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Opinions of Thursday, 9 November 2006

Columnist: Amankwa, Kwame

Amanfuo - the real coup story

Amanfuo, apparently you don’t have to be strong to be brave or bold. And it is the latter which I believe Rawlings has. The opposite may well be true. Did you listen to the slanging match between the Osahene and Boomhene over who was the bravest soldier during June 4th 1979? One accused the other of hiding in the wife’s closet, whilst the other has alleged that when the fighting was intense the other run away to Osu to call mame water. It would have been helpful if the two wives could one day come out and clear the air once and for all about which husband was where. I am not here to praise anyone. In all honesty, I think Rawlings owes the Osahene a ton of thanks for saving his life, but I also think Rawlings emerges the bravest in terms of his achievements. The Syrians and Lebanese even put a 5,000,000 cedis bounty on his head then because of his deep dislike for them, yet he survived. He is a man who can sense, feel the pulse of the average Ghanaian, and speak accordingly, even if such tactics are now outmoded. The average Ghanaian needs a champion and until someone else emerges, most will continue to see Rawlings as the one.

Stories of coup detats within our political organisation is as common as the number of kenkey balls in the streets of Accra at any one time. The late Gen. Afrifa is alleged to have likened the staging of coups to sex. Addictive, infective, contagious, enjoyable, invigorating, attractive but expensive (emphasis mine). It is as if since the first successful coup in 1966, organising coup detats has not only become an enterprise in itself but a means to fame for those men and women in uniform and their civilian collaborators who would normally struggle to gain societal recognition and wealth. The irony is that they all always allude to the salvation of the poor and oppressed as the prime reason for their adventures. In the history of coups, there are the big “umbrella” ones and the small ones. Many people have ascended onto political thrones on the back of coups –Napoleon Bonaparte in France to hmmm JJ in Ghana. And please tell me who has done well and worse out of all the successful coup detats that have taken place in Ghana.

Coups in Ghana have often taken place when the ruling regimes are perceived or judged to misrule, loot, corrupt and mismanage the system. People have also often spoken about a class war or conflict between rich and poor, managers versus workers, junior soldiers versus senior officers, sons versus fathers etc such as during the Rawlings era, but it is not clear how these factors become relevant in coup making, especially when the makers quickly step into the shoes, cars, houses, girlfriends, offices, travel tastes of the very people they overthrew. Thank God, no coup has ever taken place with ethnic factors as the main reason. Kotoka, Afrifa and their NLC colleagues justified their 1966 coup by accusing Nkrumah of abusing his power, widespread political repression, deteriorating economic fortunes, corruption and arrogance. Lieutenant Colonel I.K. Acheampong on the 13th January 1972 cited an austerity budget, shrinking of the defence budget as some of their reasons for the coup. Acheampong was forced out in July 1978, to be replaced by Lieutenant General Frederick W.K. Akuffo. They claimed to be responding to the desire of the people to reverse the deteriorating economic and political situation, with inflation then at an estimated 300 percent. Akuffo planned to hand over political power to a new government to be elected by July 1, 1979. These were before he had made his final trip abroad to Senegal and guess who escorted him around the guard of honour parade - JJ Rawlings. As he had his sword in hand, marching by the side of Akuffo it was difficult to imagine that sooner the same Flt. Lt. will arrest and execute them. The rest is now painfully history. Rawlings and his Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) reason for the June 4th coup was that the military top hierarchy was corrupt. Actually it was the first time I heard that hospitals in Ghana were death beds. That people were hungry – farmers, fishermen, workers, teachers etc. A house cleaning or what some now call ethnic cleansing followed until elections were held and Limann inducted into office. Rawlings has said many weird things in his time, but the one chilling thing he said at Limann’s inauguration will forever haunt the whole country. That he was retiring to the barracks but will be watching the government. It was as if to say that he owned Ghana and Ghanaians for that matter. That should Limann who was now the “care taker” mess around with the state, he will not hesitate to step in. He later formed the June 4th Movement. Meanwhile all the other AFRC members had collected their Peugeot cars and “handshakes” and disappeared. One man remained to “oversee things”. By December 31, 1981, he was back in business with the formation of the PNDC. And guess what he said again, that he was not a magician or azaa man who had come to deceive the people but "wanted a chance for the people, farmers, workers, soldiers, the rich and the poor, to be part of the decision-making process." To save Ghanaians, so to speak from hmmmmm what? To qualify it and differentiate it from all the other coups he coined the Osama term “holy war”. In effect promising to better the falling economic and political situation.

