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10.09.2003 Feature Article

No "Coup Maker" is a Hero in Ghana

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There Can Never be Any Justification for the 1979 (AFRC) and 1981 (PNDC) Coups. I have been following with utmost dismay the claims that have been made by ex-Major Boakey-Gyan in his recent interviews with the Chronicle and Crusading Guide newspapers in his attempt to justify his role in the June 4, 1979 coup and the execution of the eight army officers, including four former heads of state. I am equally appalled by the arrogance with which ex-President Rawlings spoke about the 1979 coup in a recent interview he granted to the Chronicle newspaper in which he criticized Boakye-Gyan for his coward acts and the latter’s response, both published on September 1, 2003. Their utterances show that both men have not repented from their past mischievous deeds. In a democratic system each and everyone has a right to free speech, but to bluff about their roles in a coup and a regime that brought extreme pain and suffering to millions of Ghanaians is a blatant abuse of the principle of freedom of speech in Ghana. Such pronouncements are not healthy for our efforts to consolidate Ghana’s new democracy because it gives the wrong signals to some unscrupulous characters in the country. When Boakye-Gyan arrived in Ghana, I had expected that he would apologize to Ghanaians, especially the families whose loved ones suffered or died due to his role in the 1979 coup. Rather, he’s been trying to justify his role in the coup and the execution of the army officers. I find his desire to defend such a horrible regime and the savage executions in his interviews as insults to innocent Ghanaian citizens who unjustifiably suffered under the AFRC regime. I share the pain and suffering of such families because I cannot imagine how they feel to hear the very culprits who either directly or indirectly caused them their grief proudly parade their roles in an atrocious regime without showing any sign of remorse or self-reproach. How did Boakye-Gyan feel about his brother’s (Kyeremeh-Gyan) execution by the PNDC government? Anyway, the monstrous regime he helped set in motion in 1979, which reincarnated in 1981 engulfed some of his family members as well. As it has been said, ‘one who draws a sword dies by the sword,’ and ‘revolution eats its own people.’ As an ardent advocate of democracy, I argue that no matter what crises a country faces, military coup should never be the first or last resort. Ghana’s historical experiences with coups have shown that they only bring further pain and suffering to majority of the people in the country. I strongly disapprove the lack of maturity in the manner in which the two men of mischief (Rawlings and Boakye-Gyan) have handled themselves by shamelessly debating their roles and events in the 1979 coup in the media. It is unfortunate that the main actors in some of our country’s sordid historical experiences should proudly parade their roles and take their personal vendetta and cowardice acts to our highly respectable independent media. Needless to say, the media should be a forum for discussing more important progressive issues that could create public awareness about the evils of coups and how best to prevent similar future catastrophic political events such as the 1966, 1972, 1979 and 1981 coups. All these coups have contributed to the stagnation of socio-economic development in Ghana and cost the nation its prestigious international reputation. Rawlings and Boakye-Gyan can conjure all the words in the dictionary to justify their respective roles, but the fact still remains that the 1979 coup was unnecessary and did Ghanaians a great disservice because: Although the Supreme Military Council (SMC) government itself was an illegal and authoritarian regime, at the time of the 1979 coup, major steps had already been taken by the military leaders to return the country to a democratic rule. The ban on political parties had been lifted by the SMC II regime and multiparty system was being revived. This was evident in the political campaigns that were freely organized by the various political parties - UNC, PNP, PFP, ACP, to name a few. All the talk by the 1979 ‘coup makers’ to retrieve the so-called booty stolen by the NRC, SMC I and II military leaders were false propaganda. The AFRC‘s ‘house-cleaning exercise’ turned out to be a victimization of groups and individuals engaged in the private sector most of whom had achieved their successes legitimately through strain and toil. This greatly deprived Ghana of a rapid expansion in its private sector development in the 1980s. To add insult to injury, monies and properties that were forcibly seized under very suspicious circumstances landed in the hands of supporters of the regime. There is no doubt that the 1979 coup created an enabling environment for the success