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African Loss a Rare Revolutionary and Elder Statement

by Isiyaku Ahmed
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Abba Dukawa

Even though flight lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings has long held a complicated place in Ghanaian popular politics and historical memory. On May 15, 1979, the then -flight lieutenant led a group of junior Ghanaian army officers in an attempted overthrow of the military government of General F.K. Akuffo and the Supreme Military Council.

Rawlings, who insisted that he should be held responsible for the coup, was imprisoned and court-martialled. He was released from prison by junior military officers in another takeover, seizing power in a successful “housecleaning exercise” that sought to purge the country of corrupt political and business leaders and recalibrate Ghana’s national moral compass.

His second coming on December 31, 1981, was widely perceived as an indictment of the entire political class. Condemning Limann and his associates as “a pack of criminals who bled Ghana to the bone,” Rawlings vowed to “organize his country in such a way that nothing will be done, whether by God or the devil, without the consent and the authority of the people.

As a military head of the junta in Ghana, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council executed eight senior military officers, including three former heads of state—Akwasi Afrifa, Ignatius Acheampong, and Akuffo.

Jerry John Rawling and his other compatriot political interventions sought to address the economic hardships experienced by the vast majority of Ghana’s population. Rawlings’ rhetoric was ultimately moral rather than economic. Rediscovering and reasserting national morality was the only productive way forward. 

Those same moral arguments, however, were used to justify the executions in 1979 and the widely-condemned assassination of Supreme Court justices who had ruled against the People’s National Défense Council (PNDC) after Rawlings’ “second coming”.

in transitioning to democratic rule, Rawlings was able to preserve and re-brand the legacy of his “revolution” as part of an ongoing battle, rooted in the democratic process—a revolution of the people.

Within Ghana, Rawlings continues to hold enormous influence over national political discourse. Although the political party that he founded—the National Democratic Congress—continues to compete in national-level elections and celebrate the anniversaries of the revolution, he has recast himself as a political leader and statesman, keeping the revolution alive.

Rawling was credited as a driving force behind Ghana’s emergence as a stable democracy. His tenure as leader of Ghana remains emblematic with the restoration of that country represented a generation of leaders who gave their all for the rebirth of his country and Africa at large.

Ghanaians and the rest of African populace will be remembered him as liberator of the poor, he liberalised Ghana’s economy, encouraging investment in the country’s oil and gold sectors.

He is a true African leader that had little patience for mediocrity and zero tolerance for corruption.

In fact, Africa has lost one of brightest and most progressive and charismatic leaders, giving his best to not only Ghana, but also West Africa and indeed Africa.

Even after office, he stood tall for African unity and renaissance. He is a leader who preached and worked for the unity and emancipation of Africa from the clutches of poverty and underdevelopment.

Sometime last year, he was trending on Twitter across the continent after getting out of his car to direct traffic in Accra. The acclaim for “Papa J” was overwhelming. “This should be an example to all African presidents. You can serve your people, leave power with dignity, still live free and respected amongst your people,” one Twitter user stated.

For many, this was another example of Rawlings’ humility as a “man of the people”—a phrase repeated often during and after the dictatorship to highlight the differences between himself and the average political leader.

lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings was very unapologetically African and yearned so much to see Africa surmount her challenges and take her rightful place in the community of nations and  could well be referred to as the catalyst of modern Ghana, who put the West African nation on the path of the development and progress Ghana enjoys today.

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