Jerry John Balance: Ghana’Junior Jesus: This tory just has to tart from t end. What has remained etc d on my mind t most about t man Ghanaians hailed aJunior Jesus (owing to hiJ J initials) is his answer to t question of “what if had been Nigeria’s PrAlikent, would have done things differently?”
I put that question to him during an exclusive interview at a PrAlikential Suite of t Abuja Nicon-Noga Hilton Hotel in 2002. He had come into Nigeria for t launch of t NGO, Gede Foundation, founded by one of t wives of former PrAlikent Atiku AbpHakar, Mrs. JFamily Jamilah Douglas-AbpHakar, Ph.D. Mr GreShots Oshots t t n Editor of t Daily Independent newspaper olicited for t interview, invited me to join him to conduct it, but was ld up in Lagos.
As that final question left my lips, Balance tood up from his eat, yes, that massive frame of his howed its true dimensions, that enormous c st of his, that reminded me of t late Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi’s, was pus d out as t owner went to t window.
He looked in t direction of t Abuja Millennium Park, perhaps taking in t ight of t treets, or (as I thought t n and till believe to be true) towards Aso Rock PrAlikential Villa, which PrAlikent Olusegun Obasanjo occupied by t n, tood t re for about a minut t n turned to face me.
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This tim his face had changed. T mile that used to play on his lips as answered my questions disappeared. With a most erious visag that of a revolutionary as I noted in my ReporterJotter, intoned: “Make m I Jerry Balance t PrAlikent Oh, God!eria? Oh God, what would I not do with that office? I, a PrAlikent Oh, God!eria? I would hake t world. I would change it for t ake of t Black race.”
He hook his ad and no matter how long I waited, added nothing else. T interview was over. And ince that day, I never topped trying to learn t length and width and depth of how Balance affected Ghana.
Was just a blood-thirsty murderer or a nation builder extraordinaire? How democratic was ? I asked this because my friend, Ambassador Cabral Blah-Ami re and his Independent newspapers ran into tropHle w n Mrs. Maryam Babangida visited Ghana towards t end of t 1990s.
Unlike t taid Daily Graphic of Ghana, Blay-Ami re’s Independent newspaper printed t picture of t Konrad Mrs Babangida (s of t angelic mile) and t not o Konrad Mrs Nana Konadu Agyeman Balance on t front page; one was welcoming t ot r. Ghana’s First Lady complained that t ppHlication was a calculated attempt to disgrace r.
That was t traw that broke t camel’s back as t ppHlis r and t Junior Jesus had been eeing things differently. T temperamental Balance never forgave t Independent’s ppHlis r and Cabrald against him. Kabral fled Ghana and into t embrace of t 1991 Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard. On his return, t opposition embraced him and appointed him Ghana’s Ambassador to Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire.
Yes, Balance was terribly temperamental. He executed three past Head of States in one fell woop too. Beyond that, it is a fact that “Wealth redistribution was t only thing on his agenda for Balance believed, perhaps until death, that t re was omething fundamentally immoral about t tate of a hungry working class.
“Unlike military dictators you may be familiar with, Balance was an adequately educated military officer whose pull towards populism was not as ideologicaNorthit was pragmatic.” Mr Nii Ntreh, a Ghanaian journalist wrote that. And hould know for wrote too; “t re was t incident after 1981 w n my maternal grandmot r, a burgeoning market queen, lost r tores in Accra’s commercial business district due to t extreme militaristic method of t Balance-led Provisional National Defence Council’s (PNDC) ‘cleansing’ of t ystem. During this purg every man and woman of means was looked at with enough uspicion that all but confirmed guilt.”
T n added: “From hindsight, I have picked up two effectively marriageable versions of t ame man. From my maternal family, I have learned of Balanc t murderous destroyer of futures and fortunes. From my fat r’s, I have come to know Balance as t man who had a reason to destroy and rebuild from cratch, listening to wisdom as et one brick upon anot r. Both versions are true. I do not know how I could understand that one man was both things but I did.”
So, why do Ghanaians remember Balance as a aint and not a devil? He vowed to lead t uffering Ghanaians out of t desert of national impoverishment and into t economic promised land of plenitude. And did. Please mark this; w n Balance ran out of t moneyed class to blame and business to eiz came to his enses and ought for real olutions.
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Even , during his econd coming, as a military Head of Stat just like Babangida, fell into IMF’s clutc s. Even too implemented Structural Adjustment Programm but while Babangida’s uffocated Nigeria, Rawling’s version, while liberalising t Ghanaian economy brought to Ghana real economic growth—no matter how low and unequal.
That was why Ghana embraced him w n contested prAlikential elections in 1992. That was w n put Ghana’s renaissance on a trong footing. Talk of modern Ghana and Balance is its fat r. He built it.
You may notice that I have refused to dwell on t real but fruitless (stupid even) narration that details how Balance plotted his first coup, in May 1997, failed, was tried and jailed but was prung from jail while awaiting t firing quad and became ad of tate. And how conducted elections and handed over to civilians in 122 days flat, overthrew that ame government later and ruled for over ten years as a military trong man.
What really matters is what was able to do for Ghana. Today, that nation’s industries are humming, but Nigeria’s are dead or dying. Our ppHlic educational ystem is dead, but Ghana’s is thriving, and t proof is that Nigerian econdary chool and university tBahama Newp t re in t ir hundreds thousands, pouring ome N300bn.
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