Just a few hours ago, I heard something that made me shiver. I had goose bumps the size of boils as I listened. It left my mouth gaping and stomach churning with shock. Initially, it sounded like the voice of a beast (suddenly let lose) but after listening for a while it dawned on me that the speaker was a scared man, possibly with soggy pants. What I just heard is what Ghanaians woke up to on June 4, 1979 – Jerry John Rawlings’ announcement of the overthrow of the military regime of Frederick Akuffo.

The guy was due to appear before a military tribunal that morning to face charges of treason after staging an abortive coup about a fortnight earlier. Luckily for him, he is sprung out of jail, handed a pre-prepared script to read and announce the success of a coup he had no hand in.

I was just a little over two years in June 1979. I didn’t hear the Rawlings broadcast or any of the other counter announcements by the likes of Major Rida and General Odartey Wellington.

But as I grew up I’ve heard a lot said about the events of that day and I’ve read a lot about how Rawlings came to power – most of it mushy and skewed to favour (or malign) some political groups. But hearing the tape of a panting and scared Rawlings speaking on the morning of June 4, 1979 has put almost everything in proper perspective.

I am quite disappointed, though, that it took that long for me to hear that tape. Most of my contemporaries haven’t heard the tapes until JOY FM played them this morning – in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the June 4 insurrection.

It’s not difficult to understand why the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation has been keeping these materials in its archives without replaying them. First of all, it reminds Rawlings of his narrow escape and how far he’d come from a life of near-wretchedness to riches untold, with so many faceless friends who sponsored his kids’ education abroad. Secondly, the memories of that day are so painful for many that they’d rather not be reminded of the events that preceded the killing of their loved ones and the flagrant violations of the rights of anyone who dared to stand up against the marauding forces of the so-called revolution.

But we can’t just sweep history under the carpet like that. The bosses at GBC will be doing this nation a great disservice if they hide the audio (and video) recordings of those dark, dreadful days in their archives without playing them back to show (those of us in the youthful generations) and remind (those in the older generation) of what this country has been through. Such reminders, however painful they may be for some, should strengthen our resolve to “never again” allow that beast known as dictatorship in our midst again.

>>> The audio clip of Rawlings’ first coup announcement is posted in the audio section

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