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Ghanaians on Wednesday, January 27, 2021, laid to rest their longest-serving head of state, Flight Lieutenant, Jerry John Rawlings, after four days of final funeral rites in his honour.
Born on June 22, 1947, many never believed the man also called ‘Junior Jesus’ would one day be no more. But, he died on November 12, 2020, at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, whilst receiving treatment after a short illness. He was 73.
Rawlings twice overthrew what he believed were corrupt regimes in Ghana and seized power. In June 1979, with the help of other junior officers, he overthrew the military government of Ignatius Kutu Acheampong and Lieut. Gen. Frederick W.K. Akuffo.
He would hand over power to a civilian government of Dr. Hilla Limann after ruling the country for 122 days.
Despite being retired from the airforce by Limann, Rawlings remained popular for his “timely intervention” to rid the country of corrupt public figures whose aim was to continuously siphon the country’s resources into secret financial havens.
Disappointed by the performance of the Limann administration, JJ on December 31, 1981, intervened.
The intervention came after two years of “weak civilian rule”, during which the country’s economy continued to deteriorate.
In Kofi Totobi Quakyi’s voice, who served as Minister for Information from 1985 to 1993 under the Provisional National Defence Council government and continued from 1993 to 2001, the country was headed into the abyss when Rawlings came onto the scene, stood up, and did what was needed in that circumstances.
“I knew what he meant for Ghana, I knew what he had in mind for Ghana. He played his part,” Quakyi told TV3 in a recent documentary.
Rawlings reversed the country’s dwindling economic fortunes and in the early 1990s, Ghana had one of the highest growth rates in Africa.
Nana Ato Dadzie, who served as Chief of Staff during the Rawlings administration from 1997 to 2001, added: “We went through a very difficult period in this country’s history. Nobody was paid for the first three years. We didn’t have any food to eat. Those were the foundations of this country, this modern day.”
Rawlings re-established multi-party democracy in Ghana after 11 years of military rule. The first presidential election since 1979 was held in 1992 to usher in the fourth republic. He won that year’s election and was reelected four years later.
The 2000 election tested Rawlings’ commitment for the return to multi-party democracy, and he passed with distinction. He peacefully handed over power to the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) in 2001.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the man whose relationship with Rawlings until 2012 “was one of open animosity” succinctly stated why history will render a positive verdict on Rawlings’ legacy.
“There are many who acknowledge him as the Founder of the 4th Republic, a Republic which has proved to be the most enduring and stable in our history,” the president stated at Rawlings’ funeral.
“For all his revolutionary antecedents, he set in 2001, the enviable precedent, which has since, guided our country, of respecting the two-term limit of the Presidency and superintending the orderly transfer of power to his democratically-elected successor.”
Rawlings was human. He had his squabbles and failings. But, on the balance, this country has been the better off for his life.
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