People have often been quick to condemn Rawlings for the slaughter of the former heads of state and others and believe it, I totally condemn and abhor all forms of torture and killing. But sight must not be lost of the fact that many of these late leaders brought some untold suffering to the people of this country through their corrupt practices and misrule. The problem is that Rawlings did no better.

So it came to pass until recently when something strange which no one has ever heard or seen before happened in Ghana. I must at this stage warn you dear reader that this piece is spiced with so many jokes, realistically unrealistic, thought provoking and sometimes proven and unproven claims. In the end the wise will take something out of it. I must also add that it is not meant to offend anyone and by implication anyone who feels the shoes fits must on their own accord wear it.

There was a bye election coming up at Offinso in Ashanti of all places. The founder and sole controller of the NDC was alleged to be desperate for funds to run his campaign. A victory for the NDC would spell the beginning of the end for the NPP. But it is also a display of the maturity of the people of Ghana that two rival parties can battle for a vacant parliamentary seat in a very heated fashion without resorting to large-scale violence. The sitting president has accused Mr. Rawlings of soliciting for funds from an oil rich country to topple his government. If the claims were true, then it will confirm what Afrifa said many years ago that coup making was like sex. But what I cannot get my head round is why Rawlings will allegedly go to Chavez of all people.

After all Chavez is a democratically elected president who was himself in 2002 toppled in a coup detat. The coup was at first successful and then later collapsed because of mass public protest (and major sections of the military) in favour of Chavez (the man of the poor) which overwhelmed the support for the coup makers. Thus Mr Chavez was back in office two days later. So in all honesty I would have expected Kuffour rather than Rawlings to go to Chavez first. Anyway, Rawlings apparently approached Chavez for “funds” to fund a cola project (this will be explained later). Mr Chavez does not speak English or any of the Ghanaian languages so the conversation had to be interpreted. The man is rich and proud. He even came to London without bothering to meet Tony Blair. He went to New York of all places, insulted their president in a very distasteful and disdainful way and no one lifted a finger of protest. The man has even agreed to give free oil to the city of London in return for expertise on how to plan his city.

The interpreter doing the translation heard coup instead of cola and relayed this to Mr Chavez, who immediately sat upright in his comfortable chair. Surprised because his gain has been the result of democratic elections in Venezuela and not through the power of the gun. He instructed the interpreter to ask Mr Rawlings and his entourage why they had not contacted Mr Ghaddaffi and the reply was that the old man was now in bed with the Americans, Mr Chavez’s sworn enemies. Besides, he had now decided that he wants to leave a proud legacy as one of Africa’s great statesmen, and so had renounced violence for good. That he will not fund coup detats in Africa or elsewhere anymore.

Mr Chavez then asked about Castro, but the reply came that Cuba was currently on a sick bed hence it was unwise to trouble a sick person for money.

Chavez not being able to determine what his profits will be out of such an expensive venture asked about Mr Annan, as he is alleged to be a very close pal of Mr Rawlings and had even had a one to one with Mr Rawlings in his bed room. Mr Rawlings’ team replied that Mr Annan’s money belonged to his son who was presently in Iraq. That their friend Saddam was still hiding in a six feet hole somewhere under near Tikrit, making it difficult for him to lend them any money, else they would have gone to him.

Not happy with the explanations being given by the NDC entourage (and they did pay a lot of money to get to Venezuela), the host said to Mr Rawlings “I am contacting your president to find out if you really need this money as I was under the impression that you were handsomely rewarded during and after your presidency and that your family even bought a whole factory for $500. Mr Rawlings and his team did not object to the phone call but asked Mr Chavez not to mention his name as Kuffour will definitely object to the request.

