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The Rawlings'Factor in Ghana's Politics: An Appraisal of Some Secondary and Primary Data | OMICS International
ISSN: 2332-0761
Journal of Political Sciences & Public Affairs
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The Rawlings'Factor in Ghana's Politics: An Appraisal of Some Secondary and Primary Data

Brenya E, Adu-Gyamfi S*, Afful I, Darkwa B, Richmond MB, Korkor SO, Boakye ES and Turkson GK

Department of History and Political Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana

*Corresponding Author:
Adu-Gyamfi S
Department of History and Political Studies
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology
Kumasi, Ghana
Tel: +233 32 206 0438
E-mail: [email protected]

Received Date: July 24, 2015 Accepted Date: August 15, 2015 Published:September 05, 2015

Citation: Brenya E, Adu-Gyamfi S, Afful I, Darkwa B, Richmond MB, et al. (2015) The Rawlings’ Factor in Ghana’s Politics: An Appraisal of Some Secondary and Primary Data. J Pol Sci Pub Aff S1:004. doi:10.4172/2332-0761.S1-004

Copyright: © 2015 Brenya E, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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Global concern for good leadership and democracy necessitates an examination of how good governance impacts the growth and development of a country. Since independence, Ghana has made giant strides towards good governance and democracy. Jerry John Rawlings has ruled the country for significant period of the three decades. Rawlings emerged on the political scene in 1979 through coup d’état as a junior officer who led the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and eventually consolidated his rule as a legitimate democratically elected President of Ghana under the fourth republican constitution in 1992. Therefore, Ghana’s political history cannot be complete without a thorough examination of the role of the Rawlings in the developmental/democratic process of Ghana. However, there are different contentions about the impact of Rawlings on the developmental and democratic process of Ghana. This study examines the impacts of Rawlings’ administration on the politics of Ghana using both qualitative and quantitative analytical tools. Data collected through questionnaires and field interviews were used to examine the impact of Rawlings in the areas of democratic governance, upholding human rights, women empowerment and party politics in Ghana. Additionally, Rawlings’ shortfalls as a leader and how young leaders and the future generations can take a cue from it was examined with the ultimate aim of strengthening African leadership and ingenuity in the wake of the “leadership crisis” in the continent. The study finally makes incisive recommendations on how to advance democratic ideals in Ghana to maintain her position as the beacon of democracy in Africa.


Rawlings; Good governance; Development; Democratic; Consolidation


Good governance has become a vital ingredient for the overall improvement in the quality of life of people across the globe. While several forms of governance and leadership abound in contemporary times, it cannot be gainsaid the impact of good governance on the growth and development of every nation. To this end, political development is far-fetched in the absence of good leadership that drives the hopes and aspirations of the citizenry and good governance is generally linked to the adoption of democratic system of governance [1]. Democratic governance has been adopted across the globe particularly in the developed countries where it was fashioned and has been widely embraced as an indispensable tool in modern state governance. As noted by Huntington [2] there have been three long waves of democratization among modern states. The first occurred between the 1820s and 1926 when about 30 states established liberal democracies. There was however an abandonment of democracy until a second wave led to 36 democratic governments between 1945 and 1962 and finally a third wave began in 1974. Like several developing countries, Ghana has made giant strides towards democratic governance, which with its own practices and systems ensures the smooth administration of the country at all levels. Democracy ensures fair representation in all aspects of national life due to its concern for freedom and equality of all citizens in a country. Over the last two decades democratic governance has become widespread in most developing countries of the world due to its associated benefits like responsiveness, popular participation, accountability and stability. After several episodes of alternating change of government from civilian rule to military regimes, democratic dispensation was given further impetus in the fourth republic of Ghana through the adoption of the 1992 Constitution which laid the theoretical and fundamental base for democratic governance in Ghana. Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings, a junior socialist military dictator who metamorphosed to become a democrat supervised Ghana’s transition to democratic republican rule which ushered in the third republic. He emerged in the political scene of Ghana through coup d’état to head the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) in June 4, 1979. The aim of Rawlings was to perform a swift surgical operation to ‘clean up’ the armed forces and punish both soldiers and civilians who, through bribery, hoarding, corruption and other malpractices, had contributed to the economic ruins of Ghana [3]. In the words of Jerry John Rawlings and his military juntas were motivated by a burning desire to ensure that the incoming administration was given the right atmosphere to take all the necessary steps towards stability and prosperity of the nation. This conviction motivated Rawlings to supervise and returned the country to republican rule under the third republican constitution which saw President Hilla Liman as the democratically elected President on the ticket of People National Convention (PNC) in 24th September 1979. Rawlings returned back to the political scene through the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) after overthrowing the democratically elected government of the third republic in 1981. However, he returned the country back to democratic rule in 1992 after the adoption of the 1992 Constitution which ushered in the fourth republic which saw him as the democratically elected President on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress, a party he formed and led to win the elections on two terms. Rawlings has had a considerable tenure of office compared to all the other heads of states of Ghana. Currently, Ghana is being hailed as the beacon of democracy in Africa as it has peacefully witnessed six successive changes of governments through the ballot box. The current stability enjoyed by the country and Rawlings transition from a socialist military dictator to a democrat to return Ghana to democratic government raises an academic curiosity on factors that influenced the metamorphosis of Rawlings and his role in sustaining democracy in the fourth republic. It is against this background that this paper examines the political experiences, systems and methods of state governance as well as the personal leadership qualities of the Rawlings to ascertain their impact on the current political dispensation and democratic tranquillity currently being enjoyed in Ghana. Specifically, to it examines how the political leadership of the Rawlings’ administration has shaped political development in the country. To that effect, the paper examines the personality and innate abilities of the Rawlings and how it has fostered the formation of political parties in Ghana, assesses the importance and premium the Rawlings attached to certain democratic features such as the independent statutory bodies like the legislature and the Electoral Commission in the performance of their functions, and also examine the extent to which the Rawlings championed the course of women empowerment in the fourth republic of Ghana among other things. The postulation is that the study brings to bear the impact of Rawlings on the fourth republican democracy which will help to explain the underlying factors for the peaceful democratic process of Ghana. The core research questions that were of interest to this paper include: what are the contributions of Rawlings’ administration to the nurturing of democracy in Ghana’s current political dispensation? In what ways did the Rawlings’s administration from the PNDC/NDC era contribute to the political development efforts of Ghana? And what is the effect of Jerry John Rawlings’s personality and charisma on leadership as far as party politics in the fourth republic is concerned? In addition, the paper also examines the extent to which the Rawlings’ administration created an enabling environment for the functioning of democratic institutions such as the legislature, executives, political interest groups and political parties? Specifically, it examines how Rawlings was committed to democracy as well as how he dealt with tribal politics and women empowerment.

Impact of external influence on democratization in Ghana

Modern political institutions are very crucial to the very survival of man as a ‘social animal’. This is evident from the fact that in a state of anarchy a country is left to the whims and caprices of the powerful members of society. This therefore resonate the Darwinian notion of the “survival of the fittest” where lawlessness becomes the order of the day. To this end, man throughout the course of human history has devised several systems for containing the “animalistic” inclinations of people through the institution of systems and structures that promote human development and progress. However, in the event of coming together to chart the development path of their citizens, leaders in one way or the other confront themselves in many delicate ways that affect the lives of their followers. Since time immemorial in Africa in general, and Ghana in particular many states were governed by their traditional leaders devoid of any external influence. However it was the advent of the Europeans into the continent of Africa that provided impetus for the spread of modern democratic ideals. That notwithstanding, democratic principles were implicit in the political organisation and relationship between chiefs and their subjects. Democracy is therefore by no means synonymous with the partisan politics of modern state governance which hinges on such practices as voting, electioneering campaign and the formation of political parties. This partly explains the difficulty the country has to grapple with as a nation gaining ground in the practice of western democracy alien to the socio-political setup of Ghana. It is pertinent to note that many national and international actors including the World Bank, the United Nations and the United States of America, actively endorse democratic practices in the countries in which they deal with. Generally, the political climate that occurred in the latter part of the third republic and the early fourth republic laid the foundation for accelerating democratic governance in many third world countries. It is as such not out of place to emphasize the contribution of the Rawlings’ administration in the Ghanaian socio-political milieu. Before the fourth republic, Ghana had witnessed several changes in government with respect to military rule and civilian rule. For the most part, there is a school of thought that holds the view that the military interventions particularly during the PNDC era represented a backdrop in the development efforts of Ghana. This is based on the fact that the political instabilities which came failed to create a congenial and stable environment for modern enterprises, both private and public to thrive among other things. In contrast though Rawlings’s attempt to halt corruption and embezzlement of state funds was revolutionary, it drove home the essence of accountability by public officials. According to Adjei [4] the turn-around in Rawlings’ attitude to elections in 1992 was not as a result of his own conviction with respect to the merit of democracy but rather the enormous pressure put forth by the Western governments particularly the United States of America. This was obviously in the light of the fact that the autocratic tendencies of such client states including Ghana at the time were a “culprits” on the human rights’ front coupled with the difficulty of justifying to the voters of donor countries, the colossal sums of money given to such developing countries. The pressure of external actors as an important force in the shift towards democracy cannot be gainsaid because democratic reforms were used as a condition for economic assistance. Moreover, the recent expansion of democracies across the globe has also been linked to a country’s level of economic development. It is generally perceived that democracy is most viable in relatively wealthy countries, or conversely, that poverty is a serious impediment to sustaining democratic governance [5]. At the same time, a country’s ability to reduce or eradicate poverty is linked to the adoption of good governance which is also associated with the adoption of democratic system of governance [1]. Therefore, Rawlings effort in returning Ghana to democratic rule was to attract the essential economic assistance to address the economic hardships the country found itself in the 1980s.

