The late Former President Jerry John Rawlings
Confusion is threatening to eclipse the death of former President Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings as the political party he founded but distanced himself from in recent years over ‘moral anomalies’ fights government for his funeral arrangements.
His death, coming close to the December 7 polls, has provided fodder for the opposition NDC to feed on. Leading the charge is the party’s general secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, who once called his founder “ a barking dog.”
Immediately news of the sad passing of the former President came in, the NDC as they are noted for, set their propaganda machinery in motion, with Asiedu Nketia claiming that the NPP government wants to ‘snatch’ the funeral arrangements from them.
He said that President Akufo-Addo did not acknowledge the party in his remarks about the death of the former President.
Children and families of the executed Generals and disappeared persons under Mr. Rawlings’ military junta have not helped matters as they too are narrating their melancholic stories; a predicament they throw at the doorstep of the deceased former President.
The NDC did not take kindly to the decision by the bereaved family to officially notify President Akufo-Addo about their bereavement shortly after the former President breathed his last.
For some of the party personalities the action was too swift and showed signs of the family disregarding them and rather dealing with the NPP.
Adherence to protocol was exactly what the family did, some observers said, pointing out that the NDC was crying about a non-issue.
There was drama when the NDC delegation, including the general secretary, could not have access to the book of condolence at the Rawlings’ Ridge residence in Accra.
At a press conference shortly afterwards, Mr. Nketia said when he and the delegation went to the house they were told the book was no longer there. Continuing, he said they were told the book had been taken to the State House.
He announced that the party too had opened a book of condolence at the NDC headquarters at Adabraka in Accra.
With this development it would appear that there are two books of condolence, one for the family to which the party persons have been denied access and the one the NDC headquarters has organized as a face-saving means.
Being a former President, the late former Air Force pilot is entitled to a state funeral which President Akufo-Addo has already directed to be ensured.
The Chief of Staff, Akosua Frema Osei Opare, has already been directed by the President to deal with the family to ensure that all that is required of the state in this direction is done.
As to whether or not the NDC as a party would partake in the state funeral is yet to be seen.
A parallel funeral could be in the offing as the NDC General Secretary’s body language seems to be suggesting, and already the party has clandestinely directed all its local leaders to hold their respective funerals of a sort for their late leader they came to hate so much in the latter days of his life.
With the family also demanding privacy, it is unknown how this will go regarding the state funeral being arranged.
Following the late former President Rawlings’ incessant critique of the NDC under both his successor, the late President Prof. J.E.A. Mills and former President John Dramani Mahama, a no-love-lost relationship existed between him and most leaders of the party.
Many are pointing at what for them is the shedding of ‘crocodile tears’ by the NDC General Secretary as they recall his description of the deceased as “a barking dog.”
It was in 2011, a time when a schism had occurred in the NDC after the FONKAR GAMES where former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawling, in her bid to contest President Mills to lead the NDC in the 2012 election, got humiliated by the party she had nurtured.
Mr. Nketia in admitting that some of the party members leaving the party for a splinter grouping, the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) formed by Obed Asamoah, remarked at the Arts Centre in Accra that such persons should return because he and others had been able to tame the barking dog, an obvious reference to the former President.
The splinter group, Grass Root Supporters Front of the ruling NDC, it would be recalled, issued a stern warning to the party’s General Secretary to desist from raining insults on the former President.
Although they held a press conference at which they called on the then President Mahama to call Mr. Nketia to order, it did not happen.
The deceased’s spouse, Mrs. Agyeman-Rawlings’ collision course resulted in her founding of a political party, National Democratic Party (NDP) which was given clearance by the Electoral Commission (EC) to contest next month’s polls with her as the flag bearer.
Before founding her own party, Mrs. Agyeman-Rawlings had the Friends of Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings or FONKAR engaged in a war of words with the NDC, which had set up Get Atta Mills Elected (GAME) just to discredit her efforts.
Professor Kwamena Ahwoi, in his controversial book ,‘Working With Rawlings’, admitted that they used the young people in the party such as Dr. Omane Boamah, Okudzeto Ablakwa, Felix Kwakye Ofosu among others whom Mr. Rawlings named ‘Babies with sharp teeth’ to attack Rawlings to back off Prof. Mills.
The broken fence has not yet been mended and now that the NDC founder himself is no more, it does not appear it will be.
In recent times the former President and President Akufo-Addo have been getting on well much to the chagrin of the NDC who find the camaraderie uncomfortable.
The former President himself said publicly that President Akufo-Addo had certain principles like intolerance for corruption which he supported and which his own party led by Mr. Mahama did not have.
Before his transition, former President Rawlings suffered from the acerbic tongue of youthful members of the party, some of them appearing to be doing the bidding of top NDC persons.
The scathing remarks about corruption in the party, something he despised, attracted for the former President many enemies.
The former President’s now popular ‘babies with sharp teeth’ reference to the young men in the party with a passion for insulting persons older than them, originated from that period.
The former President has been visibly absent from NDC activities, having reportedly earlier said he was not going to campaign for them, a position he maintained until he breathed his last.
In fact, his absence on the campaign trail cost the NDC big time in 2016 when they were in power and thought they could do without him, but Mr. Mahama lost miserably, becoming the first incumbent to suffer such a fate.
Today he is no more and party members, especially those who loved to hate him, are trying to exploit his death for their electoral fortunes and the comeback of Mr. Mahama.
A remembrance walk has already been organized with the picture of the deceased and that of the flag bearer, Mr. Mahama, side by side.
If not for the NDC, Ghanaians would not have seen that a person still living could be celebrated through a memorial walk.
Those who distanced themselves from Rawlings and even insulted him now want to be associated with him.
Former President Rawlings last days on earth were punctuated by a literary controversy.
Prof. Ahwoi’s book, which contained scathing entries about the deceased, attracted a swift rebuttal from him as he denied the queries raised about his stewardship as President and was readying to launch his book to counter the ‘false’ claims.
A directive last Saturday by the NDC to the structures of the party to organize local funerals for the late President is yet another indication that the opposition grouping will hardly cooperate with government over a state funeral.
That, however, will not take away much premium from the spiritual exercise, especially since the family including Mrs. Agyeman-Rawlings, will fully partake in it and not the NDC headquarters organized one.
The pro-Rawlings elements in the NDC, who have not shied away from writing about the shortcomings of the party, have written about what they described as the hypocrisy of persons like Mr. Nketia.
“Then again, I feel like unpacking the hypocrisy of the likes of Asiedu Nkentia. I really want to, but my thoughts are just not coming together…I will certainly find my rhythm, and when I do, it will be very explosive.
“In the meantime, the hypocrisy must stop. The attempt to cry more than the bereaved must also stop,” one of them, Dela Coffie, pointed out on social media.
He added that “and more importantly, those who think we will allow them to engage in political profiteering enterprise with the demise of President Rawlings must think again. Isn’t it even offensive to learn that those who consistently berated Rawlings over the last 12 years and called him ‘barking dog’ are today claiming ownership of him as the founder of the NDC?”
“It has suddenly dawned on you to fight for the same Rawlings that you lots recruited puppets to publicly humiliate and talkback at?” he fired.
This piece of literature says it all about the heightened hypocrisy on the part of those who hated the founder of the party they now claim to own.
By A.R. Gomda