One of Mr Chavez’s lieutenants then called Accra but Mr Kuffour was out of town, in Offinso to be precise, campaigning for his dear life. So the call was put through to the president’s 3rd mobile phone, who initially thought it was Tony Blair inviting him for the 16th time for dinner in London. Mr Chavez was put on the phone and a four - way conversation ensued - Mr Chavez, his interpreter, Mr Kuffour and Mr Rawlings. Chavez asked Kuffour whether he thought Rawlings really needed money for a coup project in Ghana. Obviously Kuffor was shocked but then composed himself. Just before Mr Chavez finished his last statement, Mr Rawlings interjected, that it was for cola production not a coup project. Just then a call came through on Mr Kuffour’s second mobile phone that the CIA wanted to talk to him. The message was that they had earlier in the day projected their satellite onto Mr Chavez’s palace and found Mr Rawlings using his loo. They had also tapped into their conversation and heard the word “coup” so they were sending one of their big and sophisticated aircrafts to Accra to be based at the Air force station in order to deter any would be coup plotters. They also said it was safe to continue with the Offinso bye election campaign as they had not detected any unusual troop movements in Accra or elsewhere, except armed robbers on one of the highways. All this while Kuffour had kept both Mr Rawlings and Chavez waiting on the other line.

When Mr Kuffour had finished the CIA conversation, Mr Chavez and Rawlings were not impressed at all. They both wanted to know who the president was talking to and what it was all about. He explained that the CIA had a camera in Mr Chavez’s toilet and were also listening to his conversation with Rawlings. Mr Chavez on hearing that was not amused at all. He promised Kuffour that he would teach the Americans a lesson when he gets to the UN assembly general meeting.

Kuffour then asked Rawlings why he needed money for another coup in Ghana and what had happened to all the money he made during his tenure of office, including the lamp sum that was paid as part of his retirement package. And whether with the current favourable economic climate prevailing in the country (which has convinced even the Chinese to think of investing billions in the country) was worth spoiling. Rawlings said he had spent his pension on the NDC and Atta Mills, as the party did not have any money. That he was hoping Atta will win the second elections so he could recoup his money but that was never to be. He found it difficult to ask the professor to pay back the money as he was unemployed. Also that anytime he asked for money, Kuffour and his advisers will make it public which he found degrading. After all they were in-laws but he didn’t think he was getting the respect he deserved.

Kuffour then said to Rawlings “ I am going to tell Ghanaians tomorrow (without mentioning names) that you had gone to borrow money for a coup project against my government and that I will deal with you as you would have when the time comes”. Rawlings was not impressed at all with the turn of events and was fuming, saying things like “konkosani be bre”, “komfo boni bia eni animonyam” “Ghana is like an ostrich egg in my hand. I can drop it and everyone one except my wife, children and Mr Victor will disappear. Oh no you will not dare tell Ghanaians that. Anyway they will not believe a word of what you say”. Kuffour then replied “mark it on the wall. And I am also going to inform Aloga Akapore, Gen Afrifa, Halidu Gyiwah and Mame Dokuno about your abusive behaviour”. Rawlings replied “Gyiwah is an asylum seeker in London, Aloga is a cab driver in New Jersey. They cannot do f…..!!!!. Infact the whole affair was becoming an embarrassing event and the phone bills were piling up. Mr Chavez listening to such an argument was not only amused at all but kept wondering why Ghanaian matters had been brought to his shores. As we all know he is also a no - nonsense character and would have no one booming around in his palace. He advised both Mr Rawlings and Kuffour to go and make peace. That the NDC must contest the Offinso elections and the 2008 one in a matured way and if things do not go as planned to come back in 2009 when he will be in a position to help.

In the mean time his advisors seeing their master in a fit of rage and fearing for their own lives promised to arrange a series of lectures for him in the UK, starting with Oxford university, Mr Kuffour’s former school. They first contacted Oxford and the communications department wanted to know his qualifications and purpose of his talk. They were told that he had a doctor’s degree and was famous for twice violently overthrowing an unelected and elected government within a space of 6 years. They were told at the time that Oxford University had violent animal rights protestors to deal at its door step and the least they wanted was someone coming to preach violence and coups to inflame the situation. They advised them to contact the Ivorian state university where they felt this topic will receive the right audience. They then contacted all the other secondary and primary schools in London but were told that the academic calendars were already full of activities. Besides the focus of everyone at the moment was on climate change, eradication of poverty, AIDS and malaria in Africa and elsewhere and were therefore uninterested in Ghanaian corruption scandals. The only place that could fit them in was The London South Bank University where Mr Rawlings gave his now famous lectures on how one can establish genuine business in Ghana using false papers.

