Major Kojo Boakye-Djan (Rtd), a key architect of the June 4 uprising of 1979, has described ex-President Jerry John Rawlings as a radical liberal.
He said although Ghana’s former leader may have appeared tough and strong headed to many, he had a listening ear, and could be persuaded so far as he considered an argument convincing enough.
The retired Major recalled that former President Rawlings was not hard wired towards any particular political ideology, but was basically a person who believed in doing what it took to solve a problem.
Major Boakye-Djan, spokesperson for the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) of 1979, which had former President Rawlings as its chairman, told the Ghana News Agency in an exclusive interview, that the Former President was highly drawn to wisdom and intelligence, and would listen if one struck him as worth listening to.
“He had respect for great minds,” Major Boakye-Djan observed.
Major Boakye-Djan described the Former President as a man who believed in doing what needed to be done immediately to save a situation.
He said there were many interesting moments he had with former President Rawlings which typically reflected Rawlings’ quick problem-solving abilities.
“We once found ourselves in an extreme traffic jam somewhere in Accra many years ago, on our way to see a friend who was bed-ridden. No car could move because a taxi had broken down, making any form of vehicular movement impossible,” Major Boakye-Djan said.
He recalled that former President Rawlings then alighted, started calling drivers and others who were affected by the situation together, and organised them to push the taxi into a nearby drain because that offered an immediate solution, as there was none other at hand.
“Immediately the situation got rectified and drivers could drive off with ease, Rawlings had to direct motorists for some time and when the situation was completely rectified, he got back inside my car and we took off,” Major Boakye-Dan said.
He touched on the June 4 uprising of 1979 which was the main event that sprung Former President Rawlings unto the country’s political limelight and said the event, like all other revolutions, was spontaneous and popular at the same time.
In Major Boakye-Djan’s words, the ill-effects of misrule by successive military governments, starting with the overthrow of President Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s founding President, had created a general feel of disgruntlement amongst the military ranks at that time.
He said a general yearn amongst a large number of the populace for some positive change towards a more purposeful national cause, was what basically earned the junta the kind of spontaneous support it enjoyed, which led to the overthrow of General Akuffo’s Supreme Military Council (SMC) II.
Major Boakye-Djan cited an example where sometime before the June 4 uprising, a soldier once came to him almost in tears because a market woman had poured urine on him for daring to plead that an item’s price be reduced.
He described the incident as a reflection of the extent to which the image of the army at that time had fallen, and the urgent need for some intervention to redeem that image.
Major Boakye-Djan added that this fallen image was in itself, a depiction of the general dissatisfaction a large number of citizens held for the continuous military misrule in the country.
Touching on major lessons to be learnt from the June 4 uprising, he said there was the need for political leadership to be well attuned with the socio-economic needs of the citizenry, as well as any other needs expected to be met by the government.
Major Boakye Djan said this could best be achieved, if the educational system ensured that right from the very early stages, it was inculcated into children the need to be concerned about the well fare of others, especially the most needy and vulnerable.
He said this would help groom leaders who would only yearn to serve and be accountable to the people.
Major Boakye Djan said such leadership was not only crucial to socio-economic growth in Ghana, but the African continent as a whole.
Former President Rawlings first appeared on the Ghanaian political scene, when he got arrested, following his May 15 attempt to overthrow the then SMC II government of General Frederick Akuffo.
During his court martial or trial by a military tribunal, JJ Rawlings, as he was popularly called, showed great courage, when he boldly owned up to his actions and asked that the men accused alongside him be released in the famous phrase, “let my men go.”
He explained that the men were merely under his power and command, and should not be held accountable for their actions.
An uprising on June 4 however by the junior ranks, saw JJ being rescued from his cell to lead the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, which successfully overthrew the SMC II.
The AFRC upon overthrowing the SMC II, undertook a number of major actions, in their bid to set the country off towards a successful political path.
Key amongst them was an exercise they code named “house cleaning”, which saw the execution of eight top military officials including three former Heads of State.
People who were accused of accruing wealth through corrupt means, especially politically orchestrated corruption, also had their assets, including buildings and businesses confiscated, got imprisoned or suffered both punishments.
After a three-month rule by the AFRC, then Chairman Rawlings handed over to the late Former President Hilla Limann, who had emerged victor in that year’s Presidential election, on the ticket of the People’s National Party.
The AFRC had taken over at a time, when there was a pending election and in accordance with its vow, duly supervised the election and handed over to civilian rule in September, 1979.
On December 31, 1981, Former President Rawlings overthrew the Limann Government in a military coup, and replaced it with the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) of which he was chairman, and through which he ruled the country till 1992 when Ghana transitioned into multi-party democracy.
Former President Rawlings then resigned from the army, formed the National Democratic Congress, contested as its presidential candidate and won the 1992 presidential election, to become the first President of Ghana’s Fourth Republic.
After going on to win the next election in 1996 and remaining in office for another four year tenure, he handed over to Former President John Agyekum Kufuor in the year 2000, when Mr. Kufuor won that year’s election on the ticket of the New Patriotic Party.
Former President Rawlings took a number of International appointments such as African Union High Representative for Somalia, after stepping down as President.
He also remained active throughout his years as a former president in a number of capacities, and would often have his view on one national issue or another aired and discussed on the airwaves.
Former President Rawlings died at the age of 73 in November 2020, after a short illness.
He was interred at the Military Cemetery, Burma Camp, after being laid in state for three days, as part of his final funeral rites.