I was two years old when President Rawlings became a phenomenon in Ghana. And I was twenty-three years old when he left office as President of Ghana.
When I became politically conscious, I always wanted to fall in the shadows of President Rawlings – a man with exceptional charisma and courage to speak truth to power and to galvanize the masses behind a common cause.
At thirty-two years old in 1979, the man raised by a single parent had the courage to stand up against state authority and championed the cause of the suffering masses and the poorest people in the society at the risk of his life.
On the few occasions when I had the privilege to meet him, the most important question that President Rawlings had to answer was, ‘’How did you and your colleagues do it? What was your secret weapon at such a young age?’’
‘’Courage, sheer courage is all we had in those days. With courage, you can do anything you want to do’’, he consistently replied.
And courage is not the absence of fear.
Of course, Rawlings and his friends were afraid to die when they led the 1979 revolution in Ghana.
But they were animated by their willingness to never give up on a cause they believed to be righteous, and their preparedness to die while trying to achieve probity, accountability and integrity in public office with social justice for all.
Their resolve was beyond redemption.
Rawlings and his colleagues believed that continuing to live in poverty in the midst of abundant resources due to naked corruption by state officials was worse than death itself.
This belief is why he insisted, until his death, that he’d prefer to seize the wealth and properties of the corrupt heads of state and public officials and return them to the people in 1979 so that such corrupt officials will feel the suffering of the masses.
But the masses preferred that they ‘’let the blood flow’’ and so followed the executions of former heads of state in his early days in power due to corruption.
Many continue to criticize him for the excesses of the revolution that he led but he always took ultimate responsibility for the sacrifices that the nation had to make for the stability and prosperity of the Ghanaian society.
President Rawlings remained the man of the people throughout his life not just for his charisma but mainly because he led by example.
Many of us grew up seeing Rawlings on television carrying bags of cocoa, repairing railway lines, draining chocked gutters, carrying logs of timber etc.
He was not an armchair leader of the people. He didn’t see himself above the people.
He saw himself as one of the people and we-the-people loved him for his leadership examples.
His avowed commitment to public and democratic accountability and social justice was so strong that he ensured long term political and democratic stability in Ghana and successfully transitioned Ghana from military rule to multi-party democratic rule at a time when it was the norm, rather than the exception, for African leaders to succumb to the temptation to make themselves Presidents for life.
President Rawlings received a standing ovation from the world in the year 2000 when he left power peacefully and handed over to his political rivals without blinking an eye and against the unholy predictions of many naysayers.
He showed the right way to all African leaders.
He raised the bar of leadership in Africa with a moral compass.
No wonder he remained a symbol of public morality for all aspiring leaders throughout Africa.
Some of us came to realize that integrity could become a political threat when President Rawlings became isolated and denigrated from within his own party, the NDC that he founded for rising above his own political party as a statesman and called for a ‘house cleaning exercise’ to uproot corruption and restore integrity in public office.
This was when he realized that the NDC party that he founded and its new leadership had ignored its bedrock principles of probity, accountability, integrity and social justice and tolerated corruption, buried integrity and eliminated transparency within the NDC government.
Despite facing the wrath of the ‘’babies with sharp teeth’’ and their ‘’evil dwarfs’’ puppet masters within his own party (to quote Rawlings himself), he never stopped insisting that the right things must be done in public office whether within an NDC government or an NPP government.
This consistency in principles and in character became the driving force of his public moral compass and drew the support and utter admiration of the younger generation, myself included to take it upon ourselves to become public defenders of the Founder and his principles, ideals and timeless values that he espoused and personified as a statesman.
I am very proud to call myself a disciple of President Rawlings or as others will say, ‘’Rawlings boy’’.
I had the great pleasure of working with the Rawlings family over ten years ago and the family became our family.
That is why I have never missed any opportunity to see and talk with and learn from the great President Rawlings.
For some of us, meeting with Rawlings was one of the rarest privileges of our lifetime.
Four weeks ago, I passed by his ridge office – unannounced – to greet him and express my condolences on the passing of his very old mother.
This was the week before her final funeral rites of his late mother.
Luckily the ridge office was empty (with only insiders). And double luckily, his security detail recognized me at the main entrance and let me into the office through the back door.
Though President Rawlings was unaware of my coming, he asked Kobina Andoh, his aid to usher me into his office after he was informed that I was there to see him.
That’s how simple the great man was. He loved people.
When I entered his office, he asked me to remove my mask so he could see my face properly.
I gladly obliged and quickly removed my mask as well as my beret with a smile and he said, ”Chief, how are you”? while rubbing his hands, perhaps with a sanitizer. ”Sit down”, added.
We had a brief chat that lasted less than 5 minutes as he asked me a few direct questions and listened to my quick answers with a direct gaze at me.
And then he said, ”come back after the funeral so we can talk more”. ”Yes sir” I replied.
President Rawlings was looking hail and hearty. I could never have guessed in a million years that he was soon going to follow his mother to the village and never to return.
But even more mystically, I can NEVER forget the last words that the Founder, Papa J as he is affectionately called said to me that afternoon after I stood up on my feet and ready to walk out.
”GOD BLESS YOU”, he said.
”GOD BLESS YOU TOO SIR”, I replied, smiled and walked out and said goodbye to the others.
There could never have been any better parting words between us.
He left God with me and I with him – even as I didn’t realize it at the time.
I could never have imagined that moment as the last GREAT moment with President Jerry John Rawlings of Ghana, Africa and the world, otherwise, I probably would have stood there and starred into his brightly shining eyes to absorb the light and power that accompanied his divine gaze one last time.
President Rawlings and his Legacy?
As one of the greatest continental statesmen of Africa, President Rawlings has inspired generations and social revolutions in Africa and his light will continue to burn bright through his masses of young disciples throughout the content.
He has personified and immortalized moral courage and righteous indignation with his own brand of public moral code.
And there can be no greater champion of the poor in Ghana and Africa and the third world as a whole than President Jerry John Rawlings.
One of his great dreams was to see the end to the ‘’savagery of capitalism’’ imposed by a unipolar world order on the suffering masses of the third world.
His Pan-African world-view remains to inspire Africa and third world generations of young masses to unite against the ‘’right of the mighty’’ unipolar neo-liberal dictatorship of manipulated market forces.
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By: Sacut Amenga-Etego