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Opinions of Sunday, 17 April 2005

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Boakye Djan Cannot Rewrite History (Part IV & V)

In his memorandum to Ghana?s National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), dated October 13, 2003, Maj. Boakye Djan claims that among the sterling feats of the so-called Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) was the stabilization of market prices, which had skyrocketed beyond the reach of the proverbial average Ghanaian. In reality, however, as the following paragraph from his aforementioned memorandum attests, the AFRC edict forcibly freezing the prices of basic consumable commodities was squarely geared towards the parochial interests of members of the Ghana Armed Forces: ?One aspect of our criminal justice operations that needs a brief mention here is the question of instant justice. It is about a cluster of cases around the market forces that had run out of control by our time [i.e. June to September 1979].

In popular language it was about trade malpractices such as hoarding and overpricing of goods and services in what had come to be called Kalabule. Inevitably, the ordinary people, the rank and file in the Forces in particular, were at the mercy of these rampant[ly] sharp prices and dealings; although and by some twist of irony it was these soldiers who were also at the receiving end of abuse from agents of these market forces.? In sum, in the foregoing abstract from his NRC memorandum, Maj. Boakye Djan impudently presumes the ideological terminology of ?ordinary people? to primarily allude to ?the rank and file? of Ghanaian soldiery. Thus, contrary to his stentorian assertions, the infamous June 4th Revolution was categorically undertaken for the economic benefit of Ghanaian soldiers; any apparent benefits that redounded to the general interest of the country?s civilian populace, or the commonweal, was, perforce, purely incidental. And this is why the AFRC deputy chief?s whole theory of that woefully misbegotten junta being poised to launching ?unity wars? in Africa in order to create ?free maximum zones of development and resistance against external interests? must be seen for the pathological crock that it certainly is. The preceding also glaringly belies the sophomoric appreciation, on the part of the membership of the AFRC, for the basic dynamics of political economy. And this is why the junta?s visceral approach to the country?s economic crisis was simply to issue a price-control edict summarily freezing the prices of such basic essential commodities as soap, milk, sugar and eggs without a simple understanding of the fact that in a capitalist economy the value of merchandise is incontrovertibly or logically determined by supply and demand, rather than the mere issuance of arbitrary edicts by government.

Indeed, it was the preceding political bankruptcy exhibited by the stomach- (or gut-) oriented AFRC junta that caused the downfall of the succeeding Limann administration, rather than the pat explanation of zero-sum game of parliamentary democracy advanced by the self-styled Osahene of Jinijini-Drobo Traditional Area in the Brong-Ahafo Region of Ghana. In sum, the arbitrary and summary freezing of commodity prices between June and September 1979, during which three protracted months the so-called Armed Forces Revolutionary Council held the reins of governance, literally brought the Ghanaian economy to its knees. And so by the time that the People?s National Party (PNP), headed by the late Dr. Hilla Limann, assumed political stewardship, the country was a virtual economic basket case. It thus blatantly and egregiously appears that having summarily destroyed the country, by bringing Ghana?s economy to a screeching halt, Maj. Boakye Djan and some of his ?nimble? fellow ?revolutionaries,? literally, cut themselves loose by, allegedly, extorting huge sums of money from the incoming PNP administration and absconding to the erstwhile colonial Mother Country of England to enjoy their pelf. Which is why, as already adumbrated elsewhere in this column, his title of Osahene, whoever conferred it on him, is rather presumptuous and outright risible. For Maj. Boakye Djan (pronounced: Booachie Jan) has roundly demonstrated himself, as well as his AFRC junta, to have been more about unalloyed megalomania and kleptocracy than democracy. Interestingly, it may also be recalled that this is not the first time that a Ghanaian soldier who caused considerable socioeconomic and political mayhem to the destiny of our dear country has assumed the presumptuous traditional (Akan) military title of Osahene (or Chief Warrior). We first witnessed the resurgent Brigadier-General A. A. Afrifa, during the 1970s, return to his home-village of Krobo, on the outskirts of Asante-Mampong, which also happens to be this writer?s matro-agnatic ancestral home, and assume the rather quaint and primitivistic title of Okatakyie, Brave Warrior, a title which unarguably hung on his scrawny physique as more of a relic than substance. And here, it may also be of interest to observe that the assassinated Brig.-Gen. Afrifa?s immediate younger sister was one of my late mother?s best friends between the 1950s and early 1960s. The other of the trio of fast friends was Auntie Christie ? I forget her sur- or maiden-name ? who later became headmistress or principal of Asante-Mampong Girls? Middle School.

Furthermore, in the abstract quoted at the beginning of this article, as has become his hallmark, Maj. Boakye Djan blames the untold atrocities perpetrated against Ghanaian market women in the wake of the so-called Rawlings-led June 4th Revolution: ?There were numerous reports of market women jeering and throwing buckets of urine at these soldiers who went in uniform to the markets to shop. Therefore and perhaps predictably, the initial reaction to these inflated prices started with spontaneous looting, unauthorised arrest and spot punishment of suspects mainly traders and business people, and the destruction of market places like Makola as the symbol of market forces gone mad.?

