Tue, 04 Jun 2024 Feature Article

Reminiscing June 4 1979: The day mutinous jailbreakers released prisoners into mainstream politics

Reminiscing June 4 1979: The day mutinous jailbreakers released prisoners into mainstream politics

On that momentous day in June 1979, a group of rabble rousing soldiers went into a conniption-fit, deposed the government of the day and unjustifiably released convicts and suspects from a lawful custody, including the founder of the NDC, the late J. J. Rawlings.

If we stroll down memory lane, General I. K. Acheampong led a group of mutinous army officers and usurped Prime Minister Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia’s government in 1972 and formed a government which they called The Supreme Military Council (SMC).

However, in 1978, General Acheampong was accused of economic mismanagement and forced to resign by a group of army officers led by General Akufo.

General Akufo and his other rabble rousers rechristened the government as the Supreme Military Council 2 (SMC2).

A sequential account is given, albeit anecdotally, that the harsh living conditions at the time prompted a group of patriotic citizens to stand up against the injustices and demanded a democratic rule.

But before the country could reach a consensus on the question of civilian rule, a group of discontented junior army officers led by Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings of blessed memory failed in their insurrection against General Fred Akuffo’s regime on 15th May 1979, which led to the arrest and trial of Rawlings and his cohorts.

Nevertheless, the judicial process was halted prematurely by a group of soldiers sympathetic to Rawlings, who revolted on 4th June 1979.

The June 4 1979 jailbreakers gleefully released suspects and convicts from a lawful penitentiary, deposed the government of the day and gave uncountable innocent Ghanaians a hell in the process.

After unblushingly deposing General Akuffo and his Supreme Military Council (SMC 2) government, the stubbornly impenitent jailbreakers went ahead and formed their own government, which they called as the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and appointed Flt. Rawlings as their chairman.

Rawlings and his minions vowed to lustrate the country of the rampant sleazes, corruption and social injustices which instigated their coup d’état.

In their attempt to purge the country of the so-called injustices, they carried out what they termed “house cleaning exercise”, and dealt with perceived offenders arbitrarily.

The rebellious jailbreakers proceeded with their intentions and callously exterminated prominent people including General Fred Akuffo, General Kutu Acheampong, General Akwasi Afrifa and many others.

After getting rid of individuals they viewed as a threat to their hidden agenda with an unabashed disgust, the jailbreaking cabals decided to conduct general elections for political parties in the same year-1979.

Following the successful election, Dr Hilla Limann and his People’s National Party (PNP) emerged victorious in 1979.

An account is given, though vividly, that the Limann government assumed office at a time when the economy was in deep crisis. The credit lines to the country had almost dried up and were blocked due to brutalities and confiscations at the harbours and other points of entry into Ghana by the coup making founders of the NDC.

However, the story is told, somewhat poignantly, that through careful negotiations, preparations and the implementation of pragmatic policies and programmes, the Limann government managed to arrest the economic challenges.

More importantly, commendable efforts were made to repay Ghana’s short-term debts, and, the Limann government demonstrated the ability to meet Ghana’s debt obligations.

Consequently, Dr Limann’s government managed within 18 months and restored virtually all traditional credit lines (Source: PNC).

But despite the dint of effort, Rawlings and his cohorts did not give Dr Liman and his PNP government the breathing space to govern the country, as they relentlessly breathed down the neck of President Limann.

As a matter of fact, Rawlings and his coup making minions unfairly kept criticising Dr Limann’s administration for what the conspiratorial plotters perceived as economic mismanagement, until Rawlings and his jailbreaking geezers decided to depose Dr Limann.

Subsequently, Rawlings and the other mutinous jailbreakers took arms and succeeded in usurping the democratically elected government of Dr Hilla Limann on 31st December 1981.

There is no gainsaying the fact that Rawlings and his rabble rousers unjustifiably supplanted power at the time when Ghana’s economy was blossoming steadily in 1981.

Indeed, Dr Hilla Limann and his PNP government were hitting the ground running and therefore there was no need for anyone to disturb the ambiance.

Rawlings and his friends formed a government which they called the Provisional national Defence Council (PNDC) and appointed Rawlings as the chairman.

In their attempts to get rid of alleged sleazes and corruption, many Ghanaians were unjustifiably murdered or tortured mercilessly for apparent infinitesimal offences.

