Flt. Lt. Rawlings must stop obfuscating, he must come out with the truth

JJ Rawlings White Jerry John Rawlings is a former military leader

Wed, 29 Jul 2020 Source: Kwasi Adu

The issue is very simple. Flt. Lt. Rawlings goes on Asaase Radio on 5th July 2020, and while laying claim to his usually self-professed sense of “the truth”, he accuses me of writing “something nasty, ugly” about him, to the effect that during the PNDC regime, he had mixed “cement powder, and thrown it down somebody’s throat and poured water after it”. I wrote denying ever writing any such story and requested him to produce evidence of the write-up to prove his accusation against me.

Instead of producing that write-up to prove his truth, he goes on a walk-about in the wilderness, saying how I should open my “mind and eyes to some of the machinations that were going on in Ghana”, such as the murder of the “Yaa Naa and his 39 elders, the masterminds behind the killing of the 34 women”, etc etc. His transparent attempt to run away from the challenge was described beautifully by my youngest son in a WhatsApp message to me on the subject.

He observed thus:

“I've read your article and response. Mr Rawlings' response was frankly poor. He didn't respond to your challenge to publish the article that he claimed you wrote. He did not address your assertion of his involvement of the events of 30th June 1982. He didn't dare to comment on the double standard between his (Rawlings) amassed wealth and the persecution of Gen. Acheampong on those same charges. And he certainly kept his mouth closed about the plot to burn down the TUC headquarters. On all of these matters he had simply nothing to say. His silence here is ironically very loud, and quite telling.

“Instead, he attempted to patronise and insult you. Amongst my peers, we would say 'he tried to son you' as in treat you like a boy. He professed his commitment to striving for all that is good in the world, whilst bypassing scrutiny of his actions that run contrary to his professions.

“This is a very transparent tactic of denial, deflection, obfuscation and denigration. I'm sure readers of both your article and his response will be left with similar feelings, the sense that Mr Rawlings’ response lacked detail and was void of substance. ……. And will a leopard ever change his spots? In his response, he simultaneously says nothing and tells us absolutely everything. He is a canny operator and has been from day one, but one lie can only multiply, and his lies are seemingly so plentiful that they are visible in their absence.”

I couldn’t have put it any better.

In any case, what has the murder of the Yaa Naa (however atrocious and condemnable) got to do with whether or not I had written somewhere that he had made someone to swallow cement? This is the crux of the matter, and he should stop pussyfooting and bring out his evidence.

The time has come to drag the feet of Flt. Lt. Rawlings to the fire of truth, probity, accountability. How can he claim to stand for probity and the truth when he cannot have the courage of his convictions to produce a write-up that he claims exists: or has it magically vanished like the video tapes he asked to be made in 1983 depicting the dragging of the dead bodies of Giwah, Aliu, Awal and other soldiers on the grounds of Gondar Barracks? And how can he claim that he stands for accountability when he immunizes himself against any form of accountability with the Transitional Provisions of the Constitution? That is why I find it comical to hear him try to determine for me, what I could have spent my time in exile doing as well as the period of my relocation back in Ghana. He appears oblivious to the fact that he has no moral authority to hold me to any expectations.

Indeed, it was an eye-opener enough for me to know that my friend, for whom I had risked my life on the morning of 31st December 1981 by snatching his wife and two children (Ezanetor and Yaa Asantewah) into hiding and safety, in the face of the presence military intelligence and special branch officers around his flat, had later wanted to harm me. My only offence was that, I and some of my friends, had disagreed with him and his newly found friends regarding the emerging economic and political direction of the PNDC.

I also recall with great sadness, that a harmless Kwame Adjima, who, on that morning of 31st December 1981, had accompanied me to bring out members of the Nungua branch of the June 4 Movement unto the streets for the first pro-PNDC demonstration, was put in detention in March or April 1983, and later hounded down by PNDC soldiers from his village in the Volta Region, and shot dead in the wake of the 19th June 1983 jail-break.

Another surreal experience that illuminated my understanding of the mindset of Flt. Lt. Rawlings occurred in 1984 when I ran into Colonel Bernasko (of the 1970s’ Operation Feed Yourself fame), sometime in 1984 in Balham Market (South London). He was doing his household shopping, in the uniform of a security company. I approached him and, among other things, asked what had brought him to the UK.

