The Man himself! The ‘great’ General Kutu Archeampong had so many initiatives it was hard to keep up with all of them, each of his initiatives had a slogan.
He nationalized Ashanti Goldfields for Ghana. Yeah! He refused to pay our foreign debts – ‘Yentua’! He exhorted us to feed ourselves – ‘Operation Feed Yourself’! He got us doing backyard farming.
He converted us from left-hand driving – “Nifa, nifa nani! Bekum, bekum yegya!” One Sunday morning we switched over from left to right and there was not one accident! He stopped Dr. Busia’s ‘Walantu Walansa’ sanitation project.
He also undertook the ‘Dawhenya Irrigation Project’ and cattle rearing on the Accra Plains. He also introduced family planning and a population control program.
The newspapers were filled with funeral announcements, and ads promoting clubs and belly dancers! One popular belly dancer was called ‘Betty Brown’! Another one was so fat that one wondered who actually enjoyed seeing her! Trust me – you cannot make such stuff up!
We had all manner of old men, Sugar Daddies, chasing after small girls and giving them VW Golf cars. General Kutu was said to favor women with large hips who visited the Castle and were rewarded with a VW Golf or so the rumor went.
There were so many rumors floating around, it was hard to tell what was true and what people with active imaginations had fabricated. Gen. Kutu was rumored to have complained about University students refusing to return to campus and demanding that he provide ‘guarantee (platform) shoes’ for all of them, following a shutdown of universities that started on January 13th, 1978 – 40 years ago today!
There were so many rumors that the government decided to enforce an anti rumor mongering decree. The students responded that, “as for the rumors, we shall monger!” This just increased the SMC government’s frustration with the spate of wild rumors, and a virtual disinformation campaign intended to destabilize the SMC government.
Some University of Ghana students mostly from Commonwealth and Mensah Sarbah Halls decided to protest the Supreme Military Council (aka SMC – formerly known as National Redemption Council aka NRC) government’s celebration their January 13th, 1972, coup d’tat and overthrow of the Busia led government. The Ghana Police was able to contain the demonstration to the UofG campus. Seizure of a sleeping police officer on duty at the on campus bank building led the Ghana Police to send its officers to raid the University of Ghana campus to release the officer his gun should the students threw into a pond! The SMC government shut down the University of Ghana, and when the other universities got into the fray they were shut down as well!
This gave the students an opportunity to go back to their communities to campaign against ‘Union Government (UNIGOV) “Nkabom Aban” – a blatant attempt by the SMC government to perpetuate its military rule.
When the members of the Bar Association complained, Gen Kutu was famously quoted as saying “I put it to you, I put it to you, nfa eduanie mba!” Meaning, “I put it to you, I put it to you, does not create food!”
Essential commodities such as soap, rice, corn, flour, cooking oil, sardines, canned tuna (tinapa), milk, sugar etc. were in short supply. Market traders decided to hoard goods to create artificial shortages and increase prices. This was termed ‘Kalabule’! The market traders got rich while poor workers, farmers and fishermen suffered!
The Ghana Prices and Income Board was ineffective in controlling the price of essential commodities. The SMC government started to issue chits to favored people which allowed them to purchase essential commodities at controlled prices. This just created resentment among the poor who invariably did not have access to such chits.
The SMC government attempted to ease the stress of the food shortages by accepting American food aid – bulgur wheat. It also imported yellow corn, and rice that, unfortunately, had a very bad smell. The Market women named it, “Egyefu shi egnor!” Meaning, “It smells bad but it tastes good!” For the first time ever, we had yellow corn kenkey in Accra. It looked and tasted weird! We were convinced and concerned that the SMC government were going to kill us with bad food.
For the first time, people who had never eaten canned mackerel (tinapa) and smoked tuna were using them for cooking meals for their families. Apart from the Market traders, we all started to lose weight!
There were a lot of strikes by doctors, nurses, engineers, and other professionals, and general civil disobedience.
The UNIGOV Referendum energized us to forget our food and essential commodities problems for a while. Students campaigned in their communities and served as watchdogs at polling stations. Sometimes they demanded a recount of the votes.
When the polls closed, we were hopeful that we had defeated UNIGOV. The results started to come in. The first result posted came in from Bawku East – from the far right corner of Ghana’s border with Burkina Faso and Togo! How was that even possible? UNIGOV won decisively in Bawku East!
As the night wore on it was clear that UNIGOV was winning in all the Rural areas, and losing in the Urban areas. There was no way to turn it around. UNIGOV had won the referendum!
Weeks later, an eye witness from Bawku intimidated that the Bawku Naba arrived at the polling station with his entourage. His seat was placed between the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ ballot boxes! Each time a brave person attempted to vote ‘No’, the Bawku Naba’s supporters would chase the person off! Some people were able to drop in their ballot in the ‘No’ box. The majority were forced to relent and vote ‘Yes’!
The civil unrest and agitation for the resignation of General Kutu Archeampong continued after the UNIGOV Referendum.
Lt. Gen. Akuffo, of blessed memory, and other SMC government officials had no other choice but to ask General Kutu Archeampong through a palace coup to resign to end the civil unrest. A new government was formed that was called Supreme Military Council II (SMCII).
The results of the UNIGOV Referendum were nullified. SMCII prepared to hold General Elections.
The Universities were opened and students had to return to complete two Terms of work before Exams. They buckled down to study knowing that they had succeeded in ending the SMCI government, and resignation of General Kutu Archeampong!
The SMCII Government was overthrown on June 4th, 1979, through a Military coup d’tat led by Flight Lt. Jerry John Rawlings!
The rest as they say is history! A piece of Ghana’s History remembered by Audrey Naa Amuah Quaye