Sergeant Daniel Alolga Akata-Pore (Rtd), a key figure in the defunct Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) has reiterated his appeal to former President Jerry John Rawlings to apologise to Ghanaians and victims of his December 31, 1981 revolution.
In a write-up on Wednesday, January 1, 2020, Sgt Akata-Pore (Rtd) said although he is aware his call for an apology would open old wounds that have healed with the passage of time and with some people suggesting that his motivation is to avenge the deaths of his colleagues at the hands of Rawlings, that “is unchristian on my part.”
Mr Rawlings has described the interventions of June 4, 1979, and December 31, 1981, as effects of the mood of the country at the time and called for the context and circumstances of the period to be factored when telling the story.
Addressing a durbar to climax the 38th anniversary of the December 31, Revolution at the Winneba Lorry Park on Tuesday, the leader of the two uprisings described those leading the distortion of the history as cowards, promising, “we will face them firmly.”
“We will tell our story!” he said.
This Sergeant Akata-Pore (Rtd) discounts.
He said “Although the events of June 4 are only thinly linked to those of the coup of 31st December 1981, the reality is that Rawlings was leader of both take-overs and he has publicly and repeatedly proclaimed sole ownership of both events. He is also on record to have referred to other architects of the take-overs, who were more circumspect in their actions, as cowards.
“In my view, the biggest reason for the need for an apology by Rawlings on behalf of all those who plotted the overthrow of the Limann administration is that Rawlings and Chris Atim plotted to overthrow the nascent Limann administration before they looked for reasons to convince other conspirators.
“When I first met Rawlings to discuss the plot it was in March or April 1980. Rawlings told me that the coup was imminent. Plotting a coup is not like planning for a shopping trip, so being imminent meant that the planning had been going on for some time.”
He pleaded with President Nana Akufo-Addo to consider instituting a day of remembrance for the 3rd Republic on the December 31, each year.
Read Sgt Akata-Pore (Rtd)’s full write up
Readers may please note that
1. I never excuse myself from any aspects of the 31st December 1981 coup – planning and execution, but I am not proud of my part in it. I was arrested in November 1982, eleven months into the P/NDC’s twenty-year continuous rule. I do not accept any personal responsibility for the events following 4th June 1979.
2. I have never argued against the overthrow of the SMC in 1979. The events on June 4, 1979, in my view, were a matter of course with very little planning. The internal contradictions within the SMC were the inevitable causes of its own downfall.
In the aftermath of the recent Joy FM’s ‘Scars of the Revolution’ program, I called on former President Rawlings to apologise to the direct victims of the 31st December 1981 coup as well the whole country for that coup. An apology in my view is the key to igniting the healing cells in the tortured bodies and minds of the victims. An apology even if it does not accept guilt, acknowledges the pain suffered by a victim. Compare the difference in one’s feeling when someone bumps into you accidentally and walks on versus when they stop to say sorry, as they most often do.
Although this call on Rawlings to apologise has generally been received well, some Ghanaians have questioned the necessity for such an apology on the basis that the events of 4th June 1979 the 31st December 1981 were well-intentioned.
Others have also pointed out that the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) which was set up by the Kufuor administration addressed all grievances related to all the events and made several recommendations aimed at healing wounds and providing closure for the victims and their families. My call for an apology would, therefore, open old wounds that have healed with the passage of time. Yet others have suggested to me that my motivation is to avenge the deaths of my colleagues at the hands of Rawlings and that this is unchristian on my part.
I completely disagree with the stated reasons questioning my call on Rawlings to apologise and wish to reiterate my call on Rawlings, if he has a conscience, to seize this opportune moment and make a sincere apology to all victims and Ghanaians alike for the 31st December 1981 Disruption of the third republic.
I write to partly explain why I think it is appropriate for Rawlings to apologise to the victims of 31st December 1981.
Although the events of June 4 are only thinly linked to those of the coup of 31st December 1981, the reality is that Rawlings was the leader of both take-overs and he has publicly and repeatedly proclaimed sole ownership of both events. He is also on record to have referred to other architects of the take-overs, who were more circumspect in their actions, as cowards.
