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Opinions of Sunday, 20 March 2016

Columnist: Colin Essamuah

A blast from the past

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of reading through some past copies of this paper. In mid-1979, to be precise.

Why 1979? One may well legitimately ask? The unique thing about 1979 from the political historical point of view is that it has so far been the only year in independent Ghana in which this country experienced two changes of governments and had a total of three governments in all.

Sadly enough, the fine art of reading the newspapers is actually dying out not only in this country, with the introduction of online news services gradually threatening reading the papers with extinction. It is a global phenomenon.

Nevertheless, the written word retains its unique capacity to serve as a source for guidance and wisdom for the present. Looking back into 1979 To return to my reading excursion, I was struck by the muted way in which views on national matters were so muted after so many years of military rule, and on the cusp of the election which launched the third Republic of President Hilla Limann on September 24, 1979.

Older readers will recall that June 4, 1979, marked the onset of what became known as the June 4th Revolution and the appearance in politics of Ft Lt Jerry John Rawlings, now retired as a two-term elected President and two memorable stints as the military leader of this country. President Rawlings is now 69.

He was on trial for attempting to overthrow the military government of General FWK Akuffo, then Head of State and chairman of the reformed Supreme Military Council known these days as SMC 2. This is simply because General Akuffo himself had overthrown a previous military junta of which he was the second in command and known as SMC 1.

SMC1, was how we described the latter government of General Acheampong, who after staging his coup in January 1972, ruled this country with the National Redemption Council (NRC) until early October 1975 when the NRC was upgraded to SMC.

So settling to read the news of mid-1979 gives a certain illumination into our tortuous history as a nation and in the event, teaches us a lot about how individuals and even institutions have fared over time. Of course, it may be rewarding in itself to know where some of us stood in those times in the story of our country.

But that reward is only presentist, that is, its relevance is gauged only from events of today and no more. Supporting a military regime in 1979 is no indicator of one’s political predilections today. If it were, many of us would not pass the test. I am not here to refer to the outspoken Kweku Baako who has made no bones about his support for the June 4th Revolution.

It is rather those who pretend that they have been against military rule of any kind all their lives and need no lessons in ideological purity or direction from anyone. Part of the problem of judging our past by the standards of yesterday is simply that this is the longest period we have had civilian, constitutional freedom with its associated rights and privileges.

Some of us readily, and conveniently forget that our personal parts and our roles in the past only have relevance for the present. Our collective future would be determined by what we do today.

I say all these just looking at the youthful, handsome faces of Nii Adjiri Blankson in Daily Graphic adverts running unsuccessfully for the Ablekuma seat in 1979 for the Popular Front Party of Victor Owusu just like David Lamptey (now deceased) did also unsuccessfully for Ayawaso for the United National Convention of Paa Willie Ofori-Atta. Or even adverts of Paa Willie dancing with his wife in response to the fact that Victor Owusu had claimed in an interview with Kwamena Ahwoi earlier that he ‘’had a wife.’’

Paa Willie was all of 69 years old in 1979! I do remember these connections because I was even then a keen follower of national affairs. A 1979 Daily Graphic editorial What piqued my interest and which sparked today’s sermon was an editorial written by this very paper in the heat of the June 4th Revolution that I would like share with my readers for its defence of all we abhor about all military regimes; the arbitrariness.

I start from the second paragraph of the editorial of June 9, 1979, that is just a few days after the June 4th Revolution. Its title was ‘Whose Revolution?’ ‘’Like Jesus Christ on the subject of the TRUTH in his dialogue with Pontius Pilate during his trial, what he did say leaves it a most tantalising thing trying to interpret what else he might have added or what in fact he did mean to say.

Mao Tse Tung, the high priest of modern revolutions, is credited with the now famous statement that a Revolution is not a Tea Party and this has been quoted ad nauseam to support every figment of the imagination that people want to term ‘’revolutionary.’’ A revolution might not be a tea party but need it be a pig sty or bedlam, could it not be an orderly restructuring of society; need change means chaos and need justice means vengeance?

There are too many people in this country with their own pet theories which they are always anxious to align with every new movement. We have been lucky to have in Flight-Lieutenant Rawlings, an articulate and earnest person who has gone to great pains to spell out quite carefully what the aims of his revolution were. He seeks to bring justice, he has emphasised often enough that he wants to ease the hardship that the average Ghanaian has endured for so long.

If there are people who seek vengeance for wrongs, imaginary or real, why don’t they come out in the open and say so instead of claiming to be supporters of a ‘’Rawlings Revolution’’ because they know that has popular support……..’’ There are several more paragraphs in which the paper sounded outraged by what others were doing in the name of the revolution.

This editorial reflects in my opinion, only the opinion of the editorial staff about the opinions out there because there was no means to gauge popular feeling on any matter. But that was 36 years ago. We have really come a long way indeed.