Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Papa Jerry and June 4

Former President Jerry John Rawlings and the June 4 revolution are synonymous. June 4 was the vehicle through which he made history in the country’s political discourse.

One cannot discuss former President Rawlings without the June 4 Uprising as it was the event which facilitated his entry into the uncharted terrain of the country’s politics and enabled him to consolidate his place in Ghana’s history as the longest serving head of state.

Although there are events like the May15 Uprising and the December 31 Revolution which metamorphosed into the establishment of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) and the formation of the National Democratic Congress (NDC)—that are dear to former President Rawlings, June 4 remains uppermost in the scheme of activities to him.

The question is: Why did former President Rawlings become more popular with the June 4 than other political events that he was associated with between 1979 and 2000?

Another question is why June 4 evokes considerable passions, emotions and sentiments in former President Jerry Rawlings who can be described as a political enigma.

He is a political enigma in the sense that he pursues a cause to the point of unbending fanaticism and would also harass, condemn and castigate a personality he disagrees with in no uncertain terms.

One would recollect the celebrations of the June 4 event at the Swedru Sports Stadium on June 6, 1998 during which former President Rawlings endorsed the late President John Evans Atta Mills as the presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in the 2000 election.

Although his endorsement of former President Mills created a furore in the circles of the party, leading to the creation of the National Reform Party (NRP) led by Mr. Goosie Tandoh, former President Rawlings stuck to his guns.
In another period during the presidency of his protégé, former President Mills, the same former President Rawlings did not give him breathing space after his election victory in 2008, descending heavily on him for reasons beyond one’s imagination.

He shifted his allegiance from former President Mills and threw his full weight behind his wife in the NDC congress which retained former President Mills as the candidate for the party for the 2012 poll but which death prevented him from doing so.

Not even attempts by certain party members to strip him of his position of founding father of the party as well as the raining of unprintable words on his personal being stopped him from supporting his wife’s ambition to the high heavens.

Former President Rawlings considers June 4 as a watershed in the country’s political processes since it was the only period during which a group of revolutionary minded officers of the Ghana Armed Forces took over the reins of government and undertook far reaching measures to cleanse the army of what he termed incorrigible elements.

He described the event as a House Cleaning Exercise since it was the primary responsibility of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) to check the corruptible excesses by the officers who had transformed themselves into politicians and were draining the country of its finances.

The Supreme Military Council (SMC) II under the late General F.W.K. Akuffo replaced General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong who overthrew the Progress Party (PP) on January 13, 1972 and established the National Redemption Council (NRC), which late became the Supreme Military Council 1.

Former President Rawlings, then a Flight Lieutenant of the Ghana Air Force, had strongly criticized General Acheampong and other officers of the junta for engaging in the same corrupt practices for which they overthrew the Busia Regime.

Hear General Acheampong: “The Busia Regime took away from us the facilities and amenities which we in the Army and the Police even enjoyed under the Nkrumah regime.”

He added: “And the Busia regime was engaged in economic mismanagement, nepotism, cronyism and public embezzlement of funds to the detriment of the country’s development.”

However, a few years into their management of the economy, the military junta who described themselves as redeemers of the country engaged in the most despicable corrupt acts which incensed the masses of the people who embarked on endless strikes which nearly paralyzed the country.

The country’s roads were indescribable since it took vehicles more than six hours to travel from Agona Swedru to Cape Coast while one had to connect from London before he could get in touch with his or her relations residing in Abidjan via telephone.

Basic necessities like milk, sugar and soap were labeled as essential commodities and it was hell for the people to procure a few of these items since they had to obtain chits from authorities of the defunct Ghana National Trading Corporation (GNTC) for that purpose.

A lot of projects were sited across the country for the sake of political expediency while the cream of the military establishment was dishing out vehicles, particularly Golf, to young women in exchange for sexual favors.

The country’s Balance of Payment was in the red and her trading partners were not ready to grant fresh loans to enable the country purchase spare parts for the rehabilitation of its ailing industries.

These were some of the objective conditions which precipitated the June 4 Uprising and the rise of former President Rawlings to the commanding heights of the country’s politics.

Former President is endowed with charm and charisma and these features enabled him to completely win over the majority of the people when he burst onto the political scene.

On platforms during that period he could make people cry or laugh through gesticulations with his head, hands and feet. 

Former President Rawlings could pace the dais, looking to the heavens or the dais, wiping his face with his fingers and talking on issues which touched on the emotions of the people for hours on end.

His success with words was overpowering. He could cry to evoke the same feelings in the crowd who would be wearing long faces or crack jokes to elicit cacophonous outburst of laughter from the same crowd.
Former President Rawlings would always want to celebrate June 4 to remember the gallant soldiers who put their lives on the line to stop the rot in the economy between 1972 and 1979.

But did corruption stop under the subsequent regimes and how does former President Rawlings feel about the canker of unbridled corruption in the various facets of Ghanaian life today?

Credit: Kweku Tsen