On Saturday 12, former President Jerry John Rawlings had a word for President Mahama, Supreme Court Justice William Atuguba and Ghanaians in general.
Despite having a prepared speech, the former president occasionally made remarks as he spoke during the ceremony to confer on his an honorary doctorate for his efforts in establishing the University for Development Studies.
Speaking of President John Mahama, he said “the President sometimes joins his car personally to go and see his Dentist; I know it; he doesn”™t know I know; today I”™m saying it. He drives himself. He won”™t do it again since I”™ve made it known [but] some of the crooks ”“ he doesn”™t know – around him, if they are going to the toilet or the bathroom, they will use a dispatch rider”.
Again, he assessed the President’s men saying “both the good and the bad are around him. He”™s unable to kick the bad ones away and I guess it”™s because he doesn”™t know about some of them and their nature”.
Read the full text of former President Rawlings address bellow.
OFFICE OF H. E. JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF GHANA
ACCEPTANCE SPEECH BY H.E. JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS
TOPIC: LEADERSHIP FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT & DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION IN GHANA
PRESENTED AT THE SPECIAL CONGREGATION OF THE UNIVERSITY FOR DEVELOPMENT STUDIES TO CONFER AN HONORARY DEGREE ON H.E. FORMER PRESIDENT J.J. RAWLINGS
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2013 AT TAMALE
Your Excellency President John Dramani Mahama,
Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings
Lecturers of the various faculties
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
The beacon of hope in Africa is gradually, but surely beginning to whisper the vision espoused by our fore-bearers that soon, Africa will re-discover its own pathways for democracy and sustainable development. As we gather here today to celebrate the early signs of a vision for rural transformation that has been exemplified by one small rural University, let me salute the pioneering efforts of the University for Development Studies (UDS) in convening this special Congregation, with an impressive array of prominent personalities, including ordinary people from several rural communities throughout the country.
As they say, better late than never. I first heard of this honorary degree in 2000 and it has taken nearly 14 years for this occasion to come to fruition. My purpose for starting with this reference is that, seeking justice and speaking for it, is a long drawn-out struggle; for others, they get it on a silver platter. This very university has decided to award honorary degrees to many people, and within 2-3 months, they are invited, the ceremony occurs and out they go, honoured, done; they are knighted! For Rawlings, 14 years!
The good news is, we are here, thanks to the ordinary people of this country and the courage and perseverance of some men and women of honour and of integrity who founded and are nurturing the dream of this university; their names and memories will forever be immortalized; they are too many to count here.
As an eternal servant of the people of Ghana, I”™d like to offer a few reflections on the subject of “Leadership for Sustainable Development under Ghana’s Transition to Democracy” from the point of view of a practitioner who lives and swears by the people whose interests are paramount and whose leadership is relevant. Let me first ask a rhetorical question?
What is the Meaning of Democracy for our People?
My more learned colleagues have described Democracy as rule of the people, by the people, for the people.
In Ghana, we started, initially, with a negotiated process and credit our first President Kwame Nkrumah, as a skillful negotiator who set out the path of our independence from a neo-colonial perspective. We became independent from colonial rule; began an accelerated development agenda and started to build the infrastructure of our sovereignty. Successful as we were then, the very contradictions in our own internal arrangements were later to consume and derail the vision of Nkrumah. What were these contradictions?
”¢ A hierarchy of self-seeking individuals, both in government, within the ruling Party in partnership with cronies in the private sector, had arrogated the power and the wealth of the nation onto themselves;
”¢ The opposition then, had very similar interests with the emerging ruling class, a bubble group that felt their right to the wealth of the nation was “stolen” by less-worthy individuals;
”¢ Ordinary citizens, on whose backs and with whose aspirations the independence project was based, soon found themselves as passive on-lookers.
Despondency set in, others capitalized on the mounting frustrations, and the rest of what happened is well documented by our more learned political historians.
Mr. Chairman, let me not speak for or about others; I was told to speak more about a journey that I have been part of, a journey demanded by ordinary people of this country and travelled by them. I believe that it is partly the result of my participation in this journey that I have been deemed worthy of an honorary degree today.