And here, it is imperative to note that those who amply appreciate traditional Ghanaian culture are fully mindful of the fact that ordinarily men, regardless of social status or stature, simply do not grocery shop for their wives ? except for a few isolated cases in the Muslim community that this writer personally witnessed while growing up in Central-Accra. It is exactly the other way around. And, indeed, it is an open-secret that Ghanaian men who make a habit of grocery shopping for their wives are often accused of being effeminate, stingy and unromantic. This is because it is tacitly accepted that a corollary benefit of having a woman grocery shop for the family is that she would, literally, cut corners and save a little bit of the housekeeping money for her petty personal effects. That is the woman?s widely accepted way of not incessantly pestering her husband for knick-knack wherewithal. And in situations where an adult male is single or a bachelor, he often engages the services of a girlfriend, female relative, maid, or even a neighbor?s wife, with whose husband the bachelor is on cordial terms, to grocery shop for him in the course of grocery shopping for her own family. In sum, what Maj. Boakye Djan flatly fails to acknowledge in his memorandum to Ghana?s National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) is the fact that those male soldiers who made a habit of grocery shopping for their wives while at work and in military uniform patently did so in order to ensure that they purchased consumable commodities well below their standard market (or even manufacturer?s) value. Invariably such below-market prices were stipulated by these gun-slinging soldiers, who routinely threatened to ?quench? or ?waste? their victims if they would not be allowed their way. Indeed, the idea of male soldiers grocery shopping in military uniform was primarily to intimidate the traders, largely illiterate or marginally schooled women, into selling their wares at a considerable loss. And when that happened, the exponentially inflated commodity prices that our so-called Osahene alludes was actually shifted unto the sagging shoulders and battered wallets of the ordinary Ghanaian civilian. Furthermore, the mere fact that these soldiers decided to spend their work-hours grocery shopping for their wives, lovers and concubines, tells the studious observer a lot about the work ethic of the average Ghanaian soldier during the period under discussion.

Indeed, it is rather unfortunate for Maj. Boakye Djan, as well as his AFRC henchmen, that his so-called housecleaning revolutionary exercise occurred under the eagle eyes and bloodhound-nostrils of well-educated Ghanaians, then high-school teenagers, like this writer. And, guess what? We know how to write quite fairly well, and we intend to etch the untold atrocities of the Osahene and his cronies into the indelible Ghanaian, national epic memory; that way, needless to say, posterity shall never forget. But whether posterity is apt to forgive these neocolonial terrorists is not up to us to presently determine. Indeed, as the Jewish post-Holocaust dictum goes: ?Never Again!? It could not be more germane to the foregoing Ghanaian case.


In his memorandum to the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), sitting in Accra, Maj. (rtd.) Boakye Djan also curiously claims that the infamous and sanguinary June 4th , 1979 revolution had actually been originally set for 1984, and that it was the capricious rashness of Flt.-Lt. Jerry John Rawlings that forced the members of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) to hastily act when it did. In a sense, therefore, the June 4th uprising, as it popularly came to be known, was unplanned, which, in effect, means that the AFRC junta possessed no substantive or purposeful agenda for husbanding Ghana?s geopolitical culture. If so, then it appears that the Rawlings-Boakye Djan junta acted on the most myopic and megalomaniacal grounds, which was to free then-imprisoned Flt.-Lt. Rawlings on treason charges, for attempting to overthrow the Akuffo government, otherwise designated Supreme Military Council II (or SMC II). And here it may be recalled for the benefit of those who may not remember or were not born at the time that the junta or regime of SMC II, led by the late Gen. F. W. K. Akuffo, one of the nine top former military rulers summarily executed by the AFRC, resulted from a palace coup orchestrated by Gen. Akuffo, at the time Gen. Acheampong?s second-in-command, in 1977. It largely resulted from Gen. Acheampong?s reckless, albeit understandable, attempt at perpetuating his hang onto power through a deft and at once fatuous staging of an election ? actually a referendum ? in order to legitimize his rule. Interestingly, 15 years later, in 1992, the swashbuckling Flt.-Lt. Rawlings would more deftly execute an identical electoral gimmick in order to entrench his stranglehold on the country. Having studiously and meticulously learned from the past foibles of his predecessors, Mr. Rawlings would successfully solicit international support, including that of Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former U. S. president Jimmy Carter. His landslide pseudo-electoral triumph would promptly canonize Flt.-Lt. Rawlings into a constitutionally elected President Jerry John Rawlings. Indeed, so successful was his gimmick that other less intellectually acute West African stratocrats were to shortly follow suit. Glaring cases in point are the tragicomic Abacha scenario in Nigeria, and before that the Babangida dervish, in the same country; also the sophomoric Strasser burlesque in Sierra Leone, as well as another that occurred in the otherwise placid and quiescent nation of Niger. A few other Rawlings parodists, such as Gambia?s President Jammeh, have perfected strato-pseudo-democracy into a coveted art. The finest example of the preceding, however, is typified by substantive Nigerian premier Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. Like Ghana?s Rawlings before him, Gen. Obasanjo voluntarily relinquished power in the late 1970s, having served as a trusted lieutenant to the tragically assassinated Gen. Murtala Muhammad, and done a deathrow stint in the slammer or stir-house for boldly standing up to his one-time minion Gen. Sani Abacha, of recent memory.

