The Supreme Military Council (SMC) was the ruling government of Ghana from 9 October 1975 to 4 June 1979. Its chairman was Colonel I.K. Acheampong. He was also the Head of state of Ghana due to his chairmanship.
SMC I and II
The period of the SMC can be divided into two eras. These are :
- Acheampong era - SMC - 1 (October 9, 1975 - July 5, 1978)
- Akuffo era - SMC 2 - (July 5, 1978 - June 4, 1979)
Formation of the Supreme Military Council
On 9 October 1975, the National Redemption Council was replaced by the Supreme Military Council. Its composition consisted of Acheampong, the chairman, and the others including all the military service commanders such as Lt. Gen. Akuffo the Chief of Defence Staff, and the army, navy, air force and Border Guards commanders respectively. Some officers were promoted, some changed portfolios and many others were dropped. The Commanders of the First and Second Infantry Brigades of the Ghana Army were also included. It is thought that this coup removed Agbo, Baah and Selormey whom Acheampong had begun to see as a threat. It also made the various service commanders in charge of both the military and the state as there had been some tensions between relatively junior officers in government and the senior commanders of the Armed Forces.
Acheampong introduced the Union Government concept which will see both the military and civilians involved in government. An ad hoc committee was set up under the Attorney General of Ghana, Gustav Koranteng-Addow to come up with a plan. The Koranteng-Addow committee reported after collating views from around the country that the people of Ghana wanted
"a form of representative government of the people, having as its philosophical foundation the concepts of national unity and consensus, and selecting its functionaries from all levels and sections of the community on a basis other than membership of an institutionalised political party or parties".
It also advocated for an Executive President and Vice President and a single legislative chamber to be elected by universal adult suffrage. It also suggested a Council of State comprising the Chief of Defence Staff, the Inspector General of Police and representatives of the House of Chiefs. There was some opposition to this concept. It was put to a national referendum on 30 March 1978. One person who voiced concerns about the plans of the government was Lt. Gen. Akwasi Afrifa who was the Head of state of Ghana and Chairman of the National Liberation Council between 1967 and 1969. He stated in a letter to Acheampong and published in the Daily Graphic newspaper of 1 February 1978 among others that
...I feel greatly disturbed about the future after your government... ...In order to discourage the military from staging coups in the future, how about if they line all of us up and shoot us one by one? ... I do not certainly want to be arrested, given some sort of trial and shot. These are genuine fears. All members of the N.L.C., including Gen. Joseph Ankrah, are involved. I still have no regrets whatsoever about my part in the operations of 1966. My fears even increase when I look at the Koranteng-Addow Report as a whole. I do not like the Union Government as proposed in the report. The political forces militating against it are too strong. ... I do not see how I can be SECURE in the Union Government. I do not also see how you yourself can be secure in that government.... 
The SMC went on to organise the Union Government referendum on 30 March 1978. The SMC's union government won the referendum. The Electoral Commission Commissioner, Justice I. K. Abban went into hiding for his own safety. Four days later, he was accompanied by the Catholic Archbishop of Cape Coast, HIs Grace John Kodwo Amissah and Hilary Senoo of the Catholic Secretariat and the Rev. M. C. Awotwe Pratt of the Methodist Chruch. Acheampong assured Abban that he had nothing against him and that he could go back to the bench.
In November 1975, J. H. Mensah, Finance Minister in the Busia government was jailed by an Accra Special Court together with Kwame Karikari, a former private secretary of Busia and I. C. Quaye, a former Progress Party MP for Ayawaso between 1969 and 1972 for publishing material against the SMC. In September 1976, the Ghana Bar Association asked the SMC to abolish the military tribunals in the country and also to initiate steps towards returning the country to civilian rule. Groups which had campaigned against Union government, including the People's Movement for Freedom and Justice (PMFJ), The Third Force and the Front for Prevention of Dictatorship were banned shortly after the referendum. The PMFJ was formed in January 1978 and led by Komla Gbedemah, Akwasi Afrifa and William Ofori Atta. Gbedemah, Ofori Atta, Victor Owusu, John Bilson and Adu Boahen were placed in detention. Others opposed to union government and the SMC went into exile. Opposition and discontent within the military and the general population continued throughout 1978. At the start of the Union government project, two officers who raised concerns were removed. They were Rear Admiral C. K. Dzang, Navy commander and Brigadier Joseph Nunoo-Mensah.
