Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

De Graft Johnson on Ghana today

By our own reporter

Ghana's former Vice-President Dr de Graft Johnson met the international media at the Africa Centre last Tuesday for the first time since his arrival in London in March and threw a challenge to Flt-Lt Jerry Rawlings to test his alleged popularity through the ballot box.

Dr de Graft Johnson who was released from a twenty month detention after the overthrow of the PNP administration in December 1981 rejected reports in the Western media that Flt-Lt Rawlings is a popular leader and asserted that the only way political leadership can test its popularity is through the ballot box.

At a well attended press conference organised by the Ghana Democratic Movement the Vice President who said his presence was in honour of all fellow Ghanaians who are prepared to fight the oppressor's rule stated that "Rawlings says he does not believe in the ballot box. If he is popular, let him go to the polls. We will show him what popularity means to the people".

He said, if there was one issue the whole of Africa agreed upon, it was that one-man one vote was the only logical concept to destroy apartheid in South Africa, and yet people like Rawlings do irreparable damage to this cause by their disregard for universal adult suffrage in their own countries.

"In 1957 we fought for independence from Britain, 28 years later we are still fighting for independence from a half-Scot", Dr de Graft Johnson lamented to his audience.

A questioner who wanted to know Dr de Graft Johnson's reaction to the notion that civilian incompetence justified military intervention in Africa was given a comparison of the known activities of the military and civilian administration with the conclusion that the civilian administrations no matter the ills, had avenues for checks and balances.

On recent arrests in Ghana following the Soussoudis-Scranage Central Intelligence Agency Affair, Dr de Graft Johnson regretted that the incident had merely provided the opportunity for the Provisional National Defence Council to clamp down on opponents of the regime.

He appealed to the United States to publish the names of its informants in Ghana in order to save innocent Ghanaians from being persecuted.

Dr de Graft Johnson mentioned Messrs Okudzeto, Tommy Thompson, Obeng Manu and Dr Bilson who, as known critics of the military regime, have been arrested without specific charges and the public left to draw conclusions in the midst of the CIA episode.

Dr de Graft Johnson decried the spate of executions and political assassinations in Ghana and said executions had never been part of Ghanaian politics until Fl-Lt Rawlings burst on the political scene in 1979.

He said apart from three executions which were tried in open courts - Ametewee, for an attempt on the life of Dr Nkrumah in the 60's and Lts Yeboah and Arthur for attempting to overthrow the National Liberation Council in 1967 during which Maj-Gen Kotoka, then a leading member of the Government was killed - there had been no political bloodshed in Ghana.

Dr de Graft Johnson at the press conference.

The ex-Vice-President told the gathering that even through somebody like ex-Capt Kojo Tsikata, PNDC member in charge of security and foreign affairs was sentenced to death for attempting a coup he was never executed.

He said the fact that the PNDC has not been able to prefer charges against any member of the deposed Government of Dr. Limann after their investigations is enough proof that the civilian regime could not have been corrupt.

Dr de Graft Johnson stated that though indications at the time of assuming power by the PNP in 1979 were that the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council of which Jerry Rawlings was chairman collected over C600m in taxes only C22m could be accounted for. A Committee set up to investigate the affairs could not finish its duty before the December 31 coup d'etat, but when Rawlings was called upon to help with the investigations, his answer was that he was not an accountant.

Dr de Graft Johnson ridiculed the description of Rawlings regime as the only one capable of implementing the IMF/World Bank measures and noted that even though the PNP was about to devalue the cedi and thus pave the way for International Monetary Fund's assistance in national development, the PNP regime was never going to devalue to the extent done by the military regime.

On the competence of Flt-L Rawlings as leader, the Ex-Vice-President was positive that evidence available did not carry weight in that direction. "His academic performance as well as his professional duties did not suggest he is competent".

Dr de Graft Johnson said Flt-L Rawlings was a frustrated person at the time of the coup because he could no make ends meet. This situation resulted from debt incurred by Rawlings following his inability to account for the foreign exchange allocation for a trip to Pakistan to do a course which never took place.

Mr J. H. Mensah the Chairman of the Ghana Democratic Movement debunked the notion that Africa requires a change of Government from the barrel of a gun.

"If you go to my village you can’t get the stool because you have the gun. You have to be in line of succession to qualify to occupy the stool", he said

The function provided an opportunity for a cross section of Ghanaian exiles to have a useful interaction. An as they departed incensed by the Vice President's confirmation of the terrible molestation of Rawlings' political prisoners there was general lament the former central regional Minister,

talking drums 1985-08-12 Ghana's former vice-president speaks from exile