In my view, the biggest reason for the need for an apology by Rawlings on behalf of all those who plotted the overthrow of the Limann administration is that Rawlings and Chris Atim plotted to overthrow the nascent Limann administration before they looked for reasons to convince other conspirators. When I first met Rawlings to discuss the plot it was in March or April 1980. Rawlings told me that the coup was imminent. Plotting a coup is not like planning for a shopping trip, so being imminent meant that the planning had been going on for some time.
Besides, Rawlings had made several unsuccessful attempts to meet me prior to Chris Atim meeting me in February 1980. My estimation is that the plot to overthrow Limann was hatched sometime in 1979, meaning that the Limann administration was hardly three months old when a coup had already been hatched against it. The Limann administration could have been overthrown any time after June 1980. Rawlings ruled Ghana for twenty years and is still frustrated that he could not rule for longer. Yet the PNP administration was hardly three months into its rule when he decided that he had had enough of it. How hypocritical!!
It is very painful that the families of my fallen comrades never got the chance to bury their dead. Their families were threatened and intimidated into disowning them in some cases. To complete their humiliation, their tortured bodies were dumped in mass graves at Mile Eleven on the Accra-Winneba Road, which area has now been completely built over.
My comrades were very special human beings and meant a lot to us, their comrades who managed to escape Rawlings’ death squads. We looked after each other and promised each other we would fight and die for each other.
My fallen comrades sacrificed their education, their relationships, their careers and their lives to save Ghana in the face of the yarn that was sold to us all by Rawlings for the 31st December coup. Many Ghanaians have, over the years, come to understand why we eventually turned against Rawlings when it dawned upon us that Rawlings was nothing but a cunning charlatan who had lied to us and the nation.
It is just not possible to avenge the deaths of men of the qualities which my comrades possessed. I believe that it would be very demeaning of the memory of my friends if my call on Rawlings to render an apology to Ghanaians and victims of the events of 31st December, is seen as an attempt to avenge their deaths. There can never be an action against Rawlings that would address the loss of many Ghanaians and what my colleagues suffered at the hands of Jerry John Rawlings and his cousins.
Now, to the argument that Rawlings had good intentions for his actions. In arguing against an apology from Rawlings, some have stated that since Rawlings had good intentions, there is no need for him to apologise. I find this ridiculous as this argument could be stretched to provide a reasonable excuse for any crime.
Consider a situation in which Robin Hood, claiming to be on the side of the poor, had raided a bank asserting that the intention was to share the loot among the poor. However, if in the end, he subdued the poor even further while he lined his own pockets with his loot, can we say that he had good intentions from the beginning?
What went wrong somewhere along the way? After clearing out the people with whom he initially set forth, he had a clear and unimpeded goal ahead of him. So what went wrong to distract him away from his original claims?
The best method for determining the genuineness of any original so-called intentions is to examine the outcomes. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”. It must be remembered that although Ghanaians first heard of Rawlings in May 1979, he and other officers had been planning a coup for some years prior to that date. Moreover, Rawlings was in power for nearly twenty years; twenty years during which he ruled with absolute power with hardly any opposition within his government or outside from November 1982. Twenty years in which Rawlings had an unimpeded path to implementing whatever plans he had, prior to taking overpower or those he developed whilst in power.
Unlike other Presidents of the 4th Republic, Rawlings cannot be excused on some grounds that he did not have enough time to implement his plans. Whilst other Presidents of the 4th Republic may claim they were constrained by strong opposition, Rawlings cannot claim any such cover, because he was an absolute dictator in his time. He physically manhandled in public, those who disagreed with him, such as his Vice-President, Mr Arkaah of blessed memory. I fail to see how manhandling a visibly weak and much older man, particularly when the victim happens to be the second gentleman of the nation, can be a trait of a good human being let alone a president. This is purely the action of a bully and nothing else. Not funny at all!!! While the lucky ones escaped into exile, others not so fortunate were tortured, executed or imprisoned for long periods.
Perhaps this argument about good intentions rather makes the case for an apology even better. Rawlings himself has said oftentimes that the current levels of corruption are much higher than they were in 1979 and 1981. He has, in the past, severally accused the Kufour administration of unparalleled corruption. Of the erstwhile Mahama government, he said that the NDC government did not live up to the standards of probity and accountability; the standards which, he claimed, gave birth to the NDC. Rawlings also never showed any respect towards president Mills, and openly disparaged him for poor governance as per 31st December standards and made a disgracefully unsuccessful attempt to replace him with his wife.