Mr. Chairman, if indeed democracy is rule of the people, by the people and for the people, then I’ll start in 1979 when we witnessed a spontaneous demand for the re-construction of democracy by the ordinary people of this country. Initially, we all assumed that this was merely a call for reforms in the military, an institution whose honour and dignity had been woefully compromised by the attractions of material gain.
We interpreted this demand as simply one to “restore” a Constitutional order, conduct elections and establish a civilian government. Under my stewardship, we responded diligently by:
”¢ Cleaning the armed forces and returning its dignity at a painful cost;
”¢ Organized and supervised a return to civilian Constitutional rule;
”¢ Gave renewed confidence to ordinary people that their voices can be heard, and their efforts for change can materialize.
We did all these in a record time of 3 months; and I thought, this is it, the journey to democracy is done! But, and a long but.
It did not take long before the wrath of the people erupted further into a more profound demand for a broader and more fundamental revolution, to re-align institutions of state with the broader aspirations of people, ordinary people. Then we embarked on part 2 of our real and long journey to establish the foundations of genuine democracy and development for our people and for posterity.
Fellow countrymen and women; let me describe a rather layman’s view of the essential elements of a people and development centred democratic transition.
Peoples Social and Economic Wellbeing are Essential for Democracy: Starting in 1982, and amidst some of the most difficult times, we embarked on a massive restoration of the economy in a manner that our people are engaged to lead their own development; we introduced programmes that were sensitive to the needs of ordinary citizens, even as we had to undertake painful measures to restore economic sanity.
We facilitated a rapid mobilization of our people, especially women and youth, to work, as well as to understand and uphold their rights to participate and make decisions that affect their lives and their livelihoods. Every hamlet, village, town and city was affected; every community in this country was organized into committees promoting, protecting and defending peoples fundamental human and social rights, and there is abundant evidence of these.
Then we proceeded, by 1988, to crystallize these broad-based peoples movements and energies into the first really profound strategy for decentralization, after 5 years of active mobilization and mass education. So, by the time District Assembly elections occurred in 1988, people knew why they were going to vote and who they were going to vote for to represent them.
They also understood practically that they were creating a form of government for themselves; to be presided over by themselves; whose primary purpose is to set and execute the development agenda that is locally based and appropriate for their needs and aspirations of the people. All these were done by the people themselves, even before a new Constitution was written or adopted.
Today, we all celebrate Ghana as a pioneer in sustaining the return to Constitutional rule in 1993, yet not many in this country seem to understand the painful efforts behind this stability and the associated international credit accorded to Ghana.
As I mentioned with just one example of peoples’ leadership of their own aspirations espoused in our version of Decentralization, a real Constitution must incorporate the capacities and institutions constructed by People themselves. The new Constitution is not perfect, but it is one, which recognizes some of the basic tenets of the demands and the struggle by the ordinary people for a just society.
Many institutions were introduced in that Constitution to prevent the abuse of power; to prevent corruption and to promote the social and economic rights of citizens, including a more instructive Directive Principles of State Policy, in which the state is enjoined to take the necessary steps to establish a sound and healthy economy through the undertaking of even and balanced development of all regions and improvement of conditions of life in the rural areas.
What kind of leadership can cause a people-centred transformation and promote sustainable development?
True democracy cannot exist in a vacuum; it must be accompanied by systems that make democracy relevant to peoples’ needs. I have come to understand and believe that the University for Development Studies is “an innovative community of learning designed to energize, empower and engage rural communities and youth into driving their development.” This University has therefore been designed in such a manner that it affords the students the opportunity to spend 1 year out of 4 years in the communities, through the third trimester community learning effort.
They stay in villages, under the supervision of their Professors — eating with community members, drinking their water, and learning their stories of life’s struggles. University students become real learners from their less-privileged elders, yet, they benefit from the richness of village history and culture. In turn, they start developing solutions that are relevant to the real needs and aspirations of the people.