There had been growing tension within the military as with the worsening economic situation and the aftermath of the referendum that was widely believed to be rigged, many soldiers felt that the reputation of the military was being tarnished by politics and that the military had to return to barracks. Some senior officers in the SMC tried to raise this issue but Acheampong blamed the military hierarchy for loss of military prestige. Akuffo initiated a plot to replace Acheampong under the pretext of the meetings of the Military Advisory Council and it ended with Rear Admiral Amedume chairing a meeting where senior officers agreed for the need for the withdrawal of the military from government. The meeting moved to the residence of Acheampong where Akuffo read a speech informing Acheampong that the armed forces wanted him to step down. He was forced to sign a resignation letter after being convinced that he no more had the support of his colleagues. On 5 July 1978, it was announced to the nation that Acheampong had resigned as chairman of the SMC and had also voluntarily retired from the Ghana Armed Forces. This was done apparently in the interest of the nation. He was replaced by Lt. Gen. Akuffo who was the Chief of Defence Staff. Major General R. E. A. Kotei, the Army Commander became the new Chief of Defence Staff. Brigadier N. A. Odartey-Wellington was promoted to Major General and made the new Army Commander. Colonel I. K. Amoah replaced Odartey-Wellington as Commander of the First Infantry Brigade, thus becoming a member of the NRC. Brigadier Joseph Nunoo-Mensah, Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Defence was also made a member of the NRC.
15 May 1979 mutiny
Towards the end of the SMC2 era, discontent had led to a national strike by nurses. Lower ranks in the army also felt disillusioned about pay and were convinced that resources meant for them were being siphoned of by corrupt senior officers. There was a growing feeling that these officers should not be allowed to return to the barracks without being punished for the ill-gotten gains. There were apparently multiple coup plots but the first to act was that led by FLight Lt. Jerry Rawlings, an Air Force officer who was charismatic and very popular with his enlisted men. On 15 May 1979, he initiated the mutiny. They held a number of hostages at the air force base. He and his colleagues were surrounded by the armoured regiment led by Major Abubakar Sulemana, their commander and subsequently arrested. The public prosecutor during their trial was G. E. K. Aikins. His remarks were critical of military rule in Ghana and painted Rawlings as "an idealist motivated by nationalism and a concern for the poor". This gave Rawlings positive publicity both in the army and among the general public.
Overthrow of the SMC
An alternative coup plot by a group known as the Free Africa Movement involved junior officers and other ranks. They were planning for a coup for a much later date. Their leader was Major Boakye-Djan of the Fifth Infantry Battalion. One of his team, Corporal Peter Tasiri, initiated the plot for a coup. He was arrested together with Lt. Baah Achamfuor, whom they had tried to recruit. Some of his colleagues who managed to avoid arrest arranged a jail break to release Rawlings and his colleagues. A guard and one of the conspirators were reportedly killed at this stage. Rawlings was released and announced the coup but there appeared to be a lot of confusion as there was no clear leadership for the coup attempt throughout the day. Captain Henry Smith of the First Infantry Battalion helped with ammunition. One of the SMC members, the Army Commander Major General Odartey-Wellington led the effort to quell the mutiny. He announced at one stage that the coup had been quelled and requested a meeting with Rawlings. He was however killed later in a gun battle at the Nima Police Station which he was using temporarily as his base. In the evening, Lieutenant General Joshua Hamidu, the Chief of Defence Staff announced that the SMC government had been overthrown.
Members of the Acheampong government (SMC 1)
The council consisted of the Head of state and all service commanders of the Ghana Armed Forces. The head of the police was also included. Many members of the government changed porfolios while others were dropped.
The reconstituted National Redemption Council
The various commissioners were designated as members of the reconstituted National Redemption Council (NRC) as membership of the SMC was now limited to the Head of State, the Inspector General of Police and the various military service commanders and the Border Guards commander only. The Commanders of the First and Second Infantry Brigades were also included in the NRC under the SMC. Eleven members of the NRC government including E. N. Moore who had been present since January 1972 as well as various ten other military officers were dropped.
Members of Akuffo government (SMC 2)
Following a bloodless palace coup on 5 July 1978, the SMC was reconstituted. General Acheampng was forced to resign as head of state and placed under house arrest. This government remained in power until its overthrow eleven months later by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council on 4 June 1979.
Monday 4 June 1979
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