Ghanaians, therefore, have a right to ask what social and economic gains accrued to them, in exchange for the execution of three heads of state, five generals, the overthrow of the PNP government (led by President Limann), the exiling of hundreds of Ghanaians, the torture and murders of three high court judges and a retired Army Major, not to mention numerous other unexplained deaths such those which occurred in the Volta Region including one Yeye Boy in 1982 as well as the execution of twelve prisoners on 12th July 1993 when he had been a civilian president of the 4th Republic for over a year.
Sadly, the answer is NOTHING – Rawlings did not manage a single original social intervention idea let alone a project in all twenty years of his rule. Under such circumstances, you cannot argue that Ghanaians ‘suffered to gain’ under Rawlings. They simply suffered, then suffered even more and then they were forced to watch brutal executions and cowed into silence.
Instead of Ghanaians benefiting from his prolonged and stable twenty-year rule without any inhibition from any opposition party, Ghanaians are now witnessing the undeserved but humongous transformation of Rawlings, his family, cousins and friends into the Ghanaian and African rich-list. Rawlings has taken and continues to take so much from the state and yet has given nothing to the country by way of personal sacrifice. Contrary to his own story of having sacrificed a lot for Ghana, it is my view that Rawlings has sacrificed nothing for Ghana. Please read on.
In May 1979, Rawlings was in trouble for spending money he should have returned to the coffers of the Ghana Armed Forces. Rawlings had been scheduled to attend a military course in Pakistan. On his arrival in Pakistan, he was informed that the course had been cancelled. The military rules required him to have returned all the spending money he was allocated for the course. Rawlings, however, decided to go on a shopping spree and family trip to the UK home of Harrods and also to look for his father. He famously purchased a sporty MG car with some of the $4000.
This car became his pride and joy for a long time. On his return to Accra, the Armed Forces rightly imposed a re-payment plan on him so as to recover the unauthorised expenditure he had incurred. Rawlings was not pleased and decided instead to overthrow the SMC in revenge. As we all know, he failed miserably in that poor attempt and was arrested on the 15th of May 1979. Where is the Rawlings personal sacrifice for Ghana in the 15th May 1979 event?
On June 4th 1979, Rawlings was in prison waiting for the final hearing of his trial for the botched May 15th incident. He was released by the soldiers who led the uprising including Cpl Sarkodie of 5BN. Rawlings subsequently became the accidental head of the AFRC which was established following the uprising. So far, do you detect any personal sacrifice for Ghana on the part of Rawlings?
Now onto 31st December 1981. Following the handover of power from the AFRC to the Limann administration on 24th September 1979, Rawlings refused to take up a fully paid-up study program offered to him and other members of the AFRC by the Limann administration to study abroad.
Partly arising out of his disinterest in academic pursuits, he not only turned down this offer but subsequently fell out with other members of the AFRC who accepted the offer. Soon after the handover, rumours of Rawlings planning another coup became commonplace. The Limann government responded by deploying security personal to monitor his activities, which sadly included the overt trailing and tail-gating of his and his cousins’ vehicles. This had the unfortunate effect of winning Rawlings some public sympathy including mine. Nevertheless, he managed to recruit soldiers such as Braimah, Adabuga, Eric, Aliu, Biezu and I through his on-and-off bosom friend, Chris Atim, to mount a coup on 31st December 1981. You may still be scratching your head for the sacrifices Rawlings claims he made for the country.
Rawlings had nothing but his own self-inflicted misery by 15th May 1979. He had no career and certainly no education to sacrifice at the time. He won the hearts of many Ghanaians with his ‘leave my men alone’ speech at the trial. It must be noted that Rawlings knew that neither the process nor the outcome of the trial could be altered in any way with those words. The tribunal could not stop looking into the role of each accused person because Rawlings said so. Certainly, the panel was not going to release the other accused persons and punish Rawlings more severely for taking sole responsibility. It changed nothing except to raise Rawlings’ image. It was, admittedly, clever, but it was not original.
