Though he has been widely praised for his undying exuberance and charisma during his lifetime, his history of coups have always somehow defined his persona on some other fronts.
He served as first President under the Fourth Republic, but before that, he had overseen two coup d’etats under his military regime; one on June 4, 1979, and another on December 31, 1981, which he called the revolution.
What were the two things he said on those occasions? Here’s a flashback:
June 4, 1979:
“Fellow Ghanaians, as you will notice, we are not playing the national anthem. In other words, this is not a coup. I ask for nothing less than a REVOLUTION – something that will transform the social and economic order of this country.
“The military is not to take over. We simply want to be part of the decision-making process in the country.
“Fellow citizens, it is now left to you to decide how this country is going to go from today. I am not here to impose myself on this country, far from it. We are asking for nothing more than the power to organize this country in such a way that nothing will be done from the Castle without the consent and authority of the people.
“In other words, the people, the farmers, the police, the soldiers, the workers you – the guardians- rich or poor, should be part of the decision-making process of this country. I’m prepared to, at this moment, face a firing squad, if what I’ve tried to do for the second time in my life does not meet the approval of Ghanaians.
“There is no justice in this society and so long as there is no justice, I would dare say let there be no peace. Today, we initiated a ‘Holy war’. To this end, the following measures I hereby take;
1. The 1979 third republican constitution of Ghana is suspended.
2. For the avoidance of any doubt, the following are emphasized;
a. The President, the vice President, all ministers and their deputies are dismissed from office
b. Parliament is dissolved
c. The council of state is abolished
d. All political parties are prescribed; it is, therefore, illegal for any person or persons to belong to or operate under any party.
December 31, 1981:
This is Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings. The ranks have just taken over the destiny of this country.
“I’m here to tell you just one of two things. If any further bloodshed had to be avoided in this country, everybody might have as well realize that the ranks have bored the blot of the sufferings of this country for too long. They want bloodshed, they want bloodshed, so for heaven’s sake, do not stand in their way.
“They are not fools. If you have any reason to fear them, you may run. If you have no reason to feel guilty, do not move. As I said, they are not fools. The judgment will come. This is what will take place in every unit outside Accra. All units are to elect their own representative to the new Revolutionary Council that has come to replace the Supreme Military Council which is no more.
The Ghana Armed Forces will be handing over to the civilians in due time. Elections will take place. But before the elections go on, justice which has been denied to the Ghanaian worker will have to take place. You are either a part of the problem or a part of the solution. There is no middle way.”
After each of the coups though, Rawlings made other speeches, in effect, to explain what the entire revolution was about and to enlighten people about the way forward. In 1979, the post-coup speech was read by JJ.
Rawlings, nearly a month after was to, among other things, explain why they took such harsh decisions, to assure them protection if they abided by the set rules and to explain their quest to address social injustice in the country.
In January 1982, after the 1981 Revolution, he again made a public announcement at the Ghana Broadcasting Cooperation to announce the creation and assumption of power by the PNDC, to explain the kind of real democracy that his group envisioned for Ghana, and to establish a new political system, based on a model of revolutionary socialism which would ensure active participation of the people in the decision-making process.
Below are the speeches as read post the 1979 and 1981 coups:
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