Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings staged his first military coup as a young revolutionary on 15th May 1979, five weeks before the scheduled elections to return Ghana into civilian rule.
This attempt at capturing power however failed and Rawlings was arrested. He was publicly sentenced to death in a General Court Martial and imprisoned, although his statements on the social injustices that motivated his actions won him civilian sympathy.
While awaiting execution, Rawlings was sprung from custody on 4 June 1979 by a group of soldiers. Claiming that the government was corrupt beyond redemption and that new leadership was required for Ghana’s development, he led the group in a coup to oust the Akuffo Government and Supreme Military Council.
Below is the statement he made while on trial for his failed coup;
“Now you listen to me well and good because I am not here to make a speech and I am not here to waste my time talking. First and foremost, let me inform you that I am not here to impose myself on 10 million citizens of this country. But I am telling you that, I am here today in the history of this country to address myself to military senior officers, all those politicians, all those businessmen and foreign criminals who have used our blood, sweat and tears- the tools of our labouring- to enrich themselves, to drown in wine and women, while you and I, while the majority of us, are daily struggling for survival, yes! I know what it feels like going to bed with a headache for want of food in the stomach. I am not an expert in Economics and I am not an expert in Law but I am an expert in working on an empty stomach while wondering when and where the nest meal will come from. Let me tell you, the struggling and suffering masses, just one little warning. Should anyone or group of you dare collaborate or help exploiting pigs to run away, this country will once more bleed than we anticipated.I am going to prove to you today that it is no longer a question of the military against the civilians, it is no longer a question of the Akan against the Ewe, the Ga against the Northerner. But a question of those who have against those who have not, a question of a vast majority of hungry people against a very tiny minority of greedy, inhumane, selfish senior officers, politicians, businessmen and their bank managers and a bunch of cowardly Lebanese who will not stay in their country to fight for a cause. But who is a fool? You and I.You and I are the bigger fool for allowing such a blatant abuse of human dignity for so long. 22 years after independence, you and I are still hitting our heads on the ground and leaving it all to God to save us one day. Where on this earth had God come to the salvation of a people without the suffering, starving, hungry people taking the law into their own hands!America has seen her brand of revolution, France has seen her brand of revolution, Britain has seen her brand of revolution , Russia, China, Iran, all of them. Only the black man in the black African continent goes on leading his fellow black men like a herd of cattle while suppressing them like slaves. Let me tell you today that God will not help you, and the big men will not help you because his stomach is full, his children’s stomachs are full and there is enough for them to go and come as they like. Only you can help yourself.”