Written By: Duke Tagoe
Many have sought to explain the role of Former President Jerry John Rawlings in the 31st December Revolution and in the Provisional National Defense Council with often conflicting accounts but this one is mind boggling.
But was there a revolution in Ghana and if there was why did it fail and what lessons can be learnt. This instructive and ground shaking letter of a key element in the PNDC may provide some answers.
Chris Bukari Atim was one of the seven original members of the PNDC that took power in Ghana on December 31, 1981. In his resignation letter of 3rd December 1983 addressed to Jerry John Rawlings, Chairman of the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), Mr Atim speaks of the “derailment and the betrayal of the revolutionary process” and how the hopes of farmers, students and soldiers were smashed in their quest to build a new Ghana based on the principles of social justice and equality for all. More importantly, if what we are being told in this letter is true, why is Jerry John Rawlings walking about as a free-man swinging his waist all over the place?
As you read this letter together with many other brilliant pieces from progressive writers like Kojo Nubuor Ababio, Kwesi Pratt Jnr and with the grassroots mobilization of Explo Nani Kofi of Kilombo, it is my hope that we’ll reflect on how to better organise the masses towards the building of a better Ghana for all.
“Our war is not a war of conquest, it is a war of revolutionary liberation. We fight not only in self-defense but to free, unite and reconstruct”-Kwame Nkrumah
c/o P.N.D.C HQ.,
3rd DECEMBER, 1983
LETTER OF RESIGNATION
I address this letter to you (Jerry John Rawlings) but also to the broad masses of Ghana because this country is passing through its most trying moment and you have consistently refused to tell Ghanaians the truth about what is going on.
As a member of the P.N.D.C who together with yourself and Sgt. Akata-Pore was most closely involved in the organization of the Revolution of 31st December 1981, I, more than anyone else in the leadership today, have a moral right as well as an obligation to speak out clearly against the derailment and betrayal of the Revolutionary Process which we all struggled so hard for, and against the system of organized opportunism, injustice and brutal oppression of honest, hard-working, selfless and patriotic soldiers, ordinary workers and brave champions of the 31st December Revolution which you are orchestrating and presiding over.
After the AFRC ‘handed over’ in 1979 and Limann’s government started the persecution and harassment of patriotic soldiers including yourself for their involvement in the June 4 uprising, it was the June 4 Movement, small as it was, and the student Movement which stood solidly against the reversal of the gains of June 4 and mobilized the mass of the people to resist the PNP machinations against you and other patriots. Sometimes it was a lonely fight and a lot of animosity was created. They were harassed and persecuted by the security agencies and accused of plotting coups, making guerilla camps, and so forth.
Today, under your leadership, these radiant flowers, these heroes of the 31st December Revolution are suffering worse harassment and persecution than under the PNP. Where Limann allowed others to do this dirty work for him, YOU ARE PERSONALLY carrying out the arrest and torture of these brave young men, Bokassa style, and forcing them to confess things that they have not done, assisted by Captain Tsikata and Mr. B.B.D Asamoah in the castle.
In the Armed Forces , your record of persecution of other ranks is even more appalling. ARBITRARY ARRESTS and detention of soldiers on fake charges or even no charge at all has become a daily routine.
Today, the biggest weapon in your crusade of deceit and cover-up to frame up people you want to eliminate is TRIBALISM. When Sgt. Alolga Akata-pore and I worked very closely with you towards 31st December against a government which was popularly thought to be a Northern one, you never saw any Tribalism in it. You have even forgotten (or perhaps never knew) that among the three key elements from the Recce Regiment (incidentally all Northern soldiers) that we kept in touch with constantly for almost a year before 31st December, one of them is actually from Limann’s village. Today all these gallant soldiers together even with their remotest friends are suffering in jail, accused of tribalism (‘?’) and the most ridiculous fabricated charges.
