Ebo Quansah in Accra
My understanding is that National Democratic Congress (NDC) officials had to virtually lay prostrate before Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings at the so-called June Fourth Anniversary rally at the Social Welfare Park at Madina in Accra yesterday, to stop the self-appointed Apostle of Integrity, Probity and Accountability from executing his acquired taste of verbal barrages against everybody and anybody who has something to do with the administration of this country. The irony is that his acidic mouth has never spared leading members of the party he is credited to have established either.
The relationship between the founder and party leaders has gone so sour that Mr. Johnson Asideu Nketia once said the ‘barking dog’ has been tamed. He did not mention names, but many in this land of our birth, including this writer, traced the barking dog reference to the founder of the party.
How ironic? Jerry Rawlings has become relevant to politics in Ghana, because people who claim to believe in him have congregated around him and goaded him on to misdirect the fortunes of this country, in the course of which the former junta head has aided otherwise innocuous people in the scheme of things of this country to allegedly line their pockets to the detriment of this nation’s development.
When Jerry Rawlings was sprung from his cell at the headquarters of the then Special Branch, now Bureau of National Investigation, on a rainy day on June 4, 1979, he accused the Supreme Military Council Mark II administration of Lt.-Gen. Frederick W.K. Akuffo, and its predecessor regime headed by Gen. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, of corruption, nepotism and cronyism.
Barely one week after the June four coup, Gen. Acheampong and Colonel Emmanuel Utuka were executed by firing squad in a bizarre event covered live on good old Ghana Television. As a young man, fresh from the Institute of Journalism, I had opposed both the Acheampong and Akuffo regimes, sometimes abandoning my job at the Ghanaian Times to go and distribute leaflets critical of both regimes, and calling on the military to return to the barracks.
I voted ‘No’ in the referendum on Union Government and caused a stir at the office when I returned after voting and displayed the ‘Yes’ ballot paper. The law required the voter to put the ballot paper he or she had rejected into a bowl of acid, so that no one would know how the person voted. I was determined to show the rejected ‘Yes’ ballot paper to my Editor (Mr. Kwame Gyawu-Kyem, whose mortal remains were interred at Nyinahin recently) and some senior personnel in the office, who had constituted the New Times office into a ‘Yes’ campaign office. It was the first time in my life that I had cast a vote, and was naturally excited.
That was the extent I resented the military regime at the time. But, when I saw Acheampong and Utuka fired upon like game, live on television, I wept for this nation. I thought that this nation of lovely Ghanaians had gone to the dogs. I was positive in my thinking that Jerry John Rawlings and his fellow coup plotters did not have what it took to direct this nation, and that they were motivated by greed, avarice and the get rich quick syndrome.
When the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) decided to allow the process of returning the country to civilian rule to continue, I was one of the happiest Ghanaians alive. I followed the campaign in all corners of the country. And though I was disappointed that the Popular Front Party of Victor Owusu lost in the run-off, I was satisfied that this nation had returned to civil constitutional rule.
On September 24, 1979, when Flt. Lt. Rawlings gave the baton of office to President Hilla Limann, he issued what amounted to a threat that the President-elect was on probation for six months. As a democrat, I resented the veiled threat in Jerry Rawlings’ statement at the hand-over. True to his words, he and Capt. Kojo Tsikata began plotting barely six months after the hand-over. There were stories involving the two of them, and supported by one Albert Hamid Oginga, a national of Belize, plotting to overthrow the regime.
Not many Ghanaians were surprised when Jerry John Rawlings announced the violent overthrow of the Limann regime in the mid-morning of December 31, 1981, accusing the regime of failing Jerry Rawlings’ own test of integrity, probity and accountability.
When the former junta head announced the formation of the AFRC on June 4, he had a number of people for company. There were Capt. Kojo Boakye-Gyan, Spokesman, Major Mensah Poku, Lt-Commander H. C. Apaloo (he died in a horrific motor accident), and Capt. Kwabena Baah Acheamfuor, as members.
Other members were Warrant Officer Harry K. Obeng, Staff Sergeant Alex Adjei, Corporal Owusu Boateng, Leading Aircraftman John Gatsiko, L/Cpl. Peter Tasiru, L/Cpl. Sarkodie Addo, Cpl. Sheikh Tetteh, and Private Owusu.
The interesting scenario here is that none of these members returned to the body politic with Jerry Rawlings when he staged his coup of December 31. We are told that a special account, AFRC Account 48, was opened in a number of banks, with Major Mensah Gbedema directing affairs. Thousands of people, including businessmen who were given hefty fines, paid the proceeds into the account.
When former President Limann took over, not a pesewa was traced in the account. When newsmen asked Jerry Rawlings about it, his answer was that he was not an accountant. That was not all. When the Air Force pilot returned to the body politic via the December 31 coup d’etat, he set up the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) Account 48 for the same purpose.
Like the earlier scenario, billions of old cedis were lodged into the account. But the good people of Ghana have never received a single report on how the proceeds were utilised. This is how the Apostle of Probity and Accountability has accounted to the good people of Ghana.
When I hear Jerry Rawlings fret about on the concept of integrity, probity and accountability, I ask myself where lies his own integrity? In 1995, Jerry Rawlings arrived in London as President of the Republic of Ghana to address that year’s Confederation of British Industries’ conference on Ghana.
At that point in time, Gen. Sani Abacha, military Head of State of Nigeria, had officially been declared a pariah in the international community, following the execution of Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa, then leader of the Ogoni Rights Advocate, an organisation established to fight for the rights of the people of Ogoni in the Port Harcourt area of South-Eastern Nigeria.
Instead of fighting in the corner of Ghana in London, Mr. Rawlings appointed himself the spokesman for the butcher of Nigeria. “Abacha is a man of integrity…Abacha is a man of honour,” he kept saying.
His utterances on Abacha so annoyed officials of Her Majesty’s government that a joint press conference, to be addressed by then British Prime Minister John Major and the Ghanaian head of State, was cancelled. It was learned at the time that the British government had planned to bail out the ailing economy of Ghana.
Two years after Jerry John Rawlings’ visit to London, news broke out in Nigeria, covered fully by The Chronicle and other local newspapers, that Sani Abacha has sent his special aide, identified simply as Gwarzo, to Accra to deliver US$5 million in cash, stuffed in a briefcase, to Jerry John Rawlings.
The Chronicle went to town on the issue and asked Parliament to investigate it. Instead of the probe, The Chronicle was rather vilified by the rank and file of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), who said this paper was peddling false information. In all this, the former junta head kept mute. Not a word dropped from his mouth on the issue then.
For the record, Jerry Rawlings was the only head of state who attended Abacha’s funeral when his death was announced.
It took 20 years for the Apostle of Integrity, Probity and Accountability to come out of his shell on the Abacha bribery controversy. To the bewilderment of many Ghanaians, Jerry John Rawlings said he took money from Sani Abacha at the time being mentioned, but that the amount involved was ‘only US$2 million’ and not the US$5 million people were bundling about.
Dear reader, this is the same Jerry Rawlings who tied Commander Joy Amedume and other military officers to the stakes and executed them for borrowing 50,000 old cedis from the bank. At that point in time, the operative word was ‘influence’. How many Ghanaians, Jerry Rawlings and his apologists argue, could go to the bank and borrow ¢50,000. One could only do so using his or her influence, they argued.
If you hear Jerry Rawlings anywhere preaching about probity and accountability ‘Se No Huu.’ He does not believe a thing of that.
I shall return!