The former president Jerry John Rawlings has attacked capitalism, John Agyekum Kufuor and misguided ex-cadres in an extended “boom interview” with Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, to be aired tonight on Asaase Radio.
Rawlings did not mince his words in conversation with Sakyi-Addo, slating both President Kufuor of the rival New Patriotic Party and his own old party, the National Democratic Congress, which he founded in 1992.
The NDC, he told the award-winning journalist, decided to abandon the moral framework he created for politics in the 1980s, and follow the Kufuor’s NPP down the path to “monetisation”.
Après moi, le deluge
“That’s how weak some of our leadership can be,” said Rawlings, referring to both the Mills and Mahama periods at the helm of the NDC.
“Plus, I think they may have decided that if they can’t go along with my kind of neat, clean politics … they would like to do it the Kufuor and his NPP way: monetise it.
“So, naturally, he would have to leave Kufuor and all his sins alone, and engage in the same type of politics, monetising the whole programme, the whole process.
“That is why corruption has gone so deep … since I left office.”
Rawlings argued that it was John Evans Atta Mills’s failure to crack down on corruption and investigate what he described as “atrocities” and “murderous things we knew about” which occurred under the Kufuor governments between 2001 and 2009 that led to the decline in moral standards he set.
“He was unwilling to touch any of those things,” Rawlings said of Mills.
“It’s as if he doesn’t understand basic psychology, about right and wrongs. In his refusal to halt, to investigate … and to clean up some of those wrongs, some of those injustices, the wrong would end up perpetuating itself.
“That’s how come we went downhill … How can you hate people in their brilliance to the extent that you would want to jail people like Tsatsu Tsikata?
“But you’ve got to understand the nature of capitalists: how cruel, how vicious they can be. I’m not too sure socialists go that far.”
Under the World Bank’s thumb
In his long look back at his own record in politics for Sunday Night, Rawlings, who recently turned 73, excused his failure to raise the Ghanaian economy to the level of peers such as Malaysia.
He pointed to “restrictions”, “constraints” and structural difficulties in dealing with the World Bank to explain why his Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) and NDC governments did not take advantage of the global financial flows of the 1980s and 1990s.
“Nonetheless, the one thing we achieved … was the restoration of the strength and sense of unity, the sense of nation of the people of this country,” he argued. “The restoration of the moral fabric of this country held us on throughout, through that revolutionary period.
“And then, we had to go constitutional,” he said, with some regret.
He thinks that “Ghana should have enjoyed a lot more support” than Western countries were willing to give and accuses them of bias in favour of the NPP.
“Sometimes we know [the Western powers] used to say among themselves that the wrong people appear to be doing the right thing. In other words, the socialists … have the political power and are doing the right thing but they are the wrong people. So naturally, they would hold back.
“This is the only explanation I can give to it. So, we had to struggle on our own, plus the pittance that they were helping us with, until finally they had their ‘boys’ in office.”
Rawlings continued: “They destroyed the moral fabric of this country. If they hadn’t, this country would be way up there. It wouldn’t be Rwanda: it would be Ghana, with the kind of disciplined sense of social responsibility you will find in that country.
“That’s why I keep saying that in Africa we don’t really see the practice of capitalism: we see a practice of corrupt capitalism.
“It’s not capitalism [but] how else can I call it? If only they could contain the extent of corruption in the capitalist situation, we would do much better. But it’s as if they need it to survive; they need it to function.”
Sakyi-Addo was accompanied by a special crew for the exclusive interview with Rawlings, which took place at the former president’s “Mandela” rural riverside retreat in the Volta Region. The conversation ran for two and a half hours.
The former president also used the unlikely meeting of minds to share his thoughts on his two military coups d’état (1979 and 1981), his daughter Zanetor’s political future, prospects for the average Ghanaian, and his “persecution” by the Limann and Kufuor governments.
Reflecting on leadership styles, he described his own “consensual” style of decision-making and the high importance he attached to monitoring corruption among his own government ministers.
At a critical point in the “boom interview”, Rawlings revisited the stories behind the execution in 1979 of Akwasi Amankwaa Afrifa and the 1982 killing of three judges and a retired army officer, and arrived at some controversial conclusions.