ADDRESS BY FLT LT JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS, FORMER PRESIDENT OF GHANA AND LEADER OF THE REVOLUTION AT A LECTURE TO MARK THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE 31ST DECEMBER REVOLUTION – NATIONAL THEATRE, WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 28, 2011
Mr. Chairman, fellow colleagues and comrades:
It is inspiring that we have all converged here today to commemorate the 30th anniversary celebrations of the 31st December 1981 Revolution.
Ladies and gentlemen, the revolution was borne out of a national quest to instill a sense of transparency and integrity into the politics of our country. The revolution was one that created an avenue for true grassroots political participation, creating a form of political governance that gave responsibility to the very core of our local social structure.
The newfound political structure that included the Peoples Defence Committees and Arbitration Committees that swiftly dispensed justice brought a sense of participation in politics unsurpassed in Ghana.
It is therefore relevant that this year’s celebration is under the theme: THREE DECADES OF GRASSROOT PARTICIPATION; ITS RELEVANCE TO THE CURRENT POLITICAL DISPENSATION, particularly because the corruption of today has gone overboard – completely overboard – since 2000 and that is because the ordinary people have lost a say in the political management of this country.
Corruption I believe, is easier to fight when leadership, be it political, traditional, religious or family head are all involved and providing exemplary leadership.
Let us draw our minds back and try to relive the moral outrage of our nation in the late 70s, to have exacted such a high price for a corruption level that was no where near what we have in Ghana today.
The great irony is that, in no other place or time did we have a revolt that exacted such a price. A revolt being class inclined would have to be absolute and total or partial and live with the dangers engaged in the subsequent reforms. But for the policing effect of our presence and the power of the will of the people in the first ten years of our revolutionary democracy and to a lesser degree in the subsequent eight years of constitutional democracy so much more of our nation’s virtue could have been lost.
I have said it over and over that no group of lesser integrity could have survived in government without attempting to corrupt and disempower the will and integrity of our nation, hence the concentrated effort that was made to corrupt especially the judiciary and uniformed institutions and the general use of terror tactics.
The shock of the nation coiled itself in anger and took back its power in the 2004 election. Our leadership was however unable to prevent the electoral theft. The theft was easily preventable and the nation could also have spontaneously demonstrated it. The nation had to suffer a further four years of suffering under a very corrupt leadership.
With the approach of the 2008 elections the nation had to reject the faint-heartedness and brace herself once more. The nation was coiled once again. People were preparing, if necessary to die for their freedom once again.
I recall warning the world and the government that the nation was coiled for an explosion of joy or an explosion of rage. Any attempt to repeat the theft of 2004 will bring about serious explosion whose consequences will far exceed that of June 4, 1979.
The late Nigerian President saved the sub-region with the timely intervention to ensure that the verdict was not stolen again. The whole hope of the nation for a healthy cleansing effect has been dashed with our poor leadership and has even exacerbated the depth of corruption in this country.
Political style and approach will always be different as leadership changes, but the ideals and basis for the establishment of a political cause cannot be toyed with. Unfortunately that is the situation the current NDC finds itself. I have to sadly admit that the there is a breakdown of values in the NDC and many who find themselves in positions of leadership within the party and government operate as if there is no ideological basis behind the establishment of the party.
Many have decided it is convenient to pursue sycophantic support for the current leadership at the expense of what the party stands for and see truth and constructive criticism as damaging to the fortunes of the NDC.
Ladies and gentlemen, we find ourselves in a situation where we have become so distanced from reality, that the local structures that benefitted the NDC and accorded it the opportunity to garner public opinion at the lowest level have all dissipated as the grassroots membership have lost trust and confidence, rather opting to organize demonstrations and send petitions, many of which are ignored.
It is not too late to save the NDC from the abyss. Those who have the power and capacity to create a renewed confidence in the party have to wake up from their political slumber and remember their true beginnings.
The most dangerous mistake of any political force is to forget its roots and that unfortunately is the bane of many of our political leaders today. Rather than represent the will of the people, many have chosen to represent their own individual and parochial agendas.
Ladies and gentlemen, tune in to radio and television nowadays and you will be assailed by a level of political intolerance and vitriol that insults the very heartbeat of the ordinary people of this country. Politicians in their bid to protect their positions outdo themselves in the name of debate putting up hollow arguments that would shock even a five-year-old.
The whole concept of political pluralism has been so abused that one wonders whether we can salvage the situation. Many in the NDC leadership now believe they do not owe any explanation to the populace. In reacting to allegations of abuse of office, corruption, malfeasance, incompetence and a host of others, they respond in good measure by accusing the opposition of having done worse things. In other words we can afford to make the same mistakes because you started it.
We go into an election in 2012 and many have made several calls for unity as we enter the New Year. For many unity means keep quiet, support the NDC as it is and we will win the election.
It is not Rawlings who wins elections. It is the ordinary people of Ghana who win elections. They make choices based on the capacity of a party to listen to them, to accept their role in governance and to pursue an agenda that protects their interests. Those are the ideals Jerry Rawlings and millions of Ghanaians stand for.
If Jerry Rawlings represents the NDC then it must be an NDC that represents these ideals. It will be pointless and indeed negative to the fortunes of the party if I act like a hypocrite in the name of elections and start preaching ‘hail the NDC’. The time has come for those who have the responsibility of changing the free-fall of the NDC to bring it to a halt and take drastic actions, however late to re-embrace the ideals that won the party the 2008 elections.
It is not too late to go back to the grassroots; to the footsoldiers and listen to them. The level of despondency amongst our support base is largely due to the detachment of our leadership from the people as well as the betrayal of those who have refused to blindly support the current leadership.
We have so far failed to correct the several wrongs of the past – the failures of the NPP that we promised to correct. Case after case have been lost in court not because innocent people were being tried, but because we failed miserably to properly investigate before going to court. Now we have lost the moral high ground.
Ladies and gentlemen, in criticizing the current government I do so based on the fact that I interact with people on a daily basis and they express their disappointment with the detachment of both party and government from the people. If the party leadership is so detached from the people, then how can it hold the government in check? Rawlings can point these out a million times but if the party leadership in particular will not wake up and do a genuine self-examination we will not get far.
Every sympathizer of the NDC has a role to play in pointing these lapses out to the party leadership and government. You are the ones who are enduring the pain and you cannot sit quiet and allow yourselves to be cowed into silence. Speak up and compel your leaders to listen. Do not allow the sweet gifts of election year to confuse you into a false sense of security.
I dare to caution that if we fail to identify the true basis of what the NDC stands for and change direction quickly we will go into an election falsely patting ourselves for a good job done only to consign ourselves into perpetual doom because the people of this country are disappointed with our performance so far.