As a matter of fact, it is reported that Lt Arthur had said the same thing at his trial with Lt. Yeboah and Lt. Opoku in 1967. Arthur had claimed that he had tricked Lt. Yeboah and Lt. Opoku to participate in the abortive coup of 1967. The tribunal ignored him and found all three conspirators guilty; although Lt. Opoku was spared the death penalty. There is nothing inherently brave in taking sole responsibility in such matters. The punishment ends up being no more severe or less.
The events on 4th June and 31st December, however, gave Rawlings the luckiest of opportunities to swap his modest life for that of opulence and stardom which he so much desired and envied others for, but knew that he did not have the wherewithal to achieve in the normal course of his life.
Rawlings gave me two booklets on socialism and told me how much he regretted not reading a lot on the subject prior to May 15th 1979. I was convinced beyond any doubt that the quest to establish an egalitarian society, in which the conditions for the upliftment of one individual, would be the same conditions and opportunities for all, was the one and only reason for the coup. Instead, we got a Disruption of the system which enabled Rawlings to edge out Limann and ease himself into the seat of power for twenty years.
It also seems to me that both Rawlings and Chis Atim did not sell a consistent justification for the coup to all the conspirators: they gave a different reason for the coup based on their target’s outlook. You only need to listen to Cpl Adabuga and others and the nuanced language Chris Atim and Rawlings deployed in recruiting soldiers for the coup becomes obvious.
When I met Rawlings alone for the first time in March or April 1980, he was beside himself with apologies for what he had put me through in August 1979. He congratulated me on my performance at the trial and informed me that he had saved my life when other members of the AFRC had wanted to execute me on the occasion of my trial for plotting a coup against the regime in August 1979. He told me we now had a unique opportunity to bring about social justice based on Nkrumah’s ideas as I had said was my motivation during my trial by the AFRC in August 1979.
Is Rawlings going to apologise to victims and all Ghanaians for the outcomes of the 31st December 1981, in particular, or does he feel he achieved all his real aims for the coup and has, therefore, no need to apologise?
Rawlings’ had time, space and the power to achieve whatever he originally claimed he wanted to achieve for Ghana, with twenty years in power. He has eventually successfully turned himself and his close associates into millionaires. Perhaps he has turned the financial fortunes of his family for good. Who knows? Lest we forget, his wife famously said that she and her husband had created more millionaires in Ghana than all other presidents together had managed, so Ghanaians should be grateful for their husband’s lives. Well, she must know her fellow millionaires so it is difficult to argue against it.
Finally, in my view, had December 31st not occurred, June 4th would have been a more worthy milestone in our history despite the painful losses suffered by some Ghanaians. The disruption of the 3rd Republic on 31st December 1981 ironically sullied the image of 4th June 1979 mainly because the two events now get conflated or confused as they were both led by the now-discredited Rawlings.
Had Rawlings cooperated with the Limann administration, perhaps as a June 4 legacy minister, that government would have had a chance to address the issues raised on 4th June and may have made the third republic a success. In my view, whilst June 4 was unavoidable, 31st December was completely unnecessary and inexcusable given its outcomes. I do not excuse myself from any aspects of the disruption that took place on 31st December 1981. Had the aims and objectives of the coup been pursued resulting in a fairer society in which every child has the same opportunity to pursue their dreams no matter the background of their parents, perhaps even the direct victims of the coup would have been willing to let sleeping dogs lie.
Yes, there was social change, but it was a change of the undesirable kind for most Ghanaians. Consider the current plight of the youth. In Ghana today, a child born to poor parents is almost certainly going to grow up being poor with unfilled dreams no matter how hard they work; and a child born to rich parents is almost certain to grow up rich no matter how lazy. This is called the ‘who knows you society’.
I am imploring President Nana Akufo-Addo to consider instituting a day of remembrance for the 3rd Republic on December 31, each year. The president should reflect on the fact that the 3rd republic was hardly three months old when a plot to overthrow it was hatched. The Limann administration spent most of its time and resources on security partly because of its unlucky draw of being the first government after 4th June 1979 but mainly because Rawlings was hell-bent on getting back into power. Anybody with the smallest sense of justice and conscience must feel frustrated for the Limann administration, hence my call for a ‘The 3rd Republic day’ in honour of President Limann.