Some market women were regrettably stripped naked in the public and whipped for hauling their products or selling on high prices. While their male counterparts were wickedly shaved with broken bottles and whipped for offences that would not even warrant a Police caution in a civilized society.

As if that was not enough, three eminent High Court Judges and a prominent Army Officer were barbarically murdered by some mindless stooges of PNDC on 30th June 1982 for carrying out their constitutionally mandated duties.

“June 30th 1982 continues to remain a dark spot in the nation’s political history and a nightmare for all judges in the country, after the three High Court Judges namely, Mr. Justice Fred Poku Sarkodie, Mrs. Justice Cecilia Koranteng- Addow and Mr. Justice Kwadwo Agyei Agyapong as well as a retired army officer, Major Sam Acquah, were callously murdered under strange circumstances at the Bundase Military Range in the Accra Plains, after being abducted on the night by some unidentified assailants (”

The story is told that rigorous investigations revealed that all the three Judges were sitting on review cases brought by citizens disgusted over the treatment meted out to them by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, which the military junta formed after June 4, led by Flt. Lt. Rawlings.

It was, however, reported that the Judges ordered the release of persons who had been unlawfully sentenced to long terms of imprisonment during the despotic rule of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC).

Apparently, the Army Officer, Major Sam Acquah, was the head of administration who signed dismissal letters for some GIHOC workers, including one of the murder suspects, Joachim Amartey Kwei, whose services were terminated for invading and destroying property at the Parliament House.

Unfortunately, the PNDC fatuous apologists savagely murdered the three eminent High Court Judges and the Army Officer because their judgement did not go in their favour.

The Special Investigation Board (SIB) thus concluded that the abduction and murder was a diabolical plot orchestrated by, and with the connivance of the members of the Provisional National Defence Council, who later metamorphosed and formed the National Democratic Congress(NDC) in 1992.

The seasoned journalist, Malik Kweku Baako, could not have put it any better when he forthrightly and aptly described the coup making founders of the NDC as nothing but ‘shameful opportunists’ (emphasis mine).

Malik Kweku Baako was absolutely right when he asserted somewhat poignantly that the socio-economic meltdown during the Supreme Military Council (SMC 1&2) regimes called for drastic measures to ‘clean’ the system, the excesses of the June 4 1979 coup d’état, regrettably, debased the otherwise necessary intervention.

Baako, however, did not mince words at all, when he ventured and stressed that he can never forgive the founder of NDC, Rawlings and his rabble rousers for stretching the whole concept of ‘house cleaning exercise’ and needlessly deposing the democratically elected government of the People’s National Party (PNP) led by Dr Hilla Limann of blessed memory on 31st December 1981.

Ironically, Rawlings and his NDC coup making geezers bamboozled onto the scene under the pretext of redeeming Ghanaians from the economic mismanagement and wanton corruption, and yet couldn’t even get rid of the rampant sleazes and corruption in their P/NDC administrations, let alone the entire nation.

As a matter of fact, Ghana’s coup days under the jailbreaking founders of the NDC could be likened to: “in the China of “the Great Helmsman,” Kim Il Sung’s Korea, Vietnam under “Uncle Ho” , Cuba under Castro, Ethiopia under Mengistu, Angola under Neto, and Afghanistan under Najibullah”.

Although the PNDC administration back then paraded some seasoned politicians, the vast majority of the military personnel who headed important Ministries were novices in the political scene.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, Rawlings’s administration adopted a seemingly disastrous Economic Recovery Programme (ERP), which was introduced under the auspices of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Regrettably, the vast majority of tangible national assets, including the state owned enterprises were allegedly sold to friends and families for pittance.

In practice, the apparent unfavourable Economic Recovery Programme culminated in a catalogue of hardships. And, on top of the harsh programmes and policies which threatened the economic fundamentals, the population had to clutch itself for food shortages, a situation which the world press somehow ignored in favour of the concurrent Ethiopian famine that resulted in millions of deaths.

As food shortages escalated in Ghana, some traders started creating artificial shortages of goods by hoarding them so as to charge exorbitant prices at a later time.

Indeed, their desperate attempts to initiate the Programme of Action to Mitigate the Social Costs of Adjustment (PAMSCAD) did nothing to improve the unfortunate situation as untold hardships permeated many households.

Starvation, so to speak, visited the vast majority of Ghanaians, and hence developing revoltingly ugly collar bones which the humorous Ghanaians renamed as “Rawlings Chain”. That was indeed the pernicious extent of the hunger.

