President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has eulogised late former President Jerry John Rawlings, saying he left a “strong footprint in the sands of time” and “History will be kind to him” for the evolution of Ghana.
He said in spite of Mr Rawlings’ revolutionary antecedents, Ghana was poorer for his loss, because of the indelible mark he left in the country, sub-region and on the continent.
Joining scores of dignitaries and thousands of Ghanaians on Wednesday to bid farewell to Mr Rawlings at the Independence Square, Accra, President Akufo-Addo noted that the former ruler’s legacy of patriotism, selfless service, dedication to the promotion of integrity, democracy, and development of Ghana and its peoples, would endure in the story of Ghana.
“He burst onto the scene like a meteor, but a meteor that did not burst into flames and disintegrate like all meteors do. On the contrary, it remained potent until the very end of its life, leaving strong footprints in the sands of time.”
“I believe that history, on balance, will be kind to him, and will render a positive verdict on his contribution to the evolution of our nation, and the entrenchment of its democratic institutions and culture,” he wrote in a tribute.
Flt. Lt. Rawlings, who was the longest serving leader in Ghana’s history- serving 19 years from 1987 to 2001, 11 of those as a military ruler, and eight years as a civilian president- died in Accra on November 12, 2020 at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, the country’s premier health facility, where he was receiving treatment. He was 73 years.
President Akufo-Addo said former President Rawlings expended a considerable amount of his political capital in the quest for transparency and accountability for the economic development of the country, which had found expression in Ghana’s Fourth Republican Constitution.
He lauded Mr Rawlings’ invaluable contribution to the spunning of Ghana’s Fourth Republic, which has witnessed eight successive elections, three peaceful changes of government from one party to another, and five Presidents.
“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,” President Akufo-Addo noted.
The President said the measure of former President Rawlings were the days associated with his political interventions, which are now significant days on Ghana’s calendar, the most significant being Janaury 7, 1993, when the country was ushered into the Fourth Republic.
“It is in recognition of this that I decided to commemorate 7th January as Constitution Day on the national calendar… It is, perhaps, the greatest tribute a grateful nation can offer to the men and women whose efforts led to the establishment of the 4th Republic”, he said.
“It is my hope and prayer that he remains, forever, the longest serving Head of State in our nation’s history, for that would mean that the 4th Republican Constitution and its enshrined term limits have endured,” the President said.
President Akufo-Addo said though relations between he and Flt. Lt. Rawlings were very heady from days of the revolution in 1979, the tension between them changed with time and “We came to see value in each other, and understood, to a very large degree, our respective perspectives.”
“One thing we had in common was our mutual commitment to public service.”
He said his visit to Mr Rawlings’ Ridge residence in 2012 led to a friendship that had spanned some eight years.
“Indeed, when the Ghanaian people, in 2016, reposed, for the first time, their confidence in me in the elections of that year, one of the first persons on whom I paid a courtesy call was His Excellency Jerry John Rawlings.
“From my entry into office, right up to the day he was called by his Maker, he remained a good friend and a repository of sound advice. I knew that, in moments of difficulty in my presidency, I could count on his considerable wealth of experience and knowledge. On those occasions, he came through for me.
“I believe that history, on balance, will be kind to him, and will render a positive verdict on his contribution to the evolution of our nation, and the entrenchment of its democratic institutions and culture…It is entirely appropriate and fitting that he should receive a State Funeral with full honours to express the gratitude of the nation for that contribution.
“‘Comandante’, rest and abide in perfect peace in the bosom of the Almighty, until we all meet again on the last day of the Resurrection. Farewell, God bless, and thank you for all your help,” President Akufo-Addo said in farewell to Flt. Lt..Rawlings.
He later laid a wreath on behalf of the Government and People Ghana.
Former President Rawlings was born in 1947 in Accra, to James Ramsey John, a pharmacist from Scotland who settled in Ghana in 1930’s and Madam Victoria Agbotui, a caterer from Dzelukope in the Volta Volta Region.
Trained as an air force officer and fighter pilot, he came to power in 1979 after leading his first coup, but later transferred power to civilian rule soon after that event.
Flt. Lt. Rawlings staged another coup in 1981 and ruled as a military leader until 1992 when he returned the country to democratic rule when he introduced multi-party elections.
Mr Rawlings transitioned to civilian rule in 1993 after he won the 1992 elections, serving two elected four-year terms.
He stepped down in 2001, and became very active both on national and international scene until his demise.
He is survived by his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman, three daughters: Zanetor, Yaa Asantewaa, Amina and one son, Kimathi.