Methodological issues

The research covers the Kumasi Metropolis with particular attention to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). Kumasi presents itself as an ideal setting to gain deeper insights into the impacts of Rawlings due to the generally weak popularity he has enjoyed from the region to this day. In attempting to find out the impact of Rawlings the study limited itself to the responses from the questionnaires and interviews administered in Kumasi. The authors’ elucidations are a bit geographically specific. Therefore, the possibility of the findings from questionnaire survey beyond Kumasi differing from the outcomes of this paper is not in full doubt. Besides, the contextual scope and theoretical base of the research evolved around the democratic leadership of the Rawlings’s from 1992 where the nation nurtured its constitution for deepening democratic governance in Ghana. Nonetheless, the synergies between the Rawlings’ Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) / Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) will not be wished away in explaining how the former shaped democratic governance and political development in the country. To this end, the theoretical ideas that formed the basis for the research was grounded in democracy and its associated derivatives such as accountability, popular participation, responsiveness, political leadership, decentralization, political stability and capabilities. Rawlings’s impact on Ghana’s fourth republic was also scrutinized taking due cognisance of these tenets of democratic governance and how these developments have shaped political theory and practice in Ghana.

Data for the research work was obtained from primary and secondary sources. The primary data was gathered through semi – structured questionnaires and interviews bearing in mind respondent’s background information as well as their knowledge, views and experience on the impact of Rawlings on Ghana’s politics in the fourth republic. The primary data was complemented with secondary information pertinent to the study. This was derived mainly through the review of articles, journals, books, internet sources and other research materials (published and unpublished). The interviews dug in-depth information from knowledgeable persons such as lecturers, political figures and former statesmen of Ghana. Interviews were conducted in Twi- the main dialect in the study area - and later translated into English for the purpose of the analysis. Descriptive, explorative and cross-sectional surveys were used to solicit the respondents’ view on the topic to provide a detailed report on the background of the situation and also become conversant with basic facts, settings and concerns. For the purpose of the study, the target group was the Kumasi Metropolis as well as KNUST. The choice of the afore-mentioned study areas was to consider how respondents from both areas assess the impact of Rawlings on Ghana’s political arena. The study made use of both probability and non-probability sampling techniques. In probability samples, all people within the research population have a specifiable chance of being selected. According to Dawson [6] these types of sample are used if the researcher wishes to explain, predict or generalize to the whole research population. Under this the simple random sampling technique was employed. In view of the exploratory nature of the study, purposive sampling was also used with regard to the non-probability sampling for in-depth information about the topic. The purpose is less to generalize to a larger population than it is to gain a deeper understanding of types [7]. A total sample size of one hundred and twenty (120) was used for this study. This included seventy (70) respondents from the Kumasi Metropolis notably Asafo, Adum, Bantama, Oforikrom, Asawase, Ayeduase and Asokwa. Fifty (50) students from the various departments under the Social Science Faculty, KNUST, also represented the student population on campus. The quantitative data from the field in the form of questionnaires was analyzed using simple descriptive statistics. To this end, percentages, frequencies and cross-tabulations were used. With respect to the data collected, tools like bar charts, pie charts, tables, were employed to graphically portray the relations between variables studied, with the help of Excel. The instrument for analysis was the Statistical Product for Service Solution (SPSS). The analysis of qualitative was also done through careful examination, with trends and contrasts identified, summarized and presented in the form of quotations.

Glimmer of leadership in Jerry John Rawlings

Jerry Rawlings was born in Accra of a Ghanaian mother and a Scottish father on 22nd June 1947. His name later became Jerry John Rawlings when he enlisted in the Air Force in 1967 [8]. Contemporaries are of the view that Rawlings’ qualities as a leader showed from an early age. He would not tolerate bullying and he readily came to the defense of any ‘underdog’ who was mistreated by his or her classmates [8]. Rawlings had since early childhood been preconceived with the idea that people in authority should portray the highest standards of integrity. He soon came to realize the opposite where such people were amassing wealth for their own ends at the expense of the ordinary Ghanaian on the streets.

Brief history of political development in Ghana

It is pertinent to note that over ninety percent of today’s developing countries were colonial possessions of Western powers at one point in time or the other. In addition, the democratic governments of many post colonial developing countries were overthrown by military interventions or became one-party states at one point in their history and this obviously had a toll on political and economic development in general. The year 1979 marked a major change in Africa following the demise of the continent’s most corrupt and tyrannical regimes - that of Bokassa in the Central African Republic, Nguema in Equatorial Guinea and Amin in Uganda [8]. This was the point in time where military rule under Rawlings took the necessary steps to give back power to a democratically elected government. In analyzing leadership competence, Decrane asserted that there are four fundamental qualities that have remained constant over time: character, vision, behavior and confidence [9]. He observes the leaders that need to be followed are the ones who can spark the imagination with a compelling vision of a worthwhile end that puts people beyond what is known today, and translate that idea into achievable objectives. According to Apter, there are two models of leadership namely ‘secular libertarian’ or pluralistic systems and ‘sacred-collectivity’ or mobilizing systems. The ‘secular-libertarian model entails a diversified leadership and power, compromise and bargaining as typified by a liberal democracy such as the United States of America. The sacred-collectivity model is characterized by personalized and strong charismatic leadership, political religiosity and the organization of a mass party. This therefore reflects the leadership aura of Rawlings in mobilizing the masses particularly the youth in rallies and demonstrations, a leadership quality that engendered grass-roots participation in the Ghanaian political arena. As noted by Shillington [8] upon handing over power back to a new civilian leader, there was little doubt among Ghanaians that Flight Lieutenant Rawlings had been the most wildly popular Head of State since Nkrumah in his earlier years. This is backed by his formation and organization of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) as a widespread and important political party in Ghana. Almond put forward that a political system achieves a higher level of political development when it improves in any of five key capabilities namely extractive, regulative, distributive, responsive, and symbolic. In the extractive sense, Rawlings ability in utilizing human and material resources from the environment was outstanding. This was because he commanded greater heights in mobilizing the people for development and civic responsibilities such as communal labour and demonstrations against the corrupt and ineffective governments that ruled the country. In terms of the regulative capabilities, Rawlings’ military inclinations aided albeit sometimes harsh in controlling individual and group action where expedient. This instilled some form of discipline and social order among Ghanaians with regards to the limits of one’s freedom if there was any, and the exercising of one’s right. Whereas in hindsight political experiences have been marred by severe tensions and unhealthy battle of words between political parties coupled with the overly uncouth insults leveled against political leaders, the same could not be done during the Rawlings era. The distributive capability demands the allocation of values through the specialized institutional structures and procedures that will facilitate development. In this sense, Jerry John Rawlings created some key institutions to allocate national resources to ensure equity in the sharing of the ‘national cake’. Nonetheless the way and manner with which this distribution of developmental benefits in line with those he appointed to supervise and control the allocative machinery also signaled a dent on his capabilities as a leader. This is because with the level of trust people reposed in him for fighting against corruption and his preconception with socialist ideals, one would have thought that indeed he will identify with the have-nots in society. Yet in due time, the state structures he created became partisan and a ‘milking ground’ for his cohorts. Concerning responsiveness, there is the need for political leaders to make informed decisions and policies that reflect the felt needs of their citizenry. After conceding to hand political authority to Hilla Limann considering public outcry from Ghanaians and the International community, it cannot be gainsaid how Rawlings expedited action to react to the demands of Ghanaians for value allocations towards civilian rule. However the Rawlings administration inevitably superimposed some decisions on Ghanaians which left much to be desired. The symbolic aspect of Almond et al. ‘capabilities analysis’ focuses on manipulating meanings and giving out non-material rewards and values. This was evident in Rawlings’ response to public officials and ministers of state who were highly loyal to him and his cause. For such people irrespective of their qualification and academic background were absorbed into mainstream governance despite their ineffectiveness for such positions. Harman notes that “Leadership requires a value orientation that should be accepted, adopted and then translated into a vitalizing vision”. The leader, he concludes, is then responsible for articulating the kind of vision that the community validates based on the leader’s perception.

