Analysing the career of a former first lady:
Mrs Konadu Agyemang Rawlings. (Part 1)
Apart from the northern states of Africa, I have been a keen observer of the other African regions. I have somehow become a devotee to their socio-political and economic developments – on the feminine track, especially.
However, to write about the occupation of the top-women of Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda or elsewhere would require a research that supersedes the diminutive information I have. Reader, I dare not risk the compromise of rumour or speculative report, which could be immaterial to my article.
So, until further studies of the Graca Machels, Maria da Luz Guebuzas, the Janet Musevenis and the Lady Mugabes, let me skip what could be a probable guesswork of the other parts of the continent, and talk about my well-known West African setting.
As per custom, I will concentrate on Ghana’s long-reigned former first lady – fondly called Nana Konadu, wife of the first president of Ghana’s Fourth Republic – the charismatic J.J Rawlings.
Being a relative of Mrs Rawlings ought not make me take undue delight to praise her, or for any personal reason blame her. Fortunately, I’m taught by the civility of principles and will manage (where appropriate) to do both with exclusive fairness.
I therefore pray that any criticism is not taken as a guise to launch an attack – and the compliments, not to be dismissed as a pact of family bond with my kinswoman. May I emphasise that it would only be fair that writers observe the rules of objectivity that a typical appreciation on the endeavours of a major African personality, like a first lady, demands.
Hence those who, out of malice, have rawly concluded that Mrs Rawlings has not contributed to national, and to some extent, global development, I will chide their theory as an extraordinary lapse of memory or an error of judgement.
Perhaps, the art of writing about such a high profile person could be equivalent to solving a paranoid complexity of identity: Who is Mrs Rawlings? Is she sexist? Is she an educator? Is she a philanthropist? Is she a money launderer? Is she a narcotic dealer (as accused by Hon. Bartels, a high ranking Ghanaian politician)? Or a no-body (as snubbed by one broadcaster)?
Unlike a family member or a knowledgeable insider, it could be tough to draw a line between what is prejudice or an evidence-lacking allegation and the praiseworthy facts, which are often shrouded / ignored by a section of the home media to satisfy their political interest.
I must bare that some publications about my mother’s cousin have been extremely defamatory – and intended to prey on the benevolent dispensation of her goodwill. So pathetic!
I remember at one romantic midnight, an ignorant / ill informed girlfriend asked a potential Delilah-kind of question. She wanted to know whether the four offspring of ex President Rawlings are the biological children of aunt Mrs Rawlings. My answer was in the affirmative. However truthful I responded, I still regret it couldn’t go broad-spectrum to, as well, convert the many doubts against the genuine and indeed uncorrupted record of her public service.
Mrs Rawlings’ father, the entrepreneur J.O.T Agyemang, is a man I consider to be: one of the honourable branches of gentlemen who form part of my extended family tree.
So it is with neither conceit nor vain defence that his persecuted daughter had the moral nerve (during a BBC interview) to betide her critics with this retort: ‘look, my father advised me that I’m well off… and a good name is better than riches. So I should not engage in any act that would tarnish my image.’
And at another occasion she was quoted as saying, ‘I pity those who read such miscalculated information about me, from the newspapers, and believes it to be true.’
Hence, I wouldn’t dwell my argument on the trial (of her and four others) at the Accra Fast Track High Court of 15 charges, including ‘wilfully causing financial loss to the state’ – as a result of alleged discrepancies in the divestiture of GIHOC Cannery Company, in March 1995. I won’t be surprised if she turns-out to be, in accordance to her claim, not guilty.
In my studies, I have characterised Mrs Rawlings to be positively assertive to the benefit of the women population in Ghana. Yet others have described her as intrusive and rather domineering – denying her of the credit she unarguably deserves. Consequently I wondered why the opposition media in particular would not give praise to whom praise befits, although a host of examiners regard her, and have done justice:
I had to explore. And lo, Feminist Africa (FA) has generously described Mrs Rawlings as ‘an important figure through whose effort the Ghanaian women have been put on the public agenda.’ The magazine elaborated that, ‘she has played a major role in the formulation and implementation of polices, though she had no official position in government.’
They (the FA panel) must have based their opinion on the projects of Mrs Rawlings’ 2million-membership NGO, 31st December Women’s Movement. Thus the establishment of nearly 900 Pre-schools, Family Health Programmes, Adult Literacy Programmes, and the nationwide small scale factories; set-up to improve upon the economic welfare of the lot.
The former first lady was also a sister-partner to National Commission on Women and Development (NCWD), the mother of all women organisations in Ghana. She co-ordinated with the NCWD in the implementation of several policies of the Beijing Women’s Conference.
At a juncture, Mrs Rawlings said that the role of NCWD is crucial to nation building. And a decade ago this month, she added this prayer: ‘we want the best out of NCWD. We look forward to having efficient people who would help the organisation to grow.’ In spite of her open support, some commentators have sought to carve the same person as, suffice me to say, a hard iron adversary to the rivalry and opposition of NCWD.
Many others would also testify that her selfless advocacy has gone a long way to raise political consciousness [to be discussed thoroughly in Part 2] among women, even to the advancement of the larger Ghanaian society.
In the case where she has inspired a sense of women empowerment over 25 years, now I’m convinced, it will be hard for the fair-minded citizens – of my beloved sub-Saharan country – to bear anything but respect for the modern chapter of Yaa Asantewaa.
As long as Ghana lives, history would remark Nana Konadu as a visionary who merits gratitude and admiration amongst womenfolk.