Just this past month (November 2003), the former deputy chairman of the bloodiest military junta that Ghana has ever suffered in the post-colonial era appeared before the country’s National Reconciliation Commission. The latter organ is a rough coordinate of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And like the latter, the former has no binding juridical powers, which simply means that it is a virtual forum for the cathartic airing of grievances against the politically domineering by the invariably under-represented and misrepresented underdog. And although the NRC’s terms of reference is the immediate post-Nkrumah era to the present (i.e. February 1966 to 1992), during which period the average Ghanaian was held in a virtual state of stratocratic terror, most of the grievances aired so far have focused on the twenty-year period – from December 31, 1981 to December 2000 – when Flt.-Lt. Jerry John Rawlings ruled Ghana with a cast-iron fist.
He would later chameleonize himself into a legitimate politician via the traditional ballot box. Still, as many Ghanaians, both ordinary citizens and intellectuals, would readily attest, the regimes (or tenures) of Mr. Rawlings were anything but democratic. Indeed in 1992, when the longest-reigning Ghanaian premier resorted to the use of the ballot box, largely to tactically hang onto power, after bringing the country’s hitherto vibrant economy to a screeching halt, he also had a revolver in one hand, with the crosshairs squarely pointed at the temple of the voter. It would take nearly a decade for electoral democracy, as many of us know it here in the West, to be auspiciously established. And here, it may be recalled that December 31, 1981 was not the first time that Mr. Rawlings was demanding political primacy through the barrel of the gun. It was the second time around; his maiden moment was June 4, 1979, during which time Ghanaians experienced the longest three-month pseudo-revolutionary governance. It was, indeed, this three-month period from June to September 1979 to which he largely referenced when Major Boakye Djan (rtd.) appeared before the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) last month. And to be certain, the man was too full of flatulence to have registered any remarkable depth or breadth of rhetorical and logical coherence. Not that anybody expected the self-styled Osahene (or supreme warrior) to acquit himself with any modicum of decency. As we all know, that is not one of the salient qualities to be expected of the youthful posse of Ghanaian soldiery who sea-jacked (or is it flotjacked?) our proverbial ship of state between the 1960s and 1980s.
The man was, indeed, full of unrefined or crude flatulence (call it vintage flatulence) when Major Boakye Djan appeared before the NRC seeking to blame the gross and crass irrationality of coup-plotting on every walk of Ghanaian life except the coup-plotters themselves. For instance, in accounting for the rampancy of military putsches since February 24, 1966, the date of President Nkrumah’s overthrow, the best-educated, if also arguably the most obtuse, member of the erstwhile Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) offered the following desultory explanation: “By June 3rd 1979, the sponsors of the June 4th counter coup…had identified [traced?] the nature of human and other rights abuses and violations in Ghana to one [a?] single, persistent and underlying cause [sic]. It was the cycle of politically motivated violence sponsored more often than not by local political factions, in concert sometimes with their allies abroad, to achieve and maintain state office and power in Ghana against the run of existing constitutional regimes. It has taken on many forms. It includes, the provoked person to person and direct murders [?] during political arguments and confrontations in the pre-independence era; mass murders and maiming with bombs [grenades?] thrown or planted at mass political meetings; assassinations or attempts at assassination of targeted political leaders with bullets and bombs; use of detentions without trial as preventive measures in the post independence era before 24th February 1966….” Needless to say, any serious student of Ghanaian history is incontestably aware of the routine invocation of the executive instrument or practice of “detention without trial” by the Ghanaian opposition in the immediate post-independence era to singularly malign President Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party (CPP) regime. And, admittedly, it cannot be gainsaid that the aforementioned practice left much to be desired. However, it is disingenuously paradoxical for Major Boakye Djan to accuse, albeit obliquely, the CPP and its firebrand pan-Africanist leader of being capriciously corrupt while simultaneously condemning the military coup that precipitated Nkrumah’s ouster. Here again, the following was the pretext that the former AFRC deputy capo provided Dr. Kenneth Attafuah, secretary of the National Reconciliation Commission, in justification of the June 4, 1979 putsch spearheaded by Flt.-Lt. Jerry John Rawlings: “[The] June 4th counter coup was on [sic] the long term caused by the need to prevent [sic] anti-constitution coups as a means of resolving problems of our society. On [sic] the short term it was caused by the need to terminate an existing run of anti-constitution coup governments and their continuities and then hold to account under the law, all those identified to have the responsibility [sic] for creating, managing and profiting illegally from all anti-constitution coups in Ghana since 24th February 1966.” Indeed, if he risibly sounds like the proverbial crank who wants to eat his cake and have it, that it exactly the Major Boakye Djan who arrayed himself before the National Reconciliation Commission sitting in the Old Parliament House in Accra, the Ghanaian capital. It is also significant, at this juncture, to observer to the reader that Dr. Kenneth Attafuah is an old friend and fraternal mentor (a sort of Big Brother) to this writer. We both attended the world-renowned St. Peter’s Secondary School, located at Kwahu(Okwawu)-Nkwatia in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Dr. Attafuah was three years this writer’s senior and maiden editor of the latter’s poetry. Some of his poetry would be shortly thereafter performed on Ghana’s national radio and television, as well as at the Accra and Kumasi cultural centers.
That the man is full of ideological and logical contradictions is amply borne out by the fact that he glibly justifies the hasty trial and summary execution of the likes of Generals I. K. Acheampong, A. A. Afrifa and Yaw Boakye on the grounds that the Kotoka-led National Liberation Council (NLC) flouted the Ghanaian Constitution on February 24, 1966 when the preceding military leaders, among others, overthrew Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party (CPP). And here, it is significant to recall that at the time of his execution, by firing squad, Gen. Acheampong had been stripped of his every military title and honor and dispossessed of most of his, admittedly, ill-gotten wealth by a government edict. He had also been effectively placed under indefinite house arrest. In his 8-page memorandum to Dr. Attafuah, Major Boakye Djan failed to explain just how Gen. Acheampong represented a formidable threat to Ghana’s national security, and how the latter’s execution by firing squad, for no known crime against humanity justified the AFRC’s primary objective of returning Ghana to constitutional democracy. *Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College, Garden City.