of the 1981 coup which overthrew the democratically elected PNP government. This is because the groundwork was already laid for the success of a second coup which was staged by almost the same coup plotters. In this regard, the countless atrocities that took place under the PNDC regime, including the murder of the judges and an army officer were all a continuation of the unfinished brutalities that was started under the AFRC regime. When the 1979 coup is analyzed from these perspectives, it becomes evident that the idea of promoting accountability and social justice was just a sham, since those staged coup were only interested in power. Without doubt, the 1979 and 1981 coups (AFRC and PNDC regimes) are some of the most degrading, humiliating and sordid periods when lawlessness, vindictiveness, victimization and savagery reigned over systematic reasoning, and law and order. However, if we compare the 1979 and 1981 coups, it becomes apparent that the latter was the most useless coup that was highly motivated by selfish-interest and the desire to grab power by force to siphon the state’s resources for the following reasons: Ex-President Limann’s PNP government was democratically elected and had the peoples’ mandate to rule Ghana for four years and had just about two years to participate in another democratic election. If the government was corrupt as the ‘coup makers’ claimed, it was up to Ghanaians to decide whether we wanted a continuity of the PNP government or it was time for a change of government. There is no evidence that the PNP government attempted to tamper with Ghana’s Constitution or any known record of human rights abuse by the government. Despite Rawlings’ slogan of bringing accountability to the Ghanaian society, the PNDC/NDC governments were power and money grabbing regimes than the PNP government that was overthrown. While most honest Ghanaian businessmen and some hardworking civil servants were literally brought to their knees to live in abject poverty and deprivation, some members of the PNDC and later NDC regimes who were not rich before the coup are now living flambouyant lifestyles far above their means. The increase in military expenditure to protect an illegitimate regime in the 1980s contributed significantly to the astronomical increase in Ghana’s external debt, which bloated from US$1.5 billion in 1983 to about US$6.7 billion in 2000 (ISSER, 2002; Government of Ghana, 2002). These figures clearly show that military coups/regimes have immensely contributed to Ghana’s underdevelopment in the last four decades. Regardless of the explanations the two coup makers (Rawlings and Boakye-Gyan) give to validate their actions, the fact will forever remain that there was no single justification for any of the coups they staged in a ‘civilized’ society like Ghana. Both men participated in an illegal and treasonable act, and vented severe pain and suffering on millions of Ghanaians in a number of visible ways. They may have gotten away with their deeds, but they should never lose sight of the fact that someday it will come back to hunt them. It sounds interesting that Rawlings whose regime executed eight army officers for taking 50,000 cedis loan with collateral in the 1970s is now living an affluent lifestyle in Ghana. Rawlings should enjoy his wealth quietly as long as it lasts and Boakye-Gyan should focus on more productive issues that will help revamp the economy he helped to destroy or leave Ghanaians alone and return to his hideout quietly. Conclusion No Ghanaian hero will deprive Ghanaians their livelihoods for his/her self-interest and talk about unnecessary issues when thousands of people are dying of poverty, hunger and curable diseases. I think it is about time someone asked the two ‘coup makers’ to wake up to the realities of the 21st century because the period when primitive ways of usurping power through coups are something of the past and gone forever. Rather than wasting our resources and time on dubious accolades, we should rather focus our attention and debates on productive issues that could help to consolidate Ghana’s democracy, salvage our ailing economy and help to promote social transformation. We have the obligation to focus on how best we can use our free speech to propagate ideas that will address the needs of majority of the people who have long been deprived of their democratic and citizenship rights – socio-economic and political rights, and especially, the right to a decent livelihood. From this perspective, none of the two coup makers (Boakye-Gyan and Rawlings) or any coup maker for that matter will ever be remembered as a hero in Ghana’s national history. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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Nick Fobih
Nick Fobih, © 2003

The author has 4 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: NickFobih

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