WHAT YOU ARE AFRAID TO ADMIT TO YOURSELF, AND TO THE PEOPLE OF GHANA IS THAT THE DIFFERENCES THAT HAVE ARISEN AMONGST US HAVE NOTHING WHATEVER TO DO WITH TRIBALISM. BUT RATHER, ON QUESTIONS OF PRINCIPLE-e.g. LACK OF A PROGRAMME, WHERE THE REVOLUTION IS GOING, YOUR DICTOTORIAL AND ERRATIC STYLE OF RUNNING THE GOVERNMENT, AND YOUR BETRAYAL OF THE ORIGINAL AIMS OF DECEMBER 31ST. YOU ARE SHOUTING TRIBALISM MERELY TO DIVERT ATTENTION FROM THESE REAL AND CONCRETE ISSUES.
How could you so easily write off the critical, dangerous and sensitive role played by Sgt. Akata-Pore in the events of 31st December? A soldier who sacrifices his duties studies at the University to undertake special assignments which saved your life several times, and enabled us to outsmart the security agencies when they decided to arrest you and I a few days before 31st December? Knowing that the mass of the people are not aware of the true story of December 31st, you can afford now to stand on platforms and tell cock and bull stories of some so-called “eight bold soldiers” including yourself who, one fine day, materialized from nowhere, got organized (we are not told how) and stormed the “gates of heaven” to liberate Ghanaians from their slavery. These ‘silent heroes’ who are not on the PNDC, but who you claim deserve better to be on the council than everybody else except yourself, why can’t you name them? If you want to be honest with the people of this country why don’t you mention the names of those eight heroes and let other Ghanaians judge your claims? I am positively certain that you will never dare to mention of those eight, not only because it might give people a real clue to the connections of those who kidnapped and killed the judges last June as well as PDC activists in the Volta Region, but also because the masses will see more clearly some of the people the Chairman of the PNDC considers the proper ‘revolutionaries’ and the kind of people he would have liked on the PNDC.
Who are the heroes of 31st December? Without in the least overlooking the crucial role of certain individuals in history and notwithstanding whatever heroic part that any “eight daring commandos” can play, it is very necessary to emphasise that NOWHERE IS REVOLUTION POSSIBLE WITTHOUT THE PARTICIPATION OF THE BROAD MASSES. The real heroes of any revolution are the masses: In this case, all those workers and progressives who struggled and created the conditions for December 31st, then organized to consolidate the uprising, the mass of the soldiers who could have, but refused to oppose the uprising and rather welcomed and took part in it, the PDC elements who are being harassed and killed for their valour and patriotism and the cadres of the NDC secretariat (formerly INCC) who worked so hard and selflessly WITHOUT PAY and oftentimes without food to keep the flames of the revolution alive.
I must confess that I am among the most disappointed and saddest persons in the country today. I am pained about my colleagues and comrades in the cells, about the regime of fascism and insipient dictatorship which you are instituting, about the personality cult which you are gradually cultivating with the aid of sycophants, charlatans, opportunists, and all types of counter-revolutionaries who are the only people now surrounding you. I am appalled at the obvious betrayal of the revolutionary hopes and aspirations of our people which you are carrying with monstrous cynicism under the banner of revolutionary rhetoric and bare faced lies. “The worst kind of counter-revolutionary”, to quote you, “is the one who uses the revolutionary language but does otherwise”.
It is now crystal clear that you have abandoned the original goals of the revolution to become a fascist dictator while continuing to deceive the masses with populist rhetoric and sheer demagoguery. The warning that you gave to Captain Tsikata, P.V Obeng and myself at the Castle sometime ago that if we did not eliminate the influence of the NDM in the revolution you would abandon the progressives and become a dictator on your own is now being carried out.
It is not strange to me at all that you should be mounting a campaign against the June 4 Movement of which you are Chairman and other progressive organizations today. I understand you perfectly. To be a dictator, a “SHOGUN” it is necessary to destroy all institutions and persons who are “forces to reckon with”, who are capable of exercising some independent authority or influence and who cannot be bribed or cajoled into abandoning their principles. You are aiming to be your favourite idol, Lord Taranaga, SHOGUN (or Supreme ruler in Japanese) which was inscribed on your birthday cake last June, a picture of which exists.