We await the outcome of this ensuing encounter between the borrower and perpetrator of coups and the existing president. Hopefully nothing untoward will come out of it.

In all this, JAK I think has done well in view of all the dangers he inherited from the NDC – the many security operatives, the hidden and dangerous ammunitions, the established destabilising forces still lurking in the shadows etc and has reason to worry judging by what happened to Limann when he ignored it. This tactic of naming and shaming alleged coup plotters and publishing their names in the newspapers was effectively used during Acheampong’s time and it worked magic. Being arrested for coup making is viewed as an act of great weakness in the barracks. Yet JAK he does not also realise the sort of advantages he currently enjoys. For a start his government boasts of some of the best brains in the coup prevention business. He even has Major Quashigah and is still shaking. Remember the Quashigah affair. The young man who is one of the finest soldiers of his generation and had been one of the solid pillars in the Rawlings regimes apparently tried to topple him in 1983. JJ instead of executing him like others sent emissaries to Quashigah’s parents to advise them to have a word with their son. That was how the chairman revered and respected him.

He also enjoys the support of the nations (America and UK) who have been accused in the past of subverting governments in the developing world. Again Ghanaians are fed up with coup makers and their promises of providing them with everything and delivering nothing. If JJ could not cope with just two privately owned loud newspapers, how will he cope with twenty plus four hundred FM stations? May I also add that the Ghanaian Army has become more professional (or have they?) and would want things to stay that way. Lastly, Kuffour has friends in all the neighbouring countries, so that threat is now minimised.

In summary, how a government treats with its citizenry, especially the lowly incomed and poor could be paramount in times of turmoil. These may be teachers, nurses, market traders, university students, farmers, fishermen etc whose association and uncertain futures Rawlings greatly exploited in 1979 and later 1982 and continues to do.

Rawlings understands the language of the poor and dispossessed even though he may now not be one. Dear reader, are you not aware that many of his followers know that all his children attend expensive school overseas at a time when they cannot afford a day’s meal. That he has four hundred and forty-four cars more than anyone else. That he may have authorised or even participated in the dastardly torture and murder of countless number of people during his time. That he has a foul mouth. That he is now in bed with the Syrians, Lebanese etc whom he tried desperately to throw out of the country in 1979, yet they still regard him as the only one in his generation who has or can stand up against the rich, elite, high class in society.

Kuffour’s government will not survive a Rawlings coup because of its sophisticated security apparatus, even though that is vital. Remember, there is no security plan that is impregnable. Ask the CIA, ABC, MI6, KGB, XYZ etc. The people’s power has stood up to illegal governments in Venezuela, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania etc and won. The short and long of it all is that good governance is key to political survival. His Excellency Mr Kuffour and his ministers may do well by speaking on and genuinely and effortlessly dealing with issues afflicting the majority of Ghanaians in a way that is loud, equitable and tangible and Ghanaians will return the compliment.

To Mr Rawlings I say please forget about coups if you are thinking of one (which I know you are not). I know sometimes you feel the urge to put one in and that is only human. Please remember what Afrifa said but also how his life ended. The irony and prophesy is that should any coup happen in Ghana, you may end up as a victim yourself. Remove yourself from Ghanaian politics because you will never to be able correct all the ills of Ghanaian society. If you couldn’t do it then, I doubt it if you will be able to do it now. If you or your wife or any former NDC gurus have taken any thing by mistake such as factories or even monies, be bold to ask them to return them, because you have always stood up for probity and accountability. So that when Kuffor and his company also take we will all be bold to ask for its return. Enjoy whatever you have sir because “a bed in hand is worth two in the bush”. Your family loves you.

And finally to those oil rich tom, jerry and wanzams trying to fund nothing purposeful but coups in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa, hell fire will be your lot and your investments will go up in smoke because the people will not take the bait.

Bye dear readers and may God bless Ghana. The most peaceful place on earth.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.