The political situation in Ghana after the first coup led by FI. Lt. J.J. Rawlings on June 4, 1979 remained fluid at best. In order to bring about normalcy, a 15-member Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) was established, Rawlings was made the Chairman and the rest of the AFRC was a careful balance of junior- and middle-rank officers of the military. One of the decisions taken by the AFRC, according to Chazan (1983), was that the parliamentary and presidential elections would proceed as planned on June 18, 1979 but that the handing over of power would be postponed for three months to October 1, 1979, to allow the AFRC to "complete its task of house cleaning."5
The new AFRC government tried to clear up corruption in all walks of life, especially the kalabule system (the "black" or "parallel" market) which had affected the cost of living and which the state suspected to be responsible for the spiraling inflation in Ghana. In fact, the shortages and low production of the past regime were the causes. Much of Rawlings' energy and activity in those hectic months, however, was bound up with talking with people whom he constantly urged to be aware that this was their revolution and it was they who were calling their past rulers to account for their past deeds, and that the future of Ghana was in their hands. Rawlings and the AFRC carried out public executions of 3 former heads of state and other senior officers without trial. These actions evoked awareness amongst Ghanaians that this regime was not like any other, and that the new leaders meant business. But these actions were to haunt the Rawlings government later.
To the amazement of most foreign observers, the elections were held on schedule under conditions of unexpected calm and fairness. On July 8, the People's National Party (PNP), led by Dr. Hilla Limann (a Nkrumah stalwart) won the elections, and then there begun a process for the transfer of power. At the end of August, Rawlings reflected that since he was confident that the "house cleaning" began by the AFRC would be continued by the Limann administration, he would be handing over power a week early on September 24, 1979. Paul Nugent (1995) reflected on the admonitions of Rawlings to Limann at the inauguration ceremony of the Third Republic with this famous quotation: "…never lose sight of the new consciousness of the Ghanaian people."6
Those words by Rawlings would form the basis for his second coming, not only as the leader of the 31 December coup, which toppled the weak and ineffective Limann administration, but also the leader of the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) regime, the progenitor of the dual transition program in Ghana. To inaugurate the "second coming," Rawlings stated:
"Fellow Ghanaians, as you will notice, we are not playing the national anthem. In other words, this is not a coup. I ask for nothing less than a REVOLUTION - something that will transform the social and economic order of this country. Fellow citizens, it is now left to you to decide how this country is going to go from today. We are asking for nothing more than the power to organize this country in such a way that nothing will be done from the Castle without the consent and authority of the people. In other words, the people, the farmers, the police, the soldiers, the workers you - the guardians- rich or poor, should be part of the decision-making process of this country."7
The Rawlings address, given at the Broadcasting House in Accra December 31, 1981, launched his second coming as the head of a military government in Ghana. According to Shillington (1992), one of the directives of that speech was the setting up of People's Defense Committees (PDCs) in the workplace and in every district out and village, so that the decision-making in Ghana would not continue to be the preserve of politicians, who had previously ruled Ghana under the most corrupt regime. This move was seen as a precursor for a decentralization policy in Ghana; its implementation, however, was another matter.
The 31 December coup had been expected for some time, as there were several plots emerging during the early weeks of December 1981, and many had looked to Rawlings for leadership. This time, however, Rawlings wanted to have control of the military ranks from the beginning. Events in the country almost ground to a halt because of the coup, but by January 2, 1982, life was returning to normal. Rawlings then made a second but lengthier broadcast on radio and television, in which he set out in more detail the purpose and direction of the 31 December revolution. He said:
"Good evening, fellow countrymen. The attempt to justify the action of 31 December, 1981, would not presuppose that we Ghanaians do not know and feel what had been going on since September 24, 1979. Briefly, it has been nothing short of a clear denial of our fundamental rights as a people to enjoy the wealth of our labor. This has been the most disgraceful government in the history of our country. It is the only one in recent times that criminals and such others like them have become respectable in our society. They have turned our hospitals into graveyards and our clinics into death transit camps where men, women and children die daily because of lack of drugs and basic equipment. To many of us, democracy does not just mean paper guarantees of abstract liberties. It involves, above all, food, clothing, and shelter in the absence of which life is not worth living.
"Fellow Ghanaians, the time has come for us to restructure this society in a real and meaningful democratic manner so as to ensure the involvement and active participation of the people in the decision-making process."8
With that broadcast, Rawlings achieved three things. First, he announced the creation and assumption of power by the PNDC as the governing authority in Ghana. Second, he used it to explain the kind of "real" democracy that his group envisioned for Ghana as opposed to the former experiment with democracy that provided him and his colleagues the justification for seizing power. Third, he used the speech to establish a new political system based on a model of revolutionary socialism which would ensure an active participation of the people in the decision-making process.