Only a simpleton will believe that the real reason you started to hate the cadre of the June 4 Movement and the NDC secretariat was that they were creating so-called ‘animosity’ by their statements. After all, who has created more animosity in this country since 31st December than those among the eight nameless so-called heroes who organized, abducted and killed the judges and the retired Major in cold blood last June? Who has created more animosity in this country than Captain Kojo Tsikata who is the most unpopular single individual in Ghana today and yet is your closest confidante, wielding a tremendous amount of power and spending lots of foreign exchange without accounting to anybody but himself?
No, there are deeper reasons why certain cadres and organizations have to be liquidated or neutralised.
You made it very plain on October 27th when you said to members of the Council during a heated argument that you made a mistake in allowing Sgt. Akata-Pore and I to be on the Council because we were sure to become, in your words, “forces to reckon with” and it will be difficult to “manipulate” us or play any tricks around us. When you said this I knew straightaway what would follow-thus the developments since October 29th and your attempts to frame us up are not too surprising.
Yet Akata-Pore and I never wanted to become members of the Council. You remember that even before 31st December, I told you that after the uprising my greatest wish was to remain where I was, to continue to make my modest contribution. I finally accepted to be a member of the Council on the insistence of you and Captain Tsikata after the uprising.
I do remember also that Sgt. Alolga was very much opposed to being put on the Council insisting that he had to go back to school. I took part in convincing him to represent the revolutionary ranks on the Council because all of us appreciated his modesty and simple honesty, which was in sharp contrast to some of his other colleagues.
Having being convinced to serve, we all thought honestly and sincerely that this time a true revolution that would bring dignity, greater freedom, and justice to our people was beginning. WE DID NOT UNDER-RATE THE PROBLEMS, but all of us were inspired by your leadership and the common goals which we shared.
Before 31st December, the three of us-You, Akata-Pore and I were in total agreement about what kind of revolution we were trying to make, and all the soldiers we were in touch with were in agreement as well.
The broad outline of a future political programme for the revolution was contained in the first issue of the “Workers Banner”, in the leading article entitled “Which Way Forward-Workers, Soldiers, Policemen and Farmers and Ghana?” That paper helped greatly to prepare the climate among the troops for 31st December. You remember quite well that soldiers who were found with that paper were arrested and beaten up. One soldier at MATS was even arrested, beaten and transferred to Tamale for talking to his RSM “as if he had read the “Workers’ Banner”!
If we had taken that outline programme seriously there would have been no crisis such as we are witnessing today.
But to continue with our expectations at the beginning of the revolution, we knew that along the way there would be mistakes, even big ones. After all, revolution is a very difficult thing and the only human being who does not make a mistake is the one who does nothing. But so long as frank and open discussions of all matters take place, we would definitely find the correct path forward despite any difficulties.
But very quickly it became clear that all the shouting about democratization of decision-making, Power to the people and so forth was hypocritical through and through. There is not even the slightest democracy within the PNDC itself, the highest revolutionary organ in the country. Little wonder the PDCs met with many frustrations and started degenerating all over the country.
There is no PNDC outside of Capt. Tsikata and yourself. How can there be a revolution without democratic leadership, without collective decision-making and open and frank discussion of the fundamental issues of the revolution? How can mistakes be corrected if there is no forum for discussing them?
Every attempt has been made so far to achieve a certain minimum level of mutual confidence, and collective responsibility has been frustrated by you and Capt. Tsikata. As a result the PNDC as a government does not exist except in name.
It is merely a convenient cover under which you and Capt. Tsikata carry out your undemocratic rule. The PNDC government is a farce and this has been fully borne out by recent events.
You have remained insensitive to the cry of the masses for a clear direction and programme for the revolution. In the absence of any material benefits and in the midst of so much suffering and pain, the very least we can do is to give the people a clear indication of how we intend to lead them out of the crisis and to mobilise them around such a programme. If people have no food to eat, the revolution must offer them some well-founded hope or demonstrate the capacity to organise them to produce food or else they will abandon it.
The demand for a clear direction and programme for the revolution is a just and sensible one but the insults that you have been heaping on some of us for supporting that demand does not inspire any confidence in the honesty of your intentions. We feel very much betrayed.
