The death of Jerry Rawlings took the world by surprise. In this report, some Ghanaian journalists recall the man who fought corruption and contributed massively to Ghana’s development, BUKOLA OGUNSINA writes.
Jerry Rawlings was a man known for his fight against corruption in Ghana. He was a man who drove development to bring Ghana to its present state and opened the country to the world. He followed in these steps of Kwame Nkrumah, one of the founding fathers of Ghana. He would be remembered for his contribution towards making Ghana what it is today.
In an interview with a journalist of Daily Graphic in Accra, Ghana, Edmund Smith-Asante, he mentions that Rawling’s death came as a shock to all.
“There is no way Ghana’s history can be written without the mention of Rawlings who has played a major part in shaping the destiny of the country.
“His death came as a shock because no one expected him to die anytime soon, especially just before another general election. His stature, the strength he exuded before his demise and the role he played in Ghanaian politics will all be missed by Ghanaians and many are still in a state of denial and unbelief that a statesman of Rawlings’s calibre has gone to be with his ancestors.”
Smith- Asante disclosed that the news of the passing of the former Ghanaian President, Jerry John Rawlings on Thursday, November 12, 2020 was initially taken as mere rumour, a hoax and the biggest joke of the century by those who first heard it in Ghana.
“When the graphiconline.com, the Graphic Communications Group Limited’s online portal first broke the news, there were indeed several comments of fake news with some even raining invectives at the portal for churning out falsehood to the entire world and joking with such a sensitive issue.
“It was only the confirmation by other media houses and a formal announcement by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the passing of the former President at 10:10 a.m. that made people reluctantly begin to assimilate the difficult news.
“Rawlings is a household name, not only in Ghana but on the entire African continent and in the global community for obvious reasons.
“He holds the enviable title of the longest serving Ghanaian leader (19 years) as Head of State from 1981 to 1991 and first President of the Fourth Republic from 1992 to 2001.
“Flt Lt Rawlings first came to the limelight when he successfully led a coup d’état on June 4, 1979 to overthrow the then Supreme Military Council II, also a military government led by Gen F.W.K. Akuffo.
This was after an abortive attempt in a mutiny of junior officers on May 15, 1979 and subsequent General Court Martial in Accra, at which he and six others were charged with leading an abortive military intervention.
“It was on the day he was scheduled for another court appearance that some loyal soldiers freed him from prison and he led in the revolt that overthrew the then government.
“News of the coup which the late Rawlings kept referring to as a revolution when he made an announcement on national radio (Ghana Broadcasting Corporation) while panting reverberated across the country with students especially jubilating at the news and calling him ‘Junior Jesus’ for coming to save Ghana.
“Then in my first year in secondary school (Mfantsipim) far from home, I remember some seniors shouting that my class which was being punished (we were kneeling on a pavement in the sun for disturbing) be released as Rawlings had succeeded in the coup.
“No wonder the late Rawlings whose mantra was INTEGRITY, PROBITY and ACCOUNTABILITY got massive support from students when he formed his government – the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC).”
He went on to add that although the Ghanaian elder statesman had handed over power to a democratically elected government – the Dr Hilla Limann-led People’s National Party (PNP) on September 24, 1979, Rawlings did a U-turn and returned with the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), stating that the massive corruption for which he staged the first coup was still prevalent.
Asante – Smith, mentioning Rawling’s political career, pointed out that “Rawlings will be remembered for setting Ghana on the path of democracy in 1992, handing over power to another government (from the National Democratic Congress to the New Patriotic Party) after he had exhausted his two terms as prescribed by the country’s 1992 Constitution and largely for his charisma which stayed with him till his death.
A journalist with Multimedia Limited, Ghana, Winston Amoah told LEADERSHIP Sunday, “Rawlings is a man who always triggered debate whenever he spoke. In fact he always divided opinions. While outwardly he was seen as a strong man or tough man, his conduct when alone with him, showed a down to earth and very humane person.
“His sense of humour was great. His ability to make peace with current president Akufo Addo, depicts a man who would not hold things against you forever. I remember in 2019 when members of the Ghana Journalists Association visited him he spoke for hours unend. His sense of humour got us laughing and laughing. Even when we wanted to leave, he would say one last point and that was another hour.
“He knew how to take advantage of a situation. I remember him pulling his head out of a mini van in October 2004 just to respond to cheers. He would shed tears in 2000 in Ho , the regional capital of the volta region where he hailed from, for not being able to develop the region as residents may expect. He then explains that he’s president for all and not only the volta region.
“His charisma was enormous. Everywhere he went he charmed the people. From desilting gutters to directing traffic , Rawlings always endeared himself to Ghanaians.”