Former National Security Advisor, Brigadier General Joseph Nunoo-Mensah has eulogised former presidents Jerry Rawlings and Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
In comments that are certain to divide opinion, he said the two leaders have had the most profound impact on Ghana more than any other leader.
“Some are born great and these were indeed born great,” he stressed.
General Nunoo-Mensah was speaking on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show in celebration of the 70th birthday of former President Rawlings in whose military government he served.
Remembering his work in the government of the first president of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the retired military officer said both Mr Rawlings and Dr Nkrumah towered above other leaders in the country’s history.
Former Presidents Kwame Nkrumah (left) and Flt. Lft. Jerry John Rawlings
Singling out Mr Rawlings, he said the outspoken former president is still adored by Ghanaians for his principles and humility.
He said whilst he was young and inexperienced as a military ruler, Mr Rawlings had the foresight to assemble great minds who helped him govern.
Flt Lt. Jerry John Rawlings led a military uprising on June 4th, 1979 and led the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council that resulted from the Uprising.
He handed over power to Dr Hilla Limann who won the 1979 election.
Mr Rawlings returned on the 31st December 1981 in another coup, establishing the Provisional National Defence Council which ruled Ghana until 1992 when the country returned to democratic rule.
Brig. Gen. Nunoo-Mensah said whilst the government of the PNDC hurt some Ghanaians, it established the foundation for principled governance based on the enduring values of probity and accountability.
Recalling his first encounter with then Flt. Lt. Rawlings in 1977, Brig. Gen. Nunoo-Mensah then as Chief of Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces, said the military engaged in mock military drills along the Volta.
“The exercise was simply meant to see how the military – the army, navy and airforce – could work together. So in the mock exercise where an enemy had occupied a hill across the [Volta] River and we had to dislodge the enemy doing an amphibious crossing of the Volta.
“But then you had to call in the airforce to give you close air support…and so three McKee fighter planes took off to bomb the enemy site before the army went in to rout the enemy. The three pilots – I didn’t know who were in the planes – but the two earlier ones flew a little bit higher. The third one flew so low as if he was hitting the tree, so low and made so much noise and the bravery of the man, you couldn’t miss it, whoever was in the plane…so when I came back I tried to find out, who is this brave, daring pilot who flew almost at the tree tops…this pilot’s bravery was beyond belief,” he narrated with nostalgia.”
The Chief of Staff of the Army would two years down the lane find himself working under the young, brave, daring pilot in 1979.
“We were running the government – myself, Air Marshal Boakye, Gen. Amidu, Dr Abbey. He knew that they were not competent to run the government – he needed elderly people to help him, he called us. We were running the government from the guardroom. He did appreciate that we were men of substance that could help him run the government.
He believes Mr Rawlings is a unique man, “you don’t have anybody of his kind.”
He said there are great people who come once in a century in every nation’s history. Ghana, he believes is lucky have had two of such people in a century – Mr Rawlings and Dr Nkrumah.
Mr. Rawlings was angry with society and came on June 4th to demonstrate the anger of the people against the military government at the time, “he didn’t come to run the country,” Gen. Nunoo-Mensah explained.
He said Mr Rawlings came back in 1981 only because the ills that necessitated the June 4th Uprising still pervaded the Limann government.
Rawlings had hoped “that the good that he established would continue but it wasn’t long when the same problems of corruption, mismanagement started rearing its ugly head again,” he said.
Gen. Nunoo-Mensah said he saw Mr Rawlings three days ago and the man whose party lost the last elections miserably “is still in a very sad mood and the reason is very simple – after these years, Ghana is getting worst – indiscipline, corruption, madness on the road, impunity (which is the worst one), nobody gets punished for a crime, nobody.”
He said it was sad that even though three heads of state and other military leaders were executed, “still we haven’t changed, we are more criminal than those days.”