A revolution thrives in the constant mobilisation of the people, on being frank, honest and open with them all the time. Any attempt to depoliticize them, create confusion in their minds, divide them or withhold the truth from them, is counter-revolutionary and you have done all these things. Having called for PDCs you turned out to be the chief obstacle to their development. As a result they have no legal backing, no power, and certainly do not share in any decision making process, which is concentrated in your hands. You have to direct responsibility for the excesses and misguided things which have been done by some PDCs, out of frustration and /national direction from the PNDC.
In order just to survive and hold on to power you have raised the national spectre and thereby disarmed the political consciousness of people the high level of which had been one of the greatest achievements of the December 31st revolution. Never in the history of Ghana have such primitive and backward sentiments like tribalism become so dominant in our lives. Pursuing the same divide and rule tactics, you have set military units against each other, and, within the units, tribe against tribe. Right now there is a great deal of tension in the armed forces and the country as a whole, created by these your survival antics.
At the beginning of the crisis I was convinced that the only way to resolve it was to unite the revolutionary forces. The situation called for statesmanship, all personal considerations set aside. But you were in no mood for any such solution. Instead, you set about deliberately trying to widen the division in the leadership with false propaganda and provocative fabrication.
That was an open invitation for counter-revolution to step in. Counter-revolution was bound to take advantage of the divisions in the revolutionary leadership and it seems from the speech you made at the Independence Square recently that you realised this very well and waited for it to happen so that you could use the opportunity to wipe out that section of the PNDC and the revolutionary forces you considered a threat to yourself.
The suspicious circumstances surrounding the coup attempt of 23rd November and your immediate action in arresting members of the June 4 Movement, the NDC secretariat, Sgt. Akata-Pore and those soldiers who, out of their commitment to the revolution, stood bravely to quell the coup attempt confirm this beyond a doubt. Whoever heard of the coup attempt in which virtually all the leaders of the attempt are allowed to escape first and rather those soldiers who fought to crush the coup are immediately arrested? Was it coincidence that you invited Akata-Pore to the castle in the afternoon of the November 23rd, and Capt. Tsikata invited me to the same place that same afternoon, which you are now using as proof that Alolga and I were coming to make sure everything was set for the so-called coup? What a miserable frame-up!
And why should Sgt. Akata-Pore, one of the brightest flowers of the December 31st Revolution, be dismissed from the PNDC when investigations are still to be conducted into the allegations against him? (I am aware that a soldier at post Flagstaff House has been arrested for asking the same question).
In these circumstances I cannot continue to maintain the deceit that I am part of a government which is committing such atrocious crimes against the people. I have personally been a victim of your harassment. Twice, on your orders, I have been searched and completely disarmed together with my body guard, and some of my personal belongings taken away by a group of heavily armed soldiers led by Lt. Richter-Addo, who incidentally refused to have anything to do with the events of December 31st, out of cowardice. They practically destroyed the flat of a lecturer friend with whom I was staying.
I had hoped that the interest of the country would make you see reason and permit a peaceful solution of the matter. But I am fully convinced now that my continued membership of the Council serves no practical purpose whatever except helping to legitimise what is going on now.
I have decided therefore to resign formally from the PNDC. Nevertheless, my love for this country is profound, and I am deeply worried and disturbed by its present state. Our people have had enough, and in the name of the long suffering people of Ghana, I ask you to display some statesmanship by releasing Sgt. Akata-Pore and all the soldiers and civilians you have detained for no discernible reason, and to begin a genuine process of reconciliation. This is the only way we can save our country, and avoid disaster. If you continue along your present path you would not only kill a young revolution but also the spirit of a whole people and prepare the grounds for a worse government to take over, for you will never survive to become SHOGUN of Ghana, no matter how many Mowags and tanks you surround yourself with in the castle. I am sure that you would not want posterity to remember you as the architect of Ghana’s doom.
I hope that is it not too late for you to see reason and put Ghana’s interests above your own.
THE CHAIRMAN OF THE PNDC,
BURMA CAMP.C.c. To The People of Ghana.