The Ghanaian economy and Rawlings

Ghana like many other Sub-Saharan countries in view of the international economy has become highly dependent on Western financial aid. Successive governments in Ghana have over the years grappled with the problem of delivering sustained economic growth to better the standard of living of the masses of people. Nkrumah’s struggle for economic reliance after independence through some form of socialist central control of the economy laid the foundations for a new African economic order [8]. This caught up with other African leaders particularly those who were capitalist oriented. Governments in the developing countries in line with state-led development were regarded as the primary agents of development, notably for improving the material well being of all their citizens [10]. Adedeji [9] asserts that one of the most distinctive characteristics in Ghanaian politics was the Rawlings’ regime commitment to liberal economic reform after 1983 which changed its commitment to PNDC’s original mandate. Before the implementation of Ghana’s ERP, the Rawlings regime pursued radical economic redistribution policies by courting the support of low-income classes. According to Shillington [8] hoarding of goods was outlawed and rock-bottom price controls were strictly enforced in all the major markets in the country during the Rawlings era as chairman of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). Rawlings, unlike many other leaders in Ghana’s history, subsequently led the country through the difficult years of economic recovery and succeeded in giving back to Ghanaians their national pride. Ghana’s liberal economic reform was therefore implemented under Rawlings’s authoritarian rule throughout the turbulent years of the Structural Adjustment Programme and widespread famine that hit the country in 1983. Chazan cited in Adedeji [9] gives more meaning to this viewpoint when he asserted that “without Rawlings’ strength of character and unwavering determination, Ghana would not have survived the Economic Recovery Programs (ERPs) of the 1980s put in place by the ruling Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC). Despite many failings, Rawling sespoused a vision of what Ghana ought to be to sustain Ghana’s economic growth and political stability, a rare phenomenon for leaders in developing sub-Saharan states.

The aftermath of Ghana’s nation-state, ethnicity and the Rawlings factor

The nature of partisan politics in Africa and Ghana in particular after the colonial regime, has seen successive governments playing the ethnic card as a means of attaining political power. The colonial apparatus realizing the drive to achieve political unity and social stability in most part of Africa made it expedient to create nationstates which usually came from different ethnic, linguistic and religious background. To expand its base, colonialism brought together diverse peoples to form larger political units. Thus, in Ghana the Ashanti, Ewe, Ga, Dagomba, and other groups were ‘unified’ under British rule [11]. With the centralization of power it was inevitable that the different ethnicities would compete for access to and control of the newly created state, even though social classes also struggled for similar objectives [11]. It was against this backdrop that made the fight for independence to be divided along ethnic lines, a situation that sought to mar the very nature and future of Ghana’s political atmosphere. As noted by Adedeji [9] an aspect of the political hurdle for the Rawlings regime was how to balance ethnicity and political and economic outcomes in Ghana. This necessitated Rawlings to drum up support from several ethnic groups in the country notably the Ashantis, Adangbes and Ewes. Mikell cited in Adedeji [9] noted that since effective political control in Ghana necessitates broad support and policies separated from ethnic, regional or economic favoritism, Rawlings attempted to build ethnic cooperation by emphasizing the irrelevance of ethnicity in constructing a strong Ghana; and, to some extent, he succeeded in doing just that. On the other hand, the excesses of Rawlings’ PNDC reflected severe polarization in the Ghanaian socio-political milieu. As evidenced by Agyemang-Duah [11] there were widespread perception that the PNDC had become the preserve of the Ewes, and that they were bent on depriving others from access to state power. Indeed, most of the military atrocities during the revolution were said to have been inflicted by this one group against those unsupportive of the regime. This situation therefore signified a backdrop against political unity given the increasing divisiveness that prevailed in the PNDC era especially in the first five years. As Adjei [9] observes, political tolerance in Ghana was bent to come to an end following the PNDCs policy of entrenching political power within the Ewe tribe which makes up about only six percent of the population and at the same time appointing more Ewes to higher positions than their numbers in the overall population. Adjei further emphasizes that an indication of the general resentment of Ewe domination among other tribes during the PNDC era was the ban on the November 1988 issue of the New African Magazine, when Baffour Ankomah criticized the large numbers of Ewes appointed to all the lucrative and prestigious jobs in the country. At this juncture it could be seen that the preference of the PNDC for people from the Ewe tribe was never in doubt perhaps given Rawlings’s maternal ‘roots’ from the Volta region.

The functioning of specialized political structures in the Rawlings era

In modern democratic dispensations most of the key political functions are performed by complex, organized and highly specialized political institutions such as the legislature, judiciary, political parties and political interest groups. According to Diamond et al. [5] there is growing interest by researchers in recent times in refining theories that spell out the necessary and sufficient conditions for enhancing the strength of democratic political institutions, popularized as the ‘consolidation’ of democracy. More often than not the actions of these institutions are steered by bureaucratic principles such as efficiency,rationality and consensus building. According to Gyimah-Boadi and Rothchild [12] civil liberties refer to procedural safeguards against public violations of individual freedoms and rights guaranteed by the basic laws of a given society. These are usually subsumed under the phrase “due process of law,” whereby no person shall be unduly deprived of his or her life, liberty, or property. To this end, the AFRC’s introduction of extra-legal institutions such as the establishment of public tribunal and special military tribunals raised accusing fingers at the possible future of Ghana’s civil liberties which despite British rule had been a cornerstone of the Ghanaian traditional political setup. That notwithstanding the tribunals at the time allowed judge advocates and the representation of an attorney in court proceedings. After her condemnation against the execution of former heads of state during the June 4th revolution, Elizabeth Ohene, the literary editor of the Graphic came under public scrutiny particularly from the university students at the time. In an article published in the Graphic, Ohene argued that ‘Death’ was not the answer and that any further executions will brutalize the entire citizenry [9]. Contrary to public opinion for Ohene’s head Rawlings valued her courageous stand and recommended her promotion as the editor of the Graphic. This single act though declined by Ohene, scored Rawlings very high in terms of upholding the freedom of the press regarding his military inclinations. Nonetheless, his attempt to also promote Ohene to the editorship of the Graphic could also be seen as an intrusion into the workings of the press, the fourth arm of government whose independency in modern day governance remains critical for development. Again, after the Limann administration was ousted in the course of the 31st December Revolution, Rawlings dealt a heavy blow to Ghana’s nurturing democracy. To this end he announced the suspension of the Third Republic Constitution of 1979, the dismissal of all members of the PNP government, the closure of parliament and the banning of all political parties [8]. As pointed out by Adedeji [9] the political wrangling between the PNDC-led government of Rawlings and other political organizations in Ghana almost derailed the movement toward economic reform and democracy during the 1980s and 1990s. Despite the violent nature of military governments in Ghana’s political history, there is a broad sense of legal liberalmindedness particularly the earlier regimes that preceded Rawlings in 1982. As buttressed by Gyimah-Boadi and Rothchild [12] these earlier regimes did not appear to pose a fundamental threat to the traditional role of the judiciary-with the possible exception being the Supreme Military Council (SMC-I) during the high point of the Union Government campaign to discredit the opposition and its leadership. Besides, Rawlings’ PNDC leveled serious attacks on the existing legal system in the country with the inception of the public tribunals. Those who supported the entrenched legal system were regarded as “counter revolutionary.” The Ghana Bar Association was reported to have been attacked by two pro-PNDC organizations for its boycott of the extralegal “Peoples’ Tribunals” as being “guardians of our neo-colonial institutions of government” and as being associated with “discredited courts of corruption, injustice, and secret societies [12]. It is therefore clear in hindsight that Rawlings had in mind and made an intended effort to subject the legal system at the time to a populist and politicallyoriented tone that favored the dictates of the PNDC. In the midst of this confrontation between populist forces and the legal establishment, the country was shocked by then ewsof the kidnap and murder of three high court judges and a retired army officer. On the night of June 30, 1982, gunmen abducted Mrs. Justice Cecilia Koranteng-Addow, Mr. Justice Sarkodee, Mr. Justice Agyepong, and Major Sam Acquah from their Accra homes. While no clear cut evidence linked the murders to the PNDC, it could be seen by Gyimah-Boadi and Rothchild [12] as a result of the general lawlessness that has come to prevail in Ghana since the December 1982 coup and the patent antagonism that supporters of the Rawlings regime (for example, the June Fourth Movement and the New Democracy Movement) have directed toward the professional and managerial classes, and in particular toward the legal profession. Semblance of this anarchy is rife among the lower ranks of Rawlings’ NDC in contemporary times as the so-called ‘foot soldiers’ of the party resort to violence and sometimes destructive behavior in matters for which consensus becomes difficult to reach. In a newspaper interview with the Daily Graphic, of January 21, 1997, Kabrah Blay-Amihere, the Ghanaian president of the West Africa Journalist Association, declared: “Rawlings’ AFRC and the PNDC created many wounds and polarized the society. Since he became president in 1992, he never met the opposition or the private press there is need to build bridges. All Ghanaians should be made to feel they belong to Ghana”[9].

