By Emmanuel Uffot
A great tree has fallen, and Ghana is poorer for this loss” This was the statement of Nana Akufo-Addo, on hearing the death of the country’s foremost revolutionary leader,who ruled the West African country for 19 years both as a military Head of State and as an elected president. He had ruled the West African country as a military Head of State for 11 years and as an elected President for two terms of four years each.
He was reported to have died on Thursday November 12, 2020 at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in the capital, Accra, where he had been receiving treatment over an undisclosed ailment. He had died after 31 years of publicly executing by firing squad, Gen. Ignatius Acheampong, Lt.Generals Frederick W.k Akufo and A.A. afrifa, three former military Heads of State over alleged Corruption and money laundering. Close sources had said that the former president had died of Wuhan Town in Hebei Province of the Asian of China emerged coronavirus , popular,Covid-19.
As a mark of honour for the late former Ghana President, the Ghanaian government under Nana Akufo- Addo, had announced a week of national mourning for the country’s longest-serving leader, who oversaw the transition to Democratic Rule in Ghana in what is now one of Africa’s most stable democracies.
Akufo-Addo who came to power on the platform of the opposition party dethroning the once ruling party National Democratic Party founded by Rawlings through which he used in coming to come to power as an elected president, equally ordered flags around the country to be lowered to half-mast for the seven days of the national mourning which started from Friday November 13 to Sunday November, 20, 2020. He was said to have also suspended electioneering campaigns for the upcoming general elections in December in the country.
Similarly, John Mahama, presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress ,NDC, founded by Rawlings, has announced that he is suspending campaigning for the coming national elections.
Apart from the legendary Kwame Nkrumah, Jerry Rawlings history in Ghana’s politics, cannot be easily forgotten. He is noted for not only seizing power twice in military coups but went on to bring democratic rule.
A charismatic figure, it is on records that Rawlings first seized power in 1979 over alleged rising corruption and carried out an uncommon purge in the history of the West Africa country.
He was seen as a champion of the poor, but came to be criticised for alleged human rights abuses, one of which was the execution of the former leaders without giving them fair hearing. Rawlings was born in 1947 to a Scottish father and a Ghanaian mother who died at the age of 101.
Trained as an Air Force officer, he came to power in 1979 after leading his first coup, and then transferring power to an elected government soon after. A decade later, as a senior officer in the air force, he overthrew a military government, and handing over power to an elected President.
Note that he ordered the execution of the three army Generals and former Heads of State for corruption, but expressed some regret about the killings. The execution by firing squad of some Supreme Court judges a was said to have left a stain on his legacy as a military Head of State.
In 1981, he led a second coup and was the head of a military junta until introducing a multi-party elections system in 1992, when he was first elected president. He stepped down in 2001 after serving two terms but continued to wield a strong influence in the country.Rawlings handed over power to John Kufour of the opposition party who had defeated Rawlings’ vice president in the previous year’s election.
After stepping down, Rawlings remained a power broker in Ghanaian politics while serving in various international diplomatic posts, including as the African Union, AU’s representative in Somalia. He had started as a committed socialist while in power, but later introduced a free-market reforms.
He ushered in a long period of political stability after a tumultuous series of coups in the 1960s and 1970s in the West African country. In later years, he had campaigned for African nations to have their international debts written off by multi-lateral financial Organisations and Creditor nations.
Out of politics as a statesman he was a very busy man and played key role in lending a voice both to the African politics and the world.
In November 2020, Rawlings was named the first International Year of Volunteers 2001 Eminent Person by UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan, attending various events and conferences to promote volunteerism. He established the Ghana constitution of 1988.
In October 2010, Rawlings was named A.U. envoy to Somalia and also gave lectures at universities, including Oxford University. In July 2019, he went on a three-day working trip to Burkina Faso in the capacity of Chairman of the Thomas Sankara Memorial Committee.
In September 2019, he paid a tribute on behalf of the president and people of Ghana, when he led a delegation to the funeral of Robert Mugabe the late former president of Zimbabwe. Also noted was his visible presence and participation in the burial rites of Nigeria’s former rebel leader Odumegwu Ojukwu.
One thing many Ghanaians and other Africans will remember Rawlings for was that he remains the leader that turned around the poor economy of Ghana to a good one with well thought out policy reforms.
He established the Economic Recovery Program ,ERP, that was suggested by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, IMF, in 1982 due to the poor state of the economy after 18 months of attempting to govern it through administrative controls and mass mobilization.
The policies implemented caused a dramatic currency devaluation, the removal of price controls and social-service subsidies that favored farmers over urban workers, and privatization of some state-owned enterprises, and restraints on government spending. Funding was provided by bilateral donors, reaching N88$800 million in 1987 and 1988, and $900 million in 1989. 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.
Ever since the plotcal icon kicked the pocket last Thursday, African leaders have been paying tributes to him. Liberian President George Opong Weah said Ghana, Liberia and Africa in general, will miss a great leader, as they will surely remember his contributions to the attainment and sustnance of peace in Liberia
“On behalf of the government and people of the Republic of Liberia, and in my own name,’’ I wish to convey my deepest and profound sympathy to the government and people of Ghana, the Rawlings family and the entire Africa for the death of a great statesman, Former President”.”Liberia remembers his immense contribution to the attainment and sustainment of peace during our dark days of our own history”.
Similarly, President Muhammadu Buhari paid tributes stressing that the entire Africa will miss him “the entire African continent will sorely miss the sterling qualities of the great leader”.”The passion, discipline and moral strength that the former Ghanaian leader employed to reposition his country over many years continue to reverberate across the continent and beyond,” he had said.
Olusegun Obasanjo, a former Nigerian President who had sympathised with the government and people of Ghana, over the death of Rawlings, the country’s former Leader , who had ruled both as a military Head of State and anelected President had declared that he is ‘’forever indebted him’’. In a Condolence letter to President Akufo –Addo, Obasanjo had said that Rawlings was ‘‘passionate about peace , security and leadership issues in Africa’’.
The former Nigerian President who could not hide his feelings had said that ‘‘Rawlings will be missed for his contributions to nation-building in Ghana where he served , first as a military Head of State and later as a democratically elected President from 1992 -2000. He disclosed that ‘’like many of his Contemporaries too, the late Ghanaian former President provided ‘’the much-needed leadership and direction which impacted positively on the social stability and democratic process recorded thus far in the late Kwame Nkrumah, home country.
He noted that as ‘‘a quintessential Patriot and courageous leader’’, he will be remembered for his ‘‘critical role in the evolvement of a modern democratic Ghana’’. This may have informed why the late Rwalings was called ‘‘the father of modern Ghana’’.
AU, Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said “Africa has lost a stalwart of Pan-Africanism and a charismatic continental statesman”. Mahamat, cried out‘‘ It is with heart full of tears that I learnt of the passing of former president Jerry Rawlings of Ghana. ‘‘Africa has lost a stalwart of Pan-Africanism and a charismatic continental statesman. My sincere condolences to his family, the people and the government of Ghana”.
Michael Amoah of the London School of Economics said Rawlings was a very populist figure, who had a very large influence not only in Ghana, but across the African continent.
“He came at a time when he thought there was a lot of corruption from the upper and middle classes,” Amoah said.“He wanted to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor – and was therefore, very popular among poverty-stricken people.”
Amoah added that Rawlings is likely to be remembered in Ghana as a “results-oriented person” and someone who was “bold and proactive”.The former Ghanaian president is survived by his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman, whom he met while at Achimota School.They have three daughters: Zanetor Rawlings, Yaa Asantewaa Rawlings, and Amina Rawlings.