Jerry John Rawlings’ obsession with power as a military ruler became very difficult for him to return the country to constitutional rule, Prof. Kwamena Ahwoi has disclosed.
In his book ‘Working with Rawlings’, Prof. Ahwoi claimed that the late Justice Daniel Francis Annan, a former Speaker of Parliament and Captain Kojo Tsikata, a former National Security Advisor, had to do everything possible in convincing Rawlings to agree that constitutional governance was the way to go.
“This obsession with power was clearly one of the reasons Rawlings fell out with his comrades,” Prof Kwamena Ahwoi wrote in his book. “Having been in power for 19 years, he could not imagine himself without power and he felt cheated out of power by his comrades who should have helped him retain power.”
Prof Ahwoi further stated that Captain Kojo Tsikata, Ato Ahwoi, P.V Obeng, Kwame Peprah, Kofi Totobi-Quakyi who were Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) appointees and had thus worked with the former military leader over many more years had soured their individual and collective relationship with Rawlings over this matter.
JJ Rawlings, as a young Flight Lieutenant in the Ghana Air Force, together with some soldiers mostly junior ranks had attempted a coup d’état on May 15, 1979, to overthrow the then military regime led by General F. W.K. Akuffo, and had been arrested. They were on trial when June 4, a separate insurrection happened, during which they were freed.
On June 4, 1979, the announcement of the government overthrow was made at Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), Accra, by JJ Rawlings who had been released by the separate group of insurrectionist soldiers, who had succeeded in overthrowing the Supreme Military Council (SMC II) administration that was trying Rawlings et al.
Due to his oratory skills, Rawlings became the de facto head of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), a third military administration in a row.
Supreme Military Council I (SMC I) was led by Lt. Col. Isaac Kutu Acheampong who had ruled from 13 January 1972.
Since Acheampong was merely deposed, Akufo’s administration only continued with other military officers without a name change, hence the popular name SMC II.
The June 4, 1979 coup was supposed to be “the mother of all coup d’etat so that the military will no longer be involved in politics,” explains Osahene Boakye Djan, the de jure “chairman” of the AFRC.
It was military versus military; junior ranks versus senior ranks……to return the soldiers to the barracks and restore civilian rule. More especially, to restore military discipline and their lost respect in the eyes of civilians due to corruption in high office.
But Rawlings came back on 31 December 1981 – in the words of Abdul Malik Kweku Baako, “like a thief in the night” – and overthrew the constitutionally elected Dr. Hilla Limann administration and disbanded the third republican Parliament, a process started by SMC II which the June 4 insurrectionists had merely continued.
He then established the PNDC, and many of his AFRC colleagues ran into exile because they were seen as threats.
Indeed Kweku Baako, who was Boakye Djan’s spokesman while the latter was in exile in the UK has admitted several times that there were attempts by Rawlings’ former colleagues to overthrow the PNDC and restore civilian rule again.
Many of those who attempted were arrested and killed. Kwesi Pratt, the editor of the Insight newspaper, has always insisted that under the PNDC, over 200 persons went “missing”. Nobody has denied that yet.
The Limann administration had been in power from September 1979 and was in its 27th month when the “second coming” of JJ Rawlings, then popularly called “Junior Jesus” dawned upon Ghanaians that “31st night” when the religious had gone to church to pray for a “Happy New Year”.
Rawlings held onto power until he transitioned Ghana to civilian rule in 1993 after he established the National Commission for Democracy circa 1986, chaired by Justice DF Annan, a Member of the PNDC.
The first “District Level Elections” was held in 1988 to elect assembly members onto district assemblies. The PNDC Secretary for Local Government was Kwamena Ahwoi.
Indeed from 1986 or thereabouts when the idea of democracy was conceived to January 1993 was almost seven years, a really long time in the life of a nation.
This is the context within which Ahwoi’s argument of Rawlings’s unwillingness to hand over power must be understood.
Indeed, in his early days as Chairman of the PNDC, Flt. Lt. JJ Rawlings reportedly in answer to a news reporter, who had asked “When are you going to hand over power?” retorted: “Hand over to whom?”
This became a popular reference point in everyday conversations.