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Opinions Tue, 25 Jul 2006

Weep Not Child

I’ve always wondered from whence Rawlings got his deep-seated hatred for everything that is good in our land. Why does he hate successful Ghanaian business owners so much? What is it in him that made him to bring down the likes of Dr. Safo Adu, Dr. Addison, Appiah-Menka, Siaw, and the rest? Why did he have to go after the lives of his detractors, torture and murder as many as he could, and send the rest fleeing the land of their birth to foreign lands in exile?

To understand a person’s behavior or character one often only needs to examine their past; especially their childhood. ‘So what was Rawlings’ childhood like?’ I asked. The Daily Mail of London in its January 1st, 2001 edition, under the article: “Brutal Reign of Terror End As Ghana Vote Out Dictator” stated “Jerry Rawlings is the product of a secret, six-year love affair between Scottish pharmacist James Ramsay John and his Ghanaian mistress, Madam Victoria Agbotui. ” Apparently, his (Rawlings’) father, Mr. John, had migrated to our country – then known as The Gold Coast – in 1935 with his wife Mary to work for the United Africa Company (UAC). Mary was his childhood sweetheart from Castle Douglas in Scotland. Six years after Mr. John had arrived, that is in 1941, he started a secret relationship with Madam Agbotui then a caterer at the State House. This relationship went on for six (6) good years. It ended in 1947. That was the year Rawlings was born (June 22nd, 1947 to be precise). Unfortunately, Mr. John refused to acknowledge Rawlings as “his son – his only child - right up until his death in 1982, for fear of rocking his marriage to Mary, who died two years ago [in 1998]” – The Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland – September 9th 2000). Very sad indeed. Therefore, Rawlings grew up virtually fatherless. He had been disowned by his own father. So he grew up in a single-parent home.

In order not to let her son lose his Scottish heritage, Rawlings’ mother – Madam Agbotui – named him after his father as Jeremiah Rawlings John. “Jerry” is the nickname of Jeremiah, sort of like how “Bill” is the nickname of William or how “Jimmy” is the nickname for James. But how did Jerry Rawlings John become Jerry John Rawlings? Well, according to “Dr Richard Jeffries, who recently retired from the Centre for African Studies at the University of London and has known Rawlings for 20 years: ‘The President's name is actually Jerry Rawlings John. The RAF [Royal Air Force] made a clerical error when he joined up and he decided to keep the name they had given.’ ” – Daily Record. At that time, the RAF helped train pilots for the Ghana Air Force (GAF). "Jerry only recalls meeting his father in his office when he was very young. He was not told it was his father, but sensed it was. His father refused to acknowledge Jerry for fear word would get back to his wife [Mary]”, said Dr Jeffries. The denial of a father figure by all accounts deeply affected the young Rawlings. He was rebellious as a kid and even through secondary school he constantly rebelled against the authorities at Achimota School. His mother had wanted him to become a doctor, but he would have none of it.

Rawlings “acknowledges he has always had an anger within him, but doesn't attribute it to his father's conduct [In psychology that’s called self-denial. It’s a defense mechanism]. He claims he grew up rebellious because of his mother's influence. She was a perfectionist and quite a harsh disciplinarian who mapped out a career for him as a doctor and was upset when he left school after his O levels and joined the RAF.” – Daily Record.

In fact, Rawlings never completed his GCE O’levels due to disciplinary problems at Achimota. He subsequently enrolled in the Ghana Air Force (GAF) as a flight cadet in August, 1967 at the age of 20. For his advanced flight lessons he was sent to the RAF for training in the early 70s. Even during his time in training, he still desired to trace his roots and meet his father. Mr. John and his wife Mary had moved back to Scotland in 1960 and settled down at Dalbeattie. So he (Rawlings) took a leave of absence from the RAF to track down his father. Said Dr Jeffries, “Jerry even came up to Scotland when on leave from the RAF in the early Seventies when he heard his father was working in a chemist's shop in Dalbeattie. He asked an old man behind the desk if he knew his father and he replied that Mr. John had moved away a long time before. Jerry's suspicion grew on the trip back to London that he had actually been speaking with his father in the store." Very sad. Even at his old age, Mr. John still refused to acknowledge his only child – Jerry Rawlings John. Ironically, Mr. John and his wife Mary remained childless. He died in 1982 at the age of 75. At that time his illegitimate son was still hurting from not having his presence in his (Rawlings’) life. When Rawlings’ “step-mother”, Mary (Mr. John’s wife), laid on her death-bed she had a mysterious visitor called Maud. “She claimed to be a researcher for the archives in Accra.” She took away some of Rawling’s father’s papers and pictures and never returned them. It’s believed she was sent by Jerry John Rawlings.

Today, Rawlings still has distant relatives in Scotland. His relatives there eventually learnt of the Family-Secret that Uncle Jimmy (Mr. James Ramsay John) had kept from them. One of his (Rawlings’) cousins in Scotland is Tony Barbour now aged 59. In 2000, Tony was still a secondary school teacher who lived with his wife and two children in a modest Victorian terraced house in the centre of Dumfries. Tony’s mother, Betty, was Mr. John’s sister. In other words, Betty is Rawlings’ Aunt.

