Former Brong Ahafo-Regional Minister and Member of Parliament (MP) for Asunafo South, Eric Opoku has described the late president JJ Rawlings as a man who was passionate about the welfare of the Ghanaian citizens.
“Rawlings was never selfish…He always wanted the best for the ordinary Ghanaian and to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich,” Opoku noted as he recounted the role the longest serving president played in pulling the country through her struggles as a military ruler into a democratic dispensation.
Rawlings died on November 12, 2020 at the age of 73 of an undisclosed illness.
Tribute after tribute described Rawlings as a selfless, disciplinarian who wanted the best for his country, and that is what Eric Opoku sought to portray in his tribute on Dwaboase on Power 97.9 FM on Thursday morning.
Opoku, who was the minority’s spokesperson on agriculture in the last parliament, eulogised Rawlings’ contributions to Agriculture in the country which led to reducing hunger after the 1983 famine in the early days of his government.
“Rawlings wanted to dealwith the scarcity of food in the country so he adopted a strategy to motivate farmers. In those days the government distributed wellington boots and radio sets to farmers for free. I remember his government would bring trucks full of pieces of clothes to be shared to the wives of farmers. Rawlings and his military men ocassionally visited people’s farms and planted corn. That was to get everyone to embrace farming. All these acts were to encourage people to farm so we could get food in abundance,” he recalled.
His said the exemplary behaviour of Rawlings encouraged many Ghanaians to venture into agriculture which ended the country’s famine around 1984.
“Although the famine was severe, the country was able to produce more food and hunger was a thing of the past. Growth rate jumped to over 30%. This led to the Government of Denmark awarding Rawlings a food prize of $ 50,000,” he added.
“Rawlings used his prize money to found the University for Development Studies (UDS) which was established by the PNDC law 279 in 1992.”
Mr Opoku said that singular gesture of Rawlings makes him stand tall among all leaders of the country and quizzed, “Today, how many leaders can do that today?”
He said the expansion of electricity from the south to the middle belt and northern sector under the Rawlings regime was one of the interventions that bridged the gap between the deprived and the rich in the country.
“His rural electrification project that extended power to many villages is unmatched. It has never happened in this country again,” he recounted.
He also recalled how Rawlings evacuated millions of Ghanaians who were deported from Nigeria back home and still maintained the good relationship between the country and Ghana.
Funeral and Tributes
Ghanaians bade farewell to the ex-president on Wednesday after holding a four-day final funeral rites in his honour.
After bein laid in state since Monday, the body of the founder of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) was lifted to the Military cemetry at Burma Camp in Accra where he was laid to rest.
Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings
His widow, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, who is still in shock after the demise of Rawlings said “you were for Ghana and then for me.”
“Jerry, I know that God created us for each other, and together we made a formidable team, notwithstanding the ups and down of life,” she said. “We believed each other and in our dream of making Ghana a country we could all be proud of, one to set the pace for our sub-region and the continent. I daresay, we did not do a bad job!”
She continued, “As you worked assiduously on state matters, I concentrated on empowering the women and improving the quality of life for them irrespective of their origins or creed. We were a team, fighting to transform a collapsed state into one of potential prosperity for all.”
“You did your best and I played my part in my own way. You always said you did not need titles to define you, so you remained Flight Lieutenant J.J. Rawlings.
“You also said you did not need political titles to influence a party to do what is right and honest for Ghana, so for most, you remained Chairman.
Tributes have also been pouring for Rawlings from astute politicians and other clergy men.
President Akufo-Addo described him as his “good friend and a repository of sound advice.”
Reading his tribute at the funeral grounds, Akufo-Addo said in moments of difficulty in his presidency, he could count on Mr Rawlings’ considerable “wealth of experience and knowledge.”
“On those occasions, he [Rawlings] came through for me,” Akufo-Addo disclosed on Wednesday afternon.
What Did Mahama Say?
“Your role in bringing peace and stability to ECOWAS Subregion, especially the Liberian and Sierra Leone civil wars, is acknowledged and celebrated.
“Your leadership in what was the most difficult decade in Ghana’s history led to important reforms that created the political stability and economic growth that we now consider absolutely normal.”