Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings has long held a complicated place in Ghana’s politics and history. On December 31, 1981, he was released from prison by junior military officers and led the takeover of the government and embarked on what he called “ house-cleaning exercise”.
He sought to purge the country of corrupt politicians and business leaders and recalibrate Ghana’s national moral compass. As military head of the junta in Ghana, he vowed to “organise 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 part of house cleaning, the Revolutionary Council, which he headed, executed eight senior military officers, including three former heads of state. Rawlings and his other compatriots sought to address the economic hardships experienced by the vast majority of Ghana’s population.
Rawlings’ belief was that rediscovering and reasserting national morality was the only productive way forward.
Late JJ was credited as the driving force behind Ghana’s emergence as a stable democracy. His tenure witnessed the restoration of a new generation of leaders who gave their all for the rebirth of his country and Africa at large.
Ghana and the rest of Africa will remember him as a liberator of the poor. As president, he liberalised Ghana’s economy, encouraging investment in the country’s oil and gold sectors.
He was a truly African leader that had little patience for mediocrity and zero tolerance for corruption.
Africa has lost one of the brightest and most progressive and charismatic leaders, who gave his best to not only Ghana, but also West Africa and indeed Africa.
Even out of office, he stood tall for African unity and renaissance. He was 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 shout of “Papa J” was overwhelming.
Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings was unapologetically African and yearned so much to see Africa surmount her challenges and take her rightful place in the comity of nations. He 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 it enjoys today.