Elections and political behavior under Rawlings

Individuals in democratic environments tend to develop strong identity with the state and the overall political system thereby going beyond the family. This leads to active political roles by people in the political process by way of voters, campaigners, communicators and supporters among others. Citizen‘s active participation in political affairs in a democracy is crucial and necessary according to Norman D. Palmer since it assures the legitimacy of the system and also strengthens the democratic process. Though epiphenomenal, democratic elections are an important component of any country’s consolidation of democracy [13]. After Rawlings took power by a military coup in 1981, no national elections were held until 1992. In 1992, Ghana held both presidential and parliamentary elections. Rawlings, who had initially resisted multiparty politics, was elected a democratic president and his National Democratic Congress (NDC) won an overwhelming parliamentary majority [9] despite the strong non-cooperation from the NPP as regards the election results. In a popular book by the NPP known as the “Stolen Verdict”, the concluding remarks expressed the following: The basic, irresistible findings that can be made from the evidence are as follows: (a) there was a deliberate, pre-arranged plan by the PNDC in collusion with INEC, to rig the 1992 November presidential election in favors of the PNDC/NDC candidate, Jerry John Rawlings; (b)vast amounts of public resources were employed by the PNDC to achieve its end; (c) virtually all known electoral offences intimidation of voters, manipulation and pre programming of results, procurement of impersonators, voting by ineligible persons and minors, buying of votes, corrupt dealings with electoral officers, collusive acts by INEC officials, arbitrary opening and closing of polls, non-certification of results were committed by a varied crowd of PNDC officials and agents to achieve the objective of the PNDC agenda; (d) deliberate efforts were made to thwart the genuine expression of the popular will which pointed to a decisive victory for the NPP presidential candidate, Professor Albert Adu Boahen. In order to overcome the dilemmas of broadening its political base, the regime reached out to a diverse group composed of lawyers, professionals, and the 31st December Women’s Movement - the most prominent women’s group in Ghana, to show its inclusiveness in Ghanaian politics and decision making [9]. This therefore highlights the viewpoint of Samuel P. Huntington when he suggested that the principal political difference between traditional and modern societies lies in the scope and intensity of participation. The PNDC was transformed into the National Democratic Congress (NDC) after the disputed presidential election in December 1992 [9]. The next elections were held in December 1996 and this marked a milestone in Ghana’s young democracy. Onadipe stressed that,” for the first time in its political history, a civilian administration was able to complete its term of office and also secure a renewed mandate democratically. According to him “the simple fact that the incumbent Rawlings administration allowed the electoral process to move on with the opposition adequately represented, speaks volumes of how far political development has come in Ghana. “From the viewpoint of Carbone [14], political parties have been prominent in Ghana’s reform process. He further asserts that the formation of the NDC was instrumental to the civilianization of the PNDC ruling group and to the latter’s adaptation to competitive politics.

Rawlings and the socialist front

Marxist theorists generally view the existence of class struggle as the cause of human suffering, agony, poverty and mental degradation. Marxist theories in close-knit with the dependency theory is premised on the assumption that the world economy has increasingly become capitalist from the sixteenth century economically exploiting non- Western states. This resonates the idea of socialism in most developing countries particularly in Africa. Like Kwame Nkrumah, Rawlings also had a firm belief and enthusiasm in clamoring for socialism as the way forward for Ghana’s political development. Convinced that the increasing economic woes in the country were as a result of his party’s lack of commitment to his own view of socialism, Nkrumah ejected many senior members of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) including Gbedemah and Kojo Botsion [9]. This therefore ousted key personalities in the party leaving behind a handful of party sycophants to project ‘Nkrumahism’, the African adaptation of socialism as the principal philosophy for ruling the nation. Hence considering the colossal foreign investments and aid from the ‘West’ it was not startling the strong resentment and opposition shown by The United States and Britain with respect to Nkrumah’s ties with the socialist governments of the then Soviet Union and China. As noted by Shillington [8] the political philosophy of the PNDC was strongly influenced by the model of revolutionary socialism espoused by the former student leaders and radical intellectuals of the June Fourth Movement (JFM) particularly Nicholas Atampugri, Chris Atim and Sergeant Alolga Akata-Pore. Such people therefore articulated the socialist rhetoric of which they convinced Rawlings was a basis for people’s revolution. To this end they saw the introduction of the Defense Committees as the means for achieving people’s democracy bearing in mind those which existed in Libya and Cuba at the time. Just as most of the first generation of African politicians chose ‘socialism’ to explain and justify their policies, so ‘revolution’ has become the rallying cry for the military leaders, even though they have often quickly been content just to ‘take over’, and not to transform, the previous civilian regime [11]. Rawlings espoused a multi-dimensional concept of leadership in reforming the economy that embodied power, discretion and legitimacy, and his success as a leader was predicated on a two-way relationship that he had with the Ghanaian people [8].

The June 4th revolution

The accomplishments of Rawlings during the 1980s and early 1990s reflect a period officially referred to as the “period of rebirth” in Ghana. For Rawlings those who had disgraced their military uniforms and brought the country to its knees were to account since it appeared to him there was the need for the military to redeem its image and self-respect in future civilian administration [8]. It therefore warranted the need to deal with corruption at the highest level in society. Despite obvious evidence incriminating Acheampong of corruption and abuse of power, he was not put on public trial. Besides two former members of Acheampong’s Supreme Military Council (SMC) who had been found guilty of embezzling huge quantities of money from impounded timber in 1977 did not get any court prosecution [8]. These turnout of events inevitably provided impetus for Rawlings at the time to make his move. Among other things, Rawlings’ main aim for the attempted coup on the 14th and 15th of May 1979 was to weed out corruption in the ‘higher places’ of government. As noted by Shillington it was also an attempt to probe the nefarious activities of Syrian and Lebanese businessmen who controlled most of the country’s wholesale and import trade at the detriment of the starving masses. To this end Rawlings attempted coup and his acceptance of his misdemeanor which consequently exonerated his men made him a heroic figure that they could draw inspiration from. After being released from prison cell for the attempted coup, Rawlings delivered a famous first public broadcast to the nation. It was a passionate plea for calm in the midst of the turmoil and explosive situation in the country [8]. This is what provided fillip for what went down in the history of Ghana’s politics as the June 4 uprising. In view of this the Supreme Military Council were to be replaced by the new Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) which assured the citizenry of preparing the ground for a return to civilian rule in due time. As emphasized by Shillington [8], Rawlings made the following remarks during his public speech on Monday, June 4 1979:

This is Flight Lieutenant Rawlings. The ranks have just got me out of my prison cell. In other words, the ranks have just taken over the destiny of this country. Fellow officers, if we are to avoid any bloodshed, I plead with you not to attempt to stand in their way because they are full of malice, hatred- we have forced into them through all these years of suppression. They are ready to get it out- the venom we have created.”