The structure of UDS is also unique. You are the only university with campuses in all 3 regions of Northern Ghana. This promotes harmony and unity, and allows young people to grow up and learn the cultures of others, without boundaries. I urge you to preserve this structure of UDS. I do not oppose each region having an additional regional university, but please preserve UDS. You can always have more without dismantling the original university in its unique cross-regional dimension.
And talking about regional universities I believe it is only fair and proper for the government to ensure that there is an equitable distribution of resources to the various universities in the country. And some of the resources could be generated from foreign students in the same way we have to pay very high fees as foreigners in foreign schools.
I applaud this vision of UDS and urge the promoters of this effort to be mindful of the following:
”¢ Be true to the community spirit and ensure that every effort is made to maintain the voices, perspectives and rights of the community throughout your journey. I have seen it happen so many times, where the name of the “community” is taken for granted. Put side-by-side against powerful stakeholders, the voices and perspectives of the “community” soon get drowned, and the powerful speak for the community.
Please maintain vigilance in ensuring that the views of ordinary citizens find expression in your 4-year programme. Watch carefully the dancing steps of the community members; listen carefully to their songs; therein lay their expressions of the truth, and sometimes the deep critique of their leaders. It is often said that the King who does not listen carefully to the songs of the village may dance to the tunes of his own destruction.
”¢ All too often, University degrees can be presented as ends in themselves, as opposed to being means to ends. As students of development, you must use your degree for transformation, not for promotion. I understand graduates from UDS, are sought after by many District Assemblies. Thank God most of your graduates are not among the visa queues you see trying to escape from the country after they have been trained with tax payers”™ money.
”¢ Much of the evidence the students collect will need to be channelled into national, district and local statistics to enable us all benefit from the hard work of the students. A centre is needed in UDS to promote this huge and invaluable asset.
Mr. Chairman, Ghana is plagued by a crippling “Ostrich Mentality”. Somehow, everyone knows what goes on, but no one seems ready to admit that there is a problem. In fact, the one who admits there is a problem is often ridiculed by his peers. How many of us in this room have developed the capacity to admit that there is corruption in our local government system? Or in the heart of Government? Or even in this University? Why is our capacity to speak the truth so poor that we let wrong pass un-challenged? The reason is simple.
Perpetuating anti-development tendencies enhances the “get-rich-quick” attitude of the greedy ones, those of us who have access to power and privilege. Admitting that there is a problem might expose the pathways for illegal wealth and the oppression of the people.
On my own, I have tried extremely hard to confront this “Ostrich mentality” by speaking-up when the problem is occurring, not after it has occurred. This is not an easy task, it is a crusade that must be embarked upon ”“ speak up, admit when problems are occurring so that as a society, we can expose the cancer of corruption and apply heavy doses of chemotherapy to eliminate all the cancerous cells in our society and body politics.
A political observer once said to me that our President is a President for the future when democratic institutions and behaviour will be like some advanced countries like Switzerland, Denmark, etc. In other words he could easily make it as President in those countries and possibly the United States. But that style appears inappropriate for Africa and an opportunistic society like ours.
I love this country and I love the people,
But I want to respect,
The people a little more!
The great news of the 29th of August after eight months of that gruelling trial was the judgement in favour of the respondents.
The greater news was how President Mahama and his supporters and Nana Akufo Addo and his supporters comported themselves during the proceedings and after the ruling. We must respect both sides for such statesmanly conduct.
Fellow countrymen and women; the greatest news however was the manner in which the presiding judge, Justice William Atuguba conducted the entire proceedings. Most especially when he asserted the authority of the judiciary over offensive characters who have always thought that they could run roughshod over this country. People who have shown nothing but absolute disrespect and persistently keep insulting the intelligence and wisdom of the people of this country.
Justice Atuguba laid before this country the integrity of sacred values and the integrity of his own personal lifestyle.
This is the man I wish to celebrate today. There is no doubt that there are many judges of similar character who deserve our respect. There are also judges of questionable integrity.
If the judiciary does not utilise the current political climate in our nation”™s history to continue to free itself of the political controls that have existed in the past, a fine opportunity would have been lost.
