Members of Ghana’s main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Monday celebrated what it described as the virtues of the 1979 coup d’etat that brought former President Jerry Rawlings to power. However, opponents of the former president have condemned the celebration, claiming the day is not worth celebrating since lives were lost and basic human rights were trampled upon by elements of the coup. But supporters of Mr. Rawlings say the event marked a paradigm shift from a totalitarian government to an all-inclusive system.
Tony Aidoo is a former minister for defense during former President Rawlings’ regime. From the capital, Accra he told VOA that the virtues of the 1979 coup are significant in modern Ghanaian politics.
“The proper characterization of June four is that it was a revolt. A revolt by the junior officers of the Ghana Armed Forces against their officers, and their major reason was that the system of command and control had broken down. They felt that with the breakdown of the military and the political affairs of this country, at least what the high echelon of the military should have done was to live up to the principles and the expectations of the Ghana Armed Forces,” he noted.
Aidoo said at the time of the coup d’etat the system of governance had broken down.
“Unfortunately, the military officers had actually abused the ranks and then the political position and privileges that they have acquired. And the country itself was more or less in a moral turmoil; mal-administration, corruption was rife and a whole series of things,” Aidoo pointed out.
He denied the coup d’etat set Ghana’s democracy backwards.
“How could it have set the country back? A country that was in moral degeneration, total mal-administration, the economy itself was in tailspin. And another significant point that you must observe is this, not withstanding June 4th, the planned democratic elections to restore constitutional rule took place. So then nothing happened to affect the timetable for restoring constitutional rule,” he said.
Aidoo said the coup has served, as a caution for elected officials that they would have to account for their stewardship.
“At least it reminds us of the objective conditions at the time that either precipitated or served as justification for June 4th. Secondly, it also tells us that when a political leadership acquires a mandate and subsequently behaves irresponsibly, the persons who are identified as irresponsible leaders pay the price,” Aidoo noted.
He said the coup taught Ghanaians a lesson that could not be easily forgotten.
Don’t forget that the onslaught of the June 4th and the backlash even affected persons who have left office. A person like Afrifa (A general who was involved in overthrowing Ghana’s first president) was drawn from his village from retirement and executed. The lesson therefore means that it doesn’t matter how many years it takes, if your behavior or conduct creates such a social strife for the people, they will never forget. And the day of vengeance, they would even exhume your body from the grave and crucify your body,” he said.
Aidoo criticized President John Kufuor’s government for not adhering to the tenets and principles of the coup.
“The third lesson is that June 4th taught us certain cardinal principles of good political administration. Those were social justice, probity and accountability. Today, these principles appear to have been thrown to the dogs, therefore, the celebration of the event is a reminder to the current politicians that please don’t throw the country back to the days when it was necessary for military intervention,” he said.