To Rawlings the administration of justice in the country was woeful and therefore needed to be looked at considering the dilemma Ghanaian workers had to go through. This affirmed his utterance which remained a key slogan of the June 4, Revolution: “You are either a part of the problem or part of the solution. There is no middle way” [8]. This resulted in a chaotic situation by some groups of soldiers in the capital, Accra who resorted to looting and ransacking shops as well as other business properties. For some group of soldiers, they took immense delight in apprehending their senior officers and subjecting them to various forms of humiliating particularly with the shaving of their heads. The vengeful acts of the soldiers at the time dawned on Rawlings and this occupied his thoughts in channeling their intense passions for doing ‘good’ with the main aim of picking up the country from the detritus of injustice and corruption that had plagued the nation of its much anticipated development. Owing to this, Rawlings’ first official broadcast to the nation as Chairman of the AFRC, on Tuesday 5 June made a direct appeal to the rank and file of military to stop the indiscriminate molestation of their officers since all of them were needed to put the country back on track in the quest to save and restore the integrity of the nation [8]. To this end senior officers like Lieutenant Joshua Hamidu, Brigadier Joseph Nunoo-Mensah and Group Captain Frank Okyne were brought on board in the day-today governance of the country. It is arguably very prudent that this development represented the assertiveness and general ease with which the military got themselves involved in civilian governments particularly in the National Democratic Congress (NDC). This is given more flesh by Shillington [8] when he noted that Rawlings appointed General Hamidu as Liaison Officer between the ministries and the AFRC- in effect a sort of ‘Prime Minister’ who resided in the Castle, the official seat of government throughout the period of AFRC After agreeing to the presidential and parliamentary elections to be held on June 18 that year, Rawlings agreed to hand over power on October 1. This was to allow him focus on the main task for the revolution which meant getting the system clear of corruption in all areas of the Ghanaian socio-economic and political life particularly the kalabule system. This principally targeted the traders in the major markets of the country as all goods in the country were to be sold at the official controlled prices given by the AFRC. According to Dapilah [15] Corruption is described as “the abuse of public office for private gain”. This implies the public officials and people in government using public office for their own personal aggrandizement. It is “a behavior on the part of officials in the public sector whether politicians or civil servants, in which they improperly and unlawfully enrich themselves or those close to them” [15]. As noted by Shillington [8] throughout Accra and other major cities in Ghana, hoarded goods were seized and sold to the public at controlled prices, store-houses were destroyed and several market women were flogged in public. On the other hand it could be seen that the price controls that came with the revolution despite the violent behaviors of the soldiers was highly welcomed by the poorer section of the citizenry who found it reviving. In the weeks that followed the June 4th revolution, execution of former heads of state and other senior military officers in the previous regime became the norm. Given the fact that the university students condemned the leading officers of the previous regime, it was not surprising the overwhelming support they gave to Rawlings and the perpetrators of the executions. A case in point was on the 12th of June when a large body of students from the University of Ghana marched from Legon to Burma Camp waving posters which demanded: ‘Firing squad for nation wreckers’ and ‘Let the blood flow!’[8]. First was that of General Acheampong and General Utuka, the former Commander of the Border Guard at the Teshie firing range on 16th June. The second execution which took place on the 26th of June included General Afrifa, General Fred Akuffo and others like General Kotei and Air-Vice Marshal Boakye. After the turbulent period of Ghana’s history in June 1979, Rawlings announced the end of the executions and rather announced that corrupt officers and people in government were to face long prison sentences. This included those who enriched themselves at the expense of the masses during the SMC regimes. According to Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICA) 2005 cited in Dapilah [15], if the institutions of state like the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and laws like the Procurement Act, Financial Administration Act and the Internal Audit Agency Act were made to work effectively, corruption in the country would be reduced. It could thus be seen that the bringing to book of such public officials has given meaning to the mechanisms for dealing with corruption in current times. The new government also set up public tribunals and special military tribunals bringing to question the effectiveness of civil liberties. A corrupt Commissioner for Foreign Affairs for instance was sentenced to 150 years in prison though special courts typically gave 5, 10 and 15 year sentences [15]. In standing up for the actions of the revolution, Rawlings and his AFRC included special clauses to the new constitution. The overarching provision sought to cover up the deeds of all those involved in staging the coup of June 4th and that any act by any subsequent government to retract or alter any actions by the AFRC, especially the judgments of the Special Courts was unconstitutional. Notwithstanding their crude methods in state administration, the AFRC regime chalked some important successes in the Ghana’s political history that cannot be gainsaid. For instance in the economic sense, the AFRC slashed inflation almost instantly, bringing prices of goods down to a more appreciable level. Besides agriculture production particularly cocoa was given a major boost with the increase in official prices paid to farmers. With the establishment of a special commission to probe the unpaid taxes, huge amounts of money were recovered for the government together with strenuous efforts to retrieve unpaid debts owed to state corporations. To this end an initial estimate of twenty-three million Cedis was brought into government coffers during the three-month short stint in power [8]. As noted by Adedeji [9] Rawlings saw his leadership role to be that of a “watchdog” for ordinary people and he addressed problems of incompetence, injustice and corruption. Ultimately, the greatest achievement of Rawlings as far as the revolution was concerned was to spark the interest of the masses in public consciousness as a means of awakening their spirits.

The 31st December revolution of 1981

On the 31st of December 1981, Ghana witnessed yet again another revolution. This time it was not violent and robust as that of the June 4. To this end, Flight-Lt. Jerry John Rawlings on returning to power following the coup d’état of December 31, 1981, set two major goals: the restoration of power to the people and the waging of a “holy war” against corruption. In line with these objectives, he suspended the constitution, banned political parties, detained party leaders, and took a number of extra legal actions [12]. As noted by Dapilah [15], the policy statement of the PNDC in its efforts to fight corruption was “Probity and Accountability” and was thereby re-echoed in the preamble, of the 1992 Constitution. He further asserts that The NDC continued with the policy of probity and accountability in the Fourth Republic to sustain the efforts of the PNDC in their fight against corruption. It is therefore pertinent to note that this development in terms of the review exercise had a far reaching goal in the establishment of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in Ghana’s Fourth Republic.

Rawlings had this to say when addressing fellow Ghanaians upon seizure of the National Broadcasting House:

Fellow Ghanaians, as you will notice, we are not playing the national anthem. In other words, this is not a coup. I ask for nothing less than a REVOLUTION- something that will transform the social and economic order of this country. Fellow citizens it is now left to you to decide how this country is going to go from today. We are asking for nothing more than popular democracy. In other words, the people should be part of the decision-making process of this country.

This culminated into the creation of people’s defense committees in the work-places and in the districts and villages across the length and breadth of the country. This move signaled the demise of the Limann administration which made it imperative for all former ministers to surrender themselves to the police and military authorities [8]. As noted by Gyimah-Boadi and Rothchild [12] under the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) Law No. 2 (February 5, 1982), National Investigations Commissions (NICs) were authorized to arrest and detain persons and to freeze their assets provided grounds could be given for such actions. The Local Defense Committees were thus seen as the tool for implementing what Rawlings referred to as the real democracy. To him, real democracy “does not just mean paper guarantees of abstract liberties. It involves, above all, food, clothing and shelter, in the absence of which life is not worth living” [8]. It is therefore clear that for Rawlings there was the need for democracy and development as a whole to address the basic needs of the masses particularly the poorer segment of the society. This therefore resonates the basic needs approach which had gained currency in the 1980s as a surety to addressing the development concerns of the developing world. When the PNDC established the People’s Defense Committees (PDCs), a system of cooperatives, it became a unique move never before seen in Ghana’s political economy (Adedeji, 2001). That notwithstanding, the extremes of the revolutionary zealots created a widespread hostile response as people began to withdraw themselves from the government. The chiefs were alienated, the middle and upper classes and professionals did not feel wanted, and even the students - who were supposedly the backbone of the revolution - began to attack the PNDC [11].

Decentralization efforts and local development by the Rawlings administration

As the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence from the British in 1957, successive governments in Ghana have sought for a more vibrant local government system as part of the country’s development efforts Busia. Decentralization is usually referred to as the transfer of powers from the central government to lower levels in a political-administrative and territorial hierarchy. It therefore implies breaking the highly centralized and bureaucratic state system which was bequeathed to most African governments by their colonial leaders. This is buttressed by Antwi-Boasiako when he noted that Ghana’s political independence in March, 1957 did little to change the political structures established by the colonial rulers. The creation of the People’s Defense Committees as a tool for achieving Rawlings’s ‘real democracy’ to Adedeji [9] signaled the precursor for decentralization policy in Ghana though its implementation was far-fetched. As buttressed by Agyemang-Duah [11] the PNDC in consonance with its overall objectives proceeded to encourage the formation of grass root committees’ in an attempt to decentralize national administration. According to Crawford [16] Rawlings set up the Public Administration Restructuring and Decentralization Implementation Committee (PARDIC) in1983to review all the changes and plans of local governance that had been discussed and taken place since independence. After numerous discussions across the country, the “Blue Book” was revised and the result was the promulgation of the Local Government Law (PNDC Law 207) Ghana [17] which later became entrenched in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana as well as the Local Government Act of 1993, Act 462. These documents constitute the principal foundations for the current Local Government System in Ghana. From a different viewpoint, the significant role of chiefs in the modern day governance under the Rawlings also merits considerable attention. It must be said that the participation of chiefs in local governance during the NLC regime was restored with one-third of local government units being nominated to represent the chief and twothirds being made up of elected members [18] though under the guises of chairmen of the Town/Area councils. The one-third composition of chiefs in local government was maintained by successive governments until the Rawlings coup d’état of December 1981 when his government of the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) stopped formal representation of chiefs in the District Councils/Assemblies. As was to happen, this action marked a huge dent in Ghana’s decentralization efforts considering the significant role chiefs had played in the political development of this country from time immemorial, even before the advent of colonial rule. Nonetheless, Rawlings spearheaded the promulgation of the Local Government Act of 1993, Act 462 which gave birth to Ghana’s current decentralization system and the creation of 110 District Assemblies upon leaving office as head of state. This has inevitably enhanced popular participation in the light of bringing government closer to the ‘doorstep’ of every Ghanaian.

Field work and matters arising

A total number of one hundred and twenty (120) respondents were served questionnaires for the study. This means that given the over twenty million Ghanaian population, the generalisation of the findings herein is quite limited. Nonetheless, it could help offer understanding and empirical findings to the political science literature seeking to explain the impact of Jerry John Rawlings on Ghana’s politics in general and the fourth republic in particular. The demographic characteristic of the sampled population is very significant in helping to explain the responses. This is partly because it gives a background understanding of the various factors that might have shaped the respondents’ views and for that matter the responses gathered.

