As International NGO Describes Him As An Icon of Democratic Transition on the Continent.
President Rawlings, former President of the Republic has been described as an icon of democratic transition on the continent for his exemplary leadership and peacefully handing over to an opposition party at the end of his tenure of office. This accolade has been conferred by members of an international youth NGO, Youngstars Development Initiative, a delegation of which is currently in the country.
Mr. Bola Abengbola, the NGO’s Project Director in Nigeria, in a speech on behalf of a 15 member delegation from Nigeria that called on President Rawlings last Tuesday, August 11 2009, said his leadership quality has an inspiring impact on the youth across the continent of Africa.
He said President Rawlings’s vibrant leadership and his adherence to democratic principles even after ruling as a military leader, set him apart from most African and Third World leaders. “We have travelled across the Continent, and can confirm how the youth of this continent look up to President Rawlings for his exemplary leadership and his modesty as a statesman after his tenure of office. His personal honesty and morality is unimpeachable” he affirmed.
In a brief discussion with the delegation, President Rawlings spoke passionately about the manner in which the national moral fabric is being destroyed by supposed opinion leaders and people who were to be considered role models to the youth.
He was appalled that some people who occupied high positions had tried to make lies part of the social norms and tenets in our society. He explained that by hiding behind the maxim of property-owning democracy, the Kufuor administration enriched itself to the detriment of the State and the ordinary Ghanaian. “They stole the State’s wealth which could have been used for the poor people, as well as develop the country, yet they can be heard loudly defending their wrong-doings as though stealing is justified”
The former President asserted that such attitudes make people look down upon the virtues of being upright in the society, and this invariably leads to people who do the right thing becoming victimized.
President Rawlings averred that truthfulness projected the value of justice. According to him, this is be cause the discerning public looks up to men and women of integrity.
Citing examples to back his claim, he opined that this country had seen judges of integrity harassed and terrorized by a group of politicians that claimed to believe in democracy and professed the rule of law. “We have even witnessed the massacre of a King and forty of his elders under a so-called democratic government, but the perpetrators of the crime are not apprehended to date. I cannot imagine any society where crime is left unpunished,” he lamented. The former president was of the view that crime had to be punished, otherwise we would give the youth the impression that there was nothing wrong with being a criminal. He likened this situation to a father who returned home to hear that his rude child had slapped the mother, and turned a deaf ear to that reprehensible behavior. According to him, such a father would be irresponsible and would make matters worse in his own home.
“Apart from the fact that slapping your parent(s) is a taboo, such a father’s inaction in brushing aside the wrong-doing of the child gives the impression that the child was right; these cannot be accepted or encouraged in any civilized society, he emphasized.
“We are currently dealing with the Ghana@50 issue as part of some of the criminalities perpetrated against the state. Meanwhile, there are worse things that happened in this country under the previous regime that must be our priority to deal with, such as the killing of a King who was beheaded, and 40 of his elders massacred. We can pretend to be dealing with issues without arresting culprits of heinous crimes. Our security agencies could investigate and easily lay hands on the perpetrators. The Ghana@50 issue is just the tip of the iceberg of the crimes committed against the people of this country and the state,” he affirmed.
Breaking his silence on the recent rebellion by some NDC youth against the leadership of the Party, he said it might not be justified to see Party youth rebelling against their leadership, but it was only natural in every human society or institution to experience rebellion when things were not going in the right direction. He attributed the rebellion to the corrupt legacies Ex-President Kufuor’s administration had put in place, which the present government seems to be allowing to function while the people suffer its repercussions. He conceded that the behaviour of the angry youth might deserve criticism alright, but added: "You have to be in their shoes to be able to understand why they have behaved that way.”
“I am not in their shoes. They are probably living with the corrupt legacies of the past. I don’t know what is happening,” he confessed.
“In Ghana we are saddled with serious economic problems caused by the global credit crunch and economic mismanagement in the recent past. It is not enough when the youth throng the streets to express disgust at the harsh economic conditions. They need to suggest strong developmental policy options that they believe will help develop the country.”
He questioned whether it was not important that such reported disturbances by the NDC youth be given critical attention, since people were getting tired, exasperated and frustrated with the fact that the corrupt machinery that Kufuor created seemed to be still intact and was operating.
He said it was unfortunate that the government seemed to be failing to swiftly tackle head on corrupt institutions built by the previous administration. “May be some of these things are as a result of the manner we are tackling some of the negative things we have inherited,” he suggested.
President Rawlings explained that corruption undermines progress, because its occurrence in high places in the country has halted development in many ways. Continuing, he stated that corruption has become so deeply rooted in the system following the bad administration of the previous government that this country could plummet to the lowest ebb without stern determination to arrest the situation.
He stated that almost all the good infrastructural development that the country inherited after P/NDC administrations, which placed the nation on the world stage as a model state to entice investors and international organizations, were destroyed by the Kufuor regime due to its acceptance of corruption as a norm from Adam.
He explained, for example, that about 70 per cent of district assemblies’ members were supposed to be elected and not appointed. This allowed the people at the local level to identify men and women with leadership qualities. As a result, they elected ordinary laborers and others from the grassroots. “That was why l first initiated the idea of grassroots participation in the assembly system. This was accepted by my colleagues in government, but what did we see thereafter? Political position became a commodity that could be bought instead of people’s merit placing them in those positions.”
The former president urged the youth to be strong, and pray for action and not just empty talk. He advised them to shun immorality and corruption that some disgraceful elders were making them believe were the model lifestyle. “Do not let anything stand in your way. Let the truth be your guide and it shall set you free,” he admonished.
He referred to Mahatma Gandhi who said when he was looking for God to find the truth, he found truth in God, implying that truth is Godliness. “That is what I am asking for from you,” he told the youth.
He cautioned them to desist from drugs, and wondered, “Where do we stand as a society if we cannot deal with drug menace in a country?”
He said the youth would have to take lessons from the experience of the past in order to create a better future for their societies. He stated that he was a product of his past and would ever urge the youth on to also become products of their past with a vision for their own good and that of their respective nations.
He further advised them to embrace their respective African cultures and traditions, saying the unrighteousness of people in our part of the world can mostly be attributed to the adulteration of our cultures and traditions, since people who claim adherence to western religious beliefs easily swear oaths and yet lie, something they could hardly do in our traditional belief systems. He said politically and economically countries all over the world are facing very difficult challenges. However, with better leadership changes, such as we have seen in the western world, in countries like Britain and America, which are encouraging us, our countries in the developing world are also hopeful for similar changes too. He praised Nigeria for the efforts the leadership is making to find answers to the challenges they face. He also praised Nigerians in general for upholding their cultural and traditional values, stating that Ghanaians are more westernized but with time would see the essence of doing same.
The Youngstars Development Initiative, with branches in eight countries on the continent, was led to pay the courtesy call on President Rawlings by the Country Director of Ghana, Naa Adei Boateng.
In her contribution, she expressed the group’s gratitude to President Rawlings for the warm reception that was accorded them and gave the assurance that he would continue to be the role model of African youth. She promised that they would also trumpet his message to the rest of the youth across the countries where the NGO has branches.
After the deliberations, the Youth scrambled to pose with President Rawlings for photographs.
THE GHANAIAN DEMOCRAT