Rawlings is a man who’s been through a lot. He had no father figure growing up. It was not a fault of his that he was a product of an affair between a married man and a bachelorette. It was not his fault that the man who fathered him refused to take responsibility of fatherhood. So there was no man to hug him (Rawlings), and help him straighten his life up when growing up. He clamored for love; the love of a father. And when his efforts to get his father attention and love failed, he became a frustrated and angry man. A very angry man! The anger was unleashed the first time on March 15th, 1979 when he tried his first coup d’etat which was unsuccessful. When eventually, Boakye-Djan saved his life and gave him power, his anger was at its boiling point. In 3 short months in power, 8 senior government officials including 3 former Heads of State were shot to death via firing squad at Teshie on Rawlings’ orders. When he came back to power through the barrel of the gun again in 1981, the same anger and hatred led him to burn down Makola Number 2 (and later renamed it in honor of his dearest wife’s organization as the 31st December Market). The madness with which he had Makola burnt down is akin to the burning of Rome by mad Emperor Nero. He also shot 3 judges, burnt their bodies, and dumped them, including that of Justice (Mrs.) Koranteng. Mrs. Koranteng had just given birth to a baby girl and was virtually snatched at dawn from her baby whist breastfeeding her; leaving the terrified baby to cry unceasingly.

His anger and hatred is legendary. He hated the rich and wealthy in our society. In his mind, they were the reason why he and his friends were poor. So he confiscated Siaw’s Tata Brewery because ‘how could a Ghanaian own a multi-million dollar factor, if not through corruption?’ he reasoned. ‘Ghanaians are not that intelligent to legitimately start such a huge enterprise.’ (Sadly, many years after those Dark Ages, even under the light of today’s Information Age, some Ghanaians prefer to live in the Stone Age with their Stone-Age mentality. They still can’t understand how a pure Ghanaian could raise legitimate money from banks to finance a project). Then he turned his attention to the Dr. Addisons and the Dr. Safo Adus and brought them down to earth, for they were too prosperous and rich! And even in April 1999, at a time when we were supposed to be under the Rule of Law, he ordered, and personally supervised the bulldozing of Alhaji Yusuf’s newly-build and furnished, 65-room multi-million dollar hotel at the Airport Residential Area without any Court Order. He supervised the destruction of this Ghanaian’s investment hovering over the grounds in a Military Helicopter and later on drove himself to the grounds to ‘congratulate’ the soldiers for a ‘job-well-done.’ Why the destruction? Because he ‘perceived’ Alhaji Yusuf to be a financier of and sympathetic to the then opposition NPP Party. And even as a so-called statesman he still couldn’t help but assault 28-year old Adamu Mansu Seini on March 25th, 2004, during a Voter’s Registration Exercise, when he had appointed himself as an ‘Electoral Commission Inspector’ making sure that the exercise was going on smoothly. Need I mention the physical assault on his own vice-president Kow Nketsen–Arkaah, a man who was old enough to be his father, during a cabinet meeting when Rawlings in front of all his ministers attacked, slapped, and dragged the septuagenarian, in the process shredding Arkaah’s jacket to pieces? Those pictures of Vice-President Arkaah in his torn jacket should forever be saved in our nation’s archives for display in a future Presidential Museum.

But behind all of Rawlings’ pretentious braggadocio, toughness, fakeness, abrasiveness, physical assaults, and pathologic insulting behavior lies a man that is in deep pain – emotional pain that is. Behind the facade is a frightened and haunted being whose failed search for love – a father’s affection – sowed the seeds of anger, frustration, and hatred in him. Unbridled hatred and deep-seated jealousy leads man to commit heinous crime. And it definitely led him to spill the blood of the innocent; inviting a curse on himself and making this unrepentant man live in fear. We ought to pity him and “pray for his soul”. We ought to show him love for he yearns for it. There are a few lessons that every Ghanaian must learn from the life of Rawlings. The first is the importance of having kids only in a marriage or matrimonial home. This means that if you are a woman, do not go after married men! It also means that if you are a married man, love your wife and be content with her! It means that if you are not married, don’t ever contemplate having kids before marriage. For it is most often not to the child’s advantage having only a single parent around. God did not design it as such. The other lesson is to fathers. Be there for your children. Be there for your sons and daughters. Don’t neglect them. For you’ll be haunted by your guilty conscience for the rest of your lives (By all accounts, Mr. James Ramsay John died in guilt over his denial of being Rawlings’ father.) Fathers, be interested in the lives of your own children and support them to the best of your abilities, otherwise you’ll end up creating a monster for the entire society because of your irresponsible behavior.

To the rest of the country, I say, if you happen to cross paths with Rawlings, show him some love, he needs it. Tell him: ‘weep not, child’. Give him a hug. Yes a bear hug! He’d be eternally grateful. He never got it growing up. And whilst hugging him, gently whisper into his ears “Please, get over your childhood problems, dude! You’re too old to be bitter about your past. Or if you can’t, go get some therapy, anger management, or something!”

Comments? Send them to: ato_kwame@yahoo.com

Columnist: Kwamena, Ato