Gender: The gender of study subjects is one of the important factors that could help explain how males and females appraise the impact of Rawlings on Ghana’s politics in the fourth republic. For instance the later part of the analysis of the responses gathered shows that greater percentage of female respondents than the percentage of male respondents know of particular policies that affected women. This is to be expected considering the fact that those policies had, or were supposed to have direct, if not indirect impact on women. Table 1 below summarizes the gender distribution of the study subjects. From Table 1, it could be seen that about 69% indicating 83 of the respondents were males while 7.5% representing 15 study subjects were females, whiles the gender of 4 respondents could not be determined given that the 4 did not answer the gender question. The distribution follows from both student group and the metropolitan group. This means that the analysis herein made is skewed towards men. For this purpose, percentages would be used to explain how males and females responded to particular questions whenever possible. It is hoped that this option somehow minimizes the bias that is apparent in the analysis.

Gender Students Metropolis No. respondents
Male 36 47 83
Female 10 15 25
No response 4 8 12
Total 50 70 120

Table 1: Gender of Respondents.

Age of respondents: Out of the one hundred and twenty subjects of this study thirty eight (38) representing 32% were aged between 26 and 35 inclusive. Thirty two falls within the age range 36-45 whiles twenty eight have their ages from 18 years to 25 years. This means that the overwhelming majority which is ninety eight respondents are within the age group 18 years and 45 years inclusive. This number representing about 82% of the respondents is around the mean age range which is within 26-35 years. The remaining 28% are distributed as 46-55 years, 56-65 years, and 66 years respectively accounting for thirteen, six, and two study subjects whiles one respondent did not indicate the age range known for reason(s) unknown to the researchers. The implication of this age distribution which is also depicted by the clustered bar chart in Figure 1 is that ninety one of the respondents lived under one or two of the military regime(s) of Rawlings and witnessed the transition and governance of the early part of the fourth republic [19]. With reference to the student group and the Kumasi metropolitan study subjects thirty eight out of the fifty students and fifty three out of seventy subjects from Kumasi were above the age range 18-25 years. This follows the trend discussed above.


Figure 1: Age distribution of respondents.

Knowledge about Rawlings: Along the above line of reasoning, the researchers gathered that an extraordinary over 99% of the respondents had some form of knowledge about Mr Rawlings. The approximately 1% refers to one study subjects who for reason(s) unknown to the researchers did not respond to this question. Out of the one hundred and nineteen respondents, seventy three forming the majority know Rawlings only as a former president. Seven know him as a former military head of state of Ghana, [20] seven knew him only as the leader of the National Democratic Congress from the year 1992 to 2000. Twenty six of the hundred and twenty respondents however know Rawlings diversely as a former democratic president, junior military officer, military head of state and the leader of the NDC. This result is displayed in Table 2.

Capacity known No. of respondents
Former President 73
Former military head of state 7
Former President/Military head of state 18
Junior officer of the armed forces 6
Junior officer/military head of state/former president 7
Leader of NDC 1992-2000 6
Junior officer and leader of NDC 1
No response 2
Total 120

Table 2: Respondents knowledge of Rawlings personality.

Definition of good leadership: Several people have differing ways of defining who a good leader is or should be. This means that there might not be one overarching definition that everyone has subscribed to or accepted regarding the expectations or qualities of a good leader. However, despite the many definitions certain features sometimes commonly emerge. The following key words that aim at defining a good leader were gathered from responses obtained from the field study: A good leader ought to be a visionary, have goal setting ability, good decision making skills, sensitive to the plight and welfare of people and tolerant. The others include: The person being humble, a unifier, accepts criticisms and make good amends, accountable and democratic and trains others to ably take over after him. A good leader must be able to make developmental policies and work towards achieving the goals. He is able to lead a group of people to achieve a common goal in a democratic manner. S/he has a good vision and is able to influence his subordinates or people to achieve that vision. A good leader is selfless and leads by example. He is not always a dogmatic person and does the right thing at the right time. A good leader is fair, firm, selfless and able to deliver the public good, which is his preoccupation and focus (Fieldwork). The above definition confirms Decrane argument that leaders capable of sparking imagination beyond the known and translate such visions into achievable goals are the ones people follow. Another respondent also defined a good leader within a democratic setting as a person who discharges his mandate in line with democratic principles of the constitution devoid of divide and rule. Such person is or must be able also to properly harness the human and natural resources at his disposal to effect economic and social transformation in the lives of the citizenry. From the various definitions given it could be seen that whiles some respondents saw Rawlings as a good leader, others saw him as a bad one. Further, some would judge him with reference to a particular regime or a political occurrence he undertook. Thus whether or not he could be classified as a good leader depends on several factors as well as the timing and the context within which this assessment is made. Regarding the fourth republic, similar reactions could be equally observed with some viewing him as good or bad leader.

Rawlings’ influence

On the Drive to Democratic Rule in Ghana Respondents were asked how they saw Rawlings to have influenced the drive to democratic rule in Ghana. Figure 2 below depicts the distribution of the responses. As shown by the figure above, 53 study subjects saw Rawlings as a highly influential figure in bringing about Ghana’s current democracy. Ninety two (92) saw him as having been influential or very influential in the drive towards democratic rule. These respondents held the view that Rawlings was a champion of democratic nerve of this fourth republic. They explained that he helped to enact the 1992 constitution and allowed for the 1992 general elections. In sum, his influence brought about the democratic dispensation that has continued till date. The following statement seems to capture the views of the 92 respondents: “Democratic rule started during his (Rawlings) era. He agreed to the democratic path of Ghana. He was able to draw the roadmap to constitutional rule and functioned very efficiently as democratic leader. He protected the security of the country by preventing any further coup d’état” [20] (Table 3). This line of thought is given impetus by Adedeji [9] when he noted that the vision of John Rawlings resulted in the drafting of Ghana’s Constitution, formation of many political parties, and holding of the 1992 elections, all based on good planning to guarantee the restoration of electoral and political systems in Ghana. Fourteen respondents however opined that the fourth republic was not brought forth by Rawlings’s influence per se. They contended that it was rather external pressure which gave him no other choice than to surrender to the direction of the democratic wind. The combined views of two of the respondents succinctly summarizes this argument: [Rawlings] had no choice than to yield to external pressure. The IMF,World Bank and donor conditionalities (therefore) other than Rawlings himself influenced the drive to democratic governance. The opposition parties also helped to demand democratic rule from the military regime which had lasted for eleven years” (Figure 3).


Figure 2: Knowledge about Rawlings.


Figure 3: Rawlings influence on the drive to the fourth republican democracy.

Personality/Charisma status No. respondents Percentage (%)
Strengthened 71 59
Weakened 18 15
No change 12 10
Don't know 14 12
No response 5 4
Total 120 100

Table 3: Impact of Rawlings’ charisma on democratic governance in the 4th Republic.

Military regimes and Ghana’s political development: Rawlings

Respondents were asked how beneficial in their view the various military regimes especially those of Rawlings had been to the political development of Ghana. Figure 4 below indicates the responses gathered. Figure 4 suggests that sixty (60) respondent saw Rawlings’ military regimes as very beneficial or beneficial to political development in Ghana. These respondents argued that Rawlings prevented additional coups with their attendant negative impacts. They indicate that he prevented corruption in government and its parastatal agencies. They opined further that the decentralisation project was undertaken during one of his military regimes. This follows from the creation of the People’s Defense Committees signaled the prelude for decentralization policy in Ghana though its implementation was farfetched. It could also be made clear that the erosion of the chieftaincy institution in the socio-political organization of the country in the face of decentralization reforms during and after the PNDC era just like the Nkrumah days dealt a heavy blow to this avowed political institution whose tremendous role particularly in local governance cannot be overemphasized even before the coming of the Europeans. The following response summarizes the views of the 60 respondents: “Before the advent of Rawlings, corruption was rampant. There was lack of basic amenities and commodities in Ghana. He was able to halt the decay. Though a military ruler, he brought the decentralisation concept and involved the people in nation building. He also safeguarded the peace and security of the country by preventing several coup attempts”. Thirty nine (39) study subjects were rather of a contrary view that Rawlings military regimes were not beneficial to Ghana’s political development. Forty five posited that Rawlings military regime were either not beneficial or not very beneficial. The 39 and the additional 6 contended that the military regime supervised massive human rights abuse. Properties of people perceived to be political opponents were unjustifiably confiscated. Some argued further that: “As compared to other African countries [perhaps Botswana and Mauritius], military regime has made our country stagnate. (That) military regime stifles democracy and the rule of law. It tramples upon the fundamental rights of citizens” [20] (Table 4).


Figure 4: Political rule under Rawlings.