Needless to say, the salient reason offered by Maj. Boakye Djan, regarding the decision of the erstwhile AFRC to originally strike in 1984, rather than 1979, is blisteringly puerile and pedestrian, as well as prosaic. To the preceding effect, Boakye Djan recounts: ?The Free Africa Movement (FAM) [i.e. the parent or umbrella matrix of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council] used both open and clandestine methods of networking to spot, recruit and develop [train? Educate?] members, consciously or otherwise. There was no time limit to its activities until the 13th January 1972 anti-Constitution coup, the second in Ghana?s history then. There was then reckless but earnest talk of the Armed Forces remaining in office and power for more than twenty years stretching to 1992. It was at this time that members decided to put some time frame on the activities of the organisation. The members of the Movement decided on 1984 as the year of action first as the appropriate time to begin to undo the harmful effects of the Berlin Conference in [of?] 1884 and as the time when most of the young officers will [would?] be in effective command and control of the armed forces? resources to make the move succeed. The preparations continued steadily until 15th May 1979 abortive and unauthorised counter-coup led by one of the members [Flt.-Lt. Jerry John Rawlings?] who had apparently decided to break rank[s] to initiate action to forcibly drag the [rest of the] members[hip] into it? ( 11/18/03).

Needless to say, several issues and questions make the foregoing abstract read rather risible and amateurish. And here, we ought to candidly point out the fact that the rawness of youthful exuberance had a lot to do with it; for the average age of the AFRC constabulary was about 30 years old. And so it comes as hardly any surprise that this apparently well-meaning, albeit deliriously idealistic, posse of geopolitical missionaries would earmark 1984 as a historic date for initiating positive action to facilitate and expedite the de-colonization of the African continent. For the rest of us, however, earmarking the centenary of the 1884-85 Berlin Conference, which led to the callous and arbitrary partitioning of the continent by the Western European powers, reads and sounds more like a veritable commemoration of a catastrophic chapter in modern African history. But what is even more interesting, if we are to take Maj. Boakye Djan?s version of events at face value, is the fact that members of the so-called Free Africa Movement (or FAM) were willing to patiently wait another four (long) years even as the senior ranks of their august profession, literally, ran the Ghanaian economy aground. And, then, other than its sheer symbolism, what would a successful military putsch have done to repair a dozen year?s misrule?

In brief, why hedge one?s bet around a colonial abomination? Indeed, perhaps, it is within the foregoing context that the relatively towering and rarefied leadership of Flt.-Lt. Rawlings, vis-?-vis the rest of the FAM/AFRC membership, is to be squarely envisaged and assayed. For within the chaotic context of the prevailing climate of the time (i.e. the Acheampong-Akuffo regime), the founder of the so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC) and immediate-former Ghanaian president almost singularly deserves the accolade of ?Brave Warrior.? And so, perhaps, Osahene Boakye Djan may seriously consider relinquishing his rather over-sized military title to his apparent ideological and practical superior ? Flt.-Lt./Chairman/President Jerry John Rawlings. To sizable numbers of us well-meaning and patriotic Ghanaians, Maj. Boakye Djan?s version of the infamous June 4th events simply reeks of rebarbative historical revisionism; it is also cognitively regressive, since the idiosyncratic, barbarous and abominable balkanization of Ghana, and the African continent, by extension, is quite discrete from the pathological culture of military coups that began to rock the nation on February 24, 1966. While it cannot be gainsaid that the post-colonial African military is as geopolitically alienated as its colonial predecessor, the exigencies of the former era necessitates the dramatic reconfiguration of the erstwhile coercive apparatus of African subjugation into a proactive and organic vehicle of nation-building or national development.

The AFRC junta, whose veritable reign of terror Maj. Boakye Djan stridently has sought to justify, brought Ghana nowhere closer to the latter objective. It is also interesting to note, in passing, that it is rather ironic for Flt.-Lt. Rawlings? FAM-AFRC-(P)NDC which, according to Maj. Boakye Djan, was forced to act in prompt response to some ?reckless but earnest talk of the Armed Forces remaining in power for more than twenty years stretching to 1992,? to have, indeed, stayed exactly that temporal span in power. A self-fulfilling prophecy, you say? And my bet is that his delusional majesty, the Osahene, knows far more than he seems to be willing to spill.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He has also taught Global African History at Indiana State University, Terre Haute, as well as at Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, New York.

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