June 4 1979: What Lessons?

Last Sunday marked the 38th Anniversary of what has come to be known as the June Fourth Uprising. The day itself was a Monday, a rainy Monday. We were writing the Ordinary Level Exams of the West African Examination Council (WAEC). It rained almost the whole day, the source of information about the uprising was the GBC Radio, the only major electronic medium of mass communication at the time. There was uncertainty as to whether the uprising had succeeded or not since the information was not consistent.

The inconsistency of the information was further fueled by rumours of what has happened and what has not happened. The nation seemed not to have leadership. The angry and panting voice of Flt.Lt. Jerry John Rawlings was occasionally heard on air calling on the senior officers to cooperate with the junior ranks to avoid blood bath.

Then also came the news that Brigadier Odartey Wellington had quelled the insurrection. He had managed to get to the GBC Radio and made a counter announcement. Ghana was unsure who was in charge, curfew had not been imposed, every adult Ghanaian got glued to the Radio set. Rawlings had failed in a previous attempt at overthrowing the Supreme Council 2 (SMC2) then led by General F.W.K.Akuffo just the previous month.

The uncertainty continued until around 8pm, when General Hamidu, the then Chief of Defence Staff came on air and appealed to the officer corps to give up and cooperate with the junior ranks of the Army. In all honesty, the youth in this country embraced the uprising and jubilated and welcomed the leaders. Ghanaians had become disenchanted, the economy had plummeted to its lowest ebb as far as my generation could imagine.

The anxieties further heightened because the previous administration under General Akuffo had drawn a time table for the return of Ghana towards a Constitutional rule. Political Parties had been formed, notably among them were the People’s National Party (PNP) led by Dr. Hilla Limann, an off shoot of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), the Popular Front Party (PFP) an offshoot of the Progress Party (PP) of Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia,  also led by Mr. Victor Owusu.

We also had the United National Convention (UNC) which was led by Mr.William Ofori Atta (Paa Willie). The party broke away from the main stream PFP as a result of leadership disagreement. There was the Action Congress Party (ACP) led by Col. George Bernasko, Dr. John Bilson’s Third Force and a host of Independent Presidential Candidates among them were Dr. R.P.Baffour, Mr. Kwame Nyanteh and Mr. Nii Diamond Addy.

Campaigns had started in earnest and the political parties were criss-crossing the country selling their messages and wooing the electorate to give them the mandate to govern the nation eight years after the military intervention of the National Redemption Council, which metamorphosed into the Supreme Military Council 1&2.

The appearance of Rawlings and his Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) on the political scene at a time when the nation had psyched itself up to go to the polls and elect those who should govern them, got the adult population and the politically active population on edge not knowing what was going to happen. The relief came when the AFRC assured the nation that elections were still going to take place as scheduled.

Beyond this relief, however, the house cleaning exercise of the June 4 saw for the first time among many people in this country, the arrest and killing of former military leaders of this country without trial. Six senior officers of the military, made up of three ex-Heads of State were shot dead in cold blood. The civilian populace were not spared the open brutalities of the military which were capriciously and whimsically inflicted on the citizenry. Some military personnel used the occasion to settle previous feuds with some people.

Businessmen and women were accused of trade malpractices and suffered physical abuse and in some cases imprisonment without the due process of the law. Many of them also had their assets confiscated to the state, bank accounts were frozen and others were forced into exile.  It was the most traumatic period of our time. Anyone could be a victim of the madness at the time. Managements were terrorized by lazy and envious working class people. Ghana knew no law and order; everyone could be guilty according to who was passing the judgment.

The underlining reasons by Rawlings and his AFRC were that they were cleaning up the nation of corruption, nepotism, dishonesty, indiscipline and the lawlessness and the hardships the previous leaders had brought on the nation. Between June 1979 and June 2017, Rawlings’ direct and indirect involvement in the running of this country has taken over 27 years out of the 38 years he celebrated last Sunday.

Coincidentally, I was on my way to Wa last Sunday June 4, where the event took place, not to join him in the celebration though. Over the last eight years, Rawlings has lamented and grieved over the state of the nation Ghana. The over 27 years of his rule as a military dictator and forming a political party and ensuring that his party governed for 16 years did not achieve any of the goals his appearance on the political scene professed to achieve.

Instead, his rule as a military man and a civilian leader as well as those who followed him in his NDC governments have succeeded in dividing the nation, the needless murders have created scars that cannot be healed in the minds of many, corruption has become a way of life to his own chagrin. Moral decadence has become a past time in Ghana. Rawlings looks very disappointed in the failure of his set goals crafted and deployed on June 4, 1979.

He looks visibly angry with the people in the party he formed who led the nation over the last eight years. He saw avaricious greed among his own people, a group of people who still believe in the principles of the June 4 Uprising. The herbivorous and carnivorous greed with which the leadership of his party devoured the resources of this country made the reasons for the killings and maiming of the June 4 victims, a Sunday morning child’s play.

Indiscipline and open show of disrespect among the leadership of his party people has been phenomenal. Rawlings himself, looking back some 38 years ago did not believe that the blood sucking economic vampires he created and nurtured could be that voracious, stealing public funds with such glee and yet have the temerity to tell the nation that ‘yentie obiara’. Well, did Rawlings himself not tell the nation that ‘mo ka no koraa, na meye no more?

The indiscipline which has engulfed us all, particularly coming from the babies with sharp teeth and the evil dwarfs began from his appearance on the political scene. The brazen show of disrespect towards the elderly by his party people is a product of how junior officers were encouraged to maltreat senior officers in the army on June 4. The obscene scramble for wealth not worked for by people who claim to believe in probity and accountability is simply as repugnant as the open display of such ill-gotten wealth as the nation bleeds.

Rawlings’ followers defend publicly, acts of thievery and do not blink, yes the people the June 4 gave birth to some 38 years ago. His admission of the greed and thievery of his own people which pales into insignificance, the ‘crimes’ of the victims of the June 4 uprising that saw the bloodletting and the confiscation of assets of some of our citizens is not enough.

Rawlings is a disturbed man, age and time have combined to make him sober, but he still looks agitated by the fact that his own people, a group of people he brought from obscurity to prominence have gone into the nation’s books as the most corrupt, insensitive, reckless, disrespectful, dishonest and insulting bunch of leaders Ghana ever made the mistake of tolerating.

The only thing Rawlings can do to appease himself and the nation is to publicly render an unqualified apology to Ghanaians and the victims of his uprising and revolution. He shot people for less. Daavi give me 4 tots.


By Kwesi Biney