You may have hurled curses and insults at me before clicking on the article to find out why I made such a seemingly “insensitive” statement, at a time when Ghana and the world is mourning an iconic figure like the late Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings. I will not judge you.
Well, it will interest you to know that, I still stand by my words that his death only brings me smiles. Now here’s why I say so. The Former and first president of Ghana’s Fourth Republic left an indelible mark in the history of Ghana’s political and governance landscape.
Believe it or not, a section of the country may not like him for his brutish past, captured in June 26, 1979 execution of two former military rulers, Lt. Gen. Frederick W. K. Akuffo and Gen A.A Afrifa and others; as well as excesses that came with a subsequent coup d’état.
That is a part of history that deeply wounded some families leaving them with scars that reminds them of the bitter experiences of that era even today. My heart goes out to them.
But through it all, I respect the late President JJ Rawlings for his explanations to those dark eras in recent interviews as former president.
Though quite distasteful for many, he didn’t act like a hypocrite as many great men would do once, they are out of power. He expressed his thoughts and reasons for his ugly past without a quiver.
Clearly aware of the barrage of criticisms that could come from his haters, he still went ahead to state emphatically that the situation at the time called for the coup d’états he staged. – A rather debatable statement.
"Don’t sing songs in praise of me, please. Sing it in praise of Ghana and— BBC News Africa (@BBCAfrica) November 14, 2020
Africa, the black man."
Through decades of speeches and interviews, this is how Jerry John Rawlings spoke of his vision for Ghana and for Africa. pic.twitter.com/YZqvrjgWSX
In other narratives, he had admitted to being unhappy over the pain he caused some families through the bloodshed, which he at the time deemed necessary to root out corruption. But then again, he was captured in a video, taking full responsibility for the excesses by some unscrupulous soldiers who unleashed unthinkable torture of mothers, wives and fathers of some families. He absolved them of the heated anger of the people and bore the guilt all by himself; a rare gesture only true leaders would exhibit.
Judging from his toughness in psyche, physique, and speech, who would have thought that he would agree to a reconciliation with the people he hurt many years ago – but he did.
Despite his pride in the brutish June 4, he touted as a move to rid Ghana of corruption, isn’t it shocking that, few months ago, he advised plotters of the Mali coup d’état against their actions; knowing that he in his lifetime stage three coups and succeeded in two? Clearly, he had learned hard lessons from the past.
Where are the masses who chanted after him “JJ let the blood flow!” Well, too late to turn back the hands of time.
The late President did some good things too. At least, apart from infrastructural works under his tenure, between 1992 and 1996, Rawlings eased control over the judiciary and civil society, allowing a more independent Supreme Court and the publication of independent newspapers. Opposition parties operated outside of parliament and held rallies and press conferences without any resistance.
As Hank Green puts it, “They tell you power corrupts. They never tell you how quickly.” Jerry John Rawlings did well for Ghana but he had his flaws due to the power he wielded coming out as a leader at age 33 years. And for this he deserves credits. That is why the mention of his name only brings smiles to my lips, because he left a mark in history. He may have done terrible things, but he also leant some deep lessons later in life.
There’s no saint on this planet. Though he may have erred severally in his attempt to put Ghana on a good standing, he was no pretender and Ghana will forever remember him for his frankness and perseverance.
May your soul Rest In Peace Ex- President JJ Rawlings! You served Ghana well!