PNDC as still-birth to political development No. respondents Percentage (%)
Strongly agree 27 22
Agree    25 21
Neither agree nor disagree 14 12
Disagree 35 29
Strongly disagree 5 4
No response 14 12
Total 120 100

Table 4: PNDC rule as a still-birth to Ghana’s political development.

Impact of Rawlings personality and charisma on democratic governance

Personality and charisma plays a significant role on the extent to which a particular leader or individual can influence a community, nation and its government. Rawlings as an ex-president of Ghana has had some influence in offering comments and criticisms in the democratic governance of the present republic. He seems to have secured audience with the charisma he possesses. One respondent argued along this line that: “Rawlings has large followers and when he speaks people listen” [20]. Seventy one representing (59% of the) respondents contended that the personality and charisma of Rawlings has strengthened as far as its impact on Ghana’s fourth republican governance is concerned. To them Rawlings even criticizes ills in his own political party and openly decry government deficiencies whenever possible. Twelve (10% of the) respondents however saw no change in the charisma of Rawlings on democratic governance. Fourteen (12% of the respondents) did not know whether or not there has or there has not been any change in Rawlings’ charisma and impact on the fourth republic. Eighteen (15% of the) study subjects found that the charisma of Rawlings is weakened over the years.

Political rule under Rawlings: The PNDC/NDC regimes

One hundred and one study subjects had experienced political rule under Rawlings. While some saw the experience as rather negative others found it quite positive. For the first set of respondents, Rawlings rule was best described as tyranny. They argued that it allowed soldiers to flog Ghanaians unnecessarily. On a positive light some study subjects argued that Rawlings PNDC/NDC rule brought about discipline, reduced corruption, and prevented hoarding of good and its attendant sufferings. These opinions are evident in the following assertions: “His (Rawlings) regime instilled discipline in public institutions and reduced corruption. Ghana was a more disciplined society than it is today. Corruption was also minimal. His regimes raised awareness about participation in political activities”. Figure 5 presents the distribution of the responses regarding respondents experience or otherwise PNDC/NDC regime.


Figure 5: Relevance of June 4th uprising.

The June 4th uprising

The June 4th uprising was a revolution which was necessitated by the economic hardships experienced by Ghanaians in the late 1970s. In order to gauge the importance of this revolution in the minds of Ghanaians, respondents were asked to rate its relevance from highly relevant to highly irrelevant. The figure summarizes the responses gathered. From Figure 6, 24% representing 29 of the respondent saw the June 4 uprising as highly relevant. 25 (21%) more saw it as relevant. 14 (12%) were indifferent and saw the uprising as neither relevant nor irrelevant. 21 (17%) saw the incidence as irrelevant. 16% (19) saw June 4th as highly irrelevant whiles the remaining 12 (10%) did not respond to the question with reasons unknown to the researchers. According to those who saw June 4th as relevant or highly relevant: “It brought hope to Ghanaians by arresting the decay that existed. It also stopped kalabule, hoarding of goods which practice led to high cost of living in Ghana. June 4th (helped) put an end to military rule. Its (undesirable outcomes) reminds people to be democratically oriented and shun any form of military rule”. Those who saw June 4th as neither relevant nor irrelevant argued that it did not add lasting developmental benefits to the country. For the study subjects who found the uprising as irrelevant or highly irrelevant opined that: “June 4th led to armed robbery in the (whole) country. That it caused much murder and brutalities. The uprising was undemocratic and violated human rights” [20] (Figure 7).


Figure 6: Rawlings democratic commitment.


Figure 7: Influence on public institutions.

Military regime as still-birth in Ghana’s political development

The concept of stillbirth means the birth of a dead foetus. Put differently a child that is dead on arrival or born dead. In employing this concept to explain the effect of Rawlings’ military regime on Ghana’s political development, it implies that the regimes did not give birth to “living” political experiences or could not usher the nation into progress in its political agenda. Some respondents who disagreed contend that since the PNDC regime gave birth to the enduring fourth republic it is not fair to describe the military regime of Rawlings as a stillbirth to the nation’s political development. The response below indicate this response “The concept of still birth to me means that a child who is born dead. The PNDC regime rather gave birth to the fourth republic which has survived till now. It transformed our political system from undemocratic to democratic rule. It (therefore) prepared the grounds for proper democratic rule and hence made the people know the differences between military rule and a democratic dispensation” [21] some argued further that: the PNDC/NDC regime stalled any possible coup d’états. It undertook an important change from military government to civilian government which has perpetuated till today” [21]. For these reasons forty respondents disagreed that Rawlings’ military regime represented a stillbirth in Ghana’s political development. Fifty-two respondents however agreed or strongly agreed that PNDC was a stillbirth to political development in Ghana contending that: “Although the regime initially tackled corruption, nepotism and allowed for transparency these gains were not consolidated” [20] (Figure 8). Some of the fifty-two even argued more forcefully that the military regime stalled multi-party democracy. To these: “Until then [military intervention] Ghana had enjoyed some kind of constitutional rule and were making progress but [thanks to the PNDC regime) it took eleven (11) years to get back to constitutional rule. A government which was supposed to be provisional staying in power for eleven years before initiating democratic rule was unacceptable. It was therefore a setback in the country’s democratic progress” [21]. These study subjects further indicated that military rule should be abhorred. In their words: “Military regime does not speak well of an economy, hence there was no improvement in political development” [20].


Figure 8: House cleaning exercise.

Commitment and political will towards democracy

On the continuum Rawlings as very committed to or not committed to democracy, sixty-five of the respondents saw him as committed or very committed. In this light the response below may help explain why some respondents saw Rawlings as having committed himself towards democracy during his reign. Even though he [Rawlings] had the training and the trait of a soldier and was used to military rule, he submitted himself to the democratic rule. This was a sign of commitment towards democracy [21]. Indeed many military leaders in Africa are quite hesitant and sometimes would fight with all they have to retain their dictatorial military regimes. However, it takes someone who at least has some interest in democracy or perhaps has no option given international pressure to yield to the democratic wind which is gradually blowing across the African continent. Some of these respondents also saw Rawlings’ democratic commitment in the following light: “He resigned as a military government and contested as presidential candidate to be elected. He handed over power peacefully when his party lost elections after he had been 19 years in power. He gave constructive criticism whiles in opposition” [20]. They further argued that: “From 1992 he changed our political system from military rule to civilian rule. He fought corruption and promoted accountability which is important for every democracy. He still speaks against bad governance in the country” [20]. Twenty six study subjects of which twenty one saw Rawlings as not committed and the five not very committed argued that: “He only yielded to pressures from global quarters. He had no choice but to accept democracy. When he supervised the 1992 constitution, he ensured that the constitution secured more of his personal interests than that of the larger population”. They opined further that: “Any person who comes to power through military coup d’état does not encourage democracy”. Twenty respondents however saw Rawlings as neither committed nor not committed to democracy. They follow the argument that “he [Rawlings] had no choice than to yield to western pressure in exchange for funding from foreign donors and international institutions” [20]. These views confirm Adjei [9] assertion that pressure from western government particularly the United States brought a turnaround in Rawlings’ attitude to the 1992 reinstitution of democracy in Ghana.

Women empowerment

Women through the ages have been subjected and underrepresented in the government of many countries and Ghana has yet to be an exception. Thus the democratic commitment of Rawlings’ regime could be explained in part by the degree to which he sought to promote women’s right and political participation in Ghana. Stated differently, knowing whether or not he put forth policies and programme to ensure women empowerment is a one of the significant variable in explaining the positive aspects of Rawlings’ rule. Eighty-three of the study subjects were aware of one or more policies instituted by Rawlings to empower women. One movement respondents identified as having sought to empower women is the 31st women’s movement. The 31st women’s movement was indirectly connected to Rawlings. Although the wife spearheaded this project, about fifty eight of the respondents saw it as one very important medium through which Rawlings empowered Ghanaian women. These respondents noted that: “Rawlings’ administration advanced affirmative action. It brought about PNDC LAW III, Intestate succession law that gave spouses a share of marital properties. These helped women to have a share of their husband’s property in cases where the deceased spouse left behind no clear will” [22]. They further find that Rawlings “allowed women to take part in his government”. That he also made considerable efforts towards girl child education through educational policies that allowed women (girls) to enrol or increased their enrolment in schools”. Some of the 83 study subject also argued that the agricultural policy which brought about free spraying of crops also helped subsistence farmers mostly women to increase crop yield and consequently a rise in their standard of living and quality of life. The Women and Juvenile Unit (WAJU) which handles cases of domestic violence against women and children was also cited as one of the ways Rawlings empowered Ghanaian women. Respondents also declared that Rawlings facilitated family planning practices which helped women to control pregnancy and childbirth (Table 5).

Awareness of women empowerment policies No. respondents Percentage (%)
Yes 83 69
No 18 15
Neither yes nor no 11 9
No response 8 7
Total 120 100

Table 5: Women empowerment policies.

