CHRAJ was that he had not fully paid income tax on the profits from his farm, a matter which was not part of the press allegation. Why did the Special Committee not encourage him to sue the publication, which had libelled him, after paying his tax arrears?
In the case of Col Osei Wusu, once family properties were excluded as well as his Kumasi house built when he was MD of Paramount Distilleries, CHRAJ turned its attention to his Haatso “Mansion”, built by direct labour under his supervision. The cost which he gave was then compared to that of an independent valuer, who gave ¢30,000,000 more than the Minister had declared, according to CHRAJ’s report. Later, CHRAJ discovered that a typing error had one nought too many, and the actual discrepancy was only 3 million, an amount which could not cover the value of the Colonel’s work as self-builder and supervisor! Where the author gets the figure ¢18 million in his present account I do not know because he did not mention it when reporting on the case to Cabinet.
I went to visit Col. Osei Wusu at his little “mansion” and urged him to sue the newspaper. I am glad to learn that he did, eventually, go to court, but why did the author not tell us the outcome?
CHRAJ stated that it found no evidence that Ibrahim Adam and others benefited in any in any way from their decision to waive taxes and duties on some fishing companies. In the face of a national fish shortage, their decision may be regarded as an error of judgement, but was certainly not corruption.
Curiously, the author does not mention the famous so-called “white paper” which is used even today to malign President Rawlings with accusations that he was trying to save “guilty” people. I attended the Cabinet meeting at which the author presented the CHRAJ report on the first batch of alleged corrupt ministers. He went through it in detail and I was directed to prepare a release from my office giving those details. This was not a White Paper. White Papers convey decisions of government and this release merely summarised the CHRAJ report with some observations by the Attorney General.
It is hardly surprising that several of the Ministers concerned resigned, because the “Special Committee” did not carry through the strategy which it had planned. When many newspapers greeted the CHRAJ report with bold headlines such as ADVERSE FINDINGS, MINISTERS GUILTY, etc., why did the relevant members of the Special Committee not respond with a clear message that the allegations published in the newspapers had NOT been substantiated and that those concerned would be taking legal action? The few adverse findings such as under-declared tax liabilities were secondary to the original accusations of corruption.
One would have hoped that the author would have taken the opportunity to clarify these matters.
The author refers to the “brawl” between President Rawlings and Vice President Arkaah.
From the time Arkaah attended the first Cabinet meeting after the 1992 elections until his undignified exit in 1996, I never saw him interact with anyone else, whether as friend or colleague or in the course of business. He would sit in silence, not contributing to discussions whilst writing copious notes in tiny handwriting, with one arm protectively around his papers like a schoolboy trying to prevent his neighbours from copying.
At the Cabinet meeting immediately following his public declaration of defection from the government, I arrived early. A few early Cabinet members were discussing what to do if Arkaah turned up, since common decency demanded that if he had rejected the government he must resign his Vice-Presidency. As more Cabinet members arrived, some said, “If Arkaah comes, we should all walk out.” Another said, “Why? We are the ones with the right to be here. We should rather tell Arkaah to walk out!”
Arkaah came in, walked silently to his usual place and sat down. None of the Ministers, who only a moment ago were discussing what to do, did or said anything!
Then President Rawlings arrived. I was seated about six feet behind and to the right of Arkaah, so I had a good view of what happened next. The President grasped Arkaah’s left upper arm, intending to walk him out of the room. Arkaah stood up, knocking over his chair, and tried to twist himself out of the President’s grip. The two men tripped over the chair and fell to the ground. Commodore Steve Obimpeh stepped up to cool tempers. Arkaah got up and walked out, loudly announcing that he was going directly from the Castle to complain to the Police and the press that he had been brutally assaulted.
His very public version of what had taken place was not accurate. He alleged that the President had come behind his chair and struck him a heavy blow, which would have been impossible since the Cabinet chairs had high solid backs, unless he had been struck on the head! He also had published in the press a photograph of damage done to his jacket. Even if he had tampered with the jacket before taking the photograph, the minor damage done to the shoulder seam is not inconsistent with someone twisting his body to escape a strong grip around his upper arm.
The author makes a rather surprising statement about the 2000 elections: “the decision to support sitting Members of Parliament as candidates proved counter productive and contributed to our defeat.”
Many NDC members blame Dr Asamoah for this decision. By his own admission, he had become what might be called the “election guru”.
Some sitting MPs had become unpopular in their constituencies, and their constituents deluged the Castle and the Party HQ with complaints, suggestions of sound and popular prospective candidates and warning of disaster if their concerns were not heeded. Unfortunately, most of these warning were not heeded and because Dr Asamoah had been so deeply involved in organising previous elections and was the de facto “treasurer” of the election funds he was perceived by many in the NDC for being to blame for retaining unsuitable candidates in some constituencies.
Dr Asamoah gives the impression that he was singled out for heckling and rowdy behaviour by NPP hooligans at the State House at the first part of the handover ceremony from Rawlings to Kufuor.
The fact is that a rowdy mob of NPP fans had occupied all the chairs provided for a limited audience. They drove away with jeers and insults anyone perceived to have NDC connections, whilst State Protocol staff and NPP officials looked on. What should have been a dignified ceremony of significance to all citizens was cheapened and mocked.
As I attempted to enter the venue, I witnessed the most disgraceful incident of all. I saw Dr Afari Gyan, the Electoral Commissioner and his wife looking upset. When I asked what was the matter, he said the hooligans had told him that there was no seat for him and that he should go away! This was the man whose hard work and fair play had made the NPP victory possible!
Dr Asamoah makes reference to the attempted criminal prosecution of Mpianim, Kufuor’s Chief of Staff and the organisers of the “Ghana @ 50” celebrations. He agrees that Mr Justice Marful-Sau had no option but to say that he had no jurisdiction. But whose fault was it?
Who drafted the legal terms of reference of the Commission which investigated the financial malfeasance in such a way that those who were guilty were protected from prosecution? Presumably the Attorney General’s office and/or some legal advisors at the Castle. And then, these same people prepared a case for prosecution. Is it credible to believe that they did not realise that the case must fail?
Marful-Sau did his National Service in my office and proved himself to be a young lawyer of the highest integrity. It must have taken considerable moral courage to rule on the Mpianim case, and he in no way deserves the criticisms launched by many NDC observers.
The author refers to allegations of election rigging in the Tain constituency in 2008. That election must have witnessed the greatest number of TV, press and radio teams and observers ever concentrated in one small constituency! It is hard to see how anything could have escaped this level of scrutiny!
Appendix I covers at length Dr Asamoah’s defence of Captain Kojo Tsikata at Kufuor’s “Reconciliation Commission”. One would think that, as a distinguished lawyer, the author would have done us the favour of a more wide-ranging analysis of the Commission’s proceedings, rather than focussing on only one case.
The author says, “President Rawlings, in his usual Machiavellian way…” When Rawlings strategizes, it is Machiavellian, but when Dr Asamoah strategizes, it shows what an astute politician he is!
Dr Asamoah can be quick to point out the inconsistencies of others, but he has devised a defence for any inconsistency on his part by stating, “I am essentially a freethinker defying stereotyping.” Enough said!
jjrawlings | February 27, 2015 at 13:43 | Tags: Ghana, Jerry John Rawling, Obed Asamoah, Valerie Sackey | Categories: J.J. Rawlings | URL: http://wp.me/pvtfK-UH
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