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J.J Rawlings, the 'rascal' who became President

Mon, 18 Jan 2021 Source: Nico van Staalduinen

J.J. Rawlings image is, at least controversial; you love him or you hate him there is hardly a middle way.

My girlfriend (now long-time wife) told me about what this guy had done to her family.

They lost several properties in Kumasi and Tema, under the one man one house policy and were, as business people hit hard by the cancellation of the 50 Cedi notes.

My mother-in-law, a relative of J.J. Rawlings never forgave him for that and she died in remembering the cultural shock in January 1992, several weeks after the first 1992 without reconciliation. My father-in-law, however, saw the changes and good intentions of J.J. Rawlings before he passed.

I have/had doubts about President Rawlings and I still have good and close friends who despise and hate him until today but also friends Ghana who were ready to do anything for Rawlings.

My cultural shock in 1992 coming from a highly organized and peaceful country, The Netherlands started at the airport where the military was still present everywhere. Several days later, I walked in town at what is now known as Rawlings Park and saw police and other men in uniform cane people who were trying to sell on pavements and set up shops. Unlike today there were hardly beggars or street sellers.

In general, Ghana was still recovering from the economic damage of the 1970s but there was law and order. When I came back to the Netherlands, there was a documentary on TV about Jerry John Rawlings who took a Dutch Journalist on his helicopter to fly under the Adomi, (Volta River) bridge.

Several years before that, I had seen another documentary about three young African leaders who had the potential to change the image of poverty and corruption on the African continent. Unfortunately, Thomas Sankara could not live up to these expectations because of his early demise. We all know what became of Yoweri Museveni and the only one who lived upon these expectations was J.J. Rawlings.

Especially after my (also half-cast) children were born I started to develop more interest in J.J. not the President but the person J.J. Rawlings.

In 2005, I was invited to Kumasi to attend Akwasidae coinciding with 10 years of Asantehene celebrations. As we all know, Kumasi is the NPP “Head office” and NPP/ President Kufuor was now in power.

“Gossip went around that J.J. Rawlings was coming. Some people said “he won’t be allowed to enter”, “NPP will protest” “, it will become dangerous”, people who didn’t really know were getting nervous. But we all waited.

What happened next was unbelievable; The biggest welcome I had ever seen, J.J. waiving people trying to get closer, diplomats greeting and J.J. was received as a war hero coming home after battle. I told my wife if J.J. could run again he would win the next elections.

Because of that my interest in the person J.J. grew more than before.

I started reading the good and bad stories about J.J. Rawlings and tried to understand him, without actually knowing him. I had the opportunity to meet and talk to people around him, including his wife, daughters, brother, cousins and friends but never met Jerry until a few years ago.

I referred to him as Jerry because I felt closer to him.

The biggest democratic achievement (to me) was the fact that J.J. Rawlings peacefully handed over power to President Kufuor in 2000.

I came to the following conclusion about J.J. Rawlings (based upon my information).

Rawlings was a Righteous, Honest person with great Social and Personal interest in Ghanaians and dedicated his life to improving the lives of Ghanaians and sincerely tried to make Ghana a better country for all Ghanaians.

The reason I came to that conclusion is much less complicated than you think:

I am just like Jerry an impatient “rascal” rushing to make the world a better place.

That doesn’t mean that Jerry didn’t make mistakes, that doesn’t mean that everything Jerry did was good. But one thing was obvious:

His intentions were good.

As I and people like me are still struggling to do what Jerry John Rawlings did for Ghana he may now rest in eternal peace and maybe one day, Ghana will be blessed with a new rascal.

Columnist: Nico van Staalduinen
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