Influence on performance of public institutions: Electoral commission and the press

Respondents’ views were sought on whether or not they see Rawlings as having influenced the performance of public institutions especially the electoral commission and the press. The following diagram displays the resultant responses. To many of the seventy two respondents who saw Rawlings as having influenced the performance of public institutions, Mr Rawlings ensured accountability on the part of the officials in the various institutions. The press was also careful in not allowing politics of insult and unfound allegation rolling through their airwaves. However, one could contend that this sanitization of the media also affected press freedom and contributed greatly to the culture of silence and docile nature of many Ghanaians who in the face of economic hardships and bad governance refuse to overtly register their displeasure but rather remaining calm to endure whatever comes their way.

The house cleaning exercise: Effect on accountability and reduction in corruption

The house cleaning exercise was supposed to be undertaken to get rid of corruption and social injustice that had bewildered Ghana hence responsible for the 1979 coup d’état. When respondents were asked to describe the house cleaning exercise and its impact on corruption and accountability about sixty one percent representing seventy three study subjects saw the exercise as either good or very good. According to these respondents the house cleaning exercise helped to reduce corruption in the country and ensured greater discipline among government officials as well as the citizens. Thirty three percent of the respondents however saw the house cleaning exercise as bad or very bad. They intimated that the exercise was rather done on tribal and nepotism basis. They explained that some members who were corrupt in his party were not brought to book. Seven of the respondents did not respond for reasons unknown to the researchers.

Human rights and freedoms under rawlings

Forty-five percent of respondents rated Rawlings poor to very poor in terms of human rights. They cited the killings of individuals suspected to be corrupt, confiscation of properties, flogging of men and women and the June 4th uprising as all contributing to human right abuses. Twenty-five percent of study subjects however argue that human rights were enjoyed well or very well under Rawlings’ rule (Table 6).

Response No. Respondents Percentage (%)
Very well 5 4
Well 25 21
Neither very well nor very poor 30 25
Poor 36 30
Very poor 18 15
No response 6 5
Total 120 100

Table 6: Enjoyment of human rights under Rawlings.

Impact of Rawlings on Ghana’s politics

The impact of Rawlings on Ghana politics was viewed in a positive light by some respondents whiles other saw it as rather negative. In the positive sense, at the political economy level, some study subjects (hereafter positivists) opined that Rawlings promoted transparency and accountability in public offices. According to them “Rawlings did not allow people to embezzle public funds”. With respect to human rights and administration of justice, positivists argued that Rawlings promoted social welfare and has contributed greatly in reducing violence against women. Regarding democratic governance positivists argued that his yielding to multi-party democracy and handing over political power when his party lost the 2000 presidential elections has helped create a culture of accepting electoral defeat when a party loses an election. This therefore has some bearing with the notion of Carbone [14] who asserts that the formation of the NDC was instrumental to the civilianization of the PNDC ruling group and to the latter’s adaptation to competitive politics. Rawlings, in the view of the positivists encouraged women participation in government. To them women became very active in nation building and such efforts provided the platforms for women to further engage in the political process in Ghana. Majority of the positivists made a strong case that a very great impact of Rawlings lies with political decentralisation, namely the introduction of District Assembly concept. To these respondents: “This local government system established by Rawlings was a great effort which is one of the ways politics reached the grassroots level. It was a laudable undertaking that decentralised political powers to the people”. In terms of rural development, positivists cited Rawlings’ intensification of the rural electrification project and the construction of motorable roads to reach some villages in Ghana. Given the enormous contribution of the rural areas to the Ghanaian economy over the years, and on the principle of equity and social justice between the rural and urban Ghana, this move through the social amenity approach to foster the rural areas to rise above themselves to better their living standards. Rawlings was also seen as having established some form of public order. The argument was that it was difficult to label unfound allegations against public officials or take the law into one’s own hands irrespective of whatever situation was at hand. Positivists further noted that by involving all tribes in the country in the nation’s politics, Rawlings helped to reduce tribal politics in the country. His modus operandi was to get the support from all tribes within the country for the course he chose. However his major inclination with the Ewe tribe particularly during the PNDC era where appointments and other government positions were reserved for Ewes cannot be over-bloated in Ghana’s political arena. This has largely heightened the feeling and idea of the NDC being a party for the Ewes and Non-Akans, a situation tantamount to the “dirty” tribal politics in Ghana given the general description of their opposite, NPP as an Akan-dominated political party. In the words of Adjei [9] “political tolerance in Ghana was bent to come to an end following the PNDCs policy of entrenching political power within the Ewe tribe which makes up about only six percent of the population and at the same time appointing more Ewes to higher positions than their numbers in the overall population. Some respondents generally opined that he gave many positions to Northerners and Ewes which confirms the earlier assertion by Adjei [9] which seems to have perpetuated to this day. The following sums up a comment by a respondent: “Rawlings encouraged tribalism. Transparency was not much seen even during his democratic regime”. Upon detailed analysis it could be inferred that Rawlings’ maternal “roots” from the Volta region is partly to blame for this action. In relation to socio-cultural setup of the country which pitched one tribe against the other, positivists argued that Rawlings helped to break this tribal factionalism through cross-ethnic marriage. “As a Ewe, he married an Ashanti lady” which was somehow unthinkable at the time [22]. The contrary view had it that, regarding transparency and accountability although “Rawlings might have disliked corruption some of his people were accused of mismanaging public funds yet many of these allegations were not investigated” [22]. At Political economy level, some respondents alleged that Rawlings misappropriated some of the nation’s fund and deposited them in a foreign bank accounts. They alleged further that he diversified state owned institutions to cronies, a practice which to them has lingered on as part of Ghana’s body politic. The alternative argument also refers to the “culture of silence” and contends that it hindered democratic governance in the country. This was because freedom of expression and the press which are vital components of every good democracy were suppressed. Regarding human rights and administration of justice, the alternative view argued that Rawlings had a rather negative impact. They noted that the introduction of criminal libel law meant there was very little if any regard for human rights. Further, they argued, June 4th trampled upon the right of food sellers as it forced them to unwillingly give out their commodities and worst off at lower prices. In contrast to women empowerment, a respondent had this to say “women were afraid to enter into politics during Rawlings term of office” [22]. This argument derives from the assertion that there were brutalities associated with Rawlings regime and that women are normally averse to violence.


Good leadership has become a sine-qua-non for democratic governance in current times. It is to this end, that Rawlings’s leadership and political authority was delved into to provide useful information and nuances that come with the onerous responsibility of political leadership. Jerry John Rawlings affectionately known to many Ghanaians as JJ has undoubtedly has a far-arching positive impact on Ghana’s politics. As noted by Chazan cited in Adedeji [9] “without Rawlings’ strength of character and unwavering determination, Ghana would not have survived the Economic Recovery Programs (ERPs) of the 1980s put in place by the ruling Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC). It therefore takes a good leader in such situations to champion the destiny of nation. It is therefore in the light of such feats that makes Rawlings “the man of the people”. He identified himself with the ordinary Ghanaian given his humble background and sought to bring about a society that gave meaning to the lives of its middle and low classes. This was the brainchild behind his “house cleaning” exercises. Rawlings reckoned that all leaders are in essence also led given several points in political history when the master is himself the slave of his slaves. This is what it meant when Rawlings saw himself as a “watchdog” against public officials who had contributed to the economic ruin of the country. It therefore holds true that in spite of many flaws, Rawlings embraced a vision of what Ghana ought to be to sustain Ghana’s economic growth and political stability, a rare phenomenon for leaders in developing sub-Saharan states. To sum it all in the words of Adedeji [9] “the vision of John Rawlings resulted in the drafting of Ghana’s Fourth Republican Constitution, formation of many political parties, and holding of the 1992 elections, all based on good planning to guarantee the restoration of electoral and political systems in Ghana. “Rawlings leadership tenure has been more or less of a double-edged sword marked by various successes and failures which all in all reflects his dual regimes as a military leader and a civilian president of Ghana. Yet his contribution to Ghana’s political development cannot be over-emphasized in Ghana’s fledgling democracy and governance. According to Kouzes and Posner , “a leader must have a sense of direction and a vision for the future, and it is the capacity to paint an uplifting and ennobling picture of the future that assures people of the possibilities and images of great potential. Adedeji [9] makes the following observation about Rawlings leadership aura which was crucial for Ghana’s development:

Many Ghanaians equally believe that Rawlings is a man of strong emotions, convictions and driven by a passion for moral justice, intellect and integrity. On the intellectual front, they maintain that he is the first leader of charisma and stature since Nkrumah (in his early days). Several people in Ghana believe that Rawlings’ achievements in the political and economic realm were possible only because of his tenacity, honesty, clear objectives and sense of direction.

The Rawlings era came to an end in the new millennium following the result of the December 2000 run-off election which gave John Agyekum Kufour of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) victory over Rawlings’ National Democratic Congress, which consolidated Ghana’s Fourth Republican Democracy.


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