Colonel Bernasko recounted how PNDC soldiers had invaded his residence, looking to arrest him. Not knowing what he had done to deserve being arrested, he became fearful for his safety. He had then left Ghana, using unapproved routes, firstly to Togo, and eventually ended up in the UK. As I walked away, I kept wondering what might have triggered the PNDC to have wanted to arrest him. After all, he had been a popular Commissioner of Agriculture in the Acheampong regime, and in 1979 had led a vibrant Action Congress Party (ACP). Then it clicked!!!

Sometime in early 1981, there had been a catastrophic train accident in Asuoyaa, (near Koforidua). The accident was, at the time, called the Asuoyaa Train Disaster, because dozens of people had lost their lives and more than 200 were estimated to have sustained severe injuries. After about the third day or so, the afternoon radio news reported that the hospitals were overwhelmed with injured people, many of whom required blood transfusion. I was with Flt. Lt. Rawlings in his flat, when the radio report announced that Colonel Bernasko, then leader of the ACP, had gone to donate blood.

“Bastard! ……. Bastard!! …..Baastard!!!” Flt. Lt. Rawlings bellowed. I asked him what was wrong. “You don’t get it, do you? Bernasko has gone to donate blood to the disaster victims!” he yelled. To this, I responded, “But he has done well. We can also go and donate some blood”. “That’s not the point”, he screamed. “By being the first to do it, he takes the shine off everybody else”. For a moment, I chuckled and nearly said: “You mean yourself”, but could not summon the courage to say it. He went to sit on the edge of one of the settees, which he said he had “cannibalized” out of aircraft seats. He began to sulk. “Why didn’t I think about it before?” he eventually sighed.

Fast forward, to 1984 when I met Colonel Bernasko. As I walked home, I began to wonder whether that singular altruistic and well-meaning act of Col. Bernasko, might have turned him into an unwitting threat to Flt. Lt. Rawlings’s desire for personal popularity, which, once he got military power, wanted Col. Bernasko out of the way. As I remembered these, my eyes welled up with tears.

As the days went by, I began to consider the Colonel as lucky; because he had escaped the fate that befell Apostle Barnabas, then Editor-in-Chief of The Believer newspaper. Apostle Barnabas vanished from the face of the earth without trace, after he expressed his suspicions in his paper in 1982 regarding those he presumed to have been behind the murder of the three judges and the retired army Major. Yet, this was the same Apostle Barnabas, who had given Flt. Lt. Rawlings and the June Four Movement, free and copious space in his paper for the activities of the June Four Movement, including the publication of the manifesto of the JFM in 1981.

Furthermore, what could be a more poignant case of a “mind and eye-opener” to hear Flt. Lt. Rawlings admit in 2020 on Asaase Radio, that in fact, there was no “People’s Court” that tried and sentenced the senior army officers during the AFRC time, but it was just a case of gathering names of “good people”, including one suggested by an unnamed army General, and rounding them up to be shot?. Yet here I was , in 1980, accompanying Flt. Lt. Rawlings around the courts, variously presided over by Mr Justice F. Poku Sarkodee, Mrs Justice Cecilia Koranteng-Addo and Mr Justice Kwadwo Agyei Agyepong, where he affirmed that those executed or imprisoned during the AFRC time, had been properly tried by a “People’s Court”. No wonder he could not tell the courts at the time where the trial proceedings were.

When a person like that attempts to assume a position to want to preach about “open minds and eyes” to another person, it becomes clear that he has no moral authority to do so.

In what a friend has described as a “cowardly retreat” from my challenge to him to prove the truth regarding his allegation against me, Flt. Lt. Rawlings takes cover under the cloak of issues unrelated to the subject. After all, that has been his trademark. In the past, whenever he was faced with a valid point to which he had no answer, he would cloud the space with meaningless orations, such as “the freedom to be and the freedom to have” (whatever that meant).

He has another chance to restore some of his integrity: he should produce the so-called write-up about the swallowed cement. Otherwise, future generations could see him as one who did not truly believe in anything, but was a brilliant actor who, in the pursuit of his personal interests, hi-jacked other people’s genuine aspirations and struggles for social justice, by initially pretending to agree with them.

The author, Kwasi Adu, is a Former President of the June Fourth Movement and Former Chairman of the Youth League of Ghana

Columnist: Kwasi Adu