Just when this country appeared to be at the brink of anarchy, the Supreme Court, under the able leadership of Her Lordship, the Chief Justice and the resolve of the Chairman of the Panel hearing the NPP election petition, Justice Atuguba, order and sanity were restored. Reckless talk was replaced with cowardly silence; logic and humility then prevailed. As if to say raping this country”™s resources wasn”™t bad enough our judicial consciousness also has to be insulted.
Mr. Chairman, at the heart of every country”™s development is quality education. Education that not only imparts knowledge to our youth but is also expected to imbue in them a high sense of morality and integrity. We live in times when morality and integrity are in short supply and I charge the university authorities, student leadership, students and the various communities associated with the university to strive to uphold the highest standards of truth and integrity as a cornerstone of the quest for academic knowledge.
Fellow countrymen and women; Ghana needs strong men and women of integrity in all sectors of its society if we are to successfully combat corruption and indiscipline.
The great Justice Atuguba”™s brand of leadership on the bench helped to restore some of the image the judiciary had lost over the years. His ability to stamp his authority and expose the indiscipline that some of the parties in the case were exhibiting served as a greater complement to all the peace initiatives that we all lent a hand to.
The dedication and integrity of Justice Atuguba is the kind of ideal that June 4 and December 31 stood for. It is unfortunate that rather than celebrate and discuss his forthrightness and sense of discipline media commentators and controllers, so steeped in their petty political mindedness could not bring themselves to see or recognise a role model, the gem of a man. The kind of man this country now needs.
For me Justice Atuguba is the man of the last decade and this has nothing to do with the direction of his vote at the end of the court proceedings. It has nothing to do with the judgement in favour of the NDC. My respect for him has to do with his fearlessness and capacity to confront the obvious without inhibitions. Weaknesses that both leading parties and most other parties suffer from.
The search for a positive ideal as exhibited by Justice Atuguba, a true citizen of this land, is what academic pursuit is all about. At the end of the day if you do possess the requisite qualification you cannot serve humanity if you lack a high sense of idealism and sound moral values ”“ truth, integrity and justice.
The journey for an independent, incorruptible Judiciary has only just begun. We know and hear of massive corruption also in the Judiciary, in lower courts and in commercial courts. Millions of dollars are lost each year due to dubious judgment debts. Cases are settled many times with influence of bribes; sometimes national security is compromised by corrupt court rulings, sometimes crooks can even cause illegal detention of foreign sovereign assets because some judge gave restraining orders. I entreat the Chief Justice and the entire Judiciary to reflect soberly on these developments, and vindicate the Judiciary. Build on your newly-established credibility and independence by engaging in a thorough “House-cleaning” exercise to purge the Judiciary of real and perceived corruption!
(I can help you with this exercise; I’m very qualified and experienced in “house-cleaning”).
If the poor citizens of this country are to trust that the Justice system is for them, then this Justice must NOT be for sale to the highest bidder in bribes and corrupt practices.
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, as Ghana moves through this difficult transition to the age of sustainable and equitable development, how many of us in this room will be counted as part of the inspirational leadership that influenced this journey and how many of us will be counted as the disguised enemies of the people?
I am certain that the University for Development Studies (UDS) will also be counted as one of the institutions, which have been true to the commitment of a people-centered development agency. This is why I am proud to be the latest alumni of UDS, proud to be honoured by you, and honoured to join your peer group. I am also ready to intensify my role as an Ambassador for UDS, as I have been a promoter from the very beginning!
Special gratitude goes to all who helped to champion the establishment of this university. I cannot mention everyone, but people like Nathan Quao and Shirley Ababio of blessed memory, Dr Abubakar who traversed the region to identify abandoned and dilapidated buildings for rehabilitation into university structures, Valerie Sackey, Professor Benning and many, many more.
We have an obligation to ensure that what they toiled for some twenty years ago impacts positively on our society for generations to come.
To all those individuals and institutions who have in diverse ways contributed towards the successful organization of this event I say Ayeekoo.
I thank you all, and God Bless You.