Jerry John Rawlings goes home this week. He exited this life at a time that no one expected it. Not even the prying media knew he had been hospitalized until a family blogger let out the secret.
Interestingly, the three-time-Head of State is leaving the nation and the world at a time the two leading political parties, one of which he founded, are struggling hard to find common ground to push a Ghana, rather than an NDC or NPP, agenda.
That Jerry Rawlings will be sorely missed was amplified in his decision not to be part of the last political presidential and parliamentary elections campaign, though he was alive and kicking, contributing to national debate and enjoying his favourite topic, which is probity and accountability and how his party, particularly, needed to re-imbibe those principles in returning to winning ways.
Again, those who will particularly miss him are media practitioners who salivate daily on his comments and remarks that he characteristically laces with humour.
While all the world leaders, including political leadership in our West African sub-region, had expected him to be around to grace the induction service for incumbent Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, it turned out that that would not be the case.
Indeed, he departed without signalling a good-bye to his party, his family, friends and the nation. Ghana only woke up one afternoon to be told – first by rumours and then social media and official circles – that the former Head of State of Ghana had passed on.
Since then, Ghanaians from all walks of life – politicians, traditional and religious leaders as well as political opponents and enemies – have been filing tributes to the memory of this great African statesman who announced his presence on our political stage in lightning and thunder but exited quietly.
Of course, there are other elements in our society who may be bitter about events that ushered him into political prominence. And they could be quite a number. That, however, does not negate the fact that he had been an unavoidable part of our national history – with records of development that have been recognised by the global community.
As we would recall in 2000, after the general elections when his party, the NDC, lost political power and Ghana stood still, he went back into normal life as a statesman, despite the psychological comfort to his persona.
He put the nation first in the same manner that he made history for his successful fight against guinea worm at a time most African and West African states were struggling in controlling the disease, as a result of huge deficits in making potable water available to vulnerable communities.
We could also remember him for initiating the Economic Recovery Programme that brought us into warm partnerships with the global financial institutions in pursuing our pragmatic economic policies in a then polarised world.
That is aside of the road networks that spanned Ghana’s regions and supported local and cross border trade as part of the ECOWAS dream.
Again, under his tenure, Ghana had glory in soccer and boxing at international levels and, beyond that, the rare privilege of leading the UN, as Kofi Annan became the world’s number one diplomat at a time peace was a rare commodity in a major part of West Africa, the Middle East, Southern Eastern Europe and South America, which was struggling for political identity.
Three-time Head of State
As a political leader of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council interregnum, the Provisional National Defence Council and, ultimately, the President of Ghana under the tenure of the 1992 and 1996 NDC administrations, Jerry Rawlings made unparalleled history as an African President who came from the barracks to civil life, without perpetually imposing military culture in a sub-region with changing political dynamics.
May his soul rest in peace, and may Ghana become richer for the legacies he left behind as a great statesman.