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Opinions of Monday, 17 April 2017

Columnist: K. Badu

The infamous jailbreak that brought the NDC into existence

The recent unfortunate conduct of some NPP youth (to be precise, Delta Force) and the subsequent public discourse on the contemptible action has brought many melancholic memories, as a matter of fact.

Let us face it though, in as much as the group worked selflessly and strenuously to ensure the election of President Akufo-Addo, their most recent lousy action cannot be condoned by well-meaning Ghanaians. Indeed, the group went overboard and must be condemned in no uncertain terms.

Having said that, the apparent hypocrisy and the dishonesty being exhibited by some of the discussants really bothers me, I must admit.

In so far as the Delta Force’s abhorrent action at the Kumasi Circuit Court was completely out of order, I do not want to subscribe to the seeming sophistic view that their action is the first in the history of Ghana.

In any case, while discerning Ghanaians have every right to ventilate their arousing disgust over the seemingly reprehensible action, it would be absolutely wrong for anybody to suggest that Delta Force’s despicable action is alien to our judicial system. Indeed, I’m of the firm conviction that the Delta Force’s contemptible action does not supersede the June 1979 infamous jailbreak.

On that portentous day in June 1979, some rabble rousers unjustifiably released convicts and suspects from a lawful custody, including the founder of the NDC Party, J. J. Rawlings.

The difference here, though, is that the Delta Force disrespectfully stirred a commotion in the court room in the presence of a presiding judge which culminated in the absconding of suspects, who nonetheless showed remorse and willingly reported back to the police.

Whereas the June 1979 jailbreakers released suspects and convicts from a lawful penitentiary, deposed the government at the time, ruled despotically for over eleven years and went ahead to form a political party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Of course, the journalists who prefer to prevent discussants from analysing the current affairs through the lenses of the past would not agree with me.

But I am afraid we cannot make sense of the present happenings if we refused to take stock of the past events.

If we stroll down memory lane, on 15th May 1979, a group of disgruntled junior army officers, led by Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings failed in their insurrection against General Fred Akuffo’s regime, which culminated in the arrest and trial of Rawlings and his cohorts.

However, the judicial process was halted prematurely by a group of soldiers sympathetic to Rawlings, who revolted on 4th June 1979.

The rebellious soldiers subsequently broke jail and released Rawlings and his cohorts from a lawful custody.

After successfully deposing General Akuffo and his Supreme Military Council (SMC) government, the stubbornly impenitent jailbreakers went ahead and formed their own government, which they called as the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and appointed Flt. Rawlings as their chairman.

Rawlings and his rabble rousers vowed to lustrate the country of the rampant sleaze, corruption and social injustices which instigated their coup d’état.

So in their attempt to purge the country of the perceived injustices, they carried out what they termed “house cleaning exercise”,--they dealt with perceived offenders arbitrarily.

The mutinous jailbreakers proceeded with their intentions and callously exterminated prominent people including General Fred Akuffo, General Kutu Acheampong, General Akwasi Afrifa and many others.

After getting rid of individuals they viewed as a threat to their hidden agenda, the jailbreaking cabals decided to conduct general elections for political parties in the same year-1979.

Following the successful election, Dr Hilla Limann and his People’s National Party (PNP) won the day in 1979.

Disappointingly, however, Rawlings and his cohorts did not give Dr Liman and his PNP government the breathing space to govern the country, as they inexorably breathed down the neck of President Liman.

Indeed, Rawlings and his conspiratorial plotters unfairly kept criticising Dr Limann’s administration for what the obdurate jailbreakers perceived as economic mismanagement, until Rawlings and his jailbreaking geezers decided to depose Dr Limann.

And, to fulfil his lifetime ambition of becoming the head of state, J.J. Rawlings and the obstreperous jailbreakers took arms and succeeded in overthrowing the constitutionally elected government of Dr Hilla Limann on 31st December 1981.

Apparently, Rawlings and his vigilante friends formed a government which they called the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) and appointed Rawlings as the chairman.

Although the PNDC government back then boasted of some seasoned politicians, the vast majority of the military personnel who headed the core Ministries were novices in the political terrain.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, the PNDC regime back then, adopted a seemingly disastrous Economic Recovery Programme (ERP), which was introduced under the auspices of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In a way, the apparent unfavourable Economic Recovery Programme culminated in a catalogue of hardships. And, on top of the harsh policies which threatened the economic fundamentals, the population had to clutch itself for food shortages, a situation which the world press somehow ignored in favour of the concurrent Ethiopian famine that resulted in millions of deaths.

But then again, perhaps, the 1983 famine was comparable to that of the Ethiopian famine back then. Nevertheless, Ghana’s famine was not hyperbolised by the global media.

Somehow, both Ghana and Ethiopia were back then ruled by uncompliant military dictatorships that looked on cluelessly and somehow unperturbed whilst the citizens endured widespread hunger.

And, as food shortages escalated in Ghana, some traders started creating artificial shortages of goods by hoarding them so as to charge exorbitant prices at a later time.

In his weird attempt to get rid of sleaze and corruption, many Ghanaians were unjustifiably murdered or tortured mercilessly for apparent infinitesimal offences.

Regrettably, however, some market women were stripped naked in the public and whipped for either hauling their products or selling on high prices. While their male counterparts were wickedly shaved with broken bottles and whipped for offences that would not even warrant a Police caution in a civilized society.

As if that was not enough, three eminent high court judges and a prominent army officer were barbarically murdered by PNDC apple-polishers on 30th June 1982 for carrying out their constitutionally mandated duties.

The PNDC apologists savagely murdered the three eminent high court judges because their judgement did not go in their favour.

As a matter of fact, Ghana’s revolution days under the jailbreaking founders of the NDC Party could be likened to: “in the China of “the Great Helmsman,” Kim Il Sung’s Korea, Vietnam under “Uncle Ho” , Cuba under Castro, Ethiopia under Mengistu, Angola under Neto, and Afghanistan under Najibullah”.

Even though Rawlings and his conspiratorial plotters supplanted power under the pretext of acting as a peripheral Panacea, they slyly spent a little over eleven years before lifting the ban on political parties in 1992.

As a matter of fact and observation, Rawlings succumbed to the intrinsic and extrinsic political pressures for him to step down and allow multi-party democracy.

Subsequently, he lifted the ban on political parties in 1992 and resigned from the military simultaneously to allow him to contest election.

Subsequent to his retirement from the military, Rawlings and his jailbreaking cabals went ahead and formed a political party, which they named as the National Democratic Congress (NDC), a progeny of PNDC.

In sum, while we are rightly condemning the Delta Force’s shenanigans, it would be extremely hypocritical and dishonest for anybody to pretend that such an unpardonable action has never happened in Ghana’s history.