Boom the man
Jerry boom. Papa Jay. JJ. Junior Jesus. Gyato. A man of the people. Call him any of these and he was sure to give a firm military-style wave or a fist power sign. He was charismatic. He was tough. But the little boy, who had wanted to fly an areophane at age six; grew up to become even more – a key cog in Ghana’s political and democratic history.
Oh what a man! He meant many things to many people. To some, a breath of fresh air, at a time of uncertainty in Ghana’s political history. To others, a cruel military leader who masterminded the torture and killing of some military generals and judges, several decades ago. One of them, is daughter of Ghana’s former military head, Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, who ruled over Ghana from 1972-1978 through a military takeover. According to Nana Serwaa Acheampong, Rawlings’ death was too easy and comfortable as compared to how he took the life of her father by firing squad when she was just 6 years old. She took to social media in a no holds barred rant!
“Rawlings is dead, to me his death was too easy, too comfortable, unlike the death he gave my father and countless others. Now he’s dead, and somehow I feel robbed, cheated because unlike my father, Rawlings’ death was too easy, too comfortable probably.” Another, Akoto Afrifa whose father was one of the eight army generals who were executed by Rawlings and his Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) in the June 4 Uprising in 1979, did not mince words in his outburst after news broke about Mr. Rawlings’ passing.
In a series of posts on Facebook, Akoto Afrifa wrote,
“This death is not tragic enough…
“…unlike the Osagyefo who died miserably in a faraway country…
“…and unlike my mentor and my inspiration, the Arch-Tribalist Awoonor who also died tragically in a faraway nation….
Tributes, memories of a core!
At ninety years old, Rebecca Adukwei Mingle alias The Girl, remembers and quite fondly too, a relationship with the Rawlings’ which spanned more than 6 decades. Spotting a National Democratic Congress (NDC) T-shirt, over a white and black striped cloth, Rebecca Mingle sat at the foyer of the party headquarters in Accra, weeping and wailing few minutes after news of his death broke.
“I have known the Rawlings’ for many years. Since our days in Kumasi when his mother and I were baking bread; the late former president used to come over the house to pack up his mother’s flour bags,” she told me.
She recalled, specifically, during the famine in 1983, an intervention by the late president for her family.
“I remember during the famine,Rawlings will send soldiers to my house to ensure all the bread I baked at the time were sold and the monies given to me. I do not know what I would have done, had he not taken that decision many many years ago,”MadamAdukwei Mingle told me.
It did not look like the nonagenarian was done eulogizing the late Jerry Rawlings. She would sneak in one final memory; arguably, the most intriguing.
Rebecca Adukwei Mingle revealed, “Rawlings gave me five hundred cedis when we travelled to meet Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara at a time I had not seen any such bulk amount of money of my own before.”
“It is one gesture that always remains with me. The family of the Rawlings’ were like my own family,”said the 90 year-old who was reaching out to her bag to probably pull out a towel to clean up some of her tears and sweat.Rebecca Adukwei Mingle is just one of many who continues to eulogize the father of four!Executives of the party he founded; the NDC say the loss of the former head of state is a blow they would struggle to recover from; but they would emerge from this even stronger.
Deputy Greater Accra Women’s organizer of the party, HajiaIddrisu Alima told me, “the late Jerry Rawlings was a disciplinarian. He was a principled man; and he instilled these values in us. It is a big blow, but we would try, because we have an election to win.”
Dignitaries and leaders pay tributes
No words. Tears. Sorrow. Grief. As Ghanaians adjust to the reality of the death of one of their most loved and loathed leaders in equal measure, several world leaders have been sending in their condolences. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari in a “heartfelt condolence” said “the entire African continent will sorely miss the sterling qualities of the great leader.”
He also said he “believes the passion, discipline and moral strength that the former Ghanaian leader employed to reposition his country over many years” would “continue to reverberate across the continent and beyond.”
The President of Liberia, George Weah in a tweet said “Africa has lost a great leader.” In Burkina Faso, the president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré said Ghana has lost a patriot who put the country back on the path of growth.
Ghana’s president Akufo-Addo stated: “Your role in the establishment and development of the 4th Republic as the most enduring Republic of our history is truly exceptional. Ghanaians appreciate your leadership of our nation and will remember you accordingly. For me, I appreciate very much your friendship.”
Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia wrote in a Facebook post, “Jerry John Rawlings’ role in the political history of Ghana is indelible, his fight for the poor and his impact on national cohesion and discipline is unforgettable. Ghana has lost a colossus.”
Ghana’s First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo tweeted, “You’ve Paid your Dues to the Development of this Nation and your Legendary Status can’t be Questioned, R.I.P to Formal President Jerry John Rawlings. Rest well till we meet again.”
The Rawlings gift that keeps giving
It is true he divides opinions; and even in death he still does. Such is the man whose place in writing Ghana’s history cannot be overemphasized. Forget that he twice seized power. Also forget that after his first coup attempt, he was sentenced to death even though he escaped to overthrow the country’s military government in 1981 to become head of state.Jerry Rawlings is the single longest-serving President in Ghana’s history from 1981 to 2001.For the students of political science and democracy, they see in him a case study. For his party the NDC, the ideals of probity and accountability which he stood for, have formed the foundation of their governmental pursuits, and even after his death, they look to uphold same to honor his memory. And before we forget, his eldest daughter, Dr. Zanetor Rawlings, taking after her father, has mainstreamed into the politics and is contesting the December polls in Ghana as an incumbent NDC member of parliament for the Klottey Korle constituency. Some political watchers, see in Zanetor, traits of Jerry Rawlings; maybe he was to her, more than just a father. The grieving wife of the late statesman? Well, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, who is contesting the December 2020 polls on the ticket of the National Democratic Party (NDP), would weigh her options and her political future.
Death of a colossus
On November 12, 2020, Ghana’s political tower, who led a military junta until 1992, and then served two terms as democratically elected president, died at the Korlebu Teaching Hospital after having suffered complications of Covid 19, according to sources within Ghana’s covid management team. His death came barely a month after Jerry Rawlings laid his one hundred and one (101) year-old mother on October 24, 2020. Jerry Rawling before his death limited public engagements due to the restrictions imposed to deal with covid 19. He was spotted a week after Ghana eased up on the lockdown, Mr. Rawlings looked burly, with grey, overgrown hair. He joked at the event, he was only going to visit the barbershop after covid 19 took it easy on Ghana. But as fate would have it; it was not meant to be! Papa Jay is gone – and gone forever! A fitting farewell announced by the state is yet to come off.