President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has extolled late former President Jerry John Rawlings, as a charismatic and fearless who rendered distinguished service to the nation.
Eulogising the former president as one who ushered in Ghana's fourth Republican dispensation, the longest and most stable, President Akufo-Addo recounted how, "the young air force officer announced his presence in Ghana's politics by the abortive coup of May 15, 1979, and was sentenced to death for his part in the failed effort."
"He gave, at his trial, an important insight into his character, when he stood up, before the military tribunal, to accept sole responsibility for the attempt and to request the NCOs, who were being tried with him, to be absolved and freed by the tribunal."
In his tribute at a Military Burial Service to bid late President Rawlings farewell at the Independence Square (Black Stars Square) on Wednesday, President Akufo-Addo said this great event was to define his career which followed quickly after his trial, conviction and sentence.
President Akufo-Addo said the former President set in 2001 the precedent of a two-term limit of the Presidency and superintended the orderly transfer of power to his democratically-elected successor.
President Akufo-Addo said the late President was fortified in his work by his union with his celebrated consort, the equally dynamic Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, who proved to be a sturdy pillar and invaluable companion to the very end.
Explaining the seemingly rife between the two some years back, President Akufo-Addo said it was no secret that the relationship that existed between them, right from the days of 1979, his brief period in exile... the Kume Preko demonstrations, as an Attorney General and Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Kufuor administration, to him being elected in 2008 NPP presidential candidate, "was one of open animosity. We did not see eye to eye!!"
However, he said with time, things changed. "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."
President Akufo-Addo said his visit to the late President Rawlings Ridge residence in 2012 signified the easing of tensions between them, "leading to a friendship that lasted for the better part of 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."
Describing how valuable and dependable Mr Rawlings was to him, President Akufo-Addo said, "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."
President Akufo-Addo said it was for good reason that his well-known, oft-cited ideals of "probity and accountability", in which he invested a great deal of his political capital, had been enshrined in the Constitution of the 4th Republic, and, together with "Freedom and Justice."
Former President Rawlings' actions and convictions, the President indicated, were not limited to Ghana only. "The African nationalist that he was, he held unwavering positions on all matters concerning the wider continent of Africa, especially when they involved foreign interference and control of Africa's destiny and was quick to voice his views on them."
President Akufo-Addo said the late President's chairmanship of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government had set the example, where all his successors, John Agyekum Kufuor, John Dramani Mahama, had been honoured by their peers to occupy that high office, "reinforcing the pan-African vocation which has been an essential element of Ghanaian public policy since independence."
I called him 'Comandante', because of his admiration for the famous Latin American revolutionaries, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Daniel Ortega, a nickname which seemed to please him.
"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."
Flt. Lt. Rawlings, who was the longest-serving leader in Ghana's history-- serving 19 years from 1981 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, where he was receiving treatment. He was 73 years.
Former President Rawlings was born in 1947 in Accra, to James Ramsey John, a pharmacist from Scotland who settled in Ghana in the 1930s 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 the 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.