After imposing himself and despotically ruling the country for over 11 years, J. J. Rawlings retired from the military, formed the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and bizarrely metamorphosed into civilian president in 1992.

It is, however, worth stressing that Ex-President Rawlings 96 months democratic rule came to an end in January 2001.

Disappointingly, despite being in power for nineteen years, former President J. J. Rawlings’s could not initiate any meaningful policies and programmes to improve on the socio-economic standards of living, but only managed to destabilise Ghana’s macroeconomic indicators.

Thus, President Kufuor had a tough time running the country when he took over the presidency on 7th January 2001, as there was not much funds left in the national purse to plan anything meaningful.

Ghana was then declared as Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC). The newly elected President Kufuor had a tough decision to make, by either embracing or rejecting the HIPC status.

Nevertheless, the forward thinking President Kufuor chose to ingest an insipid pill with a view to getting over the malaise. He thus pragmatically embraced the HIPC status in 2001.

On reflection, though, the benefits of the HIPC were unprecedented during former President Kufuor’s administration, from (2001-2008).

In effect, macroeconomic indicators begun to stabilize and Ghana’s debt stock was significantly reduced by about $4 billion within that period (BOG).

Besides, as a result of the HIPC initiative and prudent borrowing, Ghana’s external debt stock actually declined from $6.1 billion in 2000 to$3.8 billion by 2008 (BOG). It was an unprecedented achievement, so to speak.

The average GDP growth of the NDC from 1993-2000 was 3.8% while that of the NPP from 2001-2008 was5.2% with economic growth reaching 6.3% in 2007 and 9.1 in 2009 (GSS/BOG).

President Kufuor worked strenuously for eight solid years, laid a favourable economic foundation and retired honourably.

He then passed on the baton to the late President Mills on 7th January 2009, following his2008 election victory.

Regrettably, though, things started to fall apart. It went from bad to worse following President Mills sudden and mysterious death. The conspiratorial plotters then had a field day leading to the 2012 general elections.

Ex-President Mahama and his NDC apparatchiks went berserk in their desperation to cling on to power. Thus they broke all conventions. Many government departments spent over and above their allocated budgets.

Former President Mahama, so to speak, performed abysmally. He did not do enough to improve on the socio-economic standards of living.

In fact, former President Kufuor quadrupled Ghana’s GDP to a staggering GH28 billion in 2008. And the late Mills inherited oil in commercial quantities and managed to increase the GDP to GH47 billion in 2011.

Suffice it to stress that former President Mahama disappointingly reversed the GDP to an incredible GH37 billion as of December 2016.

Apparently, since Ghana regained the independence from the British on 6th March 1957, the NDC tradition (PNDC and NDC) had governed the country more than any other government one can think of. In fact, that tradition had governed Ghana for approximately 27 years out of Ghana’s 67 years.

If we revisit memory lane, the CPP tradition (CPP and PNP) governed the country for approximately 12 years.

Disappointingly, though, the last ‘Nkrumaists’ government formed by the PNP, and led by Dr Hilla Limann, was deposed by the founders of the NDC which was spearheaded by Ex-President J. J. Rawlings on 31st December 1981.

The military regimes of the NLC, SMC 1 and 2 ruled Ghana for approximately 10 years before the founders of the NDC revoltingly usurped power on 4th June 1979.

The UP tradition (PP and NPP) total share of the day-to-day management of the country is about 18 years to date.

In my humble opinion, in terms of useful infrastructural projects which put the country at a substantial and auspicious position, Dr Nkrumah’s CPP government did exceedingly better than any of the administrations that followed.

Even though Prime Minister Kofi Abrefa Busia’s government lasted for less than three years, he did his utmost best in terms of meaningful development.

The achievements of Busia's government include amongst other things, the building of roads, housing, provision of healthcare facilities and water.

Besides, Dr Busia was the first Ghanaian leader to create a ministry responsible for rural development, a decision which was in consonance with his consuming desire to improving the socio-economic living standards of the rural dwellers (Daily Guide, 11/07/2013).

General I. K. Acheampong (The Head of State from 1972-78) tried his utmost best and initiated pragmatic policies such as operation feed yourself and affordable housing units.

It is against such backdrop that some of us cannot get our heads around how and why some people would choose to bypass the worst culprit, the NDC on Ghana’s underdevelopment.

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Started: 02-07-2024 | Ends: 31-10-2024